Wednesday, January 22, 2020

ABM Blog Series: Level 1 - Are You Ready to Take on ABM?

In recent years, Account-Based Marketing has been noted as one of the biggest trends in marketing. However, this is no longer a new wave trend that marketers must use until the next best thing comes along. ABM is here for the long haul, as it is a holistic approach that has quickly become the gold standard for B2B marketing, allowing different facets of an organization to come together in a coordinated effort to engage, convert, and expand target accounts.

This transition to Account-Based Marketing did not happen overnight. It has been an accumulation of changes happening on both sides of the relationship between an organization and its prospects. In the age of modern marketing, there have been many driving factors in this shift towards ABM. One of the factors that is overlooked is the role of emotion in the buying process. Traditionally, emotion has been closely associated with the B2C buyer journey while logic has been associated with the journey of the B2B buyer. However, that is changing as emotion is playing a much larger role in the B2B journey. This change in behavior has brought a new complexity into play for the B2B marketer as they find themselves having to appeal not only to the business needs of the buyer, but to the emotions behind those needs.  To put it simply, it is the consumerization of the B2B buying process.

Buyers expect an experience that is tailored to their pains, priorities, and preferences at any specific point on their journey. This is a layer of complexity in its own right for a marketer when looking at an individual buyer. When looking through the lens of a typical buying committee, which includes 6-10 different influencers, the complexity for marketers becomes even greater. A marketer now finds themselves trying to appeal to a group with individuals. They each have their own perspectives, potential ways to solve an issue, turf they are protecting, views of disruptions, and varying levels of willingness to accept change. This is why it is important to appeal to the emotions of your buyers. The more emotionally committed your buyers are, the easier it will be to validate purchasing your solution.

Emotion is not the only complexity that marketers face when dealing with their buyers. In fact, it is only one side of the curtain. The fact of the matter is that B2B buyers now buy differently than they ever have before. According to Gartner, 77% of buyers agree that purchases have become very complex and difficult.” This is only magnified as more stakeholders get involved, making it harder for each individual in the buying committee to consume the right information that will help drive their group towards a decision. Also remember that today’s customers spend two-thirds of any B2B buying journey gathering and processing information on their own, mostly without any direct involvement from a sales rep. The customer now drives the conversation and doesn’t want to talk to sales until they are ready to. This presents a challenge to sales as they constantly find themselves in a holding pattern of when to engage with prospects. Similarly, marketing must take the lead in orchestrating an experience that strikes all of the right chords within an account while maintaining harmonic alignment with sales. In order for a company to adopt and commit to an ABM strategy, you must to transform the way you operate technically, tactically, and culturally.

From a technical perspective, marketers must ensure their systems are ready to undergo a shift to an ABM strategy. Many unsophisticated marketing organizations may need to make some additional investments in their organization to mature to a level where a rudimentary ABM strategy can be implemented. Companies must ensure that they have adopted the requisite tools in order to broadcast and respond to their customer base in a nuanced and adaptive manner by:

  • Segmenting their audience to isolate certain accounts

  • Personalizing their assets, and

  • Orchestrating campaigns across multiple channels with basic decision logic using a marketing automation platform (MAP) that is integrated with their CRM.

Lead-to-account matching is something that best-in-class ABM solutions, like Oracle CX Marketing, can help facilitate. So, if the integration between your Marketing Automation Platform and CRM is not perfect, no need to fuss, as marketing qualified leads (MQLs) should be able to flow into your CRM to reach their respective sales territories for qualification. In the next parts of this blog series, we’ll look at latter stages of ABM maturity and explore in more depth why this integration is so important in the context of closed loop reporting and revenue attribution. But when just getting started, there are a few critical data points that must be integrated in order to actualize a strong foundation for a successful ABM strategy.

To determine which data points to prioritize for an integration, marketers must take a more tactical approach to shift to ABM. Marketers should start by identifying the account attributes that define their propensity to buy and who they are in the eyes of your marketing and selling practitioners. To get started, you can even unplug for this exercise by working on a whiteboard or scratch paper to create a profile for your typical business customers, like a baseball card. Once you have a basic profile set up for your account, create a working digital copy that you can share with other stakeholders both within and outside the marketing team. Marketers, sellers, partners, suppliers, shared services, and operations may all have a distinct perspective on how they think about the critical traits that define a customer or account. True ABM requires this kind of connected, holistic view.

