The Latest from the ABM Experts
November 6, 2018
5 Tips for Aligning Sales and Marketing for an Account-Based Strategy
Written by Kaitlin Lutz
Account-Based Marketing isn’t new. As any sales professional will tell you, ABM started as account-based sales. Sales has been doing it for years.
It has been only recently that the marketing teams have picked it up and said: “What if we personalized our marketing strategy to our key accounts?”
During a recent #FlipMyFunnel event, Sonjoy Ganguly, Mike Burton, & Anastasia Pavlova discussed the importance of placing the focus on a cohesive Account-Based Strategy, rather than talking about account-based marketing or account-based sales as separate processes.
They also provided several tips for how to make a cohesive ABM strategy succeed. Here are 5 of our favorites.
1. Drop the things that aren’t helpful to the ABM strategy
Sometimes it can be hard to let go. Think of when a dog has a ball in its mouth, and you throw another one. They don’t want to drop the ball that they have so they can pick up the new one.
That’s the kind of reaction you might have to deal with when switching to an ABM strategy.
For example, your sales team may not want to stop calling on inbound leads that you have. But, they have to realize that even if you can sell to those inbound leads, they aren’t going to be super valuable to your organization.
So, you have to convince people to drop that ball (incompatible inbound leads), so everyone can grab the new ball (the strategy of focusing on the accounts you actually care about).
2. Start with solid account selection
Companies start getting confused and worried about how to get started with ABM because they aren’t sure what the first step should be. Worry no more and banish that confusion because the most important first step is account identification and selection.
Getting the account selection process right is critical for ensuring the success of your ABM strategy. Of course, adjustments can always be made later, but to really give your new strategy a fighting chance, you need to spend some quality time selecting target accounts.
If there’s any confusion or misalignment on which accounts will be most beneficial, that’s going to kill your ABM program. Solving the problem of account selection is different for every company, but for pretty much every organization, it’s essential that you ensure you have the best data available. If your data is lousy (i.e., there are confusing or conflicting data points), it can create paralysis in your ABM efforts.
Not using data is as bad as having bad data. If you’re just relying on your current internal account list, you’re limiting your target account list. The existing account list is a powerful asset, but you also want to use your other data to look at which accounts are most engaged and find out which individuals to reach out to.
3. Embrace a cultural change to align sales and marketing
“Account-based marketing places too much emphasis on marketing. For an account based strategy to be successful, you need the entire organization to align to the strategy.” – Anastasia Pavlova
For your ABM strategy to be successful, you need the entire organization to align to the strategy. That is especially true with a smaller, more focused approach. Sales and marketing need to be aligned so they can work together to drive pipeline and revenue.
Generally, that’s going to require a cultural change within your organization. From the very beginning, sales and marketing have to work together to define who are the target accounts, how they should be prioritized, and how to reach them.
One way to spark that cultural change is by getting feedback from the sales and marketing teams. Marketing and sales need to evolve together, which means having consistent and open communication between the two.
Something that really works for bringing about that cultural shift is a collaborative approach to account selection. That might mean weekly meetings to figure out which accounts to pursue, or talking about which accounts are most engaged. The goal is to share information and goals.
If your sales and marketing teams don’t love each other, your ABM strategy is lacking.
4. Adopt a multi-channel approach
Buying committees are just getting larger and larger, so purchases are more about consensus these days. There’s also a lot of cross-functionality and varying levels of seniority when trying to make a sale rather than having to deal with one or two decision-makers.
Because of this shift, you really can’t just focus on one channel at a time. The buyer journey is all over the place, so you need a multi-channel approach to nurture the entire account.
It’s best to plan a variety of different programs across channels (and test them thoroughly) to see what works and what doesn’t. The most important thing to have across the different channels is personalization.
It might also be a good idea to look at a tiered approach for your ABM efforts. Some programs would apply only to the cream of the crop target accounts due to cost concerns. That would be programs like high-cost direct mail or onsite visits. Then, for other tiers, you can have lower cost marketing programs that will nurture pretty much everyone.
5. Find a measurement system that works for you
Success metrics are not one-size fits all. What works for Company A may be wrong for your company. Your ABM strategy and organizational needs will determine the feasibility of most measurements, but it’s not an instantaneous process.
Things like pipeline, opportunity, and revenue all take time to show results. If your organization needs more real-time metrics, you could look at things like account penetration and engagement levels.
Or, maybe you need to separate the metrics based on where the potential buyer is in their journey so that you would measure different goals for early, mid, and late stage buyers. Maybe for the early stage, you want to measure website visitors from target accounts and only look at pipeline revenue for buyers in the late stage.
Or, perhaps you want to measure based on the actual dialogues or relationships with target accounts that take place, and that’s how you determine success.
Whatever your measurement plan is, start figuring it out early and tweak it often to suit your company’s needs.
An ABM strategy takes a cohesive approach from both sales and marketing. By considering the five tips above, you’ll be on the way to a successful account-based strategy.