Last week’s post generated some interest in how to make ABM happen at a low level – the execution level. I suspect since I went from the general to the particular campaign tactics that I inadvertently created some confusion in my points.
Ultimately, the post was about how to begin applying ABM to your marketing operations and campaign frameworks today, and not wait for a new ABM marketing tool.
A commenter called me out on this saying that I was confusing strategy and tactics. I gave this more thought and think that this is an inherent problem with ABM: is it a Tactic or is it a Strategy?
One point I made was that a firm in the Customer Development mode or one focused on a small number of Enterprise Accounts will always consider ABM a strategy. It’s what they do and they are setup from marketing to sales to work solely on Accounts.
“Take a hard look at your business model. Are you a high-volume SaaS solution company? If so, you probably would benefit more from targeted lead marketing strategy. But if that same business is seeking to chart a different course by having top-tier sales reps focus solely on large enterprise accounts, ABM absolutely will have value.”
ABM is a Strategy (for some), as well as a Tactic, (for others). I suspect that most B2B marketers considering ABM should look at it as a tactic to be applied to lead nurturing. Eventually, ABM could be run by an Account Marketer or BOFU Marketer (field marketing anyone?).
DemandMetric’s September 2015 study clearly showed that tactical application is likely most in use, with 41% of firms over $500MM already using ABM. Such firms likely have a separate Enterprise team that needs ABM. And these firms also were using ABM the longest, with 42% over 1 year of use. The smallest firms were using ABM the least, with 67% of companies under $24MM just starting to use it and 42% of medium firms using it less than one year.
As a marketing framework, ABM has a strong point to make: marketing and sales are about adding Logos, not people’s names to your website’s Client page. Yet, people make decisions, not companies and we still have to build a list, one person at a time. Integrate’s KC Cox (and others) have pointed out that no matter how much you automate, Sales must get in there and use the human touch to understand relationships, the politics, and when to close.
What Sales Does to Build Accounts
Salespeople have been practicing “ABM” manually for 100 years. They tirelessly keep in touch with the leads that come in, slowly building a relationship and increasing their network within the firm, finding Champions, Users, and Decision Makers. This traditional sales process involves both inbound leads and prospecting.
I did this back in my Sales days, finding all the right people to bring into one giant meeting at a government agency. We won that sale. I also spent a year visiting several Universities in California to build support for a large purchase, had the big meeting, and did not get the budget approval. It was very manual, and very expensive to meet each person.
Could I have automated more of that process? Yes, such as keeping the leads aware of our benefits and other developments. Would that have made me more successful? Only if ABM had reached the right people at each university – people with budgets and needs that I could not uncover with prospecting. A large organization is always going to be hard to crack.
The Sales Account approach includes finding several people. In Demand Gen, the first two groups will show up the most and we often leave it to Sales to complete the relationships in the CRM and by phone.
- Researcher – the intern, associate, or manager who does that “60%” of the research into solutions.
- Influencer – these could be key people on teams related to the service. In Martech, these may include IT and Sales, for example.
- User Champions – the people who really want this to happen because they have the burning pain. They are usually Managers and Directors. (in small firms and buys, this may be enough).
- Executive Sponsor, or Executive Champion – the VP (or higher), who can own the initiative and push it through. This person may also be the Decision Maker if the project is small.
- Decision Maker – the person who can sign the approvals for budget and contracts. This may not be the Executive Sponsor.
- Purchasing/Contracts – the contract manager who can ensure you get paid.
Wouldn’t Sales love it if all of this data were in their lap, with each person clearly marked as “Ready to Hear from Sales”?
What Should be Automated in Account Building?
ABM suggests that much of this Sales process can be automated, which implies an ABM product that can do certain things:
- Relate leads to each other through their Titles, Company Name, and Domain Name.
- Report on Account metrics, such as Accounts at each Lifecycle Stage, Coverage (depth) of Buyer Personas, Awareness, Engagement, Program Impact, and Influence, as described by Jon Miller.
- Understand how to identify the Account and modify inbound and outbound communications to tell the firm’s story more clearly to each person, yet coordinate that specifically for that industry and Account.
- Limit email to that group of related domains to avoid going into the spam filter.
- Push Account records into an Account.
- Push Account records into the proper nurturing stream.
- Push Accounts to the right salesperson.
Thus, I see an ABM tool automating the nurturing step of the process and the data relationship step of the process. Humans have to be a part of this process and know when to stop the marketing and automation.
Where are the ABM Tools and Platforms?
There is no separate ABM platform to add to your CRM-MAP constellation. Thus, my advice to marketing operations professionals the other day, was to first modify their nurturing framework to be able to focus more on Accounts, using a modified content grid and buyer personas.
Scott Vaughan of Integrate, seems to disagree in an unrelated interview, and was cited in the comments:
“Using email and nurture through your ole ‘reliable’ marketing automation system to nurture within an account is not an ABM strategy.”
