10 Reasons Why B2B Companies Can’t Live Without Account-Based Marketing

If you are in B2B marketing and don’t know about SiriusDecisions, then you are missing out. I’d highly recommend following Megan Heuer on Twitter. Before we get into 10 reasons why B2B companies can’t live without account-based marketing, here’s a little about more about Megan. She’s is a sales and marketing thought leader with more than 20 years of industry and professional services experience.

Megan has worked to create a variety of sales and marketing tools which drive systematic, predictable growth. As Vice President and Group Director at SiriusDecisions, she leads the organization’s account-based marketing (ABM) and marketing operations services. Megan’s goal is to help her clients bridge the divide between best-practice theory and real-world requirements to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

Terminus was privileged to have Megan attend this first-ever #FlipMyFunnel conference to share her thoughts about ABM. In this blog post, we’ll discuss:

  • Why Account-Based Marketing Makes Sense Now
  • Where Companies Are on the ABM Journey
  • 10 Reasons Why B2B Companies Can’t Live Without ABM

Check out Megan’s full presentation here

Why Account-Based Marketing Makes Sense Now

Megan explained why account-based marketing is a great way to think about not only flipping the funnel but also embracing the idea that marketing and salespeople have behave differently with their customers. “We have to embrace the reality of how our buyers buy and what our customers want from us,” Megan said.

Account-based marketing is where B2B marketing has to go, she told the #FlipMyFunnel crowd. “Salespeople talk about accounts, they talk about customers…they don’t talk about leads. Salespeople think about how they’re going to win accounts in the first place, then how they’re going to keep and grow those accounts.”

As Megan said, the future of B2B marketing is not just thinking like salespeople but thinking like a blend of sales and customer service people. This allows marketing to bring together a “toolkit” showing customers what they need to know so they get value, stay longer and buy more.

Where Companies Are on the ABM Journey

SiriusDecisions conducted the 2015 State of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Survey in partnership with Demandbase. Of about a hundred companies, 92% said account-based marketing is essential or really important.

Here are four classifications of account-based marketing:

  1. Large Account marketing for a very small number of existing or targeted accounts
  2. Named Account for a moderate number of defined existing or targeted accounts
  3. Industry/Segment for any number of new or existing accounts in the same vertical or other specific segment
  4. Customer Lifecycle moderate or large number of customers who receive differentiated outreach

The last one – Customer Lifecycle – is one which marketing teams are guilty of not always thinking about. “In order to be successful in selling to Large Accounts or Named Accounts of any kind you have to have an underpinning of value that you’re delivering to your existing customers,” Megan said.

“If you have a list of companies that your sales people care about, you need account-based marketing,” Megan explained. “It’s that simple.”

1. Do the Math. It’s essential to make your budgets map to sales opportunities. Marketing must align its efforts to the accounts, sellers, and actions most likely to deliver growth. Then, marketing must execute in a way that respects and engages individual accounts based on their needs, preferences, and timing.

“You’ve got this math problem and this personality test,” Megan said. “You use those two things together to set your budgets and to target your actions to the things that will work, and that your customers want, need, and care about.”

2. You Need a Strategy in Place. This isn’t just a technology play, Megan explained. “This is a play that says, ‘I know where growth is going to come from and now I’m going to get the data I need to make smart choices, to work with sales, to deliver the things I need to deliver to get to the outcomes that I can observe and measure.’ That is a strategy, not a tactic. A strategy. You fit your tactics into the strategy.”

Here’s what an account-based marketing strategy includes:

  • Account Data – What and who do we know in this account? What solutions are in play?
  • Account Goals – What needs to be done in this account, with whom, and when to achieve relationship and financial goals?
  • Account Actions – What tactics can marketing and sales deliver to accomplish goals?
  • Account Outcomes – How will we know if the actions are successful? What can be observed?

3. Focus Must be on Supporting Sales Productivity. “What we need to do is help our sellers spend most of their time working with them on things that matter, in front of customers, helping to close business, helping to develop relationships,” Megan said. “All the things they want to be doing too.”

Here are a few examples of things to take off the salesperson’s plate:

  • Finding information and contacts
  • Getting initial engagement
  • Thinking of things to say
  • Curating content
  • Making it easier for them to engage on social channels

4. Leveraging Your Technology Stack. When you’re considering what tools you need for the buying cycle, the modern B2B marketer must also consider what are the tools you need for the customer life cycle? Then think about what are some tools that you need that cut across both.

“These categories are all valuable to account-based marketing,” Megan said. “They all help make it scalable, more productive, and help you measure it; but please, have a strategy and prioritize, too. “

5. Prioritize Tech Investments. According to the SiriusDecisions survey, 61% of B2B companies said they’re planning to invest on technology to help with account-based marketing this year.

“I have companies come to me very often and say, ‘Hey! I put this great technology in it. I was really excited about it but I’m just not seeing the results.’” Megan explained. “Well, then I ask, ‘What was your goal? What were you hoping to get out of it? What kinds of things did you think would work?’ If there’s a pause after I ask that question, I know what the problem is. Know why you’re acquiring a technology and make sure that your marketers can use it.”

6. Help Marketers Build New Skills. Roughly 47% of companies doing account-based marketing said their marketers don’t have skills they need to be successful, according to SiriusDecisions.

“This was a finding that made me sad,” Megan said. “About half of companies who are doing ABM told us they didn’t think their marketers had the skills they need to be successful. That’s not okay. Make sure your marketers are learning what’s different.”

7. Leverage Customer Experience. The SiriusDecisions survey asked “What was the most significant driver of your decision to select vendor of choice?” Here are just a few stats:

  • Customer experience generally is 71% of the reason buyers said they purchase from a company. “If we forget that, we fail.” Megan said.
  • Just 18% of survey respondents said their buying decision was based on the promise of the product to meet their needs.
  • Only 9% of survey answers said that their purchase decision was based on price

“Customer experience trumps everything in B2B buying decisions,” Megan stated. “We need to prioritize our marketing efforts accordingly.”

8. Treat Customers Differently. Megan explained how buyers have a different need from customers. “Buyers are trying to buy something. They want to make a purchase,” she said. “Customers have done that. They want to get value.”

She went on to say the buyer’s journey and the customer life cycle are two different things. “Think of the buyer’s journey as an episode, it’s Law & Order. It all gets wrapped up in a nice neat bow,” she said. “The customer life cycle is a soap opera — it never ends.”

9. Focus ABM on Relationships, Too. With account-based marketing, we have a buying cycle and a customer life cycle happening at the same time with different people at different places, Megan explained, and as such, there are two different sets of goals.

  • Opportunity goals – What else am I going to sell?
  • Relationship goals – How do I make sure this company wants to stay my customer?

“If your account-based marketing only focuses on opportunity, and God forbid, top of the funnel opportunity, you’re missing the boat,” Megan stated. “This is a holistic view of your customers and your prospects and what they need from you whether they’re buying or whether they’re customers.”

10. Measure More Than Lead Volume. You can’t do account-based marketing if all you’re measuring in marketing is leads. “It doesn’t mean you can’t bring value, it just means the value you bring must be measured differently,” Megan said.

“If marketing is going to be engaged to focus on customers after they buy and not just to sell them more, you’re not generating leads.”

So what did you think about Megan’s presentation? I’d love to know your thoughts on how your team got started with account-based marketing.