As marketers, we live in two worlds. We need to both envision the future and deliver all along the way to it. Over the last several years, these competing viewpoints have helped fuel interest in account-based marketing – because in ABM, across a set of target accounts, we’re simultaneously focused both on value capture today and strengthening account relationships over time. Also, we’re keenly aware that unless our ABM programs bear fruit in the near term, they won’t generate the internal support needed to sustain them for strategic impact. So, for some of us in ABM, current conditions are causing concern. For some ABMers, just when things were starting to go really well, everything’s changed for the worse. Except it hasn’t. Given current market conditions, we believe that moving forward with ABM is even more important for the near term. Because it builds client relationships. Because it focuses all your teams on where there is actual, real potential.
Right now, whether you’re in a good position to double down on serving existing customers or your near-term success still depends on new customer acquisition, ABM principles apply. They can deliver greater effectiveness – more relevant interaction — at a time when both buyers and sellers need it.
That’s because solving critical problems matters more than ever – to shore up critical weakness, to optimize cash, to prepare for what’s next as things improve. Many of your clients now have a narrower outlook – clearer priorities – a need to act with less debate and deliberation (see TOPO). So the ABM practitioner who sees real opportunity sooner and shapes conversations more effectively puts themselves ahead of other players in their market.
Especially now, buyers need your help. They can’t afford the time to accept irrelevant outreach. They need direct, thoughtful answers to their most pressing questions. So to win their attention at all, you need to map better to their needs, more clearly understand their concerns; anticipate their considerations and then, execute on these insights more effectively.
That’s why, to continue to successfully operationalize ABM in the current environment, our clients are working with us to quickly evolve their ABM programs across these 5 areas:
In the recent study we conducted with Heinz Marketing on ABM success drivers, one leverage point was the ability of the team to not become distracted by other non-ABM responsibilities, techniques or measures. By protecting the ABM program in its infancy, companies found they were able to be more agile; they could more quickly make adjustments, deliver returns and justify the program. This brings up two critical opposing perspectives for the here and now. For some, protecting “special” programs like ABM is becoming more difficult. While we can understand the corporate reflex towards this kind of decision making, our view is exactly the reverse. There is no argument that ABM principles – that better, more relevant marketing and sales, better your CX — will deliver better results. So it’s not the ABM principles that are the question, it’s how to better operationalize them now. Our clients are showing that rather than looking to cut special programs, the better course is to efficiently and rapidly scale these principles across more of their activities. Together, we are focusing on how best to balance what the client can do themselves and how our marketing services and customer success teams can better fill in for chronic or newly arisen gaps in capability or function. For example, by expanding internal access to opt-in contact-level purchase intent signals, more functional groups are getting more timely insight on current market dynamics — thus enabling them to rapidly make necessary adjustments to their work outputs or approaches (for more on sharing data across organization, read Using contact-level intent monitoring to close 3 critical performance gaps in ABM).
In the early stages of ABM practice, it’s common for team to focus on the advertising component. This makes sense for a number of reasons: 1) To influence and generate engagement with your target accounts, and 2) Because advertising tactics are relatively light-lifting. Now, however, since the stakes have changed on the expense side, what we’re seeing is that advertising alone (and the associated KPIs) is not enough to sustain interest in ABM as a priority activity. There’s been a KPI focus shift down the funnel, adding opportunity identification at a minimum as key. To address this, target account advertising must now be more closely integrated with powerful conversion efforts executed by both marketing and sales.
Almost no matter how your original ABM list was created, this unprecedented new reality has raised important questions. Accounts on your original list are being affected differently by current events based on industry, size, even corporate personality. All of which affects their buying behavior in the near to mid-term. ICPs, historical models and scoring projections have been impacted significantly. Most companies are using a variety of scenarios to chart their possible paths forward. In this environment, behavioral data, from both your own systems and from external sources, has become an essential tool for understanding what is really happening in your TAM overall and particularly with the accounts that are or should be the focus of your ABM program.
Among our client base of more than 1,400 tech companies, we support teams at all levels of data management maturity. Because the customer and prospect data environment is now changing at lightning speed, challenges here have been magnified, and for many, a legitimate workaround is needed, fast. Over the past few months, static contact data has been decaying faster than anyone can keep up with. At the same time, opt-in contact level behavioral data is essentially unaffected. So while CRM updates are lagging reality more and more, our clients are turning to behavioral feeds for their reliability. If your marketing team has not yet gotten sales colleagues onto the same behavioral data that’s used for ABM nurturing, it’s time to drive that alignment. With direct access to contact-level purchase intent, your sales and marketing plays can become aligned much more organically.
Updated studies from TOPO and Gartner in particular are showing important changes in buying team personas and buyer’s journeys. Many of the plays designed before Covid and certain key personas addressed in targeting and messaging will no longer fit as well. In our own work on the publishing side of our business, the trend towards new or different personas in the buying unit has been accelerated dramatically. Given that better personalization is a core tenet for ABM success, we’re seeing clients double-down on content and messaging development using dynamic behavioral inputs.
As all practitioners know, needs-based personalization drives conversion. Especially now, this same basic truth applies directly to targeting as well. To successfully identify where demand is still relatively vibrant, our clients can no longer rely on time-consuming guesswork and high-volume/high-velocity outreach to comb through unqualified lists. Instead of relying on static profile hierarchies, they are shifting focus to high-percentage engagement approaches based on visible buying motions — wherever they occur in the target organization. By focusing on real demand, they’re getting in early and working harder to influence buying coalitions. Their sales enablement teams are working overtime to understand the behavioral inputs and proactively tighten up how they can help sales anticipate needs and objections.
To discuss and address these elements of your current ABM program or to apply ABM principles across more of your go-to-market actions, reach out to your TechTarget account executive or contact us here.
ABM, ABM orchestration, ABM personalization, ABM principles, account prioritization, account selection, Account-Based Marketing, b2b purchase intent insight, marketing and sales alignment, sales and marketing alignment
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