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The Account Based Marketing Journey for B2B Brands: 6 Steps to Implementation

February 21, 2018

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Megan Lueders, CMO of Zenoss

Megan Lueders, CMO of Zenoss

Amy Scissons, CMO, Growth Markets Region, Mercer

Amy Scissons, CMO, Growth Markets Region, Mercer

No doubt about it: Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a completely different philosophy than how brands have traditionally marketed themselves.

Much more data-driven, strategic, and conscious of the buyer journey than traditional marketing, ABM allows organizations to expand their view of an account at all aspects of the business environment—well beyond sales and marketing.

Based on the popularity of their Fall 2017 Summit discussion and this article featuring an overview of ABM for B2B, Megan Lueders of Zenoss and Amy Scissons of Mercer both agreed to further the conversation by co-facilitating a virtual roundtable.

This time, we went deeper into the “how” of getting your ABM journey started.

6-Step Process of the ABM Journey

There are many different ways to begin thinking of ABM, as well as implementing it.

But while ABM will progress differently in different organizations, there are generally six steps that the most successful ABM practitioners follow.

Step #1: Selecting and identifying accounts

Align sales and marketing around a list of target accounts and existing customers that are most likely to deliver revenue.

Some companies may look at accounts that have the greatest potential for current year revenue versus longer-term revenue. Others, like Mercer, use a different approach—such as its “5-and-15 program,” where sales teams choose five accounts within their territory that they want to “marry,” and then the marketing team designs programs around those five accounts. (Meanwhile, the “15” represents 15 accounts that the company wants to sign in the next two years.)

This is the most important—and almost always the lengthiest—part of the process. It can take a lot of time to figure out your ideal persona, and doing so may require some shifts in your strategy.

Step #2: Discover contacts and map to accounts

Fill out these accounts and buying centers with specific contacts based on your ideal buyer profiles. Who do you know in the account? Who works above as well as below those people?

Step #3: Develop account insights

Learn as much as you can about each account so that your interactions are always relevant and resonant.

Step #4: Generate account-relevant messages and content

Create or adapt content or messaging that reflects your account insight and is targeted specifically at the buying teams in each account.

Consider all the different players and personas you are building out, including the themes and pain points that resonate the strongest with them.

Step #5: Deliver account-specific interactions

Manage targeted interactions that are personalized for each account.

Step #6: Orchestrate account-focused plays

Synchronize interactions into coordinated plays that align to account plans and goals.

Technology and Tools for the ABM Journey

So what are the tools and technologies to get the ABM journey underway, and running smoothly?

The diagram below provides a snapshot of some prime vendors to assist you in each step of the ABM journey.

Sometimes, the same tool can do more than one thing. And as an added benefit, all these tools are pervasive and easily integrated into Salesforce—meaning nobody needs to log into separate platforms to access them.

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(Click on the above graphic to enlarge it.)

Determining a Team Structure

ABM requires great focus, so it’s important to create some sort of team structure. You may consider any of the following:

  • Having a couple employees focus on ABM (as you’re ramping up), while the majority of your marketing team continues to focus on traditional marketing (as you’re ramping up)
  • Hiring an agency to help your organization align with the ABM philosophy
  • Bringing in a data analyst or data scientist—someone to sift through customer information and figure out how to prioritize the ABM journey
  • Creating a team with a marketing/sales hybrid skillset—enabling them to do outbound calls and converse with potential clients, do some vetting work and data gathering, and having the ability to input data into all sales systems
  • Building a centralized team off-site to oversee traditional/digital marketing (outbound emails, digital campaigns etc.), allowing your on-site team to focus on all things ABM-related

Consider an ABM Pilot

If you are just at the beginning of ABM, consider asking a friendly sales person (or two) to help you pilot your top five accounts.

This will help your team trial things, without getting too overwhelmed. Plus, the pilot will give you and your counterparts a quick feel for what works and what doesn’t.

While ABM has the potential to (eventually) be disruptive, it can also be complementary to many of your other marketing programs—and a pilot allows you to combine both approaches.

Meanwhile, you are turning those sales reps into advocates, which can go a long way in building up a business case. 

Making the Business Case for ABM

While ABM is technically marketing, it impacts all aspects of a business—and therefore should be considered more of a company project rather than a marketing project.

As a result, to successfully implement ABM, leadership alignment and buy-in is critical.

Because moving forward with ABM requires a lot of additional effort, it may take time to convince the entire executive team (and board) to buy into this form of account penetration.

However, the success of ABM is tied directly to revenue you’re going to see from those targeted accounts. As such, executives may more easily grasp and embrace the concept than other marketing programs, where the business case may be more complex.

Warming Up To ABM

Ultimately, it’s important to realize that ABM is not a race. It requires a “we’re-in-this-together” mentality across the entire organization—and not everyone will necessarily come on board at the same time or the same way.

That said, all models are showing that ABM can make a huge impact on your business.

And whether or not you adopt ABM or just use a few tools to make you a better and more targeted marketer, doing so will inevitably make your marketing more intelligent and customer-focused.

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