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Wait! 3 things you should never start an ABM journey without

Co-founder of The Marketing Pod's Jodie Williams discusses three key points B2B marketers absolutely need before spearheading their ABM programme.

B2B marketers love nothing better than a strong statistic, and here is one we’re probably all familiar with: 87% of marketers say account-based marketing delivers the highest ROI in their marketing mix. With stats like that, it’s little wonder that ABM has become such a central focus in many B2B marketing campaigns. Very few wonder why marketers are sometimes so keen to reap the rewards promised by ABM; they rush through the preparatory stage.  Unfortunately, it’s the legwork that ensures ABM can deliver. Without it, high value materials may simply fail to hit the mark and risk alienating rather than engaging your target audience; leaving sales without the hot new prospects they were promised, and marketers with lots of explaining to do.

So, before you dive into the deep waters of ABM, we recommend a pause to take stock and make sure you’re really ready. And, while ‘ready’ will mean something slightly different for each new campaign, there are three things that we believe are essential to every ABM journey:

1. Everyone on-board

This is perhaps the hardest but most important bit of prep you’ll have to do. A successful ABM campaign begins with collaboration and depends on everyone involved having full faith in the process. Marketers who haven’t already done so must prioritise forging strong relationships with the sales teams.  After all, these are the people on the front line and usually the ones who know what customers really want. It means agreeing on a set of shared objectives, creating processes for the free flow communication and breaking down silos. It also means making sure everyone from telesales teams up to the board understands what ABM is and how it works.

You see, the thing with ABM is that the timescales look very different to a typical marketing campaign. Teams that have been used to the faster delivery times of lead gen will find the wait frustrating unless expectations are carefully managed. The average timeframe for ROI on an ABM campaign is 9.8 months; here in the UK, timeframes can extend to an average of over 13months. This is more than double the timeframe experienced by our US counterparts and might require a real cultural shift in some businesses. However, if you have board buy-in and a team primed to play the long-game, you stand a much better chance of seeing a campaign through to fruition.

2. Water-tight insight

Okay, so perhaps this is the hardest but most important bit of prep you’ll have to do. ABM requires a level of personalisation that will only work if your data is complete, up-to-date and fully verified. In fact, ABM goes well beyond personalisation: it relies on a deeper insight into the individuals you are trying to reach, within the context of their roles and the pressures they face. So it isn’t just about extracting the data, it’s about really understanding it. This is especially true in the case of one-to-few or one-to-one campaigns and is something that takes a significant amount of time and resources.

The data requirement usually begins with an examination of existing customer information, as understanding what makes the perfect customer is the first step to identifying the perfect prospect. Once profiling is out of the way, you’ll need to use your own and third-party data to work out whether those prospects have a propensity to buy your products or services. Then, you’ll need to work out exactly who is responsible for that purchasing decision. As every B2B marketer knows, it’s never just one person making a business purchasing decision; ideally, you would know who the seven or nine people involved are, at what point they get involved in the process, and what their different motivations might be. This will allow you to adapt your messaging to suit and make sure it lands at the perfect moment.

We saw the difference that insight can make to a digital ABM campaign in a recent one-to-few campaign for a B2B utilities client who wanted to reach known prospects in the SME space. Our carefully targeted digital ads were designed to draw on everything we knew about our target audience. We saw evidence of our legwork in the results: those ads alone generated 23 new inbound leads. Our client has so far secured £41.5 K of new revenue from this low-cost ABM campaign, with proposals worth £132.5K still in the pipeline.

It’s important to remember that the stakes are always highest in a one-to-one campaign. This intensive approach increases risk; each target has significant profit potential and any gaps in the data could unfortunately mean that the opportunity to make a real and lasting impression on them is lost. If obtaining in-depth data is proving difficult, or your organisation is trying ABM for the first time, it may be wise to try a one-to-few approach first - to spread risk and provide a more reassuring economy-of-scale for your stakeholders.

3. The route mapped out

This third requirement may actually be the first thing you do when you are devising your ABM campaign - and will also help you draw everyone together. Once again, it’s a step that comes before execution of your ABM campaign can begin and must be understood as an essential preparatory step, not a delay to action.

To get your ABM journey properly mapped out, you first need to know exactly what you want to achieve. With this end goal in sight, and keeping in mind the extra time it takes to see the rewards of ABM, it can be useful to set internal mini-milestones that will keep teams engaged and your project on track. Think soft metrics here: measure performance in terms of department interaction and due diligence rather than revenue growth - that comes later.

Next, get your creative talent together to come up with a strong creative concept that ties every one of your ABM assets together and has its origins in your value proposition. Both messaging and methodology should not only be tailored to your ABM audience but also work as part of the wider business strategy. Put simply, always have the bigger picture in mind - ABM is about building reputation and nurturing valuable relationships, rather than delivering a short sharp revenue hit.

If this all sounds fairly complicated, it’s because it is. The success of ABM depends on meticulous planning and careful execution. Without those things, you may as well be firing expensive shots in the dark. But take the time to get it right, and it has the potential not only to deliver significant value but also to increase organisational harmony - and productivity- for the long-term.

Become an ABM champion: How to set and smash your targets

This year’s ABM report provides essential reading for those wanting to gain a realistic and confident view on the typical cost of ABM, how long it takes to hit ROI and the success marketers you’ll see along the way.

Download now

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