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What does it take for B2B marketers to succeed in ABM?

Account-Based Marketing (or ABM) is the hottest topic of the last 5 years in B2B marketing. In fact, 92% of B2B marketers believe it’s a ‘must-have’ business strategy.

However, while its popularity has increased, ABM is a very demanding B2B lead generation tactic. It requires a total realignment of your sales and marketing processes. It needs buy-in from many different areas of your organization. That’s why it’s not for everyone.

In this blog written by Cognism, we examine what B2B marketers need to do if they are going to reap the rewards of ABM. But first – a definition for the uninitiated!

What is ABM?

ABM is a B2B marketing initiative that focuses on selling to a set of high-value companies. Individual decision-makers in these companies are targeted with personalized content campaigns.

Why is ABM such a growth area in marketing at the moment? It’s simply because it works! A 2016 survey from the IT Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) found that ABM leads to higher ROI 84% of the time, compared to other marketing strategies.

At Cognism, we regularly run ABM campaigns aimed at our highest-value prospects. In putting together this guide, we’ve studied the evolution of our most successful campaigns. If you’re thinking of implementing ABM in your organization, here’s what you need to do.

5 steps for B2B marketers to succeed at ABM

1 – Align your sales and marketing teams

The central idea of ABM is that marketing focuses on the target accounts that sales has identified. It’s a narrow focus – quality over quantity. 

For that reason, your sales and marketing teams need to be in alignment rather than siloed. To run effective ABM, there must be no barriers at all between sales and marketing. To all intents and purposes, they should be working as one team. A concept now being coined as ‘smarketing’.

While this kind of sales and marketing alignment can’t happen overnight, there are several things you can do to get the ball rolling quickly:

  • Open up lines of communication between your VPs of Sales and Marketing. Set up a meeting, bringing together your top salespeople and marketers.
  • In the meeting, agree on the following: the accounts you wish to target with ABM, a strategy for the campaign and timescales for completing each stage.
  • Define your ABM campaign’s goals and select the metrics you want to track. Between the two teams, work out what success looks like.
  • Ensure everyone in your marketing and sales teams is aware of their roles and how they’re going to measure success.
  • Create a Slack channel for example for each ABM campaign, involving every participating salesperson and marketer. Share thoughts, ideas and successes daily.

2 – Select your target accounts

The second step in ABM is to identify the accounts you’re going to target. Your B2B sales team will know which accounts are likely to convert if they give it a big push. 

However, you should also consider the potential value to your business in your research. High-value accounts don’t necessarily mean the most lucrative or the biggest brands – they should be accounts with the highest possible chance of becoming customers. ABM is a long-term play that requires a great deal of time and resources, so you want the account to be as ‘winnable’ as possible.

One thing that’s helped us to define our ABM targets is to review our current customers. Then we look at their competitors. The thinking behind this is, if we’re providing value to similar companies in a specific industry, then it’s likely we can provide value to all the others, too!

3 – Gain deep knowledge of your target accounts

Step 3 is to formulate a strategy to convert your targets accounts into customers. Start by asking these questions:

  • What are their pain points?
  • How will your product relieve their pain?
  • What are the emotional levers you will need to pull to make them buy?
  • What kinds of content do they engage with and where?

Next, you need to know the organizational structure of your target account, relating to how they make purchases. You’ll need answers to the following:

  • How many decision-makers are there? 
  • Who are they? 
  • What is the relationship between them all? For example, who is the person who will use your product the most? 
  • Who’s in charge of the budget? Are they different from the main user? If so, you’ll need to address both these people, but in different ways.

This takes a lot of research on the part of your marketing and sales teams. But, we’ve found it’s the determining factor between ABM success or failure! 

4 – Deliver personalised content at all levels

Once you have your strategy in place and have researched your target accounts down to the smallest detail, it’s time to begin.

Take the time to develop personalized marketing content. Design this content to address the specific needs of every decision-maker within the account. For example, you must show the economic buyer the potential ROI of your product. At the same time, you must show the person who will use your product most often how it will make their life so much easier! 

Again, creating personalized content means that sales and marketing will have to be singing from the same hymn sheet. We know from experience that good ABM is a multi-channel undertaking.

Think about using a combination of these channels to deliver your content:

  • Your company blog for articles and whitepapers
  • Your company YouTube page for video content
  • Paid and organic social advertising on LinkedIn
  • Phone calls from your salespeople
  • Paid search advertising

While your content addresses every decision-maker differently, make sure your storytelling is consistent. When your target decision-makers speak to each other, you want them to find things in common. Use your content to position yourself as an authority in your industry. 

5 – Measure your results in detail

The final thing you need for ABM success is a robust system of measurement, using terminology agreed upon by your sales and marketing teams. 

We recommend selecting ABM metrics for the top, middle and bottom of the funnel; and also for post-sale. Cognism has published an article on this – ABM: What you need to track.

Track the results of your ABM campaigns to find out what worked and what didn’t. Use what you have learned to adapt your strategy for the future. 

This is just a quick snapshot of how to kick off an ABM strategy by our partner Cognism.

To find out more and review how CRM can help you in your ABM endeavor, you can also watch our webinar: Account Based Marketing 101.

This blog was written by Cognism the world’s best all-in-one globally compliant prospecting solution. Powered by patented AI technology, it provides organizations with compliant B2B data and a suite of sales acceleration tools to help action it. Cognism enables its worldwide business customers to find and deliver new revenue, faster.

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