Account-Based Marketing is all about quality over quantity. It’s about depth over breadth. The goal of ABM is to acquire qualified leads at specific targeted accounts, and then to engage those leads in a personal and relevant way to proactively move them through the sales pipeline.
The results are real and compelling. ABM is here to stay, and marketers’ investment in terms of time and money will continue to surge. Even with all these benefits, I urge B2B marketers to keep ABM in perspective and utilize it as justone strategy in a diversified marketing portfolio. Here’s why…
You have an ABM hammer, but not all marketing goals are nails
B2B marketers should implement ABM with their eyes wide open, realizing what it can, and cannot, accomplish.
ABM is an effective strategy for generating demand and acquiring/nurturing leads in a highly targeted fashion. The question is: does your company have marketing goals that are bigger and broader than your list of target accounts?
ABM is not going to generate brand awareness across your marketplace. It is not going to educate the industry on the benefits of your product or service, and it won’t differentiate your company in a broad-based fashion. And you shouldn’t be expecting ABM to achieve these objectives.
Setting appropriate expectations
ABM has specific goals and unique success metrics. Unfortunately, too many companies shift (nearly all of) their marketing investment to ABM, without a corresponding change in KPIs. This can cause big problems.
For example, marketers are hyper-focused on engaging specific people at specific companies, while executives are wondering why website traffic has plummeted and their (previously large) pool of inquiries has dried up!
This is why marketers must set realistic expectations with key stakeholders prior to embarking on an ABM strategy.
Another reality to consider is that account-based marketing takes time and patience. ABM is a philosophy; an overarching approach; a strategy. It is not a piece of software, or an account list or a campaign. ABM requires a fundamental change in terms of how sales and marketing work together.
Many marketers underestimate the needed preparation and don’t allow adequate time to
- Define and implement new processes.
- Develop content that can be personalized for each phase of the buy cycle.
- Train sales and marketing teams.
All three of these are requirements for ABM success.
ABM can be a high-stakes game. I’ve found that it is most effective, and less risky, to prove the benefits first (i.e., demonstrate that ABM delivers qualified leads that move through the pipeline quickly and generate larger deals), and then determine what percentage of your marketing resources and budget should be allocated to an ABM strategy.
Challenges with ABM performance metrics
According to the 2018 Marketing Measurement & Attribution Survey conducted by DemandGen Reports, ABM performance metrics still have a long way to go.
In fact, only 20 percent of marketers surveyed have established ABM-specific metrics. Here’s what the survey tells us about metrics and attribution:
As the following chart shows, for those who are measuring ABM results, top metrics include:
- Campaign and channel metrics.
- Pipeline influence.
- Engaged accounts.
- Marketing Qualified Accounts (MQAs).
I believe that the primary challenge for ABM marketers today is measuring the effectiveness of their programs with deeper, bottom-line business metrics. We are not there yet. The 2018 survey indicates that only 13 percent of marketers measure pipeline velocity, and only 17 percent measure deal size (two critical metrics impacted by ABM).
As I mentioned in a previous Marketing Land article, marketers must show accountability for results and prove contribution to revenue — especially when implementing a highly targeted ABM strategy.
Benefits of a diversified marketing strategy
Even with an ABM-centric approach, I recommend that B2B marketers continue with (at least minimal) brand awareness and market positioning efforts. Broad-based top-of-funnel programs might include social media and SEM/SEO.
KPIs for these programs typically measure impressions, market share, competitive positioning, response rate, traffic/clicks, content consumption and inquiries/contacts.
At the same time, marketers can work to prove the effectiveness of an ABM program, with a different set of metrics, including target accounts reached, account penetration, engagement, pipeline velocity and impact on deal size.
The point here is to be clear about the primary purpose of each marketing strategy: Utilize appropriate channels and then measure performance in a way that makes sense. ABM ad campaigns will never increase brand awareness or drive a large amount of website traffic, and PPC advertising will never be the best way to penetrate a specific target account.
Consider a gradual, blended approach
Expectations among business buyers continue to rise. Gone are the days of blasting the same offer to a large list of potentially interested people. Today, marketers must make messages personal, relevant and timely. ABM (done right) is nicely aligned with all of these market requirements. A very good thing!
That said, ABM is not intended to replace your entire marketing ecosystem. Instead of a wholesale switch to ABM, consider a slower, blended approach — utilizing traditional inbound tactics as well as highly targeted, personalized outbound programs.
Bottom line: ABM is one (very important) arrow in your B2B marketing quiver. It is not a silver bullet that should consume 100 percent of your time and resources. I recommend that marketers deploy account-based marketing in an integrated fashion with other strategies; compare and contrast results; then allocate resources accordingly.