The old school batch and blast approach to B2B Marketing is officially over. Prospects, including the most influential purchasing decision-makers, will just opt-out. Delete, delete, delete. And they can’t be replaced by flooding the top of the funnel with more low-value leads that don’t produce closed business or revenue growth.
Sales teams need deeper engagement with key decision-makers in accounts that lead to larger deals and more efficient, profitable sales cycles. C-level executives want to see a direct correlation between marketing expenses and the bottom-line.
Enter Account-Based Marketing (ABM), the strategic approach to identifying key accounts in your market, tailoring your relationship with stakeholders to become a “market of one.” In ABM, Marketing and Sales activity is prioritized, planned, and measured in the context of how to best develop a company’s relationship with an account, not just with individual email addresses.
If you follow the industry press, you already know ABM is THE hottest trend in B2B Marketing. A recent Forrester Research report found 63 percent of B2B marketers executed an ABM strategy last year, and another 15 percent plan on growing that practice this year. But, as with all buzzword-based trends, there’s confusion about how ABM is implemented, measured, and optimized in your marketing organizations. Less than half of marketers really understand how ABM works, according to many analysts. That’s not the path to success for a highly-structured, data-driven toolkit.
ABM requires the close collaboration between Marketing and Sales, particularly in prioritizing accounts to break for new business, or increased quarter-over-quarter revenues. The revenue goals set in in your ABM prioritization, will ultimately be the measure of your own success. However, as a Marketing professional, I always come back to this one basic principal:
What you know about companies tells you how much the organization can spend with you. Individuals decide if the company will spend with you.
Building personal relationships with influential purchasing decision-makers is the key component of a successful ABM strategy, and core marketing concepts like measuring individual engagement still apply. You have to develop metrics, and analytical insights, as to how these individuals function as a purchasing team within their organizations.
The IT director and finance VP may be in different countries, different time zones, and different worlds — but finding them, and determining how they work together to guide the account’s purchasing journey, will define your success. Quantifying your success is a matter of identifying, and rolling up key measurements of individual behavior, into account-based metrics and KPIs.
ABM is absolutely a “quality-over-quantity” approach, and your marketing and sales activities must be based on metrics and KPIs, which ultimately map to revenue. Many ABM adopters report positive results, as soon as a quarter after rolling out their programs, but building out the metrics and reporting those that drive their programs is still a resource-intensive exercise, which must be cost-justified.
The more you learn more about the buying teams within a target organization, the more you’ll develop meaningful ABM metrics; however, from outset, you must gather and analyze contact and behavioral data in the context of the account. And of course, augmenting your in-house data, with contact and content interest-based information from third-party services like True Influence’s InsightBASE, is a huge leg up in building your ABM strategy.
My experience tells me there are many indicators which are essential to a successful ABM program. Here are the top five key metrics and indicators I believe are essential to getting your ABM program up and running efficiently and expertly.
Total Addressable Market Penetration
We already know the fundamentals never go out of style. Before you can being prioritizing target accounts in your market, you need a comprehensive view of how many potential client companies you have contacts for in your database first.
Third-party data services can help, but the majority of the effort in building out your account list will be old fashioned market research-based leg work. Sales is a key ally, not only in terms of identifying accounts, but also in sharing the news around spending trends, and other information they gather, out in the field. And of course, Sales will be eager to share budget figures which may lead to targeting potentially huge contracts.
Depth of Contacts & Contact Information in Target Accounts
Once you have established your market, and made a targeted list of companies, the next step is to ensure all key title and job roles for an account are set in your marketing database. This in one of the key value propositions of services like InsigthBASE, which provides validated contact information for business domains, (as well as mapping content consumption and intent signal monitoring to the account level).
Once again, Sales can be an invaluable ally. Not only are sales reps’ personal contacts a rich source of explicit info, but they also pick up insights on alliances and check-offs in each account’s specific purchase journey. Particularly in larger organizations, you may well discover there are multiple purchase teams, each with their own budgets, or a collective voice in major organizational purchase decisions.
LinkedIn and other professional networking tools are great sources for establishing who is talking to whom inside an account, as well as potential contacts’ actual job functions – not just their titles.
Here too, personalizing content and messaging for each individual you communicate with is absolutely essential, particularly in high-value B2B markets. With a clear picture of purchase teams within an account, you can tailor a message to a CTO, letting him/her know their CFO just viewed content about a recent enterprise software release. That is tremendously powerful.
Engagement with Account, Weighted by Influencer Level
Reaching just one person in an account is not going to close business in today’s market. If you can’t engage with half or more of the key individuals in your account, you are not into the account yet.
Your ABM dashboard must roll up standard engagement metrics into an aggregate account view, and, if possible, weigh the engagement by key purchase influencers more heavily in the overall rating, for a given account. An extended visit to your site by the COO is worth several dozen email opens by operational staff; this should be reflected in your account-level evaluation and engagement-based event triggers.
Tracking this type of content with the preferred channel of engagement for the buying team members is essential. As your team works an account, you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on the rate the MQLs, moving them to SQLs per account, at the influencer level.
This is a huge metric designed to measure the success of your ABM efforts. It is particularly effective as B2B purchase cycles continue to lengthen, standing in some markets for more than a year. That’s a lot of expensive Sales overhead that a precise, effective ABM strategy can divert, to the bottom-line of additional closed business.
Long Sales cycles are due largely, in part, to the deluge of information purchase influencers are now confronted with, across a seemingly endless array of contact channels. As marketers, it’s our job to cut through that confusion, by reaching the right people in the account, at the right time, with the right message.
Improving funnel velocity by just 10 percent can mean a significant win, not only for margin, but also in the predictability of revenue projections.
The following are some key data points you’ll want to monitor, including:
- Time to Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) status
- Overall Sales Cycle time, from SQL status to close
- Time spent in each of defined sales and marketing state
However, like all success metrics, you will need to identify both marketing activities, and responses, at the individual contact level, and then analyze how they correlate to wins at the account level. Think of analytics like this: Sales cycle time for accounts where key influencers at SQL status engaged with mobile content vs. desktop delivery. Your analysis will automatically become more refined, with the maturity of your ABM strategy and implementation.
Contract Value / Marketing Effort ROI
This is perhaps the key roll-up metric, when it comes to justifying marketing budgets. Of course, Marketing is most often considered an expense, but ABM-based analysis can map that expense directly to the business that has been won.
Key metrics to keep an eye on include:
- Costs per MQL and SQL, mapped to influencer level
- Total cost per closed deal (improvement in Funnel Velocity can have huge impact here)
- Total dollar value of MQLs in pipeline, based on account win rates
An Ongoing Process
As with any effective marketing strategy, ongoing assessment and refinement will make or break your Account-Based Marketing Program. All of your marketing efforts should to be analyzed, not only on how individuals react to them, but also on how those individuals influence the ultimate spending decisions of the accounts you are targeting.
Mapping your ABM programs to revenue may be the end game, but in order to do so effectively, you’ll need carefully planned metrics and reports to guide your efforts.