When you consider that roughly half of the organizations implementing ABM have had the strategy in place for less than a year, according to recent Demand Gen Report research, it is no surprise that many are turning to industry experts for help and guidance.
One of the leading firms providing ABM roadmaps is Bluebird Strategies, a B2B demand generation and revenue acceleration agency. We spoke with Cari Baldwin, former President of BlueBird Strategies — which was recently acquired by Square 2 Marketing, where she is now the Chief Revenue Officer — to learn more about the challenges clients face when rolling out an ABM strategy, as well as insight into building ABM tech stacks.
ABM IN ACTION: What are the biggest challenges your clients face when rolling out ABM strategies?
CARI BALDWIN: First, it’s building trust across the organization and confidence in an ABM program (this includes sales and marketing alignment). Everyone has to be on board and committed. It’s a true buy-in that this is the right strategy and use of resources for the entire company. This includes defining what ABM means for the company.
Second: Ensuring they have resources, such as an ABM point person. You need to identify an ABM point person on the marketing team (with experience) that has responsibility for driving the ABM program. Without a primary owner to identify the program priorities and key stakeholders across the organization, programs fail. Lastly, effective ABM initiatives are not cheap.
The cost per acquisition (CPA) is substantially higher than the mass market, inbound marketing approach. On the surface, this may spook executives who have been closely monitoring marketing’s cost per lead (CPL) and cost per action (CPA) without considering sales close rates and the customer lifetime value (CLV) of the closed sale. The payoff is there. According to an ITSMA Account-Based Marketing Survey, “ABM delivers the highest return on investment of any B2B marketing strategy or tactic. Period.”
ABMIA: What are the key steps/building blocks you recommend to clients for executing ABM campaigns?
CB: There are many lists out there that outline the approach, starting with target account selection, personalization and engagement across channels. I personally like Engagio’s six ABM processes:
- Select accounts;
- Discover contacts and map to your accounts;
- Develop account insights;
- Generate account-relevant messages and content;
- Deliver account-specific interactions; and
- Orchestrate account-focused plays.
We always counsel clients to do some housekeeping before jumping in. Get buy-in across the organization. Develop the trust and align the program goals (including metrics and defining what criteria will be used to create a target account list) across sales and marketing. Then evaluate what you have: technology, buyer insights, content and data. Go through the process to identify gaps and develop a plan on how the gaps will be filled. This is the foundation from which to build upon.
ABMIA: BlueBird Strategies created a buyer persona checklist for traditional Demand Gen. Is this type of checklist still relevant for an ABM mind-set? If so, why/how?
“Personas are as important in ABM as they are in ‘traditional’ demand gen.” Cari Baldwin, BlueBird Strategies
CB: Personas are as important in ABM as they are in “traditional” demand gen. On the six ABM processes mentioned above, number three is develop account insights. Now, in more complex sales, there are up to 17 people involved in the process. There are researchers, users and decision-makers — it’s important to know who these are within your target accounts. Who’s influencing the decisions, and who’s writing the checks? In addition to understanding the individual persona pain points and motivators, you need to understand how decisions are made in your target accounts and who makes the decisions.
ABMIA: What tools/tactics are you prioritizing for your clients in terms of an ABM technology stack?
CB: We love technology at BlueBird, but our friend Matt Heinz from Heinz Marketing is right. He says, “Don’t let the tail wag the dog… Identify your strategy first, then identify places within your existing martech stack that can solve the problem.” Most of our clients already have marketing automation and CRM tools. Then, they look at things like predictive analytics, IP-based ad targeting, personalization and metrics tools.