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An Overview of Account Based Marketing for B2B Marketers

December 01, 2017

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At the Fall 2017 Summit, three powerhouse marketers led a fascinating breakout session on “Account Based Marketing Insights for B2B Marketers.”

Susan McKenna, CMO

Susan McKenna, CMO

Megan Lueders, CMO of Zenoss

Megan Lueders, CMO of Zenoss

Amy Scissons, CMO, Growth Markets Region, Mercer

Amy Scissons, CMO, Growth Markets Region, Mercer

The discussion was led by Megan Lueders, CMO for Zenoss; Susan McKenna, CMO; and Amy Scissons, CMO, Growth Market Regions for Mercer.

Here are a few of the insights that came out of the discussion.

Defining ABM

The co-facilitators defined Account Based Marketing (ABM) in an 80/20 context: that is, targeting 20% of clients who create 80% of revenue, using a granular segmentation strategy.

In a more traditional marketing environment, companies often market to the same customers/companies in the same way, year after year.

But with ABM, marketers go “spear-fishing” with those established accounts—pinpointing key insights, looking differently at customers they have had for a while, and personalizing their marketing approach.

Essentially, ABM is about “going deeper” with customers.

Sales/Marketing Alignment Required

Because of its reliance on granular data and key insights on specific people, ABM cannot be solely owned by the marketing department.

As such, the co-facilitators agreed that without sales and marketing alignment, any attempts at ABM will fail. This is because marketing messages must be coordinated and adhered to across both departments. Moreover, everyone needs to create and work from the same target list, and use a uniform set of metrics to track and measure ABM’s success.

In other words, when it comes to ABM, everyone needs to abide by the same playbook.

Creating a Target List

Scissons shared that at Mercer, the company has segmented certain contacts so those accounts will not receive anything else but appropriate, strategic messaging targeted towards them.

That said, Scissons acknowledged that ABM can be a tough and time-consuming process—especially in identifying who to target. In fact, identification is the longest and hardest part of the journey.

One aspect that makes the identification process challenging is in determining who does the legwork. Should it be sales? Should it be marketing? Ultimately, responsibility should fall across both departments.

Focus on Accounts First

Moreover, even before identifying specific people to target with ABM, organizations should first identify accounts (businesses).

This requires using technology (and in some cases, partnering with IT) to help whittle the list down.

From there, sales can further help glean customer insights from their own experiences, to help reduce and align the list to specific marketing objectives.

During the discussion, it was mentioned that sometimes you may find the company you thought you wanted to target may not actually align with prospecting goals and ID profile. The benefit to identification, however, is that it helps narrow things down so marketers are indeed focused on the “right” prospects.

Building a Relationship with Sales Teams

In today’s competitive B2B economy, it is easy to damage relationships with potential buyers if the process is not done thoughtfully. But Sales has the power and the insights to get you there.

Bridging the gap between sales and marketing is all about building credibility and trust:

  • Offering to train sales reps on how to write emails for the purpose of marketing (vs. sales)
  • Providing suggestions that enable the sales team to be successful in their marketing outreach to Tier 1 and Tier 2 markets
  • Sitting in on sales pipeline meetings, and going out in the field with salespeople and getting to know customers that way

All of these methods can help get sales on your side—and much more willing to collaborate to make ABM work.

Other ABM Tips

A few other insights that came out of the discussion included:

  • Using the 5-and-15 methodology. When it comes to outreach, Scissons talked about Mercer selecting the five accounts the company wants to “marry,” and the 15 accounts they want to “date.” The communications schedule and touch points should be different for both groups.
  • Optimizing events. Scale down on events so they are targeted to a more select group of customers. Ensure the customers are from non-competing accounts, and provide interesting content (content marketing mixed with curated content) for discussion, so accounts can learn from one another. Sales should not be involved in these events, so customers don’t feel that sales pressure. These events can yield a great return on investment and engagement.
  • Technology. Roundtable participants discussed some useful tools for ABM, including Linkedin geotargeting tools and its Sales Navigator, marketing automation software like Marketo, and ABM-specific software including Engagio and Terminus.

During this session, we learned that while ABM is not a new concept, it hasn’t been effectively implemented in many of our organizations. But we also learned that in a world where customers increasingly expect a highly customized experience with brands, ABM is likely the path to success for many of us.

For more information about Account Based Marketing, visit the CMO Solutions Clubhouse or reach out to mariah@thecmoclub.com for more examples of CMOs who have successfully implemented ABM within their organizations.

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