How to implement a successful ABM programme
02 Nov 2023
For over a decade, Account-Based Marketing has been hailed as B2B marketing’s silver bullet.
For those not already in the know, Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a focused, strategic approach to B2B marketing, intent on accelerating opportunities, sales, and ROI and takes the form of either:
- 1:1 – highly personalised direct activity targeting high-value individual accounts and named stakeholders
- 1:Few – clustering a small number of accounts with similar challenges, for example around a vertical or a theme, and communicating to them with a high level of personalisation
- (There is also 1:Many, however, I wouldn’t call this ABM, because it strays into mass marketing territory. It’s just a best-practice direct campaign).
According to Gartner, B2B businesses with over $100 million in revenue allocate nearly a quarter of their marketing budget to ABM activity, and it’s no wonder, seeing as ABM is proven to increase pipeline conversion rates by 14%.
Yet almost every client I speak to about ABM has a list of challenges they face – with many wanting to understand how to implement a successful ABM programme. For some, it revolves around the logistics of getting ABM set up and established.
Others have issues relating to reporting and attribution of leads and revenue, often between sales and marketing teams.
And some struggle to maximise – or justify – the costly martech investment they’ve made to support this activity.
Here at Harvard, we’ve been running ABM programmes for many years: from setting up impactful pilots to supporting a client’s existing ABM activity.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach, however, I thought it would be useful to share some recommendations from our experience, whether you’re just getting started or looking to grow what you already have in place. Here are seven steps to implement a successful ABM programme:
1) Start with an ABM pilot and then scale out
For those of you planning to dip your toes into the ABM waters, please don’t go “all-in” immediately. Best-in-class ABM needs to be fully thought through. You need to build a business case, bring your sales organisation on the journey and ensure you have segmentation and content in place, so we always recommend a pilot and we have a tried and tested process for this. Ideally, the pilot would include a manageable number of similar accounts where marketing can show real value, whether that be by offering new insights or progressing them from being relatively ‘cold’ to a live opportunity.
2) Involve sales in ABM, early
In an ideal world, an ABM campaign will be a joint effort between marketing and sales, but in reality, it is more often ‘driven’ by marketing and ‘supported’ by sales teams. Too often commercial teams are looped in as an afterthought. It’s essential to adjust the balance here and involve the sales team as early as possible. They will bring unique insights to accounts or the sector you can build on, and as a key go-to-market channel, ultimately any ABM programme’s success relies on their input and buy-in.
3) Always put ABM strategy before tech
ABM is such a hot topic that it’s no surprise that martech companies are in on the act. There’s even a Gartner Magic Quadrant dedicated to ABM platforms. 6Sense, Madison Logic and (Harvard’s client) D&B Rev.Up ABX all offer brilliant solutions to help you scale your activity and attribute revenue, yet my advice is to avoid the bright lights of ABM-tech and develop and implement your strategy first. Then use tech to fill the gaps and allow you to scale..
4) Really and truly get to know your audience
Whether it’s hyper targeted or a 1:Few approach, spend time understanding the account or sector, the challenges they are facing and where you can add value. The best campaigns in the B2B world are often built on a single insight that’s brought to life creatively and it will give you your clear value proposition which all content and comms can align to.
5) Make ABM personal (and scalable) with AI
The most successful ABM activity is highly personalised. The most successful ABM programmes can scale. Use handy AI tools such as Crystal Knows to get insight and understanding into your target contacts’ personalities. And then think beyond these individual prospects or accounts when creating your comms programme so you can scale out to different audiences, verticals or markets.
6) Be intentional in ABM with intent data
Once you are ready to scale, one of the best investments you can make is to introduce intent data into your ABM programme. Combining intel from sales teams with account contact data that informs you of propensity to buy, intent data allows you to expand your account lists based on revenue potential and strategic fit with your business.
7) Get creative
ABM often gets a bad rep when it comes to creativity. Admittedly there are a lot of pretty basic campaigns out there consisting of cobbled-together insights reports and personalised emails, but B2B buyer expectations and the B2B buyer journey have fundamentally changed in the last few years, accelerated by Covid and the emergence of Gen Z in the workplace. By introducing a creative wrapper you can bring some personality into your campaign. And combined with a more creative – and interactive – approach to your content, you can engage your audiences on a human and emotional level; creating more impact, more recall, more likelihood to engage – and ultimately driving more ROI.
Need a B2B ABM agency?
These are just a few recommendations on how ABM can help you make your move. Learn more here about our approach to ABM and how we have helped b2b tech scale-up NavVis maximise ROI through a creative and personalised approach.