Is Account-Based Marketing the Holy Grail to LeadGen Nirvana or just another black-box solution destined to cost a lot of money, distract marketing and just end up getting more bad leads to the sales department faster than ever before?
As ABM has become a growing force in the B2B space, it’s something that is being asked more often. Is this a trend that will profoundly change how we all do business, or a fad that quickly will pass away? I recently was asked this question, but I have to laugh a little bit because it betrays a misunderstanding about Account-Based Marketing. It’s neither the Holy Grail to LeadGen Nirvana or a black box solution because ABM is a philosophy, not a product. If you are a devout follower of ABM, your concern isn’t with Lead Generation at all. Instead, it’s focused on Demand.
However, ABM is Nirvana – for those who are doing it right.
LeadGen is, at its core, a numbers game. You are trying to gather the most qualified leads for the least cost. It’s predicated on the idea that your core objective is to continually reach a broader and broader audience. And to do that, you must generate a large volume of leads. This is why so many people spend so much time analyzing waterfalls to determine how many net new leads they must accumulate in order to hit their overall goals. You know the drill. “Buy more lists! Run CPL campaigns! We need more in the top of the funnel!”
Account-Based Marketing turns that strategy on its head. Instead of flooding the top of the funnel with leads of often questionable value, it takes a much different approach to feeding a robust pipeline. First, you map out your potential accounts, pairing those down to a smaller subset of highly valued accounts. These target accounts are ones that are most likely to buy now and provide the greatest potential revenue. Yes, it may sound counter-intuitive. You want me to build pipeline by going after less potential customers? But remember, you are identifying the real gems – the targets that have the best chance of resulting in closed deals. In fact, the trick to ABM is not to target too many accounts or you will risk losing focus.
Once you know which companies you’re targeting, you will need to map out all of the potential influencers of your deal. As you already know, today’s B2B landscape is growing increasingly complex – especially if you are selling a complicated product or service. As deal sizes get larger, though, you will need to start mapping out a larger set of buyer personas. You must think about the role of people like the CFO, procurement and legal. How will they each need to be involved to get your deal closed? Remember, the buying process in big deals always is done through consensus.
Only after you fully understand all of the people who have a seat at your buying table can you move on to the phase that traditionally could be considered LeadGen. For each of your target accounts, you need to know who are those specific people that fit your buyer personas? If you target the CMO, what is his or her name? There are no lack of emerging technology tools that can help you identify such key players inside a target account.
From here, Account-Based Marketing is about aligning with Outbound Sales to generate the largest revenue. Marketing provides the air cover by actively nurturing and educating the known universe of prospects that you already have identified by selecting targeted accounts. Marketing produces the content and materials that help lure contacts at target companies into deeper conversations with sales. In turn, sales can effectively utilize these moments of attention that Marketing has created.
What I am describing is an all-in approach where highest-performing teams start to look like a combined Revenue department, rather than separated Sales and Marketing departments. When you have large Average Selling Prices, you can tailor content for specific accounts that are more effective than broad-based, mass content. Want to hunt whales? You will need to develop content that specifically speaks to the needs and challenges of companies on a one-to-one basis. Rather than having a Sales Development Representative churning through a large volume of purchased lists, why not have them focus on breaking into the most important accounts?
A coordinated effort that involves both Marketing and Sales just makes more sense. With predictable cadences, your Sales team can stay on message while pursuing the best leads when they are ready to purchase your product. Also, don’t forget all of the additional channels beyond email, mobile and social to communicate with your prospects. Direct mail can be strikingly effective here if the perceived value is right. In-person events have their purpose at giant tradeshows with a big booth space. But what can be even better are smaller, intimate encounters, such as executive dinners and networking events that ultimately can form real relationships with your buyers.
And in an ABM strategy, Marketing doesn’t just toss the ball to Sales and tell them which way to run. It’s a combined effort all the way to the finish line, and right on through customer upsell and cross-sell, and on into customer education and renewal. Marketing is the backbone of high-performing companies – not an afterthought only for branding. Finally, ABM ends with fully understanding your results and then using that information to plot your future strategy in a data-driven manner.
It’s also important to note that whichever individual pieces of technology you decide to use to create your ABM stack will have no bearing on your overall strategy. Technologies will come and go. Some may help you and others may not. But the core of ABM never changes – and that is understanding your prospects at the account level. As long as you keep your Marketing department focused on the right goals, you will build revenue. Also, you might actually save Marketing dollars because you won’t be wasting money on “spray-and-pray” tactics of dubious value.
So is Account-Based Marketing a black-box solution? Absolutely not. It’s a philosophy. More than that, ABM is a strategic approach for successful companies in today’s changing B2B world. Perhaps Account-Based Marketing won’t lead to LeadGen Nirvana. But it could lead to Revenue Nirvana. ABM is a new way of business – a pivot to higher revenue. It utilizes many of the traditional tools that marketers always have used. But it implements them with greater skill and precision.
ABM gets the best results of all: The highest revenue possible.