Account-based Marketing can mean massive change for enterprises. But it can also start as a modest initiative. Explore three ways enterprises can take small steps towards big change.
Lesson 1: Identify Your Ideal Customer
- Signs your Enterprise isn’t ready for ABM
- ABM concepts that any Enterprise can use to get ready
- How to Identify your Ideal Client Profile (ICP)
ABM has become an enterprise buzzword during the last decade, so you probably know the definition. But according to ISTMA, who coined the term, ““Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach to designing and executing highly-targeted, personalized marketing programs and initiatives to drive business growth and impact with specific, named accounts.”
According to Engagio’s 2019 ABM Market Research Report, about 75% of B2B companies have piloted or started building out an ABM program, but less than 5% have had a program more than 2 years.
As many of these enterprises have discovered, ABM requires a lot of preparation. Here are some of the signs your enterprise isn’t ready for full-on ABM:
- Undefined market – trying to sell to everyone
- No MAP or full ABM Tool – or many unconnected instances
- Marketing competency at one-off emails or drip campaigns only
- Focus on only one stage of buyers journey – little to no content otherwise
- Inability to track and manage leads through your pipeline with attribution
- Disregard between Marketing & Sales – serious silos
- Can’t get Sales to participate
- Can’t get Leadership to sponsor
After seeing that dealbreaker list, you may be wondering if your organization is ready for ABM. No worries, any enterprise can you benefit from key ABM concepts. Here are three important ABM concepts that can benefit your company while addressing three of the most difficult dealbreakers
- Undefined Market – Identification and increased personalization of ICPs
- Focus on Only One Stage of the Buyers Journey – Coordinated BCP Journeys within ICPs
- Disregard between Marketing and Sales – Orchestrated Marketing and Sales Plays
Let’s dive into the first ABM concept: Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). An ICP is a detailed description of a prospective client that would benefit greatly from your product or service and therefore generate significant business value. It’s basically a yardstick that you hold all your accounts up to so you can determine which to cultivate with personalization.
To arrive at your ICP, consider your company’s best clients: attributes such as industry, size, location, current and future profitability, and which are the easiest and best to sell to. If you don’t have enough data to judge, you probably need to improve your customer intelligence that before launching into ABM.
Example from a Vendor Seeking to Sell a Check Fraud-Detection Solution to Big Banks:
Many enterprises know their target industries but have undefined markets within. Marketing may be trying to sell to sell to the total addressable market – when Sales knows that some clients are worth more effort than others.
By identifying your ICP and targets like it, Marketing and Sales can focus on the key accounts. But that’s not as simple as just asking a few seasoned sales guys who the key accounts are. Here are some steps to follow:
Create a top ten list of customer accounts in each of the following categories:
- Highest spend/profitability
- Most satisfied
- Best to sell to
- Longest lifespan and LTV
Weight each based on the following criterion:
- Industry you have the best track record with
- Geography you can support best
- Annual revenue & growth potential
- Likelihood to need your profitable products
- Technology they use
- Level of technology maturity
- Number of Employees
- Size of customer base
- Corporate-level goals
- Length of their sales cycle
Do the math. The account with the highest score is your ICP or yard stick. Others may be close runners up. You may discover that you don’t know enough about some accounts to hold them up against your ICP, in which case data enrichment may be required. But you’ll have your ICP yardstick.
Next time we take a look at how you can create personalized journeys for key players within your ICPs. Many companies choose a mixed-tier approach in which they handle a top few accounts with white gloves and the rest with some degree of personalized marketing. Your path to ABM will be unique, but taking the first step is critical.
Lesson 2: Carry On Multiple Conversations
- Understanding buying committee personas (BCPs) within your ICPs
- Creating coordinated BCP Journeys – the right message at the right time
- Personalizing BCP messages
Once you have identified your company’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and have assessed institutional knowledge about potential target accounts, use both to weight the strongest contenders into tiers. Those with a good ICP match and lots of institutional knowledge may warrant a strategic ABM approach. Conversely, the less you know about an account, the more traditional your marketing approach should be.
The Styles of ABM…
- Traditional marketing for named accounts
- Programmatic ABM for one-to-many marketing, often customized by industry
- Scale ABM for one-to-few customized marketing to key roles in your top 100 accounts
- Strategic ABM for one-to-one personalized marketing to your top 10 accounts and key contacts therein.
Many companies start with a mixed-tier approach in which they handle a top few accounts with white gloves and the rest with traditional or programmatic marketing.
After you have identified your target accounts by tier, then you should consider roles within those targets. Buying Committees or Centers are common in enterprises preparing to make large investments. Each participant has a committee role to play and needs decision-making information tailor to suit. Because another acronym is always nice, we’ll call these roles Buying Center Personas, or BCPs. T
While the Champion who got you in the door may require constant nurturing, other BCPs may come into play at later stages and need specific information. For example, Security and Compliance ratifiers may need product specifications in various formats.
