The Peaks And Pitfalls Of Account-Based Marketing

Cast a wide enough net and you’ll catch some treasure with the trash. It’s a lead generation approach all marketers have utilized—and even had success with.

And while the cast-a-net approach works, savvy marketers (and sales teams, too) are looking to bypass the trash entirely by trading their net in for a scope and a harpoon.

The shift towards a more targeted approach isn’t surprising given the level of noise and competition in today’s B2B marketplace. Marketers are finding one of the best ways to break through it is to dive into the deep end and create a market of one.

Account-based marketing, also referred to as ABM, is just that: a hyper-focused strategy that builds messaging, content and campaigns around the wants, needs and challenges of specific high-value accounts rather than whole industries or markets.

Which means you’re no longer on the dock fishing for leads. You’re out on the boat chasing whales.

The 3 faces of account-based marketing.

Depending on factors like company size, offerings and objectives, ABM can take on several forms. One-to-one, or strategic ABM, is the type most marketers are familiar with.

With strategic ABM, marketing works with sales to identify the business challenges of an individual account, develop a personalized value proposition and create a customized campaign that demonstrates an in-depth understanding of that account’s business.

One-to-few, or ABM lite, combines strategic ABM’s high-touch outreach with high-volume activities to reach a cluster of accounts that share similar qualities, objectives and obstacles.

And programmatic ABM is a one-to-many approach where technology is used to automate and track personalized marketing communications with individuals at a larger number of targeted accounts.

Jon Borg-Breen, our Co-Founder and Head of Sales, discusses the type of account-based marketing we’ve seen be most beneficial for clients in the video below.

ABM is on every marketer’s radar.

It’s easy to see why.

Reason #1: Aligned sales and marketing

Think about it: the things that used to come between your sales and marketing teams (conflicts on lead quantity, quality, prioritization, etc.) disappear with ABM. Instead, your marketing team runs alongside your sales team, determining the accounts you’re targeting, where you’re targeting them and how to bring them to the table.

Reason #2: Better customer experiences

Today’s buyers want proof of the specific value you can offer them. With ABM, you can give it to them. Every touchpoint is personalized, allowing you to deliver the content they want, when they need it and where they are.

Reason #3: Improved efficiency and ROI

ABM flips the funnel, which means you don’t find accounts worth engaging with at the end of your campaign—you start with them. This targeting limits resource waste within your sales and marketing teams.

Marketers can focus on creating programs specifically crafted for a small number of high-value accounts that, by design, are most likely to close—boosting efficiency and effectiveness. And with fewer accounts in your purview, ABM not only delivers higher ROI, it also makes it easier to track and prove.

Reason #4: Increased sales-qualified leads

With ABM, you’re not just tossing leads over to sales that go nowhere. ABM increases lead quality because you’re deliberately targeting the right accounts and people with the right message, making leads more likely to progress from marketing-qualified to sales-qualified.

Reason #5: Shortened sales cycle

ABM works particularly well for companies looking to land large accounts. But large accounts typically mean multiple stakeholders and longer sales cycles. With ABM, stakeholders are nurtured simultaneously instead of individually, reducing the time it takes to make a purchasing decision.

Beware of ABM traps.

Account-based marketing comes with a lot of benefits, but if your sales and marketing teams aren’t prepared—or your organization as a whole isn’t on board—it’s easy for even the best laid plans to go astray.

Here are some of the common challenges we see marketers face when executing a successful ABM campaign.

TRAP #1:
Tackling targets

The first step to successful ABM marketing is defining and identifying your high-value accounts. But how do you know who they are? And what if your teams don’t agree?

Most sales and marketing teams have very different ideas on what kind of accounts they should target. Marketing tends to be more optimistic, seeing a variety of accounts as a good fit, while sales takes a more pessimistic view, narrowing their focus to “easy” accounts they may already have relationships with. And when there is no direction from leadership, the waters become even murkier.

Getting your sales and marketing teams as well as the broader organization fully aligned on how and why accounts are targeted should be your first priority.

TRAP #2:
Selecting solutions

You have the right accounts (check). But if you try selling them a solution they don’t know—or realize—they need, your campaign is heading for trouble.

Choosing the right product or service for your ABM campaign is more than deciding what you want to sell. It’s about identifying the solution that actually solves your target audience’s problems, and then packaging it in a way that resonates with them.

To do that, you must gain a clear understanding of what those problems are, the pain they bring and who at your target accounts cares whether or not they get resolved.

TRAP #3:
Getting to go

Now that you have the right accounts (check) and the right solution (double-check), how do you get your ABM campaign off the ground?

Great question. Because while ABM is a lot of great things, it isn’t a magic fix, and it won’t overcome broken processes or practices. Undefined sales and marketing roles, skill gaps and responsibility overlaps are just a few of the obstacles that will stand in the way of you and a successful ABM campaign launch.

Getting your teams ABM ready requires commitment, collaboration, prioritization and, above all, expertise. And sometimes that expertise comes in the form of a third party. Yeah, we said it, but it’s as truthful as it is self-serving. A third party like Symbiont can fill skill and knowledge gaps while helping you identify and bridge process breakdowns.

ABM is effective, but not exclusive.

When done correctly, ABM can deliver significant results. But that doesn’t mean you should shut down your other lead generation tactics.

Inbound marketing and outbound sales activities are still important and can actually feed your account-based marketing. What you learn from your ABM activities can inform everything else you’re doing—and planning to do in the future.

With ABM, you can take what works and make it have a broader appeal. Its test and learn aspects help you zero in on a specific message, and that specific message (as well as other ABM learnings) can be applied to engage a broader audience.

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