INTEREST IN account-based marketing remains high, but very few B2B companies, particularly organizations that are not in the technology vertical, have implemented a formal ABM program, according to Forrester Research.
For those who do take on ABM, Forrester’s new report — Account-Based Marketing Brings Marketing And Sales Into Same Orbit — indicates marketers should expect and plan for friction as sales and marketing get used to new ways of working together. However, the results are worth the measurably increased revenue they can expect, Forrester said.
“An ABM initiative presents a wonderful opportunity for marketing and sales colleagues to embrace new paradigms for collaboration as they jointly drive growth for their firms,” said Mary Shea, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. “To ensure success, B2B marketers must invest in building trust with sales and be open to having some skin in the game with regard to aligning a portion of their compensation to the program. B2B sellers must be willing to relinquish complete control over their accounts by allowing marketing to lead the account selection process and by bringing marketers into the account planning process.”
Marketers still have work to do, according to an online survey on strategies and tactics Forrester conducted earlier this year. While 52% of marketers said that marketing and sales collaborate frequently, 42% said revenue is primarily driven by sales. Less than a third (30%) said marketing and sales are closely aligned.
“An ABM initiative presents a wonderful opportunity for marketing and sales colleagues to embrace new paradigms for collaboration as they jointly drive growth for their firms.” Mary Shea, Forrester
Despite that reality check, the good news is that the bond between marketing and sales remains one of the most highly valued relationships for CMOs. Three-quarters of B2B marketers indicate they prioritize their relationship with sales peers and describe the partnership with the chief sales officer as “crucial,” according to Forrester.
To effectively operationalize ABM, Shea recommended that marketing teams and sales organizations do the following:
- Meet with sales to build trust and alignment. Shea said the most critical factor to ABM strategy is effective collaboration between marketing and sales. Target account selection is crucial to success, and B2B marketers need to lead that and secure buy-in from sales.
- Clarify roles and accountability to coordinate collaboration. Because ABM creates changes in how marketing and sales work together, it is important to document roles and responsibilities at the outset, as well as articulate who will be accountable for each step in the new approach.
- Start with a pilot program and build on successes. Whether sizable or modest wins, communicating around those milestones and business impact will secure buy-in from constituents across the organization, according to Shea.
- Institute a consistent cadence to review progress. It’s important to stay on track, and regular strategy meetings are one way to make sure that happens, she said.
- Have a vision for success. Creating key performance indicators gives the marketing and sales teams a clear goalpost and builds trust as metrics and revenue growth are realized.
Shea said setting both qualitative and quantitative goals can also help to assure marketing and sales are operating from the same playbook. “Revenue alignment is improving — at least in the C-suite,” she said. “As the B2B marketer’s role evolves from keeper of the brand to full-fledged business partner, we will see more tangible evidence of that alignment as downstream marketers see goals and compensation tied to account milestones and growth.”