Account-based strategies come with challenges, even for the most seasoned practitioners. Unfortunately, sales and marketing alignment is still at the top of the list — Demand Gen Report’s ABM Benchmark Survey found that 45% of practitioners are still having trouble aligning their ABM strategies among teams.
ABM In Action spoke to Samantha Stone, Founder and CMO of the Marketing Advisory Network, to learn more about the challenges plaguing ABM practitioners today and her solutions for aligning teams and acing account selection. Stone also shared a common, overlooked source of account selection and six things she suggests for jumpstarting ABM.
ABM In Action: ABM has been around for quite some time and more companies are practicing account-based strategies, but what are some of the current challenges you see practitioners facing?
Samantha Stone: When it comes to ABM, there are clear warning signs that frequently pop up as challenges. The first are signs that there isn’t organizational buy in. This manifests itself most frequently when the business expects marketing to be measured the old way via “leads.”
Another thing frequently plaguing companies is a lack of collaboration between sales and marketing in building account-specific campaign plans for their most critical tier-one buyers. If the company is simply running the same programs they ran before but targeted at a named list of accounts, the results will be disappointing. ABM requires multi-buyer, role and account-specific personalization.
ABMIA: What is the current state of sales and marketing alignment today? Can you share any tips/best practices for teams struggling with sales/marketing alignment?
Stone: Sadly, sales and marketing alignment remains a real struggle, although ABM does provide a framework for making significant progress and I’m seeing many organizations make big strides when implementing ABM as a strategy, not just a tactic.
The most important change you can make is to change how you measure marketing. Your new dashboard should be aligned around engagement of your target accounts and acceleration through the funnel, not net-new leads. After all, what matters in an ABM model is how well sales and marketing are engaging the full buying committee over time.
After measurement, documenting service-level agreements between sales and marketing is the most critical step towards improving collaboration. It’s not sexy, but it sure is effective. When building them, don’t forget to create exception reporting so you can hold each other accountable to meeting them.
Lastly, our research at the Marketing Advisory Network shows that frequency of communication to sales is not the key to working together, but rather variety of format.
ABMIA: What are some best practices you’d recommend when it comes to account selection?
Stone: Account selection is the first thing marketers must lead. The target list is critical and needs to be based on data, not simply a wish list of accounts sales put together. Avoid the temptation to source accounts that only look like accounts you’ve sold to in the past — although that is a good place to start — as it limits growth potential.
It is also very easy to get caught up in selecting based on brand name and reputations, but your targets should meet an ideal customer profile (ICP) that takes into account their fit for your company’s capabilities and their propensity to purchase. You should aim to match firmographic information (such as geography, revenue, tech stack, etc.) with behavioral intent data to tier accounts against which you will layer activity.
ABMIA: What is the most overlooked source of account intelligence?
Stone: All the manual notes your sales team takes! It’s rarely in a form you can report on or programmatically activate, but it is rich in insights that’s worth manually reconciling into your analysis. It’s particularly important when we consider that ABM is about account penetration and engagement, not passing “leads.”
ABMIA: At the Marketing Advisory Network, have you seen more activity and engagement around ABM? What does that blueprint look like?
Stone: Absolutely! How many pages do we have for this article? I’m only kind of joking. An ABM blueprint would be difficult to outline here, but there are six things I can suggest for jumpstarting your ABM efforts: