Research from Demand Gen Report shows that 49% of ABM marketers have had programs in place for six months or more — 25% have had programs implemented for over a year. However, there are a variety of degrees of maturity that exist and a number of factors that influence the success of an ABM rollout.
ABM In Action recently had a sit-down with Kellie de Leon, Senior Director of Marketing at The Mx Group, where she walked through the company’s recently developed ABM Roadmap, which includes a seven-step framework modeling ABM success. During the chat, she offered advice for ABM execution, data enrichment and sales and marketing alignment, and explained how organizations can take a crawl, walk, run approach to ABM.
ABM IN ACTION: The Mx Group has outlined a seven-step framework for ABM. Can you talk about how this framework came about and how it differs from other ABM frameworks?
KELLIE DE LEON: We’ve been doing ABM before it was “cool,” or at least before it was called ABM. Key account marketing, with many of the “calling cards” of ABM, has been the core of our B2B strategy for many years. But in the past few years, with the explosion of interest in ABM — we found more and more clients and prospects asking about our process, so we wanted to codify it. We created our ABM roadmap to act as both an internal guide when we’re engaged with clients, as well as a tool we can offer B2B marketers to assess their readiness, determine which types of activities they can handle in-house and put shape around how they may wish to engage our services.
I’d say there are two key ways our roadmap varies. It’s not one-size-fits-all. We know that B2B organizations and marketers face different challenges, have different team structures, resources, etc. Many will want to try ABM for all of the results it promises, but it can seem daunting — even to marketers within larger organizations. So, we wanted to structure our roadmap to provide practical advice no matter the circumstance. Crawl, walk and run breakouts in the roadmap distinguish between the easier-to-implement and more difficult activities in each category to help meet marketers where they’re at.
Our roadmap can also help marketers plan and prioritize. We invite marketers to use the roadmap as a self-assessment to help conduct a gap analysis and align teams on the effectiveness of the steps they’ve already taken. It can be used to prioritize next steps since every aspect of ABM may not be practical or necessary for every business.
ABMIA: What are some of the challenges and hurdles preventing marketers from getting the first step right?
DE LEON: Since ABM is very relationship-oriented and requires collaboration from sales and marketing, it’s important to develop a clear picture of each team’s role and responsibilities. When this step is skipped, there can be conflict where sales may feel marketing is stepping on their toes and vice versa. Ultimately, the program will sink or swim based on the commitment of both teams.
So, if the sales team isn’t bought in, all the process in the world won’t save you.
Our roadmap can help build consensus and buy-in by giving both teams a clear sense of next steps and helping shape common language about future goals and expectations. Sometimes, we’ll recommend piloting a program with accounts assigned to a small group of highly enthusiastic, bought in sales team members. With these high commitment individuals, you can prove some early wins that make it easier to get the rest of the team on board.
ABMIA: What are your tips on maintaining sales and marketing alignment, as it seems to continue to be a constant challenge for organizations?
DE LEON: Though it can feel a little painful to go through details in a sales and marketing alignment workshop, it’s absolutely critical. It’s important for sales and marketing to be crystal clear on which types of accounts will fit an ABM program.
It’s also important to document all of the critical factors in a service level agreement. The SLA should clearly identify expectations of both the sales and marketing teams including timing and measurement. The document should be reviewed and signed by leaders of both teams as a charter for the program, which can serve as a reference and guide for the future.
Alignment isn’t “one-and-done.” You can’t have a meeting or two at the beginning and call the teams aligned. Instead, we recommend a regular cadence of meetings between sales and marketing teams. In these meetings, you can review metrics so both teams can share a similar view of what’s working and what’s not. These meetings should include frank and constructive two-way feedback, so you can share successes, air grievances and maintain commitment and buy-in over time.
ABMIA: Many of these steps revolve around data — why does data play just an integral role in ABM and what best practices can you share for marketers looking to better manage it?
DE LEON: Simply put, bad data equals bad results. ABM programs are marathons not sprints, and require analysis and refinement to be successful.
If you aren’t capturing appropriate data, then you don’t have anything to analyze besides anecdotes.
We recommend making data management part of someone’s job. Dispersing the responsibility for data quality across the organization results in degradation of data and a corresponding decrease in program effectiveness. Make sure to frequently review the underlying data sets that your KPIs are based on. Decisions made on faulty measurements aren’t likely to be effective and once you’ve lost trust with your stakeholders, it is hard to gain back.