Account based marketing is dramatically shifting the operational dynamics between sales and marketing. Early adopters have seen phenomenal success and there’s so much hype from tech vendors surrounding it; though one might ask, what do account based marketing best practices look like? How are you supposed to begin on this journey and build a consistent pipeline with your account based funnel?
To some, ABM adoption may sound easier said than done and rightfully so. To get the right outcomes for your hard work, it is important that you also identify the best tactics, necessary budgets, and the right resources for adopting an account based strategy, and to tie your internal expectations to the external outcomes.
This article will provide an objective overview of tactics, budgets, resources, as well as captured organization insights to help you lay the groundwork on leveraging, developing, and enhancing your account based marketing initiatives. Let’s get started.
Creating an account based go-to-market approach has been a top priority for marketers in the recent years. Tweet This! However, the tactics, metrics, and resources employed in this approach don’t directly translate into the account based. An ideal GTM approach is one that is well-coordinated to drive engagement and sales progress in a set of target accounts and is the number one priority for a lot of growth-oriented companies.
Some Key Findings from Doing ABM
- ABM is a strategic go-to-market approach that delivers key board-level metrics. Account based marketing improves customer lifetime value (80%), improves win rates (86%), and delivers higher ROI (76%) than a traditional go-to-market approach.
- Since its early success, organizations have doubled down on ABM investments in 2019. Companies have increased their ABM spend by 41% in 2019.
- More than two-thirds (69%) of top-performing account based organizations now have a dedicated account based leader. The market has caught on—70% of those who started their account based initiatives in the last six months have dedicated leaders.
- The Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) of an ABM strategy separates top-performing account based organizations from their peers. More than 80% of the most successful account based organizations believe they have a strong ICP compared to 42% of the other organizations.
- ABM is more than just marketing – it is a customized strategy based on the mix of customer-facing functions, marketing, sales development, and sales.
When doing a data-driven research on what factors contribute to ABM success, TOPO concluded that Orchestration was by far the most effective. It not only coordinated sales and marketing’s efforts but also allowed organizations to direct those efforts against the ICP.
Then defining the Ideal Customer Profile was found among the top three success factors by 15% of the survey respondents. Having a strong base of ICP has been one of the key differentiators for big players and remains one of the reasons for success.
Most businesses look to the right technology for their account based orchestration, however, finding the right technology should not overshadow the need to establish a strong account based strategy first. The same is reflected in the research results, where only 11% of respondents chose technology as a key contributor to account based marketing’s success.
Top Account Based Marketing Challenges
While most organizations understand the benefits to an account based approach, operationalizing a repeatable account based approach still remains to be a struggle. That’s because organizations are only able to prove success against a limited set of accounts, and they rely on non-scalable approaches to align execution, customization, and measurement.
That’s because successfully scaling an account based strategy requires having a scalable, repeatable, and tech-enabled approaches that can be planned, customized, and seamlessly executed.
With scaling ABM as a major challenge, organizations are expected to create a consistent and repeatable approach as account based marketing continues to mature. Two key factors that contribute to this are:
- Having an account selection and rotation process – Organizations can group accounts that can be treated similarly, which will provide more visibility into the content, messaging, and resources required for execution in the coming months and quarters.
- Tiering your target account list and tying resources to those tiers – Organizations can intentionally prioritize how resources are applied. Those that don’t align resources against tiers based on expected account value and instead use a one-size-fits-all approach, lose the benefit of intentionally applying resources where they deliver the highest returns.
Account Based Spend Will Continue to Grow
In 2019, account based spending was expected to jump by 41%, as organizations of all shapes and sizes are seeing positive results. Organizations that sell B2B solutions are expected to grow their account based investments exponentially.
With investments rapidly shifting to account based, enterprise B2B marketing is expected to ultimately become account based by definition. Consequently, traditional investments in volume-focused marketing activities are also expected to come under this purview. TOPO’s research reveals mixed investment plans for organizations with average target account annual contract values (ACV) under $25K; account based investments are also expected to decrease in these organizations.
More small and mid-markets organizations are expected to spend 40% towards account based marketing. This increase is said to come from the growing importance of account based initiatives as it transitions from a strategic or enterprise sales segment to mid-market and commercial sales segments at enterprise B2B companies.
“As the go-to-market mix evolves, many of the best practices of account based strategy and execution will be adopted as general best practices for enterprise B2B marketing.”
Customer acquisition remains a top priority rather than expanding the existing customers. The larger companies ($1B+ revenue) split their account based focus in half between customers and prospects, whereas the smaller companies (less than $25M revenue) invest 18% of account based efforts in the existing customers.
