front lines of ABM

The drumbeat for Account Based Marketing is getting louder and louder. As we march into 2018, top experts predict more of the same. The whispers are turning to roars and spreading like ripples across a pond. Though it may have been there all along, many of the smartest companies are beginning to join in and march to the beat of the same drum – that of accounts.

2017 was a big year for ABM. More companies are adopting the strategy and the ROI continues to swell. And I’m sure years from now, we’ll look back and laugh at the primitive tools and tactics we used to land and expand target accounts.

But until then, there’s only one thing left to do: drive the industry forward.

At Engagio, we’re constantly testing, tweaking and refining our ABM program so that we can build both a world-class marketing software company and pass our lessons learned on to you.

In the spirit of the latter, I want to share some of the biggest lessons we’ve learned doing ABM successfully over the last year.

Key Finding #1 – To execute ABM, you must implement Marketing Orchestration

Just as demand gen marketers have relied on marketing automation to drive leads, ABM marketers just rely on marketing orchestration to drive account engagement. Don’t get me wrong – you still need inbound. However, inbound alone is not enough for complex B2B Sales and Marketing. You also need a more targeted, strategic, and cross-functional approach.

You’re orchestrating personalized Marketing, Sales and Customer Success efforts to open doors and deepen engagement at specific accounts. We call these efforts “Plays,” which generally fall into one of five levels of sophistication and effectiveness. The more advanced, the more orchestration and coordination are necessary.

The ABM team is different than your demand gen team. Though the titles may not be new, the roles they play, their responsibilities and the timing of their activities will change. Here are the key professionals for your Marketing Orchestration team:

  • Growth-oriented Marketing Executives provide the vision and step in with key roles at critical times.
  • Marketing Operations sets the account-based foundation, oversees the account-based systems, and reports on the impact of ABM efforts.
  • Demand Generation and Field Marketing act as the quarterback calling and running the plays for the ABM team.
  • Customer Marketing Teams deliver on the promises and ensure the best experience for the customer.

Key Finding #2 – You must establish “Account Entitlements” before selecting and tiering your target accounts

Account Entitlements answer the question “What is the right amount of time and energy I should dedicate to each account?” If you’ve adopted a 3-tiered approach to scale ABM like many organizations, you’ll need to distinguish the different resources you’re able to dedicate to each tier.

You pay a certain price to open doors and and close deals an account. Whether it’s with time or money, both are a limited resource, which means you must be judicious with how they’re spent.

If you spend all of your time on personalizing your interactions for your Tier 1 accounts, you’re left with no other choice than to automate interactions for your Tier 2 and Tier 3 accounts. In other words, you spam those accounts, which breaks the rules of ABM. In the same vein, if you spend all of your ABM budget on elaborate direct mail and costly ads to your Tier 1 target accounts, you lack channels diversity, and you’re left with only the traditional channels of phone and email for Tier 2 and 3. This, again, breaks the rules of ABM.

In order to select your target accounts and split them up into their appropriate tiers, you must split your time and budget up appropriately across all 3 tiers.

The most important takeaway is if you’ve allocated all of your time and resources but the numbers don’t add up (i.e., there are more target accounts than your resources allow for) it’s OK to cut back the number of target accounts.

Establishing your Account Entitlement will require multiple sessions with your Sales and Marketing leadership to get it right. It’s a fine balancing act that requires a lot of tinkering and adjusting.

Here’s an example (albeit an extremely simplified example) what entitlement could look like:

abm account entitlements

Key Finding #3 – Marketing must support Sales with “Deal Nurturing” to keep opportunities moving in the funnel

When you have long sales cycles, diversity of stakeholders, you often need help moving the deal forward at your high-value accounts. You can’t use automation because that’s impersonal and can kill the conversation quickly. But we’ve realized that marketing cannot completely remove themselves and their skills from the customer journey just because an account has become a Marketing Qualified Account. That’s where Deal Nurturing comes in.

Deal Nurturing is a new kind of nurturing – it’s about cultivating and growing relationships with orchestrated human interaction in existing opportunities at high-value accounts, especially early stage or stalled opportunities.

Why do you need Deal Nurturing?

After you open an opportunity, many things can get in the way of closing the deal. For example, Marketing books a meeting, but the prospect doesn’t show up – how do you stay relevant without being too pushy? Or it’s the end of the quarter and Sales is occupied working deals that are closing now – what happens to those qualified accounts that are in the early stages? Or an opportunity goes dark in the middle of an active cycle – how do you reinvigorate interest?

More often than not, the likely result of each case is a lost opportunity. We’ve laid out a few of our new Deal Nurture plays in our Marketing Orchestration Playbook.

At the end of the day, the success of your team depends on the harmony of great leadership and the commitment of the team. Together, you’ll be able to overcome any obstacle and reach any goal. As you can see, each of the 3 lesson here hinge on these two elements. In fact, ABM – and business in general – is a losing game if you don’t have the right team and leadership to go to marketing with ABM.

So, lock arms and march forth. This is the beginning of an awesome journey.