I disagree a bit with Scott here because most firms still need to learn and test ABM concepts. They can, and should, do this with lead nurturing and the MAP.
The Demand Metric Survey also showed that technology is not necessarily the barrier, with only 11% reporting technology was a barrier. Instead, 34% reported they did not really understand ABM at all, with another 17% saying they had “other reasons.”
And this is the challenge because all the tools and training have often been about leads, not Accounts. Instead of worrying about the technology platform, as I have suggested, try applying ABM in the process and nurturing tactics first. Understand it, track it as best you can, and by the time you are ready to expand, there will be new ways to scale the effort.
Tools to Operationalize ABM
This blog is about bridging the gap between high strategy concepts and getting down to the brass tacks of putting the messaging out there, whether that’s on a website, email, landing page, or elsewhere. There are serious details in running a demand generation campaign just as there are in running an ABM program. In the previous post, I offered a framework for handling ABM tactical applications to plug into your tools.
Fortunately, you already have most of the tools at your fingertips today:
- Data Cleaning and Appending
- Content refinement
- Dynamic Content in Emails
- Account Based reporting
- Predictive Scoring – this is one area I believe is ideal for the predictive tools, assuming you have enough data.
Is Demand Generation Dead?
Most of you out there are at a larger volume SaaS firm where lead counts matter. ABM will be part of your constellation of tools, especially as your firm works to add Enterprise logos. Your funnel will then have a few pipes running leads to a separate set of ABM funnels, working each group of Accounts by Industry, or another segmentation. In other words, a more developed bottom-of-the-funnel system.
Certain consultancies, project shops, and high value advice firms will find ABM a better overall strategy to winning clients. Companies focused on only Fortune 500 type firms will use ABM as their strategy.
Still, I would caution against throwing out the demand gen concepts of building an audience and then combining touches to move people closer to talking to sales. Many consultancies have built large audiences for their content and point of view as part of their marketing. Only a small number will buy at anytime, but you never know when a long time follower will be promoted into a role where they can hire you for a project.
Account Based Marketing Managers
ABM is a different way of thinking from the typical lead generation demand marketer. Instead of leads, you want Accounts. Accounts, however, are made up of individual leads! Thus, I suggest that your firm may want to hire an ABM Manager to interface closely with Sales and Marketing Operations. This new hire can think in terms of Accounts and be in charge of the sales-marketing alignment required.
The standard funnel setup looks like:
- TOFU Team (Content, Inbound, Ads)
- MOFU Team (ABM?, Demand Gen, Events, outbound emails, webinars, sales tools)
- BOFU Team (ABM, testimonials, case studies, reference accounts)
My initial instinct is to have a BOFU team run by an ABM marketer. If your firm has a traditional “field marketer” it may make sense for them to shift to the BOFU team as Sales’ ABM go to person.
Demand Metric’s survey, however, reported that those firms using ABM reported higher impact in MOFU, where “accounts choose to interact further with a vendor.” A full 32% of firms said ABM impacted the mid-funnel, while only 13% impacted the bottom of the funnel. If ABM, then, is about influencing the individual leads to include your firm in an RFP, meetings, or call backs, then it makes sense to put ABM techniques higher up in the funnel.
To me, this supports the idea that ABM lead nurturing programs are an appropriate starting point in terms of technology and technique. The ABM programs would then start at the Mid-Stage content and attempt to encourage sharing in the organization so you can collect more Coverage.
In terms of staffing and workflow, the ABM Manager may work for Demand Gen and cover the Middle and Bottom of the funnels. Each organization may need a different setup.
ABM Tactics vs. ABM Strategy
Last week I mentioned Terminus as a method to begin ABM using retargeting. Marketo’s RTP also claims to help run ABM. These are tools, which are part of the overall strategy. They help keep messaging in front of leads and can use Account segmentation to send the right message repeatedly.
Interestingly, others disagreed. Scott Vaughan followed up his earlier quote with:
“Neither is using advertisements to target and retarget a group of people because they work at a company and came to your web site.”
Yes, absolutely doing retargeting is not a strategy; it is tactic that should fit the overall ABM plan. If your ABM plan indicates that retargeting CXOs is not aligned well with the way you sell to CXOs, then surely do not spend the money.
The Funneholic discussed many tactics to use in ABM in a recent TOPOhq post. A few of these tactics can be automated, while others require careful segmentation, and still others are for Sales to work directly.
Ultimately, with 76% of firms (Demand Metrics) reporting they are testing, considering, or not using ABM, there is a long way to go. These firms should absolutely decide to test the tactics of ABM first, with new frameworks and focused nurturing programs. If the results look good, then it makes sense to consider a separate ABM team or moving to ABM as a complete Sales-Marketing strategy.
What are your plans for ABM in the next year?
Image Credit: flickr Salford University