Having a Strong ICP
An organization’s account based strategy revolves around a strong ideal customer profile. Without that, businesses won’t be able to align efforts to a shared list of target accounts. TOPO’s data reveals how effective ICP is, which is developed from both qualitative and quantitative inputs. Leading companies with strong ICP have seen a 68% higher account win rate, whereas 81% of top-performing organizations are confident in their ICP.
Additionally, organizations that combined qualitative input from stakeholders with prospect and customer data were 61% more confident that their ICP represents the attributes of the best accounts for the organization.
As organizations grow, investment will shift increasingly to creating the right experience for customers to drive usage, retention, and growth. This shift will cause a significant expansion in the scope of customer marketing leaders in particular, and make them a key stakeholder in the development and execution of account based strategies.
Leading account based organizations use account based orchestration that plays a huge role across all stages of the funnel. The four key areas that have a positive impact from orchestrated accounts are – driving engagement, resulting in new meetings, increasing deal velocity, and expanding footprint in an account.
TOPO’s research noted that a sales development rep or SDR outbound has been the most critical tactic used by account based organizations, with 88% rating it as important. Outreach strategies like direct mail, exec-to-exec, and events are rated as extremely important.
Customized content development is seen as important by 63% of account based organizations, but is only used by 47% of them. Companies that have been found to close larger deals do target more contacts per account on average. Organizations that are piloting their first account based program should develop clear messaging for at least two contact roles. A recommended tactic is to separate messaging and offers for entry-point contact and a decision maker or stakeholder contact. Organizations will be able to develop a broader range of offers and messaging for various buyer personas and scenarios as their account base matures.
An ideal account based measurement model should prioritize tracking the engagement across the entire account rather than engaging individual leads. This process should encompass a complete list of target accounts, which stand for the addressable market for account based efforts. These are the conversion points in the funnel:
- Engaged accounts – The number of target accounts that have reached a meaningful level of engagement. (Engaged Account Rate)
- Opportunity accounts – The number of accounts with one or more new opportunities. (Opportunity Rate)
- Closed-win accounts – The number of target accounts with a new closed-won opportunity. (Account Win rate)
When compared to a traditional funnel, which often includes a high volume of unqualified prospects, an account based funnel is extremely efficient. This efficiency allows organizations to focus resources on just a portion of their addressable market, and ultimately deliver a significant pipeline and revenue impact.
Effective account based execution is based on a strategic organizational decision and requires dedicated leadership. An ABM leader will not only oversee planning and execution but also drive the organizational change that’s required to adopt an account based approach and shift the way companies measure their results. Larger companies are more likely to assign an account based leader, whereas companies with more than $500M in revenue are 38% more likely to assign a dedicated account based leader than companies with less than $50M in revenue.
Companies that are starting their account based marketing today are learning from the mistakes of their ancestors. This is seen in 67% of the companies who already have an account based leader in their first year of doing account based marketing. However, most organizations implement a successful account based marketing strategy without needing the additional dedicated reinforcements or resources. In some cases when organizations do add a dedicated resource, they are most likely to add account based SDRs and marketing program managers.
Account based marketing is more than just a marketing initiative as sales and sales development are crucial in the stage of account based execution. In fact, organizational alignment is essential to cross-functional implementation, adoption, execution, and scaling of the account based strategy. While marketing, sales development, and sales participation is universally high, the best performers are 3 times more likely to involve customer success and 96% more likely to involve account management than underperformers. This disparity reveals the broader adoption of account based marketing across the entire customer lifecycle within the best-performing organizations.
Given the limited resource, it is important that organizations establish a process for identifying which accounts to actively target, and switch accounts from active to inactive and vice versa. Account selection allows organizations to be able to focus resources where they are most likely to drive the biggest results, grouping accounts for more efficient execution or identifying accounts that are most likely to convert in a specific period of time. An account selection process typically includes a combination of sales input, company data, and intent data. For lists with more than 5,000 accounts, the most important inputs are intent data and company information like industry and technology.
Make sure to invest the time and resources necessary to create a robust ICP as it is one of the key foundations for the development of your target account list and the entire account based strategy. Develop coordinated plays that combine multiple tactics and groups, including SDRs, in order to come up with a highly impactful experience. Identify a leader responsible for establishing the account based strategy and seeing it through to success. Lastly, have an account-centric approach to measurement and stick to provide opportunity, pipeline, and revenue outcomes for 2020.