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Don't Give in to Account-Based Confusion

Mark Ogne
Founder and CEO, ABM Consortium

Mark Ogne is the founder and CEO of ABM Consortium

After years of advice and terabytes of presentations, the fact remains that a vast majority of B2B marketing leaders lack confidence in their organization to succeed at driving a successful ABM strategy.

At this year’s B2B Marketing Exchange, I had the honor of serving as emcee of the ABM In Action Live stage. Kicking off the week, I asked some 300 ABM practitioners to raise hands based upon where they were in their ABM journey: 30% were starting a new program, but half of the remaining marketers were at the event to re-engineer an existing, failed ABM program.

The key takeaway from this ad hoc poll? About two-thirds of account-based marketers are either uncertain or confused about how they drive their programs.

Before getting more in-depth, let’s start from the most elemental concept; your organization has a finite number of companies who hear your value proposition better, find it more valuable, are willing to pay more for it, and stay around longer. To be successful with ABM, you need to identify that universe, segment it, understand their needs, and deliver sales and marketing actions that align with those needs.

The trick is, this doesn’t align with much of the “best practice” shouted throughout our industry. This advice generally comes from ABM platform vendors who operate as standalone solutions, focused on creating a new superset of channels.

And this is the rub, the starting point for confusion; these target accounts already have sales and marketing actions throughout your organization. Sure, you may have a less than robust understanding of this universe, an Ideal Customer Profile, but you know a large portion of them. They’re already in your CRM and Marketing Automation Systems. They already participate in an untold number of nurturing flows. They’ve already come to your website.

These actions aren’t in an “ABM Platform” and adding new, separate ABM flows of communication to these target accounts don’t make sense. Right?

Now, think about your audience and the confusion they can feel. If you already have these organizations in existing campaigns, how will it improve your success by adding them into yet another flow of completely divorced messages and actions? This approach is at conflict with the reality of your audience, where they interact with you across platforms and channels. McKinsey looked at this point a few years ago. In their research, they found that B2B buyers evaluate vendors using an average of six channels, and two-thirds of them leave the experience dissatisfied and frustrated. Adding a separate, disconnected set of messages, topics, and actions makes it unnecessarily difficult for them to understand what you do and why they should do business with you.

Eliminate your Account-Based Confusion

ABM isn’t a new superset of channels; it’s an element of everything you do, for a limited subset of companies. Once you grapple with this concept, ABM starts to make more sense. Along that journey, you need to push back against the proliferation of ABM point solutions which are trying to separate your ABM strategy from your existing sales and marketing strategy and activities.

To help you make this transition, I’m going to share our proprietary process for Account-Based Marketing Data Management; we developed this framework through dozens of ABM pilot engagements. 

1. Aggregate - The real picture of your target account success exists across siloed platforms. While platforms like CDP's (Oracle CX Unity) provide incredible value, here's a great framework to get your thought process started:

  • Flag target accounts in your CRM and marketing automation systems.

  • Flag target account contacts in your marketing automation system.

  • Convert CRM target account leads to contacts.

  • Synchronize accounts and contacts between systems.

2. Analyze - Identify what you know, and equally important, what you don't know:

  • Contacts — Download contacts that you have in your CRM and Marketing Automation platform for each target account. In an Excel spreadsheet, pivot the data to identify key insights for each account and dedupe based upon email address. Rank the order of accounts with the most contacts and the ratio of buying-role contacts at each account.

  • Accounts — Download Campaign data from your relevant system of record for campaign participation data. Again, in Excel, pivot the data to understand campaign participation (frequency, response rate) and stage of buying cycle (no/limited sales interaction, current opportunity, closed opportunity).

3. Append - Apply learning from the “analyze” stage to form data-driven decisions about data acquisition and marketing system changes:

  • Identify segment participation for each target account

  • Identify the topic of interest for each segment

  • Correct data inconsistencies

  • Fill gaps in field data

  • Fill holes in target account buying roles

  • Enrich data records

  • External intent and predictive analytic

4. Action – Align content with audience needs:

  • Adjust marketing automation flow and campaign participation.

  • Triggered programs rather than campaigns — ABM revenue impact thrives when you capitalize on the expressed needs of a target account.

5. Manage - This process is cyclical; that is, it’s intended to cycle regularly:

  • Lead-to-account matching.

  • Bounced email.

  • Buyer reporting.

Conclusions

If you harbor confusion about ABM, you’re in good company… about two-thirds of B2B marketers and quite likely many of your ideal target accounts are in the same camp. So then, the question at hand is, what should you do about it? My advice is first to examine your marketing activities using my ABM Data Management Process. When you're ready to speak with vendors, start every conversation with questions about their perspective on blending their platform with your existing sales and marketing actions. How can they help you coordinate approach across platforms and channels, and not just add to the confusion you and your audience may already be experiencing.

                                                                                                                                                         

Curious about how to better work with data and make the most of a customer data platform? Find out how to “Do More with Customer Data Platforms.”

See the guide.

 

 

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