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ABM in 2018: A Mid-Year Review

In the span of just a few years, account-based marketing (ABM) has evolved from a niche philosophy into the go-to approach for successful B2B marketing teams. In an evolving environment where “batch and blast” approaches yield ever-diminishing results, smart brands recognize that a tight focus on high-potential accounts offers far greater “bang” for each marketing “buck.”

According to SiriusDecisions’ 2017 State of ABM Study,
• 93 percent of B2B marketers surveyed say ABM is “very important” or “extremely important”
• 91 percent said qualified opportunities for ABM accounts generate more closed deals than non-ABM accounts
• 91 percent said ABM has increased their average deal size

Now that ABM has come of age as a mainstream B2B practice, an evolution to “ABM 2.0” has begun, as marketers uncover new approaches for fine-tuning their strategies and pursuing even greater results.

With the first half of 2018 approaching the rearview mirror, let’s look at the developments that are ushering in the next generation of ABM strategies.

Data-Driven Personalization

Every day, business buyers face hundreds, perhaps even thousands of messages. How can B2B marketing teams get through to them? By delivering content that’s so hyper-focused on their specific needs that it’s nearly irresistible.

In years past, marketers had to rely on first-party intent data (i.e. information submitted on your website, landing pages, or other owned assets) and on any details prospects chose to share in sales conversations. Today you have at your fingertips an expanse of data to help you leverage personalization at a whole new level. Using solutions like third-party intent data, you can gain deep insights into the problems your targets are trying to solve, the solutions they are considering, and even their status in the buyer’s journey.

By combining these data-driven insights with automated marketing solutions, you can start highly personalized conversations that strike a chord with even the most hard-to-reach business buyers.

Closer Alignment of Marketing and Sales

Organizations have always known that tight alignment of marketing and sales leads to increased revenues, but overcoming those silos has been a challenge. With ABM, aligning sales and marketing teams is no longer simply “nice to have.” It’s a necessity, and brands who have embraced ABM are finding new and innovative ways to ensure closer cooperation.

One way brands are doing that is by leveraging solutions that cross the line between sales and marketing. Intent data, for example, can alert marketers to new accounts to target and help them personalize their messaging. On the sales side, intent data can alert reps to spiking activity as a trigger for outreach and offer the insights needed to conduct targeted sales conversations.

To get the maximum benefit from these tools, marketing and sales must work in a smooth continuum. Returning to the intent data example, marketing uses intent signals to bring in new targets and to pre-qualify leads, which gives the sales team a stream of quality prospects to work with. By sharing their results with marketing, sales can offer insights into which combination of intent signals yielded the best results in terms of deals closed and revenue generated, allowing marketing to further refine their approach.

Real-Time Messaging

Online forms are great for gathering first-party intent data, but how do you reach the “non-completers” — the visitors who either don’t have the time to fill out the form or who cringe at the thought of winding up on yet another mailing list?

Real-time messaging uses intelligent chatbots to start a conversation while the visitor is on your website, with a personalized message from a real, human sales rep. How does this tie in to ABM? Two ways:

• Initial visitors who choose to chat can reveal vital information to help you determine instantly whether they fit your ABM profile.
• Returning visitors receive personalized messages generated via IP address lookup and cookied information (e.g. “Welcome back, ABC Enterprises! Curious about how we’re helping similar companies like XYZ Enterprises address [problem]? I’d be happy to show you …”)

According to the 2017 State of Conversational Marketing report from Drift and Clearbit,
• 9 out of 10 consumers want to use real-time messaging to have conversations with businesses
• 66 percent of consumers prefer messaging over other communications channels for talking to businesses
• 41 percent of the people who start conversations on B2B websites are executives

As the practice of ABM becomes more refined, more B2B marketing teams are exploring innovative communication tools like real-time messaging to engage prospects.

Advanced ABM Technologies

Technology is one of the factors that fostered ABM’s emergence into mainstream B2B marketing, and technology is playing a key role in ushering in the next generation of ABM strategies. Here are just a few examples:

Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI technology is more accessible than ever before, and B2B marketers are using it to take their ABM strategies to a new level. AI-powered applications can review reams of complex data and spin that raw information into actionable insights. By leveraging solutions that use AI, you can help your team quickly and easily prioritize accounts, refine your messaging, and conduct more meaningful one-to-one sales conversations.

Advanced Integration Tools: Sales and marketing teams across industries are trying to do more with less. Advanced integration tools allow them to make the most of their time by automatically “connecting the dots” between the various applications in the sales and marketing stack. Integrated tools also allow teams to create a single source of truth that give a complete picture of the prospect, reducing time spent hunting down information scattered across applications.

Next-Gen Analytics: The latest generation of analytics applications enables sales and marketing teams to gain more insights from their data than ever before. By accessing multiple sources — including intent data, current customer attributes, engagement data, and other factors — advanced solutions can present a comprehensive view of your funnel to help you make informed decisions on which accounts to target and how to approach them.

As we cross over the midpoint of 2018, the account-based marketing trend shows no signs of slowing down. In just the first six months of the year, we’ve seen exciting developments usher in a new era of more sophisticated, precision-focused ABM strategies.

As we turn our attention to the future, look for approaches to become even more refined. Technology is offering unprecedented opportunities to grow the ABM funnel, deliver marketing messages that resonate, and turn more prospects into customers. And as sales and marketing embrace closer collaboration, they place themselves in a perfect position to translate these opportunities into increased revenues.

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