3 Things Your ABM Efforts Must Get Right

Fiona O'Connor
Fiona O'Connor

Senior Content Marketing Manager

ABM effortsWhen we take a closer look at what many ABM programs look like – the tactics they employ, the measures, etc. – there’s still confusion among marketers about the goal. And while differences are to be expected given the diversity of organizations utilizing ABM, there should be no dispute of the rationale for investing more energy on a specific subset of TAM or ICP accounts.

Regardless of the good reasons ABM programs can differ, there are fundamentals without which the rationale for such focused activity falls apart – no matter the organization’s size, budget, staff, program deployment or otherwise. Where we see many ABM programs failing to sustain themselves is precisely because of cracks in these fundamentals. They are essentially designed to fail. Our experience shows that getting these three ABM fundamentals right can really help get you on the right path from the start.

#1 – The essential goal of ABM is to drive more revenue from specific target accounts.

In ABM, by definition, you intend to expend more effort on a specific set of accounts than you do on others. If you expend more effort, you must get a better than average return. That’s simple business logic. So, if you don’t get more revenue from those accounts, from an ROI perspective, your ABM has failed, plain and simple.

Now let’s dive in a bit deeper. In broad-based demand gen, you’re deploying volume-oriented lead identification tactics across broad swaths of your TAM. To help Sales with broad prospecting, you’re using modern marketing techniques to sift through large numbers of accounts and fuel a funnel lead qualification/disqualification construct.

In contrast, with ABM, you and your Sales colleagues have come together to agree on the attractiveness, of a very specific set of accounts. Together, you’ve agreed that these accounts deserve special attention and treatment. There’s something about each one of these accounts that makes them worthy of being on the list. Each one of these accounts has a high potential to deliver more revenue than it has. And this why, in ABM (in contrast to classic demand gen where you can be satisfied with your pipeline contribution in aggregate), you’ll be interested both in your aggregate accomplishments across the list and in your accomplishments with each specific account. Demand gen tactical concepts and measures were not designed for this, therefore you can’t let them constrain your thinking, actions or concepts of success.

#2 – Every target account is prequalified, so the focus is on creating more opportunities.

Because Marketing and Sales have agreed that the accounts on their list are especially desirable, in essence, they are pre-qualified. It’s a fact that each one of these accounts is a real revenue opportunity for the team. You don’t need SDRs using standard lead qualification approaches to qualify the account. And you need to be super cognizant that your demand-gen oriented SDR process could cause you to disqualify indications of real progress and opportunity.

While broad-based traditional demand gen is a service to Sales that increases their productivity by focusing attention only on truly qualified leads, in ABM (and with an ABM list) the help that Sales needs from Marketing is very different. Lead fishing alone is not sufficient. If it were, you could save your energy and stick with demand gen. The accounts on your ABM list are there, at least in part, because demand gen wasn’t enough to get at the revenue they promised. Likewise, the Sales efforts that you had been using had not achieved the desired objectives. The team was not discovering or creating enough opportunities in these accounts.

Whereas we might argue about whether or not the combination of a terrific demand gen capability and great sales prospecting can discover enough opportunities to ensure that your company wins, there can be no argument about why you’ve created an ABM list and a program to go after it with. If you’ve got a Sales-aligned ABM list, you know that your Sales team is being held to a very specific goal for that set of accounts. To achieve more revenue from that list in aggregate and individually, you will have to do more and better with each one than your combination of demand gen and sales prospecting has been doing so far. And in order for Sales to create more opportunities with these accounts than they have historically, they must logically first engage better with each account better than they ever have before. There’s no logical way to expect that you could create more opportunity in these accounts unless you’re better engaged with them.

Because Marketing skills and tactics are very well adapted for driving engagement, this account engagement need is the perfect place for Marketing to help. Our evidence shows it to be an essential element within every successful ABM program strategy. Once you have your target account list, Marketing and Sales need to figure out together how they will create the type of quality engagement that captures more existing opportunities and nurtures account relationships that will enable creation of opportunities where none would otherwise develop.

#3 – For ABM optimization, measures and tactics must evolve.

When starting out in ABM, many teams try to simply ramp up approaches they’re already familiar with. While part of this is because they have yet to internalize the fundamental differences we’ve been discussing here, another part is due to systemic barriers within how they measure and have been measured. An organization that has grown comfortable using lead volumes and conversion rates as their north star will commonly struggle to evolve to the more thoughtful and nuanced measures necessary to continuously improve ABM performance. This is a challenge not only for the practitioners on the ground; the problem can be embedded right up through the C-suite. As much as anyone, top leaders like fewer, clearer indicators of problems and success. With engagement as a major Marketing addition, ABM requires that Marketing KPIs evolve. Marketers should address this reality with their management going in. If they don’t, they will not gain the ability to show meaningful progress on the front end of the performance improvement process. The team should figure out how it will measure and report on engagement progress at the account level and at the buying group level deep within the account in a simple and mutually respected fashion with all constituents.

Regarding leads, we still see them as a good engagement signal within target accounts, but, because they are too easily ignored (or more specifically, disqualified) in the SDR process, in ABM we must move to a different way of thinking about them. Leads are a signal that may come from a buying center. As such, they provide valuable connection to the people who opportunities necessarily come from. As such, they are critical measures of engagement and they provide wonderful insight into that person’s interests. So, whether or not they are an indicator of an active buyer’s journey, they have real value and should be treasured – not discarded. When paired with a quality intent data resource, leads can often represent an engagement vanguard into an active buying team. In these cases, SDR behavior must be re-tuned to avoid negative dispositioning and liberated to pursue the whole buying team instead.

Similarly, limiting the team to a tactical toolkit quite like what they’ve used in their pre-ABM efforts cannot logically be expected to deliver substantively differently from classic demand gen and field marketing techniques. Adding high-quality intent data into the mix can set the conditions for the better personalization necessary to grow engagement, but without also substantially modifying delivery, the customer experience on the receiving end will be largely unchanged. To help you think through new tactics that are working hard for our ABM clients, have a look at what we’ve documented about using webinars programmatically and developing/delivering High-Value Offers. Both these methods are being used successfully to create the conditions necessary for better opportunity interception and creation alike.

ABM, ABM efforts, abm programs, Account-Based Marketing, intent data for ABM, purchase intent

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