Getting Account-Based Marketing Right in EMEA: 5 Features of ABM Done Well
Doing Account-Based Marketing (ABM) well in EMEA is not easy. In fact, two out of every three ABM programs don’t reach their goals.
It doesn’t help that ABM is not well understood in region. ABM is more than a marketing initiative to target a few select accounts with messaging. It also doesn’t help that ABM programs can look very different from one another, making comparisons and following the example of others ineffective.
We want to help you understand what it takes to execute well with ABM in EMEA – as a strategy, it is maturing from a marketing program to being part of a full-fledged business strategy for many organizations, particularly B2B IT companies.
In 2022, ABM is moving from a niche to a mainstream concept. While the tools needed for ABM have been around for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a shift in buyer behavior primarily towards digital across the globe. These changes open up more opportunities for digital ABM.
We’re already seeing significant success from companies embracing ABM. Research shows that 80% of marketers tracking their return on investment report ABM approaches outperforming other marketing strategies and that 84% agree the return on ABM is somewhat or significantly higher than other initiatives.
Drawing from research, as well as listening to industry professionals, we identified five features of well-executed ABM. These can help you increase buyer acceleration and succeed where others come up short.
1. ABM is not just a Marketing Strategy
ABM is not simply a demand/lead generation tool targeted at accounts which then generate MQLs of individuals. ABM offers the opportunity for sales and marketing to look at the interactions of everyone in an account and reach out to the whole buying team rather than seeing each individual as a stand-alone opportunity.
Many companies make this mistake of focusing on the individuals, jumping in with nothing more than the notion of, “we should be doing ABM”, and end up disappointed with the results of pursuing each individual in an account the moment they interact with a piece of content rather than waiting for a several people in an account to engage meaningfully.
ABM is a strategic approach that begins with taking a detailed look at specific target accounts. Because it demands such a high degree of focus, you’re going to want everything about your business and how you provide value to align with your prospects’ needs and expectations, not just your marketing.
An effective way of managing this is by deeply involving your marketing and sales teams as you determine business objectives, giving everyone a clear, shared understanding of how their efforts connect with the overall success of your organization.
2. ABM Relies on Strategic Content
ABM is a departure from traditional “spray n’ pray” marketing approaches of content distribution. Assuming that a big bank like Lloyds might like to see the same content that was used to win the HSBC account is a very simplistic way of looking at content usage. We need to be more sophisticated how we use and create content.
Because ABM gives fresh insights into the research behaviors of accounts, content can be carefully selected for accounts according to the behaviors of their researchers. Then when Sales reach out to the active researchers, they can tailor their messaging alongside the content to add value to the prospect. Plus, once sales has gathered more information on the account, the content they share can be based on nuances like the account’s maturity level, horizontal challenges, tech stacks, etc. These elements can be more important than the fact that an account happens to be in the same industry vertical as another you have had success with.
Also think about who makes up the buying teams in your typical customer win for each product and pricing tier. With an average of five people in a buying team, you need content that caters to each persona’s needs and addresses their challenges with a clear solution.
By focusing your content strategy and distribution, you ensure your message stands out in the flood of content your accounts see every day.
3. MQLs Are Not Enough
With an ABM program, your marketing team’s role within your company needs to be more than simply generating marketing qualified leads.
While it is tempting to see single incidents, such as one member of an account’s C-Suite looking at a piece of target content, as a success, this is insufficient for ABM. It overlooks the reality of the buying team.
Data from the TechTarget 2021 Media Consumption Survey underlines this point. We found the average size of most buying teams is five people but can be more than 10, and trends show they are getting bigger.
For your ABM program to achieve optimal results, you need to look at the actions of all individuals within an account buying team to get a holistic understanding of their needs and how you can add value in your sales and marketing interactions. You will need marketing content that can speak to each of these stakeholders. This includes not only the C-Suite but senior managers, IT, and technical professionals.
4. Sales and Marketing Must Talk to Each Other
This is perhaps one of the most critical internal features of a company successfully employing ABM – frequent, coordinated communication between the sales and marketing teams.
Marketing can provide sales with significant data about a prospect’s interests and behavior well before they speak to sales. Additionally, marketing can enable sales with content to offer during and after meetings to give real value to prospects, demonstrating both authority and an understanding of the prospect’s challenges.
When ABM is done properly, sales can also feed insights to marketing about target accounts, including detailed information about key members of the buying teams who they want to follow up with. Then marketing can create the relevant content and assets needed for sales to continue their conversations.
The biggest change that comes with ABM, is the drop in quantity, but increase in quality of leads. ABM metrics are extremely well-defined and this means that everyone will need to get used to stark results — either you’re successfully engaging stakeholders and helping make a sale, or you’re not. This change in volume and clarity over who isn’t engaging can be scary because there will appear to be significantly fewer positive opportunities at first.
However, if done correctly, ABM can increase buyer acceleration significantly. Research shows that companies with closely aligned sales and marketing teams have 36% higher customer retention rates, 38% higher sales win rates, and overall have a 67% improved chance of leads becoming clients.
To achieve this, if your sales and marketing teams are not already aligned, you may need to change internal processes and parts of your company’s culture. You should also prioritize shared tools that don’t require a major effort to learn. The result should be the capacity for sales and marketing to together engineer a process designed for a prospect’s needs and wants.
5. Define Your Accounts Carefully
The last major feature of a well-executed ABM program is a carefully curated named account list. Start with asking yourself how your list is defined. Ideally, the list was not drafted solely by sales, but was the product of dialogue between sales and marketing, along with as much quality data as possible.
That said, there isn’t one simple answer to what makes a good account list. It will depend on the target business, its current tech stack, and what works. This includes asking questions such as:
- Who is in market right now?
- How have you won accounts before now?
- What might help win accounts in the future?
- Did you lose any accounts? If so, how?
- How long did accounts take from the first touch to a sales handover?
ABM offers big wins ABM presents some specific challenges and different approach to other marketing initiatives. But you don’t have to switch the entirety of your marketing efforts to ABM all at once. You can start with a phased approach and target just a small number of accounts to begin with and evaluate the ROI on your targeted efforts.
The key is to start with your selected account(s) as the centerpiece and then create your entire strategy around serving and helping them in a way that matches your business objectives. A joined-up ABM strategy will require sales and marketing (and even customer success and product teams) to work together as a unified, revenue-focused team.
Reevaluate your messaging, tools, people, and strategy and how they can come together to achieve ABM success. It’s not an easy path but it can bring huge ROI.
This blog provides unique perspectives and expertise based on our direct experiences within the EMEA market and is designed to be a resource for marketers targeting or working directly within this market.