Revenue Summit 2017 was a 3-day conference where leading Sales and Marketing pundits, vendors and leaders came together to discuss the latest B2B tips and tricks for finding and closing new customers. While all the usual topics and buzz words were on the agenda, the resounding theme was all about Account Based Marketing. The goal of Account Based Marketing (ABM) is to create 1:1 and highly personalized efforts at scale and has become the holy grail of Business to Business (B2B) marketing as more and more companies, big and small, convert serious marketing dollars to this new way (actually old) of increasing sales. ABM is not for Business to Consumer (B2C) marketing so if you’re looking for a new way to help Coke sell more soda this method won’t be of any help.
First of all, to get a basic understanding of what ABM is all about we need to review the standard B2B marketing model most companies use to help increase revenue and brand awareness. When we say increase revenue through marketing we are talking about lead generation, mainly through digital efforts like: websites, forms, emails, digital ads, webinars, white papers and so forth. In the traditional model, you blanket large swaths of potential buyers of your product with a marketing message and hope they respond to your call to action. This has been the tried and true method since the beginning of marketing. In the B2B world this usually creates a lead list and the all mighty sales funnel is born. The more you feed the funnel the better your chance of moving the revenue dial in a positive direction. Unfortunately, the facts of this model are less than impressive. Only 1% of leads from the top of the funnel turn into actual revenue – so that means you are not getting any results from 99% of your efforts.
ABM aims to turn the funnel upside down with a more focused marketing approach by identifying your key decision makers and creating a customized marketing message suited just for them. It starts with your existing customers and targets them with relevant messages which hopefully leads to more sales. For new prospects, it narrows your target and then guides them with a series of marketing messages that hopefully convert to a qualified lead that the sales team can close. A SiriusDecisions study released earlier this year highlighted the growing interest in ABM when it found that 92 percent of companies recognized the value of ABM.
While many consider ABM a new marketing idea, its history has its roots from Bev Burgess, SVP of ITSMA Europe, a research firm. As the story goes it was at a casual get together Burgess hosted in London in 2003 where she sat between two senior-level marketing executives for global companies Accenture and Unisys as they discussed an intriguing idea – creating campaigns specifically tailored toward individual accounts. As they say timing is everything and the Marketing industry as a whole was hungry for a more productive and efficient approach to pry open coveted accounts. ITSMA gave the budding movement a catchy name, Account Based Marketing (ABM), designed an ABM methodology and began to spread the word about the importance of building richer relationships with prospects to close more deals.
From that beginning, ABM has become a thoughtful strategy to navigate the increasingly complex B2B landscape. Today, sales cycles stretch out longer and involve larger buying committees. ABM addresses this new buyer’s journey by bringing together sales and marketing teams in a collaborative effort to focus on a smaller number of high-value target accounts with highly personalized campaigns.
It wasn’t until the relatively recent boom in marketing technology that the buzz about ABM shifted into overdrive and things got easier. Marketing Automation companies like Marketo and Act-On optimized technology and automation so personalized messages reach their targets as if they were all individually customized. Integrated with CRM systems, B2B teams can now keep track of your prospects and create, manage and implement a communication strategy that is automated, timed and executed with best message to the right person at the right time.
In the beginning, ABM was only about enterprise-sized users and targets. In a typical scenario, limited number of targets are selected and then, at a minimum, between $15,000 and $20,000 a year is invested in campaigns to penetrate them. However due to the increase in various technology solutions smaller companies can implement ABM strategies varying size targets and thus the market size for ABM grew. Then layer on the rapid expansion of marketing analytics and new SaaS solutions born every day and you have a white-hot segment of ABM.
If you can comprehend a world where your new revenue comes from primarily your existing customer base and very specific targeted potential customers, then ABM maybe the salvation you seek. If the goal is to increase revenue, doesn’t it make sense to deepen your relationships with your existing and targeted customers first? In a recent study by Gartner, your chances of gaining revenue increase to 33% by implementing ABM compared to the traditional lead generation tactics. There has never been a better time to start an ABM strategy as there are lots of new technology friends that can make your shift to this new world a lot easier and have faster success.