Q&A with an ABM Specialist
Account Based Marketing (ABM) is growing with 76% of B2B companies in UK and Europe looking to increase their efforts in ABM in the next year (2018 B2B Marketing Census Report). But while ABM might be right for your organization, it might not be right for all of your customers. Paulien Boumans, EMG, interviewed Andy Bacon on what companies should think about when launching ABM.
Andy Bacon is a dedicated ABM consultant with experience supporting enterprise customers across Europe.
Paulien Boumans: Andy, why should a B2B company consider ABM?
Andy Bacon: ABM is a strategy and not a quick-win programme. When implemented correctly, it can help win new target accounts through initiating relationships with key decision makers and by driving and shaping buying cycles. But it also can help change your relationship with existing key accounts. It does this because the evaluation process enables you to really understand your customer’s business objectives and provides insight on how you can deliver added value where it counts. It can transform your business from a supplier to a strategic partner.
Paulien Boumans: What is the first step to ABM?
Andy Bacon: The first step is what I like to call bridging the “big divide.” This means having both the sales and marketing teams aligned and committed to the strategy. ABM provides the catalyst for change as it requires an inclusive approach from the outset. The sales team needs to be involved in the planning stages to establish a clearly defined vision. They cannot be handed a deck and expected to do it. Both sales and marketing will need to work together to identify the key accounts to target with the ABM strategy. It is even beneficial to have the marketing team visit the key accounts with sales to listen and learn.
Paulien Boumans: Which accounts are the best for ABM?
Andy Bacon: I tell clients to stop being a giraffe. Rather than focusing on accounts that are unattainable, focus on the lowest hanging fruit first. You need to zone in on the ones who can benefit the most from it and the ones where you have the time to nurture the strategy. ABM is extremely customized and might only apply to one or a few of your customers. Not every one of your accounts will be right for ABM. However, you might be able to cluster a few in a specific industry segment so you can spread the content across them or use semi-customized content across the cluster.
Paulien Boumans: How can ABM be profitable when it only focuses on one or a few accounts?
Andy Bacon: It may sound counterproductive to create a campaign solely to target one customer, but if that client is worth hundreds of thousands to you in potential business, then it’s well-worth the effort and expense of creating content just for them. To make sure you reach your ROI, you need to not only figure out your key accounts, but look at how much these key accounts are worth – and what you are willing to invest in them. One guideline is to only consider accounts worth at least a couple hundred thousand euros to a million.
This is a high value approach. It’s about winning these accounts and keeping them. And to do this you need to have an account that will be worth the investment – not one that will only be placing a single order. A key account is a repeat, reoccurring source of revenue and that lifetime value needs to be hefty – or theoretically would be hefty if work was put in to nurture it.
Paulien Boumans: How does an ABM bespoke campaign differ from a traditional campaign?
Andy Bacon: You need to remember that ABM is not about personas but real people.Usually traditional sales campaigns are geared to target a certain type of customer and not just one specific customer. To really customize a campaign, conducting in-depth customer insight is needed. Without it, it is impossible to develop a proposition that talks to the audience about their specific business and purchase objectives. You need to forget the marketing noise in the market and tune into what the customer wants to hear, and not what we wish to say.
It is unlikely existing data alone will deliver the depth and insight you need for ABM. The types of insight needed range from in-depth company profiles and executive profiles to an opportunity analysis to see where you can fit in with their goals. During this part of the process, using an agency like EMG can be helpful for companies. The agency can either guide them through this process or can provide them with a third-party unbiased analysis that may help their sales and marketing team see the customer with a fresh perspective.
Paulien Boumans: How can you measure ABM?
Andy Bacon: You can’t measure ABM by the same KPIs that you do with conventional sales strategies. If the sales cycle is 18 months then you can’t expect to see results at the end of Q1. It’s all about managing expectations. The pilot programme will tell you what you can really achieve. Use the results from the pilot to inform the stakeholders what they can expect from ABM in the future.
Alignment between sales and marketing is one aspect that is impossible to measure, but it is one of the key KPIs as it pays the longest in terms of dividends. Alignment can be a success factor and can overcome areas where revenue and profits are depressed. It breaks down silos and opens your company’s sales potential. Even though it’s hard to measure, it is a win – and I’ve been told by some of my ABM clients that it was their biggest win.
What you can measure are things like revenue growth, audience growth, time to pipeline and increase in deal size.You can also track soft metrics like a change in customer perceptions, stronger customer relations and the shift from supplier to partner.
Paulien Boumans: What advice would you give when starting out?
Andy Bacon: Always start with a pilot. You need to test, learn and then replicate at scale. Many companies are too ambitious and start out too fast. If you do this, you’ll be stretched and you will fail. I recommend piloting ABM with an existing client or a couple of clients where there is a lot of room for growth. You’ll not only see results faster, but you’ll foster a long-term strategic relationship.
If you are not sure where to start or how to get the pilot going, an agency like EMG can help you get your ABM programme off the ground. We can work with you on strategy, identifying the right customers with in-depth account insight and help you implement the programme.
Paulien Boumans: Andy, thank you very much for sharing your experience with us.
If you want to learn more about Account Based Marketing (ABM) please get in touch with Paulien Boumans at EMG: firstname.lastname@example.org