3 Big Lessons from the Frontlines of ABM

The drumbeat for Account Based Marketing is getting louder and louder. The whispers are turning to roars and spreading like ripples across a pond. Though it may have been there all along, many of the smartest companies are beginning to join in and march to the beat of the same – that of accounts.

B2B has never been about individual leads – you must support large, long, complex sales that involve many stakeholders. This shift away from lead-centric practices and towards ABM focuses on working harder and smarter.

Chances are you’ve heard of ABM, and you’re likely even implementing some of the elements effectively today. I want to help you take your ABM efforts to the next level. At Engagio, we’re constantly testing, tweaking and refining our ABM program so that we can both build a world-class marketing software company and teach others to do the same.
In the spirit of the latter, I want to share some of the biggest lessons we’ve learned doing ABM successfully over the last few years.

Lesson 1 – In order to execute ABM, you need Marketing Orchestration

Let’s start with an analogy: Marketing Automation is to Demand Generation as Marketing Orchestration is to Account Based Marketing.

Marketing automation software is great for driving traditional demand gen in an inbound world. Don’t get me wrong – you still need inbound. However, inbound alone is not enough for complex B2B Sales and Marketing. You also need a more targeted, strategic, and proactive approach.

To execute ABM, you need Marketing Orchestration. Marketing Orchestration means understanding accounts as whole entities that have dynamic relationships rather than simply a group of individual leads. It’s about coordinating interactions across your entire team for every stage of the customer experience. It’s about measuring results with an account-centric lens.

Marketing Orchestration is tailor-made for B2B marketers. It’s ideal for opportunities with more gravitas. You have fewer “at bats” which means you better make sure every single one counts. This is a job that marketing automation just isn’t designed to do.

So, what exactly are you orchestrating? You’re orchestrating personalized Marketing, Sales and Customer Success efforts to open doors and deepen engagement at specific accounts. We call these efforts “Plays,” which generally fall into one of five levels of sophistication and effectiveness. The more advanced, the more orchestration and coordination are necessary.

Lesson 2 – You must start with “Account Entitlement” when selecting and tiering your target accounts

With all of the frameworks, opinions and theories of ABM being thrown around, the one that they all agree on is that selecting target accounts is the most crucial and first step. Many companies have adopted the same three-tier approach we take at Engagio for selecting the number and priority for those target accounts.
But most organizations overlook tier entitlement. In other words, they don’t thoroughly answer the question “what is the right amount of time, money and resources dedicated to each account in each tier?”

You pay a price to penetrate and close an account. Whether you pay with time or money, both are a limited resource, which means you must be judicious with how they’re spent.

If you spend all of your time on personalizing your interactions for your Tier 1 accounts, you’re left with no other choice than to automate interactions for your Tier 2 and Tier 3 accounts. In other words, you spam those accounts, which breaks the rules of ABM. In the same vein, if you spend all of your ABM budget on elaborate direct mail and costly ads to your Tier 1 target accounts, you lack channels diversity, and you’re left with only the traditional channels of phone and email for Tier 2 and 3. This, again, breaks the rules of ABM.

Do you see the importance of Account Entitlement?

In order to select your target accounts and split them up into their appropriate tiers, you must split your time and budget up appropriately across all 3 tiers.

Coming up with your Account Entitlement will likely require a few sessions with your Sales and Marketing leadership to get right. It’s a fine balancing act that requires a lot of tinkering and adjusting. Here’s an example (albeit an extremely simplified example) what entitlement looks like:

Lesson 3 – Marketing needs to help Sales keep opportunities moving with human “Deal Nurturing”

When you have long sales cycles, diversity of stakeholders, you often need help moving the deal forward at your high-value accounts. You can’t use automation because that’s impersonal and can kill the conversation quickly. But we’ve realized that marketing cannot completely remove themselves and their skills from the customer journey just because an account has become a Marketing Qualified Account. That’s where Deal Nurturing comes in.

Deal Nurturing is a new kind of nurturing – it’s about cultivating and growing relationships with orchestrated human interaction in existing opportunities at high-value accounts, especially early stage or stalled opportunities.

Why do you need Deal Nurturing? After you open an opportunity, many things can get in the way of closing the deal. For example, Marketing books a meeting, but the prospect doesn’t show up – how do you stay relevant without being too pushy? Or it’s the end of the quarter and Sales is occupied working deals that are closing now – what happens to those qualified accounts that are in the early stages?. Or an opportunity goes dark in the middle of an active cycle – how do you reinvigorate interest? More often than not, the likely result of each case is a lost opportunity.

At the end of the day, the success of your team depends on the harmony of great leadership and the commitment of the team. Together, you’ll be able to overcome any obstacle and reach any goal. As you can see, each of the 3 lesson here hinge on these two elements. In fact, ABM – and business in general – is a losing game if you don’t have the right team and leadership to go to marketing with ABM.

So, lock arms and march forth. This is the beginning of an awesome journey.