Account based Marketing: THE untapped path for B2B marketing [CXL Review Week 8]

b2b account based marketing
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If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.

Jim Barksdale

For this week in my journey to get the CXL Institute certification for the Growth Marketing Minidegree I decided to focus on B2B Account Based Marketing.

Let me explain.

The value of any elearning experience (CXL minidegree included) is to actually use the knowledge in a practical way and improve the day-to-day work. Just being certified doesn’t help much when execution is missing.

So, why focus on B2B account based marketing?

Most of the great content in the minidegree seems to be focused around eCommerce, SaaS, and not that much on B2B marketing. I’m reffering to companies with long sales cycles, where marketing leads usually have a close rate of 1% or less.

These are sales driven organizations and sellers are the heroes. They bring in the deals and most of the time the value of marketing is questioned. I’m involved in an ABM pilot I wanted to fully understand this area.

[The pilot] How to start with B2B Account Based Marketing

The marketing organization is usually more data-driven compared with sales.

I feel that data is the weapon for the underdogs. When you present facts based on data, most of the stakeholders will listen. Even sellers.

Enter B2B Account Based Marketing as a cross-functional alignment between sales and marketing.

As all great stories go, the best way to get started with ABM is to have a solid pilot program. For this you need to:

  • get some leadership sponsorship for B2B ABM.
  • involve as co-owners of the program sales, customer success, and other vital stakeholders.
  • go for the right size pilot: big enough to show relevant results but small enough to be manageable.

Here is the definition for B2B account based marketing to get everybody on the same page:

A sustained, coordinated, strategic approach to identifying, engaging, closing, and growing the accounts that we know we should win.

B2B Account Based Marketing Tactics

In terms of ABM tactics, I would say that account selection is what will determine the success or waste of time and money.

Selecting the right accounts and making sure that all stakeholders are fully on board with the decision is more complicated than it sounds. I feel there is more of a negotiation that a data lead approach.

What is clear after watching the module is that the sales or marketing list based selection is something to be avoided.

After the selection, the next step is to define the tiers and clusters. And this is a strategy on its own because the next step is to identify the right contacts in each account.

Now data comes into place because developing a powerful Ideal Customer Profile leverages qualitative and quantitative insights.

Account based Marketing: THE untapped path for B2B marketing [CXL Review Week 8] 1
B2B Account Based Marketing Reverse Funnel

Determining what channels to use for targeting the accounts is not limited to digital-only tactics.

Also, a big part that was not mentioned is data privacy. At least in Europe, I feel GDPR really hit B2B marketing. I mean, yeah, I determined the contacts in each account, the roles, the data sources to get the right contact information, the intent, social listening, and all the deep-dive research is on spot, but without consent to contact him what to do?

One approach is to plan the plays and the channel cadence in a way that moves an account from the initial state to a new one.

Another good point regarding ABM is that it is channel-agnostic. The decision on which one to use will depend on a wide range of considerations involving who the targeted accounts and contacts are, the FROM -> TO journey you need to take them on, and the budget and team size.

Now that you’ve got your account list, and your tier and cluster strategy, you need to determine who, exactly, you need to engage and what approach and message are most likely to resonate with them. Let’s look at some examples.

B2B ABM Examples

The module on ABM starts with a story about a little red Ferrari. After identifying the right contacts in each account, a box with a small gift was sent with a $30 miniature red Ferrari. This hit the ego of the right contacts and with additional touches, via digital, many demos started to be scheduled.

Key takeaway: the experience must be smooth, multi-threaded, multi-channel, multi-touch, and highly targeted.

Account based Marketing: THE untapped path for B2B marketing [CXL Review Week 8] 2

Not all pilots are created equal, but once it is in the market there is still a lot of work ahead. No matter how good the selection is, it will still be inefficient and ineffective compared to what it will become.

The one thing that probably every stakeholder will ask is what results does it bring in. So in terms of testing, measuring, and communicating the work is never done.

Doing ABM can be hit really easily by the hype cycle and it is easy to get off track in the ABM journey. Some takeaways to keep on track:

  • Maintain focus and momentum once your pilot is in-market.
  • Build a predictable, repeatable results-driven machine.
  • Ensure effective ongoing communication to lay the foundations for scaling ABM post-pilot.
  • Master the strategies, tactics, metrics, and wisdom you need to become an ABM leader and accelerate the growth of your company and of your career.
  • Clearly explain what ABM is to stakeholders and how it is different in terms of challenges, practices, and metrics.
  • Evaluate the three types of ABM and determine which one(s) are best for your company (One-to-One, One-to-Few, One-to-Many).
  • Gain enthusiastic executive and cross-functional alignment and co-ownership. Marketers who try to do it alone fail.
  • Develop an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), tier strategy, cluster strategy, and contact identification plan that goes well beyond basic demographics and firmographics.
  • Understand the ABM technology landscape, what tools may be right for your particular challenges, and when to introduce them. Don’t fall into the trap of buying new technology too soon.

Takeaways and resources

A great resource that was recommended is DemandBase, as a place for ABM related education.

Long story short the certification for ABM from DB is FREE until 31 July 2020. It is easy to join so I highly recommend it.

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