“My secret ABM fear is the great progression and success we’d had won’t be recognized and my executives will stop their ABM pursuit.”

“My secret ABM fear is that it’s like a house of cards… one piece falls apart and it falls apart, and I lose credibility.”

These are just a few “confessions” from real ABM marketers at the 2018 ABM Innovation Summit in April. Despite the market wind clearly being in the sails of ABM, many marketers worry that they don’t have the necessary credibility to pull it off long term or fear that they’ll lose credibility if ABM doesn’t work.

ABM requires a significant investment—and not just financial resources. ABM requires incredible alignment between Marketing and Sales and, increasingly, Finance. You’re no longer just throwing leads over the fence to Sales. When you have to go sell another department on a new strategy, one that requires more communication and more meetings, and also convince them to keep up the effort, it requires political capital. How do you make it all worthwhile?

Whether your hesitation is that you won’t get the increased recognition, credibility and influence that you deserve—or that you’ll lose all of that if you can’t prove success—you can solve the problem with the right data and measurement. In fact, by accurately proving the revenue impact of your ABM strategy, you can be confident that you’ll grow your influence and credibility.

Real Revenue and ROI

“As a modern-day CMO, I have to be a business person first and marketing artisan second. The CMO must drive revenue and provide real and tangible ROI. We need to consistently earn that seat at the business table, or the function will indeed become irrelevant.” — Antonio Lucio, CMO, HP

To get and keep a seat at the business table, the marketing function, starting at the top, needs to be able to speak the language of everyone else at the table. To do so, marketers have to be able to draw a line that connects their efforts, ABM included, to revenue and be able to provide credible ROI numbers.

First, the R in ROI needs to be based on a dollar amount, not a marketing vanity metric or activity metric. When it comes to executing a successful ABM strategy, engagement is key. Building relationships with prospects and developing trust is a smart way to grow your business. However, all that relationship building is only valuable if it does, in fact, grow your business. When marketers report on success, they can’t just report engagement metrics; they must take the next step and show how that engagement turns into revenue. As Antonio says, it must be “real and tangible.”

Second, to grow your credibility at the business table, it’s crucial that the revenue number that the marketing team reports is accurate. When you, a marketer, report a revenue number that doesn’t jive with what Sales and Finance report, you’ll lose credibility. Since Marketing is traditionally the farthest away from closed-won deals, Marketing doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. While metrics like marketing-originated revenue and marketing-influenced revenue are important, the revenue number that really matters is attributed revenue, based on an attribution model agreed upon by all stakeholders.

A Finance Mindset

“2018 will give rise to a powerful new CMO-CFO alliance that becomes the most important relationship in successful C-Suites.” — Sarah Kennedy Ellis, CMO, Marketo

To increase influence and credibility within the organization, marketing leaders need to grow their relationship with the finance team. This partnership will increase marketing accountability and, in turn, increase marketing’s influence and credibility long term.

Sarah believes that this alliance is not just for marketing leaders, but that it should actually flow all the way down the org chart. If marketers at all levels have a finance mindset, it “will offer fresh thinking around how to use what can be constraining factors…as a creative catalyst for driving new multi-dimensional growth.”

The math behind ABM unlocks great potential for ABM campaigns, especially for those who are aligned with finance. Because, in theory, every engagement is with a qualified account, marketers are wasting less budget engaging the wrong people.

Let’s say that in a traditional demand marketing strategy, it costs $50,000 to acquire 10 customers. That’s $5,000 per customer. However, because it’s a spray-and-pray approach, maybe 50% of the budget is actually going to ads that reach unqualified people. If you were able to more precisely target your ads (one of the great benefits of ABM), it would actually only cost $25,000 to acquire 10 customers, or $2,500 per customer.

If marketers can accurately demonstrate the improved customer acquisition cost (CAC) via ABM programs to their finance counterparts, they can make a great case for more budget to power more growth. For example, with a target CAC of $3,000, could marketing acquire the same amount of customers faster? What about a CAC of $4,000? This is a much more compelling budget argument compared to “Can I have more money to drive more leads?”

How to Grow Influence and Credibility

What does it take to be able to answer complex marketing questions and make compelling cases to grow influence and credibility?

First, it requires omni-channel measurement. The B2B buyer journey is increasingly complex, with prospects engaging on more channels than ever before. Whether it’s online or offline, paid or organic, a “marketing” channel or a “sales” channel (e.g. outbound phone calls), it needs to be tracked and included in measurement. If your measurement excludes all organic engagement, you will overstate the impact of all of your paid efforts; if your measurement excludes all sales engagement, you will overstate the impact of all of your all marketing efforts. True omni-channel measurement enables accurate revenue and ROI numbers.

Second, it requires every-touch attribution. Since the buyer journey is complex and impacted by numerous engagements, it’s important to capture and include every touch in the buyer journey from the anonymous first touch to closed-won. With a full-funnel attribution model applied on top of that every-touch data, marketers don’t miss credit that they deserve just because they impact a part of the funnel that the attribution model misses. For example, a direct mail effort targeted at existing leads will never receive credit in a first touch model. Or critical sales enablement efforts won’t receive credit in a model that stops at the opportunity creation stage. Every-touch attribution ensures that all efforts receive the credit they deserve, so long as they actually make an impact.

Third, your measurement must be able to unify individuals with their respective accounts, creating a single account journey. Lead-to-account mapping alleviates the pain of orphaned leads or mistaken insights because a decision-maker came in at the end of the deal and got all the attribution credit.

Together, these three elements form the foundation for accurate data. Combined with cost data (the more granular the better) and revenue data (ideally from the CRM, where it will match with the sales team’s revenue data), you’ll have the data infrastructure to produce powerful revenue and ROI reports.

With the cold, hard revenue data as proof of success, executives won’t be able to look away when the ABM hype machine cools down and the next shiny thing emerges. You’ll be speaking their language and able to answer their questions. You’ll be able to dig deep and get granular on specific elements of the campaign, or roll up campaign success metrics to high-level overviews. With great visibility into ABM performance, the organization as a whole can make smarter decisions, and drive more growth.

And on the other hand, if things do go wrong with a campaign, you’ll have the data to pinpoint the problem, show where you did have success, and maintain your credibility.

For too long marketers haven’t been held accountable to the same metrics as their sales counterparts. ABM changes that dynamic, bringing marketing and sales closer than ever. And as such, for marketers to keep their credibility and grow their influence, marketers need the comprehensive and granular revenue data to prove their value.