Alignment, Tech Integration & Performance Measurement Top Trends For Supporting Account-Based Initiatives
Account-based marketing has become ubiquitous to B2B business strategies, as more marketers begin to realize and prove its benefits. But as it becomes a household name, it’s important to think about next-level ABM — or ABM 2.0 — and how marketers can take what they’ve learned over the years and optimize it for even better performance.
New research from Madison Logic and Demand Gen Report, titled: The ABM Formula: Strategies To Support Account-Based Initiatives, surveyed more than 100 marketing professionals to learn their priorities, challenges and technologies when it comes to supporting their ABM initiatives.
“What we learned is that it boils down into three categories: the alignment between marketing and sales, the integration and optimization of our technologies and investment strategies, and, ultimately, our ability to measure our performance,” said Sonjoy Ganguly, Chief Product Officer at Madison Logic, during a presentation at the B2B Marketing Exchange where the research results were first revealed.
When asked about their biggest challenges in aligning marketing and sales, respondents pointed to:
“Nearly half of the responses said that one of our biggest challenges is around aligning that common language between marketing and sales,” said Ganguly. “The fact that it’s up 20% from last year really tells you that, as marketers, we’re finally realizing that we have to find that common language. It’s not just about the data; it’s the collaboration between marketing and sales. If you don’t make that data actionable and use the data, it’s not going to be effective for you.”
Another challenge discovered from the research revolves around aligning the messaging across the buyer journey. Fifty-nine percent of respondents noted that “influencing account engagement by delivering messages that align to opportunity stage” was a focus to improve marketing and sales alignment around the ABM model. Additional points of focus include “measuring marketing impact by deal size, time to close and overall ROI” (54%) and gaining “clearer definition and intelligence on the ideal customer profile” (39%).
“This is a very common theme,” Ganguly added. “Aligning messaging across the buyer journey — not just thinking about top-of-the-funnel programs — is critical to the success of ABM. Traditionally, as the managing marketers, our focus has always been on thinking top-of-the-funnel, but that’s changing and evolving. If we are to align ourselves with sales, we have to think about the entire buyer stage. We have to think across not just the buyer’s journey, but also the customer journey. This is the only way we’re going to align ourselves to marketing and sales.”
New technologies and capabilities are also paving the way for greater ABM support, but Ganguly said that if they aren’t all integrated, they won’t get the job done. According to the research, when asked which tech/capabilities are top of mind for practitioners, many pointed to:
“We’ve heard a lot of conversations around all the different technologies that are in our space, in our technology stacks — from nurturing technologies to opportunity management and media activation, to sales enablement and account intelligence, etc.,” said Ganguly. “There are all these different types of technologies that we have to integrate. If we don’t integrate them, there’s no way you’re going to ever optimize your message and optimize your ROI.”
Integrating technologies and capabilities ties back to delivering a consistently personalized buyer experience.
“We want to focus on how to get that right message to the right audience,” Ganguly said. “How do you know what the right message to the right audience is? How are you identifying and segmenting your audiences? Are you leveraging the right micro-segmentation tools to be able to identify what audiences are getting what message? Again, it comes right back to the integration. The only way you’re going to be able to optimize that message is if your systems are talking to each other, if you’re listening to opportunity-based signals through your CRM systems, if you’re listening to nurturing signals to understand how your prospects are engaging with your content and leveraging those to drive more messaging through more channels, unified with the other tactics — that’s the holy grail.”
Measuring impact is a common challenge for ABM practitioners, and according to Ganguly, this could be due to the fact that marketers are still paying close attention to legacy/vanity metrics when they should be focused on how their efforts are driving engagement with key accounts.
“We’ve gotten stuck in looking at legacy or vanity metrics that really don’t tell us anything as an industry,” he said. “Stop talking about leads… clicks… impressions. Those are vanity metrics that don’t mean anything. What does management care about? What does sales care about? They care about pipeline, velocity, opportunities and revenue. These are the metrics that we should be measuring and focusing on. We have to stop measuring the tactics and start measuring the strategy. The data reinforces that.”
When asked what their top ABM initiatives are to demonstrate marketing’s impact, respondents noted:
“A third of respondents noted ‘identifying how content syndication/advertising is helping key accounts,’” said Ganguly. “First of all, this is nearly 20% year-over-year. What this is telling us is when we look at our technologies and our media all in isolated ways, we can’t tell how our media programs are impacting our accounts. We’re focused on those legacy metrics, impressions, clicks and leads. What we’re not focused on is how that is driving engagement to our accounts, how is that increasing pipeline and revenue with those accounts? That’s what marketers are trying to do today. This is where the focus is for 2019, 2020 and beyond.”
In addition, the survey found that more than half (58%) of respondents said that their leadership views marketing as a revenue center, while 42% view it as a cost center, showcasing a shift in the overall organization and greater alignment between marketing and sales.
“Last year, nearly 60% of responses said that marketing was being seen as a cost center,” said Ganguly. “Now, marketing is being seen as a revenue center. I’m so happy to see that shift. It’s not just a shift within marketing; it’s a shift within the organizational culture that we’re seeing. Sales traditionally sees marketing as a tool, not as a partner. We have to take that extra step. We have to engage sales and become partners with sales to ultimately help drive revenue, not drive leads.”