Do you have many leads but find it difficult to close deals? Are you focusing on individual leads instead of segmented accounts? Do you struggle with marketing and sales alignment?
If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” then there could be a problem with your marketing/sales funnel, and you may want to consider remedying it by implementing an account-based marketing strategy.
Account-based marketing, commonly known as ABM, is primarily a way to integrate marketing and sales efforts to close larger deals faster, and more efficiently.
If you’re not familiar with ABM, I’m sure it sounds too good to be true. Closing large deal is notoriously complex and time-consuming. However, teams that incorporate ABM strategies are seeing very real results, in terms of ROI, deal quality and more focused prospecting:
The benefits of deploying ABM in your organization expand beyond the sales cycle and into customer success and ongoing customer relationships. Companies that use ABM found a 74 percent improvement in customer relationships.This is because personalization and curated content live at the heart of every successful ABM strategy, and personalization is all about treating accounts as people rather than numbers. Ultimately, it’s a better way to build relationships.
Before strategy hits the drawing board, your company will need to devise a way to align both the marketing and sales teams. A few common yet effective ways to do this is by creating a single customer journey, agreeing on personas to target, ensuring marketing and sales messages are consistent, and listening to customer feedback.
Next, it’s time to focus on the core of any high-performing ABM strategy, and that’s identifying accounts that fit your ideal customer profile. These are prospective companies in a market where you believe you have the highest potential of closing deals that meet your deal criteria. You only have so many hours in the day and you want to spend them on the right deals - right?
In addition to identifying high-potential accounts, you’ll want to identify the right contacts in these companies. Often these are the key decision-makers in the buying process like managers, directors, and executives. They are generally, not junior employees. That said, in some cases a junior employee is the gatekeeper or technology tester. In those cases, you probably want to include them in your ABM plan. Remember, ABM is less concerned with acquiring and selling to many low-quality leads and more concerned with acquiring a few high-quality leads. So its OK to spend time getting to know the account thoroughly. In that regard, having an account-based analytics tool at your disposal could drastically help when it comes to lead scoring and qualifying accounts.
Now that you have a set of potential accounts to target, it’s time to guide them through your ABM funnel and focus on their stage of awareness. Begin by creating targeted campaigns and align messages with an the different contacts interests’ in mind. This includes blog content, newsletters, direct mail, paid ads, social events, and more. Ideally, you want to personalize your outreach; marketing leaders should get content and messaging that is different than content and messaging going to IT or sales leaders. In addition, you should look at how accounts are engaging with you and pinpoint their preferred marketing channels. This is a joint exercise. Marketing and sales teams should work in tandem to deeply understand their accounts.
To make sure your ABM strategy is working, you’ll need to analyze, measure, test, and adjust. Making the proper adjustments for each account starts with knowing the right ABM metrics to track which can be pulled from an account-based marketing tool.
One of the main purposes of ABM is to eliminate poorly qualified marketing leads being handed off to the sales team. The upside is more high-quality accounts in the pipeline, the downside is more time spent researching, analyzing, and qualifying accounts. For ABM to be effective, you’ll need some deliberate qualification standards. Have your sales and marketing team put their heads together on this and define it. Then use this during the research and identification phase of your ABM efforts.
Why should I track this? Measuring marketing-qualified accounts, or MQAs, as a metric is important for benchmarking and maintaining qualification standards. Look at the current process and weigh them against additional sales qualifying questions.
ABM thrives most when interactions between a company and its accounts are hyper-personalized, but personalization can only go so far. If you’re finding a loss of engagement from target accounts, it’s time to look deeper into those accounts’ behavior. You should create an engagement model that tallies up the various way an account is engaging. You may want to assign different weights to different interactions. A 30 minute phone call might be worth 5 points versus a like on a LinkedIn post might be worth just one point.
Why should I track this? Measuring account engagement as a metric is important for analyzing and adjusting your ABM strategy. Does a specific account respond better to email versus blog content? Are your emails delivering correctly? Where in the email are they engaging? For example, if you’re finding more success with an account through email signature marketing, then it’s time to double-down on that effort. Meet your accounts where they prefer to engage the most.
Because ABM is a more targeted approach to marketing and selling, you should find that deals are being closed faster and more efficiently – but you really won’t know this until you’re tracking pipeline velocity. Briefly, pipeline velocity is how long does it take for the average deal to move through the stages and close. If your pipeline velocity is not higher for ABM deals, then you should reevaluate your ABM campaigns (content, targets etc) to understand why velocity has not increased and what you can do to fix that.
Why should I track this? Measuring pipeline velocity as a metric is important for finding opportunities and bottlenecks in the sales cycle, and identifying how long it takes to reach a final yes/no decision on accounts. It’s also important for comparing how your current sales cycle under an ABM approach stacks up against previous cycles.
The ideal ABM strategy should yield a higher average selling price, also known as ASP. This is because enough time and research have been allotted for prospecting the right high-value accounts. If you are not generating higher ASPs, then you are wasting money on ABM when the old way of running sales and marketing would have delivered the same results at higher volumes. Ideally, you should be looking at least a 50% bump in ASP to make the campaign worth the while.
Why should I track this? Measuring ASP as a metric is important for seeing the real value of ABM, but it’s also good for evaluating MQAs and informing product-market fit. Are we targeting the right accounts? Where do we need to make adjustments? Are positioning the product the right way? Look at ASP before and after incorporating an ABM strategy.
ABM isn’t just for the business, its marketers, and its salespeople, it’s also for creating a better buying journey for the customer. Remember, 74 percent of companies said their customer relationships improved with ABM. If ABM is working as promised, you should be able to track a reduced churn rate for the cohort of customers that you bring in via ABM. This will take some time to track, particularly if you are selling a B2B product, with longer lifecycles and major barriers to installation (and by extension deep stickiness).
Why should I track this? Measuring customer churn rate as a metric is important for maintaining relationships with your post-sale audience. Creating hyper-personalized campaigns and engaging deeper with your accounts after striking a deal can help reduce churn rate. You can take this metric a step further using a customer success tool and predict churn rates accurately with data analytics.
The benefits of deploying ABM are real. The road to developing a meaningful ABM strategy should be a thoughtful process with well-defined metrics, especially when it comes to aligning marketing and sales teams. Check out this ultimate guide to ABM to learn everything about campaigns, playbooks, channels, and more.