In reviewing the latest research on account-based marketing (ABM) best practices, it struck me that they mirror what sales and marketing leaders have tried to follow for decades. There is, of course, a modern twist to them. It reflects today’s technological capabilities as well as marketing’s new focus on accounts.
So, what are companies that succeed at ABM doing that sets them apart?
- They’re reaching out to target accounts early in the buying cycle before their competition grabs the advantage.
- They’re aligning sales and marketing.
- They’re focused on qualification.
The new spin here is that instead of focusing on qualifying leads, companies now qualify accounts.
In this blog, we’ll look at each of these strategies for ABM in greater detail.
1. Reach Buyers Earlier
A decade or so ago, marketers were lured in by the shiny new star of inbound marketing. It promised to solve lead generation challenges by attracting prospects who were interested in what they had to offer. You simply provided educational material to people who were trying to solve a problem their product or solution addressed. They exchanged their contact information for it, and you nurtured these leads, following up if and when they reached the ready-to-buy phase.
While inbound marketing can be effective, research shows that the most successful ABM marketers don’t wait for leads to take the bait. They try to contact several decision makers at a target account before they express any interest. Why? Because buyers have built up a resistance to content offers. They now wait until later in the buying cycle before filling out any forms. Many try to avoid being caught altogether.
When the fish don’t bite anymore, it’s time to try something new.
However, in this case, the “something new” is actually something old—calling people. In the past, it was not uncommon to call individuals who had not raised their hands and try to start a conversation. The difference now, however, is that there’s no need to make “cold” calls where you have no idea whether someone is seeking a solution like the one your company offers. Instead, you can use tools, such as Bombora or RainKing, which marry buyer intent data with predictive analytics. These apps enable you to discover businesses that are actively researching your type of solution. Once you identify these accounts, you can research the decision makers within those organizations and reach out to them.
2. Sales and Marketing Alignment
Good businesses have always aspired to align the efforts of sales and marketing. That’s because this practice drives results.
When sales and marketing teams are working in harmony, companies are 67% more likely to close deals, plus they grow on average by 32%. That compares to a 7 percent decline for businesses where the two departments travel different paths. ABM practitioners recognize the importance of alignment. When asked about their top priorities for ABM, more cite the alignment of sales and marketing than any other initiative. To implement any plan effectively, sales and marketing leaders need to agree on strategies, goals, target accounts, lead routing, metrics, and the data required to populate your CRM system.
However, because ABM requires sales and marketing to work together for a majority of the sales cycle, alignment is more critical than ever. For instance, salespeople become involved earlier in the process, engaging with target accounts via social media. Plus, rather than passing the baton off to sales once an account is qualified, marketing stays on board even after the purchase to help develop the customer’s business. After all, ABM is a “land and expand” strategy.
3. Work on Qualified Accounts
The strongest companies have always passed qualified leads to their reps rather than having them waste time on those that are unqualified. Those that succeed at ABM, however, go a step further. They insist that salespeople work on qualified accounts. In other words, if just one person at a company reaches a qualified lead score, it’s not enough to pursue the business. Instead, account score is the evaluation criteria.
While ABM is one of the newer sales and marketing strategies, you need to approach it with guidelines that have been essential to sales and marketing for many years. Despite buyers doing much of their research online, you can still gain an advantage by reaching out to them early.
Sales and marketing need to be in alignment. The good news, however, is that ABM makes that easier since everyone agrees on the target accounts up front. Also, today’s technology makes it possible for all team members to have a view of the same metrics. Finally, salespeople should focus their energies on qualified accounts, not just qualified leads. Here, ABM has raised the bar.