Why is account-based marketing more relevant than ever?
If you work in B2B marketing, you’ve seen ABM go from the shiny new toy to the industry’s next big thing. But why?
Well, the short answer is because it works. And it works well.
Over the last five years, we’ve seen our clients develop a working understanding of ABM to the point where they’ve either tried it before, have plans to try it, or are looking to implement their own strategy in the future. And it’s not just a Transmission client thing, either.
Organisations are realising the potential ABM has to enable their Sales and Marketing strategies. It has the depth to encompass a brand's existing activities while remaining flexible enough to be tailored to the specific needs of their customers - with the added benefit of bringing two traditionally separate functions together.
So, why has it taken until 2021 to get the recognition it deserves?
Bespoke campaigns at scale
Everybody has been looking for the right approach for their Marketing and Sales strategy. At the end of the day, marketers want to sleep at night knowing they’re targeting the right people, at the right time, at the right stage of the buyer journey.
In the past, getting that right could be a painfully time-consuming endeavour. Small to medium-sized businesses tend to have smaller and simpler buying committees, making it easier for B2B Marketing departments to roll out a consistent strategy across all their target accounts. Marketing to large accounts, well, that’s a different ballpark altogether.
Dealing with large enterprise accounts means dealing with long and complex Sales cycles. It also means you need a combination of ideas to appeal to different audiences and their needs. Having Sales take the lead and Marketing chip in whenever necessary worked well to deliver pockets of good Marketing, but it wasn’t always replicable for other accounts.
ABM helps to address this by doing away with the often siloed method to Sales and Marketing for large accounts. Instead, its data-driven approach to customer insights enables brands to build a solid picture of the buying process – gleaning insight into who’s involved, their needs, and where they are in the Sales cycle.
And the result? More aligned messaging across the buyer journey and a scalable framework within which good Marketing appears in front of decision-makers when they’re most receptive.
Getting strategic vs getting tactical
At LinkedIn’s recent I❤ABM event, my fellow panel speakers and I discussed whether the pandemic accelerated the shift to Account-Based Marketing. While I partly agree, I feel like it’s not so much a shift to ABM as it was a shift to digital marketing as a whole.
The pandemic really upended the way certain marketing functions worked. Traditionally face-to-face Marketing strategies had to go online, but due to the differences between digital and in-person, a simple pivot wasn’t going to cut it. Brands had to get strategic.
Channels used for digital marketing strategies were flooded with new and often overlapping messages, making it harder to cut through the noise. So, while some brands got tactical and turned to new ways to reach their customers, many B2B organisations found themselves on the path to ABM.
Thanks to the highly personalised nature of an account-based strategy, brands could work around the clutter and connect with targets on a one-to-one or one-to-few basis – making for deeper, more valuable conversations.
Shifts in company culture
While I’ve talked about ABM from a mostly strategic standpoint, I want to highlight how it’s also a ‘customer first’ philosophy.
ABM helps align everyone in a business to the accounts they want to target in a single, unified process. Removing departmental siloes not only helps Sales and Marketing, but also drives business performance by asking stakeholders to think about the customer in a joined-up way.
Lockdowns didn’t just force companies to think more about their digital marketing activities, they also spurred them to rethink how their internal teams operated. Over the past few years, Marketing departments have sometimes been guilty of communicating a message without a clear link to any kind of return.
ABM helps break this cycle by instilling a customer-oriented, results-driven culture across every function. And with the industry-wide shift to digital caused by the pandemic, brands had to find more efficient ways to reach the stakeholders that mattered.
Moving forward, I think we’ll see a lot more unification between Sales and Marketing, stepping beyond mere ABM into ABE – Account-Based Everything. By having customers' needs at the centre of everything you do, you’re able to create more impactful and fruitful experiences for customers, whether they’re in market or not.
For me, the growing number of Chief Revenue Officer positions serves as evidence of the increased adoption of an ABE approach to customer outreach. After all, having your Sales and Marketing teams report to a single executive stakeholder makes it easier to embed a ‘customer first’ philosophy across your organisation.
And with the majority of enterprise B2B buyers at different stages at different times, having a methodology to get them the right message at the right time helps keep you top of mind.
The growing rise in popularity of ABM programmes is proof of its success and as it becomes more mature in its implementation, I feel like we’ll see a greater focus on the customer throughout every business function.
ABM will continue to become more relevant in an ever-digital world, but you can rest easy knowing that we at Transmission will be at the forefront.