Maximizing the Lift from Your ABM Program
ABM is hard. It’s complicated. It has a lot of moving parts. ABM is scary. These are the words Todd Berkowitz used to kick off his session on Maximizing the Lift from Your Account Based Marketing at the Gartner Tech Growth and Innovation Conference in San Diego in June.
He said these things to temper the excitement marketers have in relation to the results ABM can produce: up to a 40% increase in sales win rates. Berkowitz says Gartner has seen a 700% increase in clients for ABM and sees no end in sight.
ABM is Not Just a Focused Demand Gen Program
ABM is a different kind of program. It’s not only a marketing program. It’s a joint exercise (from start to finish) between marketing and sales.
Berkowitz cites the reasons why ABM is different from traditional demand gen programs:
- It’s fluid, not rigid. There’s no handoff to sales that signifies marketing is done. Everything must happen in sync with a combination of marketing and sales orchestrated actions. There must be agreement on what sales does and what marketing does and how these actions work together to execute a cohesive and consistent ABM program.
- It’s not a sales follow-up process. See above.
The biggest reason for opportunities that go cold, according to Berkowitz, is a change in priorities. The role of marketing in mid-funnel of an ABM program is to ensure that the priority that would have them do business with you stays a priority by continuing to drive engagement.
The Strategy of Account Selection
Right from the beginning, there are foundational activities that can make or break your ABM program. One of the biggest is account selection. Account selection will determine your campaign strategy. To create a successful campaign, accounts should be aligned based on the following factors:
- Do they have the same needs?
- Are they in the same segment? (net new logos or existing customers)
- Do they have competitive products installed? (same competitor?)
- Are they at the same stage of buying? (warm or cold)
- Are they in the same vertical? (optional)
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then the program will be different for those accounts. The story you tell will be different. The pain points can be different. The urgency to solve the problem may be different.
In other words – the content and resources you’ll use to engage accounts with differences will be, well, different.
A lot of marketers want to get sales enrolled in an ABM program, so they allow them to select the accounts they want to pursue. Given the above, you can see how that will lead to jeopardy from the start.
Berkowitz suggests that marketing put guardrails around account selection by culling the list based on the above factors and then inviting sales to pick the accounts they want to pursue from that list. This makes account selection a joint effort but ups your odds for successful alignment – for sales and marketing and for the accounts you’ll be engaging.
Investment in ABM: You Get What You Pay For
Gartner research has found that the more companies spend on ABM, the higher the lift. The average pipeline lift for companies practicing ABM is 12%. But top performers achieve 20% lift, or higher.
The research found that typical ABM programs used an average of five channels with the top 2 used being marketing emails and personalized emails through SDR/sales.
However, ABM programs with the highest lift (20+%) used eight channels. Social outreach through SDR/sales was the top channel, but they also incorporated more content syndication and video emails in comparison to those with typical ABM programs.
Berkowitz says clients often are concerned about budget or have limited budget. He offered several options for how to deal with smaller budgets without compromising the success of your program, including:
- Go after a single use case, such as follow-up to an event or limit your account list. Media is less expensive with fewer accounts.
- PPC isn’t targeted, so maybe shift some of your spend to LinkedIn advertising which you can target.
- Limit your presence at events that don’t attract many people from your key accounts. Hold a dinner or happy hour for them; you don’t have to have a booth. Take the money you save and use it for additional ABM spend.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
Berkowitz stressed that successful ABM is driven by trial and error. Try things that haven’t worked in demand gen programs in ABM. It is different and tactics that may not have worked there may work in ABM.
If engagement is low, alter your play. Berkowitz says this is something even successful ABM practitioners fail to do. For example, if an account is lightly engaged, mix it up. Send an InMail on LinkedIn or a direct mail piece. Or, if the account is heavily engaged, bump them into late stage content or invite them to a high-touch event like a lunch and learn.
The key is that you don’t have to keep all accounts in the same audience or play. With visibility and engagement metrics, you can get an idea of where change may be needed. Just one thing, emphasizes Berkowitz: make sure sales knows you’ve made the change. It’s critical that marketing and sales stay in sync on all accounts.
Berkowitz says there are also a lot of ways to personalize your messaging and content, from dynamic landing pages with the account’s name to SDRs personalizing emails and outreach. If you can’t afford technology that can do this for you on your website, consider using a vertical approach to get closer than a page that attempts to speak to everyone.
Chatbot solutions like Drift are being used by a lot of Gartner clients. They begin engagement with a chatbot and then transfer the conversation to a sales rep when certain qualifiers are met – such as belonging to a named account.
Berkowitz says people are tired of plain emails. Gartner research finds that ABM programs that use video emails are 2.5X more likely to be in a group that gains a pipeline lift over 15%. But he advises that you need to get creative to get those response rates up.
Direct mail also offers some new and creative options. One Gartner client sent a prospect within an account a box of cupcakes. She was so happy she posted a picture on social media with a message that said she was looking forward to expanding their relationship at her new company. Of course, the other thing about a gift like cupcakes is that they’ll get shared with your prospect’s staff, giving them exposure to your brand. That never hurts.
Visibility is the Key to Marketing and Sales Being in Sync
Finally, Berkowitz discussed metrics and technology and the importance of both in furthering your ABM efforts. While you’ll still measure your traditional marketing and sales metrics—which you can benchmark against—ABM also requires that you measure the depth and breadth of engagement.
Breadth of engagement means measuring how many people from an account are engaging with your ABM program. Depth of engagement is the frequency they engage and in which channels.
Ensuring your technology is connect will go a long way to increasing visibility so that you can identify areas to improve, highly engaged accounts and gaps where experimentation may be warranted. Your sales enablement platform can provide critical insights about content and conversational engagement from sales outreach in addition to your marketing automation platform, CRM and advertising technology in use.
Gaining the maximum visibility into what marketing, sales are doing and how the prospects at your named accounts are engaging is critical for maximizing the lift of your ABM programs.
I’ll leave you with the types of Lift companies are reporting from their ABM programs. I’d say these are worth pursuing…