The traditional marketing funnel has been disrupted—and ABM is the catalyst. We talked to Kathleen Schaub, VP of CMO Advisory and Customer Experience at IDC, about how ABM is “blowing up” the funnel and why she doesn’t think sales and marketing alignment is an issue.
ABM IN ACTION: You recently presented a session at the B2B Marketing Exchange about blowing up the traditional funnel with ABM. Can you explain what that means?
KATHLEEN SCHAUB: ABM blows up the funnel because it breaks the rules of traditional demand generation. The funnel starts with a broad outreach, while an ABM approach is narrow and targeted. The funnel pushes prospects in one direction; ABM continually circulates and cultivates buyers in selected accounts and assumes a long-term engagement. Finally, the traditional funnel assigns marketing top-of-funnel responsibilities with a contentious mid-funnel hand-off to sales, while ABM partners marketing and sales on the same team right from the start.
ABMIA: Are there any new trends or approaches to ABM that you emphasize for clients?
“Sales management loves ABM because it can dramatically improve their success. Alignment isn’t usually the issue.” Kathleen Schaub, IDC
KS: I counsel my clients to reimagine their teams and the ways they work together. Demand-building is very dynamic. The most effective ABM teams are agile. They organize around a common customer-centric mission. They honor the special skills that various sales, marketing and customer success [teams] bring to the effort and they don’t retreat to silos. They use data-driven feedback to test new tactics. They collaborate to orchestrate their actions.
ABMIA: How can marketers figure out where ABM fits within their marketing plan?
“Collaboration tools are key, so that everyone on the team—both sales and marketing—can get up-to-date content, measurement data and other information when they need it.” Kathleen Schaub, IDC
KS: They don’t spend enough on marketing! I’m not kidding. Sales management loves ABM because it can dramatically improve their success. Alignment isn’t usually the issue.
But good ABM requires a degree of customized marketing that the average marketing team can’t afford. Therefore, marketers are forced to use a modified approach. Companies would be better off lowering their cost of sales and investing the difference in marketing. But that’s a hard decision for traditional executives to understand.
ABMIA: What tools/tactics do you prioritize for your clients in terms of an ABM technology stack?
KS: An ABM strategy first requires proficiency in the basics—a marketing automation platform integrated with CRM, data collection, integration, enrichment and analysis, along with a range of paid and earned engagement tools. Collaboration tools are key, so that everyone on the team—both sales and marketing—can get up-to-date content, measurement data and other information when they need it.
You can use ABM-specific versions of these where available. However, the main success factor is a solid, integrated stack and lots of data.
ABMIA: Can you provide some advice for organizations that haven’t rolled out an ABM strategy yet and are trying to get buy-in from their executive teams?
KS: Always start anything new with a pilot. Find a sales manager who is excited about working in an ABM way and will sponsor the pilot. Assign an ABM marketing leader who is relatively senior, is a great problem solver and sales-savvy. Give this pilot team the tools and the data they need. Involve specialists on the marketing team to support the effort. Work iteratively, meeting frequently to adjust the program as you take advantage of new learnings. Keep at it until ABM works at your specific company with your specific situation. Then replicate success.