The list of traits will grow through this process to become somewhat unruly, so once you’ve gotten the input of others, prioritize the traits that will empower marketers and sellers the most when it comes to segmentation, personalization, and qualification. What do you need to know about an account to determine their propensity to buy? In your list, you should consider account fields like account name, industry, geography, address, revenue, open and closed opportunity data, the products they own, open and closed critical support tickets or customer satisfaction metrics (CSAT, NPS, etc.), and the services to which they subscribe.

Also, take note of the traits that different teams identify that you as a marketer do not have access to in your marketing database today that would help you mature your ABM strategy and then cut down your list to those fields that you can use can leverage in your MAP today. Pulling together this data is part of the critical prep work marketers should undertake in planning their shift to ABM. The tactical steps that follow rely on this core account profile.

Step 1: Understand your accounts

Questions to ask:

  • What is the account view in your CRM?

  • How does this compare to your ‘baseball card’ account profile? Where do the additional data points needed to understand your accounts reside (ERP, Service Automation Platform, Commerce Platform, etc.)?

  •  Is your marketing platform ability to integrate adept to pulling this information together?

Step 2: Run a data quality diagnostics program on your existing account data set

Questions to ask:

  • How complete is it, especially for the fields you identified as critical to understanding your accounts’ propensity to buy?

  • How clean or standardized is that data set?

  • Are there duplicates?

  • How are account hierarchies set up?

Step 3: Enrich your account data with third-party data

Questions to ask:

  • What information gaps exist in my existing account data set?

  • Which data providers offer the type of data my organization needs?

  • How many leads from my marketing automation platform have accounts already in my CRM?

  • Should we expand our target market with new accounts that do not exist in our CRM using third-party data?

Step 4: Identify the ideal customer profile and/or use account-based look-alike modeling

Questions to ask:

  • What type(s) of customers thrive through long lasting partnerships with my organization?

  • How might I organize these customers into different groups based on what drives their success?

  • What are some of the shared attributes across these successful customers (e.g. industry, business model, revenue, headcount, etc.)?

  • What companies meet these criteria but are not our customers yet? What is the potential value of this untapped market? How do we include this and other considerations into a business case?

Step 5: Use the attributes that define your ideal customer as the initial criteria for your account scoring model and assign weights to each

Questions to ask:

  • Which attributes are most strongly correlated with an account’s likelihood to do business with you?

  • Which statistical model should be used to define this correlation?

  • How heavily should those attributes be weighted relative to others?

Step 6: Create a pilot ABM team comprised of both marketers and sellers aligned around a specific go-to-market strategy

Questions to ask:

  • Will you be more successful if you take a sample of your top sales and marketing practitioners across different teams/LOBs or should you opt to select an entire sales team under one sales manager for your initial pilot?

  • What kind of cadence will you maintain with them to track their success and gather feedback?

  • What markers of success will you monitor and measure? How might you use these markers to incentivize them? Should I select a control group to compare to the ABM pilot team?

With the exception of writing a blog post about it, nothing about implementing and maturing an ABM strategy is easy. This is why organizations must also undergo a cultural change to institute a firm and sustained commitment to ABM. Monitoring the progress of the pilot ABM team as well as the factors that determine their success will help marketers explore the unique cultural traits that need to change across the entire sales and marketing organizations. However, you will be able to view them first within a smaller group that will be easier to guide and steer as you overcome various hurdles.

However, you should not have to go through this process alone. Leverage any untapped expertise that exists outside your company as well, such as your Oracle Sales team. Technology providers have an invested interest in your success, and they can be used as a resource to provide some of the materials explored above and guidance you need to set your company up for success as you adopt ABM. to learn more.


When working on leads, focus on quality over quantity. Take a look at our "Account-Based Marketing Handbookto learn more.




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