Account Based Marketing (ABM): The Ultimate SiriusDecisions Guide.

This blog originally appeared on the SiriusDecisions’ blog and was written by Jessica F. Lillian

ABM continues to be among the hottest topics in b-to-b organisations from all industries. In fact, in a recent SiriusDecisions survey, 93 percent of respondents said they consider ABM “extremely” or “very” important to their organisational success.

Many marketers are eager to get started with account based marketing, but common errors can sink ABM programs even before they start. For example, some mistakenly believe that buying a single tool that touts itself as “the must-have ABM technology” means all their account based marketing needs are met.  Others fail to identify a designated ABM leader, instead loading the duties onto everyone’s already-full plates and creating a lack of clarity, focus and discipline.

To help you launch a great account based marketing strategy – or improve and expand your existing ABM programs – Jessica F. Lillian spoke with Matt Senatore, service director for SiriusDecisions’ Account-Based Marketing service, who offered expert answers to the following commonly asked ABM questions:

What is account based marketing?

“Account Based marketing is not a tactic, it’s not a technology, and it’s not a one-off program,” Matt explains. “It’s a change in mindset, and it’s a strategic discipline that allows us to take a prescriptive approach to the accounts that matter most in a way that increases relevance and specificity in our engagements. When we do that, it helps provide a better buying and customer experience, and tighter alignment with sales.”

A successful ABM initiative requires participation beyond marketing. The sales, product, customer success and executive teams must demonstrate commitment and discipline to help drive efficiency and growth with accounts that matter most.

What types of companies should use account based marketing? Who is ABM best for?

“ABM is a demand strategy that almost every company should be thinking about, but we’re not suggesting it should be the only approach to driving demand,” Matt says. “I’ve seen companies successfully take a multi-pronged approach to driving demand, incorporating broad-based demand creation, segment marketing and ABM.”

“There are four main ways of driving demand, and the reality is that most organizations should be doing the majority of those,” he adds. Possible approaches range from a one-to-one approach with highly customized treatment of a small number of high-value accounts to more scaled approaches. The only types of situations where ABM may not apply is at organizations with highly transactional deals, little differentiation and a heavy digital focus.

What are the top three benefits of an ABM strategy?

  1. More effective pipeline generation. “We’re always being asked to do more with less, so ABM helps you take your time and resources and apply them to the accounts that matter most in a prescriptive fashion to drive more successful outcomes,” Matt says.
  2. Better conversion to closed deals. SiriusDecisions data shows that 91 percent of organizations report when they take an ABM approach, they are more likely to convert that deal from pipeline to closed than with a non-ABM approach.
  3. Improved all-around alignment. Disconnect between the sales and marketing teams plagues many b-to-b organisations, as their areas of focus naturally differ. “In an ABM discipline, you bring those two sides together to ensure that what marketing is doing is more tightly aligned to overall revenue goals and objectives,” Matt explains.

What are the main models for deploying account based marketing?

SiriusDecisions defines three main account-based marketing strategy options. Large-account marketing – the variation that most often first comes to mind when people think of ABM – requires dedicating marketing resources to the largest current customers or high-value strategic prospects.

Named-account marketing focuses on accounts assigned to sales reps – typically a mix of existing customers and prospect accounts. Although some of these accounts may be considered large accounts, most are usually slightly smaller in current and potential value.

Finally, like named-account marketing, industry account-based marketing also uses a list of named accounts, but in this case, these accounts are clustered together within industries, sub-industries or segments.

How does ABM fit into an inbound marketing strategy?

ABM is often described as the “icing on the cake” in a successful marketing strategy. Just as no one would try to frost a cake before it has been baked, organisations shouldn’t try to launch an ABM programme before they have several key elements in place within their existing marketing organisation.  Marketing alignment, content availability and sales processes, and budgetary and people resources represent just a few of the necessities.

“You also need to have a commitment to a few things before going forward with an ABM strategy,” Matt says. “You need to commit to gathering the necessary insights, because insights are what fuel our ability to learn more about targeted accounts, enabling customization and personalization.

“Everyone also needs to understand and recognize that with ABM, you will treat different accounts differently. Some will get more resources, and some won’t get as much. You’ll also need to look at measurement differently – it’s not necessarily about leads anymore. In addition, you’ll need to go about content development differently, remaining open to content customization and personalization, he adds.”

What specific steps does SiriusDecisions recommend for getting started with a successful ABM approach?

The SiriusDecisions Account-Based Marketing Framework provides a recommended set of five process steps: preparation (which involves three activities), prioritisation (which involves four activities), planning (which involves five activities), execution (which involves four activities) and measurement (which involves five activities). Together, these steps are not a one-and-done process; they must be repeated and adjusted as necessary to support the growth and evolution of each organisation’s ABM strategy.

As with any initiative, proper preparation is key. Getting ready for ABM execution also requires several foundational elements – insights; interlock/communication; technology; and organisation, roles and competencies – which are described in detail in the Account-Based Marketing Framework. For all steps and foundational elements, keep in mind that each may vary slightly depending on the type of ABM being deployed.

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SiriusDecisions is the leading global B2B research and advisory firm. It delivers the actionable intelligence, transformative frameworks and expert guidance that equip executives to modernise and elevate sales, marketing and product performance.