Alignment for account-based marketing: How do you get true alignment?
I’ve been deliberating for the past few months on whether to even write this because to be quite frank, it's a subject that's been done to death.
However, the more and more meetings I have where companies are looking to start their ABM journey, the more I think this is important. And as I began to look at my journey to the US I find this problem to be even more exasperating.
Recently, I’ve been getting briefs which on the surface look amazing and are quite prescriptive, in some cases even using well-known books as reference points. For example, suggesting a 1:many or a 1:1 ABM route. However, after a few minutes of probing with the company, it’s clear that the brief is only what they think they want, but in reality, isn’t what they need in their infancy of adopting an ABM model.
With almost every brief I get, when I dig under the surface, there are usually two things that come out:
- We want to do ABM correctly
- But we need to prove the business case
And it’s led me to ask a simple question – how aligned is the company?
Personally, I tend to put alignment into three main buckets:
Sales and Marketing are totally aligned
This usually means that the revenue leadership team (usually this is Sales) and Marketing are singing from the same hymn sheet. In other words, they both have the same understanding of what ABM is and they both understand the changes that need to be made, both internally and externally, to make this a reality. For example, they understand that just getting something live in 30 days isn’t the right approach to take, they know they may need to change the way the Sales team prioritise opportunities, and they know they need certain technologies in place to build an infrastructure to make the transition as easy as possible. Sales and Marketing are working hand in hand.
Sales and Marketing are somewhat aligned
In this scenario, Sales and Marketing are both committed to running an ABM program, but they don’t share the same expectations. This could be as simple as the Sales Team expecting to see a 1:1 ABM program, but the Marketing Team expecting to run 1:few. It could also be at a deeper level. For example, Sales expects to see in-depth accounts insights and content consumption habits of key stakeholders, whilst Marketing think about content and activation.
More often than not, the key is in the detail – Sales could be saying they want the same things as Marketing, however, there are nuances to delivery and it’s important to understand exactly what they want and get everyone on the same page. Literally, draw things out if need be!
Marketing is driving an ABM programme
This is a common scenario believe it or not. Quite often, Marketing is driving ABM activity with a view to proving to the business that it’s the right methodology to adopt. This is setting yourselves up to fail, as the recipients of any ABM intelligence is the Sales Team and if they aren’t used to this level of detail then it will not get actioned and ABM will be seen as a failure.
There has been a long adage that Marketing focuses on leads but Sales focuses on accounts, however, my experience tells me this is not true at all. Sure, Sales eventually close a deal and that is an account, but to get there, they need leads. If you started telling them company X came to the website 15 times, attended a webinar, looked at content pieces A and B then that is great. But unless they know ‘who’ it is it’s difficult for them to act.
This isn’t a one size fits all rule (e.g. if you have an existing client you know well) but is true of a lot of companies. It’s not all doom and gloom though, you can easily put a plan in place to move from this scenario to being completely aligned through education before you even kick off a program.
Personally, where I think this divide happens is in education. The world is changing so fast and as such, the ways in which we can help potential customers buy the ‘right’ solution for them is evolving. We need to adapt – across both Sales and Marketing. Both teams need to understand what it is they are trying to achieve together and the more modern ways of working collaboratively to showcase success.
By understanding which ‘bucket’ your alignment lies in, you can easily start to understand which type of ABM is right for your organisation. Rather than deciding the type and then trying to align after the fact.
One final massive note of caution
I hate to be a naysayer, but no matter which bucket you are in I can tell you that you must get Marketing aligned. I originally wanted this section to be at the start of this blog as I think it’s imperative. I go into so many meetings where Marketing and Sales alignment isn’t the first question, it is ‘are Marketing aligned?’
If you are running ABM correctly, you will be dipping into lots of different disciplines across your organisation. This cross-department collaboration can become a bit of a nightmare; the bigger the company the more problems you will face. Ultimately, ABM is fairly commonplace now and everyone will have their own opinion of what is right and what is not.
Ensuring everyone is pulling in the same direction can be difficult, to say the least. I would suggest that, before you even engage Sales, you get your Marketing crack team sorted, make sure you have built a thorough understanding of what your organisation needs and that everyone is on the same page in terms of objectives, measures of success and how to work with Sales.
Good luck guys, and remember if you need support, see how Transmission can help provide account-based marketing services here: https://transmissionagency.com/services/abm
Or if you'd like some advice, please do get in contact and we can share war stories.