Now that we’re beyond the initial hype of ABM and a majority of marketers are practicing ABM in some way, what’s next? There’s much to look forward to when it comes to the future of ABM. We spoke to Troy O’Bryan, VP of Strategic Growth at Bonfire Marketing, to hear how he defines “ABM 2.0,” as well as how he advises his clients to balance ABM efforts with traditional demand gen. O’Bryan was previously Co-founder and CEO of Response Capture, a consultancy that was acquired by Bonfire Marketing in March 2017.
ABM In Action: How would you define ABM 2.0?
O’Bryan: ABM 2.0 will be the shift from campaign-based ABM efforts to sustained initiatives that have benchmark metrics to garner larger investments. When traditional demand generation became predictive, budgets shifted to channels and programs that could generate a lower cost MQL, SAL, SQL and sale. A transformation will occur when companies will be able to prove that their ABM initiatives have generated more pipeline, increased sales velocity and increased the lifetime value of an account. When benchmark metrics are established, ABM will be the go-to-market strategy that B2B organizations deploy.
ABMIA: Are you seeing a shift in priority between traditional demand gen and ABM? Have you seen a natural co-existence at your clients’ companies?
O’Bryan: Traditional demand gen is still the priority with pilot ABM initiatives happening to align with the sales team. For companies with mature demand gen capabilities, it is a longer transition as the KPIs need to change before the priority will shift to ABM. We see marketing organizations keeping their traditional demand gen programs to meet the established MQL, SAL and SQL goals and then overlaying a separate ABM initiative. As ABM initiatives prove their success, there will be a natural shift of budget and alignment of people from being a pilot to the majority of resources. The ABM shift is a one to three-year realignment for traditional demand gen-focused companies.
ABMIA: What do you advise your clients when they ask about how to balance ABM efforts with traditional demand generation?
O’Bryan: We recommend allocating 10% to 20% of your budget to ABM initiatives and getting sales executives involved to advocate for more funds. More importantly, the ABM efforts need to be a continuous initiative versus a campaign. Companies that approach ABM as a campaign either have success and continue the pilot or don’t and then abandon the initiative for their traditional demand gen efforts. ABM initiatives have larger company-wide rewards than traditional demand gen, but take longer to realize.
ABMIA: What is the biggest challenge your clients face in terms of sales and marketing alignment and creating roles within ABM teams? What do you advise?
O’Bryan: The biggest challenge we see is the sustainability of ABM efforts. If ABM is a one quarter campaign that is measured with traditional demand gen metrics, it will fail. Don’t do it. Allocate dedicated time among marketing and sales team members with the initial pilot effort for 12+ months. First, establish the benchmark performance metrics, build the strategy and plan with sales executives, execute the plan, then measure the results of accounts included.
ABMIA: What tools/tactics do you prioritize for your clients in terms of an ABM tech stack?
O’Bryan: Priority tools/tactics are those that help in the selection of accounts that are right for the ABM initiative. Marketing can stack the deck on their ABM initiatives if they are involved in the selection of accounts that are more likely to buy. Don’t just accept the list from sales as the target accounts. Analyze sales history, product lifecycle, intent data for accounts to select those that are likely to be in a buying process in the next 12 months. Once you have the likely to buy list, then focus on tools and tactics that will identify the unique offer that will drive interest and engagement at the target accounts.
As your ABM efforts mature, build out your stack with tools to scale the selection, engagement and measurement. All sustainable ABM efforts start with the right strategy, process and people before new technology is added.