Technique 3 minutes, 25 second read Maeve McDonald, Managing Consultant and ABM Practice Lead, Hotwire Global
On a b2b battleground that’s noisier and more chaotic than ever, increasingly it will take precise targeting, analytical smarts and expertise in relationship building to land or expand strategically important business. That’s why many CMOs are investing in, or at least giving serious thought to Account Based Marketing (ABM) right now.
In essence, ABM centres on targeting strategic accounts that offer huge growth potential and treating them as a market of one, or as part of a ‘one-to-few’ programme. While ABM has been around for some time – I’ve been active in the field for over 15 years, starting out by helping IBM’s Marketing operation work more closely with its Sales team on boosting revenue from strategic accounts – advances in technology have recently opened up new avenues and generated not only a buzz but a wave of action.
A recent HubSpot survey of over 1,500 marketers around the world found that 70% were using ABM in 2021, up 15% from 2020. Yet many CMOs are still feeling their way, unsure of how to proceed and what must be done to achieve a healthy ROI.
To help marketers stay on track, Hotwire has published What ABM Success Looks Like, a white paper offering insight and inspiration. As well as input from some of my talented Hotwire colleagues, the paper features contributions from marketers at half a dozen of our client companies, lifting the lid on how they are addressing ABM challenges to gain competitive advantage.
Starting with the basics
While ABM can be a significant investment, getting a programme off the ground doesn’t cost the earth.
As Karen Bomber, Vice President Global Marketing, Honeywell says. “You can start it with the basics. The right message, a hero asset, a content hub. Don’t be fearful of failure if you don’t have all the bells and whistles.”
But another client observes that “the ABM we would like to see and execute is not there yet.” Why? Because they face the same hurdles as many other organisations heading down this route. The Marketing, Comms and Sales teams need to work closer together to drive great results. And they need to get better at circulating data and translating it into something actionable for all: one set of points that provides an easy global overview of accounts and personas. The secret of building agile account intelligence can be a tough one to crack.
In a similar vein, HubSpot research reveals that the number one ABM challenge, as identified by 45% of marketers, is delivering a personalised customer experience. Hot on the heels of this comes knowing how to choose target accounts (41%) and knowing what content to use (40%).
Getting your ducks in a row means adhering to a proven ABM methodology. Our report sets out the six-step approach we recommend for delivering ground-breaking ABM programmes, from start to finish. You won’t be surprised to hear that it is underpinned by rigorous planning and begins with aligning all stakeholders behind a united ABM strategy with clear objectives and KPIs.
The rewards of well-executed ABM can be outstanding, as evidenced by a one-to-few campaign targeted at tier one banks across EMEA which supported revenue growth of $100 million.
In recent years, the rise of ABM has been accelerated by increasing access to what’s known as Intent data. Vendors like Bombora and Cyance have developed technology to pick up ‘Intent signals’ that point to big purchases or investments a company is researching online. Incorporating Intent data into ABM campaigns is very powerful because it is highly actionable, helping for example to direct the tailoring of content or to provide Sales teams with the insight they need to close a major deal.
ABM best practice requires Marketing, Comms and Sales to work in harmony on shared goals for driving reputation, relationships and revenue.
Today, few companies can honestly claim to have a sufficiently joined-up approach. But given the value to the business that ABM can deliver, in future the picture will be different. A new era is just around the corner.