Account-based marketing (ABM) was the make-over that marketing needed: filtering and exposing the right leads, aligning them with the right tactics; executing with precision.
Buyers got what they wanted, and they got it where, and when, they needed it. And marketing teams? They got ROI.
It was a blueprint for a process that, until then, was muddled. Everyone was let in. Most got out. Very, catch me if you can.
ABM purified the process and in doing so killed off a volume-play culture of leads flooding the sales funnel. Of teams spending too much time cleaning up, rather than converting.
That’s how it used to be, and it is easy, in hindsight, to understand why. More can seem better. Not so much safety in numbers, but surely some sales in numbers?
How ABM went from tactic to the main tool
For nearly 20 years, ABM has helped evolve the marketing process, and in doing so graduated from mere tactic to being at the heart of the marketing strategy, pumping optimised leads through the funnel. ABM is now one of the central cogs aligning demand creation, customer relationship programs, and messaging against a set of defined accounts and goals, to transport leads towards conversion.
You need VIP data –– not leads that need leg-work
Before ABM, B2B marketers were using a drag net — by all-means-possible — approach to shovel as many leads into the funnel as they could. Lead targets clouded common sense and the funnel got foggy. The leads, most of them led nowhere. They either got away, or just didn’t ferment.
And, for the most part, we knew why. The scattergun approach of “filling the funnel” was volume over quality.
An obsession with lead numbers was a dereliction of data care and led to clogged and polluted pipelines.
Not surprisingly, it didn’t lead to more sales. It slowed things down. Sullied marketing – sales relationships and put ideal buyers even further out of reach.
When marketers did attempt to make connections, they were fumbling in the dark with no idea who was in-market, or where they were at in the buyer’s journey. Hello, anyone there?
And teamwork? There wasn’t any. Each to their own silo, as opportunity after opportunity, was lost.
ABM narrowed the scope and supercharged prospects
By combing through all available information –– past successes, buyer intent, and info from companies’ websites –– ABM providers were able to zero in on best prospects to create lists of accounts most likely to become buyers (Target Account Lists, TAL). Not just names and numbers.
Marketers could then automatically import that data into their systems –– safe in the knowledge it was accurate –– and use it to personalise their approach for optimal outcomes.
But now it must evolve –– as buyers have
Companies of all sizes and types embraced ABM, TALs, and expectations spiralled.
And just like in pre-ABM days, the conversation soon turned to volume. Sales teams saw the benefit and urged marketers to add more names to their lists and management wanted more return on the investment. So, requests for tens of buyers on a TAL, soon became hundreds.
ABM, of course, delivered, but let’s just take stock here of what all this was hoping to achieve –– how –– and at what cost.
The goal was to help B2B marketers boost clear, measurable ROI with:
- Message targeting, which tailors creative assets to customers’ specific attributes and needs.
- Sales and marketing alignment –– no more silos. Marketers are empowered to identify key accounts, craft campaigns, and work collectively to move accounts through the pipeline.
- Shorter sales cycles, thanks to a process that nurtures all prospects simultaneously rather than beginning at a low level in the organisation and moving up.
- Less waste equals more precision, better processes, and faster results. Zeroing in on fewer accounts –– those most likely to buy –– means a smoother ride for buyers and a better chance of conversion.
ABM became a powerful marketing tool, delivering undeniable results. But it is expensive, and resource intensive. Truly impactful ABM requires a lot of data and customisation, meaning somewhere along the line, it may become unfeasible, or not as effective as we’d hope.
Therefore, you must:
- Activate the target accounts.
- Govern the data: Make sure everyone is opted in, the data is compliant, the info correct.
- Connect: Choose tactics and action campaigns to target the right people at the accounts.
- Measure: Collect data that quantifies which tactics worked, so you can optimise your marketing efforts and re-target when necessary.
And as you and your team do that, you must answer critical questions –– vital to precise targeting –– including:
- Who are your key personas?
- Who are your buying groups within these accounts?
- How do you then connect with them from a technological perspective?
- How do you start to map out and activate them by journey?
- How do you measure success?
Marketers beware, buyers now do what they want
Rather than sitting and waiting for us, buyers are doing their own thing. They’re independent, savvy, self-sufficient. If marketers aren’t a step ahead, opportunities will be lost, because buyers aren’t following the breadcrumbs to the funnel. They aren’t clicking on a display ad or going on a website to sign up for a demo.
They’re not practising sales-distancing, but they’re digital natives, and they know their clicks have consequences. Follow-up emails. Phone calls. It’s a waste of their time when they’re not ready to purchase, and it’s a waste of yours.
So, they’re out there on their own, doing all the things you’re trying to do for them, drawing conclusions without even hearing from sales, skipping from one channel to the next. And that demo? Maybe they’ve already decided against it.
In a buyer-centric marketplace, ABM and B2B marketing must evolve to ensure the next lily pad is always lined up, so buyers don’t hop off the journey.
Convergence is the key that unlocks the next level. ABM and broad-based demand marketing optimised is Precision Demand Marketing. It is focusing on meeting the buyer where they are. On their terms. With what they need. The traditional sales-driven account-based approach has evolved. It’s had to. Because it’s no longer about what buyers might want.
It’s what they now expect, and anything short of that expectation, may end that journey.