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25 September 2019 | Phil Brown

ABM: Fad or Fortune?

Account Based Marketing, or ABM, is one of the most talked about trends in B2B marketing. ABM enthusiasts make many claims – from improved Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) to enhanced customer advocacy – but for those companies that have gone down the ABM route, has reality lived up to the hype? And how can you ensure you maximise the return on your ABM programme?


Early promise attracting big spends

Most companies are still in the early stages of implementation with 52% of ABM programmes having been in place less than 1 year, but the results so far suggest that it does indeed have clear benefits. Compared with traditional marketing initiatives, 77% of ABM programmes have seen their ROI improve by 10% or more, and 45% have more than doubled their ROI.

ABM also has its challenges, most notably allocating sufficient budget and resources to do the job well. The average spend on ABM programmes is a whopping 28% of marketing budget, which is a significant commitment for something relatively new.

So, is this 28% of budget well spent?

 

ABM ticks all the right B2B boxes

We have already talked about the ROI benefit claimed by early adopters – but what’s the basis of these results?

Essentially, ABM is a much more targeted approach than traditional scattergun marketing campaigns. It seeks out specific accounts that fit an ‘ideal customer’ profile, and specific individuals within those accounts, to make the likelihood of conversion higher.

In addition, it is much more personalised. When communications are designed to resonate with an individual and the needs of his or her company, they are more likely to have a positive response.  With ABM, you can be very specific with your messaging, increasing the relevance to each individual and making it easier for them to see how your product or service can benefit both their organisation and them personally. When surveyed, 67% of marketers said that their ABM accounts achieved greater customer success with their solutions than other accounts.

This targeted and personalised approach also creates stronger customer advocacy. Up to 66% of marketers reported that their ABM accounts are more likely to provide positive references and advocate for them than other accounts.

Other benefits include a reduction in wasted effort. The greater focus on a smaller number of carefully chosen target accounts means that your messages are not wasted on anyone that has no serious interest in what you have to offer.

Finally, the smaller target list also makes ABM easier to monitor. When you are only talking to a finite number of contacts, you can easily track progress to make sure nothing is missed, and outcomes can be carefully picked over for future learning.


The benefits look great, so what could go wrong?

ABM is not a quick fix. It needs to be implemented properly, with the right level of focus, attention and resource in order to produce results.

Some of the biggest challenges in implementing ABM include:

  • Getting sufficient budget and resource to support the programme effectively. ABM cannot be done half-heartedly – the whole idea is to be immersive in a smaller list of accounts which requires time and effort to do successfully.
  • Personalising and tailoring the messaging to key decision makers and influencers in each account. This requires time and research to determine what drives their buying behaviour and what messages will resonate.
  • Developing campaign assets which are customisable and scalable at the same time. Technology can help here, especially with digital content which offers infinitely more flexibility that the traditional print run, without breaking the bank.
  • Ensuring effective collaboration between sales and marketing. ABM requires close co-operation between marketing and sales teams – at both a programme and an account-specific level – so they must both understand and appreciate the value of what they are working on.
  • Getting agreement on which accounts should make the ABM shortlist. This can be political, with every salesperson seeing potential value within their accounts, whether they be an existing customer with potential to expand, or a new client ripe for conversion. However, the whole point of ABM is to have a clear and targeted focus, and lines must be drawn.
  • Setting up a robust monitoring process to track progress and report on results. This is essential for evaluating and optimising, demonstrating success and securing future funding.


Tips for effective ABM

So, what do you need to do to ensure that your foray into ABM is a successful one?

  • Firstly, get buy-in from sales and across the organisation for what you want to achieve and agree some realistic goals.
  • Ensure that you understand the level of budget and resource that will be required to do it properly and get the business case approved by the relevant stakeholders.
  • Select the right accounts that give you the maximum upside opportunity, which might include a mix of existing clients and targeted new logos.
  • Identify the right contacts within those accounts, thinking about the broad range of individuals that are likely to be involved in initiating, influencing and approving a buying decision.
  • Do your research homework. Remember that messaging has to resonate with the individuals that you are targeting, so you need to understand both the organisational needs and the priorities of the individuals.
  • Give thought to the channels that you will use to reach these individuals. Do you have their email address or mobile number? Are they active on LinkedIn?
  • Create a messaging framework that includes adapted messages for different sectors, business types and personas.
  • Develop content that can easily be repurposed for different audiences – the ability to adapt messages should be built into the design rather than added as an afterthought.
  • Leverage suitable technology platforms to give the right level of flexibility and personalisation at an affordable level of effort and cost.
  • Get the governance and the metrics right. Make sure you are able to measure results, demonstrate success, and that you capture learnings which can be used to optimise the programme going forward.


The results could be worth the effort

The evidence from best-in-class ABM programmes suggests that if planned carefully and implemented correctly, your ABM programme could yield extremely positive results. The benefits should include more ‘qualified’ prospects, higher conversion rates, an increase in new closed business (from both existing and new accounts), new c-level contacts that you previously couldn’t reach, and greater customer advocacy.

If you can get it right then that 28% of your marketing budget would be well spent!