This is a guest blog post written by Jared Dodson, ABM leader and marketing strategist at Lenati.
In addition to being a key influencer in the ABM space, Jared has significant experience in helping organizations plan, pilot, and scale their account-based marketing programs.
By now, most B2B organizations have been exposed to the promise of account-based marketing (ABM) and have either adopted it, piloted it, or put it on their strategic roadmap. That’s why now is a good time to step back and reevaluate the strategy.
Is ABM really working? If so, for whom? What’s not working?
Driven by a lack of practitioner-led account-based marketing research, Lenati, an ABM consultancy, set out to better understand whether ABM lives up to the hype by asking real B2B marketers about their successes and challenges with an account-based approach.
Below are some of the key findings of this study. You can also find a link to the full report at the bottom of this post.
Spoiler alert: ABM is working…and better than in the past
Four out of five B2B marketers believe that the ROI of ABM is higher than that of other marketing initiatives.
Further, only 3% of B2B marketers found the ROI of account-based marketing to be lower than the ROI of broad-based marketing.
On the other side, 44% of ABM practitioners said their ABM investment returns were much higher than returns with previous marketing approaches.
The benefits of ABM go far beyond marketing ROI
Account-based marketing is a winning strategy when it comes to both landing new business and expanding within current customer accounts.
“What I found most valuable about the ABM program is the knowledge we gain about the account, so we can design a more tailored approach to serve the account better,” explained an ABM practitioner who works at a provider of enterprise IT solutions. She added that this is true now more than ever, “especially this time and age that positive customer experience is key, which in turn drives loyalty.”
Another practitioner said, “ABM is huge when you want to prospect into a large enterprise company or be able to expand your product or service into that company.” This, the practitioner points out, is inherent to the way ABM works as “a focused approach rather than a spray and pray.”
Despite getting ABM buy-in, practitioners are struggling to convince leadership that they need to measure success differently
The survey results indicate that the C-suite, VPs, directors, and other leadership roles understand that account-based marketing results in a higher ROI — but rethinking the way marketing teams measure success is still a challenge.
“Teaching leadership that ABM activities are measured differently than normal marketing metrics can be hard,” one ABM specialist said. Not only must leadership be on board with the new marketing approach, but also a new way of measuring it.
ABM requires a new approach, but marketers are often hesitant to make the leap
One entrepreneur put it this way: “Where we see issues are in situations where we see ‘random acts of ABM.’ ABM is like marriage, you are either committed or…”
That doesn’t mean you can’t run a pilot program for ABM — but the key word here is program. You need to create a plan, set goals, and make a commitment. Doing half-hearted ABM without committing to the structural changes required of a new marketing strategy won’t produce results.
For example, personalization that isn’t driven by research, genuine human touches, and a solid strategy won’t get you far. As one marketer put it, “The success of ABM is rooted in generating a real, dedicated, account-specific campaign. This might sound self-evident, but many times, marketers will place a customer logo on a campaign and mark it as ABM. It’s not!”
ABM practitioners experience outsized returns when their content “goes viral” within target accounts
More and more organizations are seeing success with custom content tailored to each target account.
“In some of our campaigns, we’ve gotten questions from customers if they can receive the content used in the campaign. They want to reuse it within their own organization. That’s when you know you were spot-on,” shared one marketer who was surveyed.
One marketer noted that if you’re really successful, the company can’t even tell the difference between your content and theirs. “Quite often they even use [the content we’ve given them] without us knowing. I once visited an international conference and witnessed a Fortune 500 company give a keynote using just the account-specific content we created for them.”
Marketers are reporting huge successes when they create something of value that starts to take on a life of its own within the account. The influence and engagement with these types of account-specific strategies cannot be duplicated with traditional marketing tactics.
Implications of Findings
ABM is growing in importance, familiarity, and adoption. This is happening for a variety of reasons as outlined above, but the most significant one is that it works. Given the variety of applications for both small businesses and large corporations, all marketing leaders should consider whether a more targeted account-based approach would enable better customer interactions and drive bottom-line business outcomes.
Despite the promise of ABM, teams should do their research and build a comprehensive strategy before deploying an account-based marketing program. ABM is not a tactic; it is an entire marketing approach, and that reality is what trips some organizations up. It requires a new strategy, new processes, and new technology.
Get the Full Report!
Download a copy of the Lenati 2018 Account-Based Marketing Research Report complete with all the stats, charts, and a breakdown of what ABM practitioners find most challenging about planning, piloting, implementing, and scaling account-based marketing.