Though Revenue Marketing is an infinite customer experience loop, a more linear view (like the chart below) may assist with planning by helping stakeholders visualize the journeys within a buying committee. Consider taking some experienced Marketing and Sales stakeholders through an exercise to model the journeys. This will help clarify when BCPs participate and what information/content needs each has. You may discover a need to create more stage-specific content or to develop several similar but distinct campaigns running in parallel.
Finally, consider which type of content and which channels will be most effective for each BCP. A template like this can help you prioritize content development based on value and effort.
Example: this electronics retailer knows that to reach potential Champions at target account Acme in the Manufacturing industry while they are in consideration stage, they will need to produce a variety of materials and use multiple channels. They will then need to map this outreach alongside any campaigns planned for their BCP peers in other roles.
Each BCP journey may be different but should be coordinated to work together in order to maximize the account opportunity. Personalization plays an important role here. Instead of sending the same content to each person you think is on the buying committee, consider tailoring the copy as well as content offers. Acknowledge each BCP’s pain points, role and information needs. If possible, offer custom content. A Champion or Decision Maker may respond to a recorded webinar with an introduction for their company or an eBook with a custom cover letter and highlighted sections. A technical or security ratifier might need both design specs and implementation use cases. Procurement and Legal may work best when you offer your documents on “their paper”. Targeted media should support these messages.
Sometimes contacts hold multiple BCP roles and could receive overlapping touches, so account monitoring is crucial. Sound like a lot more work than “batch-and-blast”? With tools like dynamic content, program cloning and DAMs, personalization no longer means starting from scratch on each version. But expect personalization to take more and more internal bandwidth as you hone in on your ABM target accounts. Personal conversations take more time, but they are worth their weight in lifetime value.
Lesson 3: Play Together Nicely
- Understanding your customers’ experience (link to my previous blogs)
- How Orchestration / Sales plays lead to a better CXP
- Other questions to explore before diving into ABM
This blog series describes some important ways in which enterprises can benefit from ABM concepts without going all-in:
- Identify Your Ideal Customer – Create your ICP and use it as a yard stick. Hold all your accounts up to it and tag the most ICP-like for personalization.
- Carry On Multiple Conversations – Plot concurrent buying journeys for buying committee personas, including which assets each BCP will be offered and how.
- Play Together Nicely – Orchestrate cross-functional sales plays between Marketing, Inside Sales and Field Sales.
For the purposes of exploring the third concept, let’s consider the customer experience. Imagine that Marketing taken it upon themselves to identify key BCPs within key accounts and has nurtured each according to their information needs. Then an unaware BDR or Field Sales rep calls the account for a random conversation. Or an event presentation contradicts the communications. Does that look coordinated to the customer? Not so much. My blogs on Customer Experience explain how dire that disconnect can be. Hence the third ABM concept you can and should consider: Orchestration.
Coordinating cross-functional plays for key ICP accounts creates the optimum customer experience. In orchestration, each client-facing internal team has a role to play in moving the BCP journeys forward. Marketing, Sales and Sales Development all have assigned touchpoints and they must be coordinated so that the conversation is continuous. Kick-offs and regular touchpoints can be an effective way of making sure all teams are rowing together.
Events are a good place to start orchestration. Touches may range from personalized emails to custom LPs to onsite hosting to personal follow-up. To be most effective, these touches need to be well staged and well executed.
It’s a good idea to map out touchpoints and tools so everyone is clear about their role. For example, many SDR teams like to use cadence marketing tools such as SalesLoft and Outreach. That’s fine so long as their scripts match the marketing messages, support the journeys and follow campaign timelines. The last thing you want is an SDR calling a key account BCP about something totally irrelevant. Same goes for Sales handling after the SDR handoff. The idea is to play together.
To conclude, many enterprise leaders think that ABM is as simple a picking their best accounts and giving them extra marketing and sales attention. But here’s a partial list of questions you might want to ask internally to determine if you’re ready for full blown ABM.
- Does your company have a MAP synched with its CRM?
- Does your company target its sales efforts at a known/defined set of companies?
- Does your company design different campaigns for key segments or personas?
- Does Marketing deploy multi-touch, multi-channel campaigns?
- Does your company have content directed at different targets?
- Does your company have content directed at different stages in the buying journey?
- Do Sales and Marketing collaborate to create and close key opportunities?
- Can you track Target Account Pipelines across Marketing and Sales?
- Will Sales and Marketing leadership sponsor and participate?
If it seems like your organization might need more time to get ready, consider starting with the three concepts we’ve explored in this series: ICPs, BCPs and Orchestration. Moving forward with these three ABM techniques will help your company prepare for ABM’s many benefits, including maximum lifetime value from your best accounts.
About the Author
Lorena Harris is a Senior Strategist with The Pedowitz Group, joining after VP-level positions at several Fortune 500 companies. She specializes in designing roadmaps for change across marketing operations, programs and campaigns. The content referenced in this blog was developed while in the employ of The Pedowitz Group and is therefore their product.