Account-based marketing (ABM) is quickly becoming the strategy of choice for B2B marketers. We’ve written about the topic extensively here at TechnologyAdvice and even built a new category in our product database — account-based marketing software — to help buyers find the right tools for their ABM efforts.
Technology is important for modern ABM, but that’s putting the cart before the horse. Noted ABM expert and Terminus CMO Sangram Vajre once said, “ABM is a strategy, not a product.” Before embarking on any new initiative, marketers and other internal stakeholders must understand both why and how. Before you target your first account, you will have to land supporters in your organization and expand your influence to create buy-in. It’s hard to support a strategy you don’t understand; so the first step to any ABM implementation is selling ABM.
According to a 2015 survey from SiriusDecisions, 92 percent of B2B marketers believe ABM is a “must-have.” In a separate study, 71 percent said they plan to add ABM tools to their marketing stack in the coming months. Maybe you knew that. Maybe you’re already sold on ABM and understand the value it can bring, but you aren’t sure how to build internal support.
Gaining buy-in from your leadership team is a critical success factor, especially since ABM’s value (revenue) isn’t usually realized for some time. You’ll need to talk to the C-suite in language they understand: numbers. You’ll need to show the impact ABM can have on the metrics that matter most to your company, and be prepared to answer any objections.
Beyond the C-suite, there are some tactics you can use to gain support among sales and marketing — the two teams most responsible for running a campaign. Let’s take a look.
Selling ABM to Your Marketing Team
Odds are, you’re on the marketing team. If you’re the CMO or marketing director at your organization, you can probably skip this part, since you won’t need help selling yourself. But if you aren’t in a position of leadership on your marketing team, you’ll want to get your manager and other higher-ups on board. Some may feel you undermined them by approaching other leaders first, so it’s important to follow the chain-of-command in these situations. It would be a shame if your ABM initiative failed because of office politics.
It would be a shame if your ABM initiative failed because of office politics.
Thankfully, selling marketers on ABM is easy. Most have heard the term, but may not understand exactly what ABM is and the value it can bring. Make sure they know the difference between ABM and other, more traditional marketing strategies. Then, plan a pilot program. Most marketers are experimenters and tinkerers, so it shouldn’t be difficult to get them involved. This pilot, of course, will help you sell ABM to the rest of your organization.
When making the case to your marketing leadership for an ABM pilot, focus on the benefits of sales and marketing alignment; ABM is one of the best ways to make sure the two departments support each other. According to research from Marketo, well-aligned sales and marketing teams are 67 percent better at closing deals. Demandbase found that 34 percent of marketing departments with ABM programs in place say they are “tightly aligned” with their sales team.
Selling ABM to Sales
If your sales team isn’t fully invested, you will fail. ABM can make their jobs a lot easier, but you’ll have to prove it, and you’ll have to be careful in your approach. Most salespeople are protective of their accounts, and they’ll have to be sure that you won’t harm their relationships.
Start small; ask a few members of your sales team to identify accounts they have a good relationship with, but would like to grow. Maybe you have a large client that is currently piloting your services but hasn’t signed a contract. Help sales win that account by providing them with useful data on the contacts they have at that organization. What are their social media accounts? Do they have a blog, and does sales read it?
Set up a few Google Alerts for keywords associated with individuals and the companies you’re targeting, so you’ll know any time a new article is posted, a new partnership announced, a new executive hired, an award received, etc. Deliver all of this information to sales with key takeaways highlighted. They’ll be impressed that you tracked down the information and thankful they didn’t have to do it themselves.
Pro Tip: If you use Slack or some other internal communication platform that lets you integrate RSS feeds (or works with middleware like Zapier or IFTT), you can automatically post all of this information in an account-specific channel and invite the entire account team to view it and contribute. This is an easy way to keep sales in the loop and get them on board with your ABM plans.
Once your salespeople see that you’re there to help, ask them to share their greater account plan. Try to discern how marketing can help them meet their goals, and establish a few deliverables so you can further prove ABM’s value. These deliverables may be different for each account, and if your company sells multiple products, it may be quite an undertaking. Perhaps there are upsell or cross-sell opportunities, or other departments that would be a good fit for your product if sales had time to research and pursue them.
Pro Tip: Focus on small, immediate wins if possible. Identifying one or more decision makers within a particular department, for example, is a small, immediate win marketing can provide. Getting their contact information and setting an appointment is not.
Remember, ABM is about true sales/marketing alignment. Give sales the names, and let them leverage their existing relationship(s) to obtain the contact or introduction necessary. When that appointment is set or the account expands the amount of business they’re doing with your company, you’ve created a win together. Then you can approach sales management about the opportunity to expand your pilot and get the rest of the company on board.
As with any new initiative, expect some push back, especially if you’ll need to invest in new tools to execute and measure your ABM efforts. If you need help establishing why a particular tool is necessary, or identifying a software solution for a unique business problem, don’t hesitate to call for a free consultation with one of our unbiased Technology Advisors. They’re well-versed in use cases and value propositions for thousands of software solutions, and are available to help you narrow your options and choose the best tool for your needs.