Recently I've been involved in numerous discussions about account-based marketing (ABM). How do you get started? What do you do to get stakeholders excited about it? Is it possible to succeed when you have restricted resources? Those are some of the questions I'll cover in this article.
Even though the concept of 1:1 marketing has been around for a long time, it seems like more and more companies are ready to align marketing and sales to create personalised experiences for their customers. Yet, that's easier said than done. Before you start experimenting with ABM, you should know the potential challenges that can put a spoke in your wheel.
Prepare for opposition!
Most marketers I talk to are convinced that ABM is relevant and a definite part of their organisation's future approach. However, these marketers often face opposition and scepticism from other colleagues in the organisation. Their objections may sound something like this:
"ABM is just another buzzword."
"It's an ineffective approach which can never be scaled."
"Why should I waste my budget on marketing to my existing accounts?"
"It's not a new approach, we have already tried it, and it didn't work."
Tips for how to start with ABM
Scepticism is one challenge you'll need to overcome if you want to start with ABM. But I'm afraid there are more challenge. With regards to ABM, there are often five typical showstoppers that are mentioned:
I don't get buy-in from stakeholders
I don't know how to align marketing and sales
I don't know what account we should start targeting
I don't know what content to begin with
I don't have the resources to perform ABM
Hey! Wasn't this supposed to be an article about tips for getting started with ABM? Why have I only read about scepticism and challenges so far? It's because these challenges are the main reasons companies do not even attempt to experiment with ABM.
But enough with the challenges, now it's time to talk about the solutions. Let's create a blueprint on how you can overcome the most common challenges and start testing ABM in no time.
How to get buy-in from internal stakeholders
First of all, you need to identify who your stakeholders are. Once you've done that, it's important to communicate clear benefits for each role and department in the company. Which stakeholders you'll need to convince depends on your organisational structure.
Below I have listed some of the potential internal stakeholders you need to get buy-in from, and some arguments you can use to get them excited about ABM.
Chief Marketing Officer
The CMO will have a crucial role in your ABM approach. If you're not the CMO, you need to convince them to start experimenting with ABM. Here are the key benefits of ABM from a CMO's perspective:
ABM makes it easier for you to measure the ROI of your initiative and is a sound basis for budget planning your marketing efforts.
Engaging the Sales Director is just as crucial as getting buy-in from your CMO. If you're not the Sales Director, here is an argument for ABM that you can use to convince them:
ABM will streamline and shorten the sales cycle while simultaneously increase the average deal size.
Chief Executive Officer
Even though the CEO won't be as practically involved in ABM as your CMO and Sales Director, their buy-in is still critical, since it's important to unite the whole organisation around the ABM approach. If you're not the CEO, here are the key benefits from a CEO's perspective:
ABM helps you build strong customer relationships with your existing accounts, making it easier for your company to expand.
Chief Financial Officer
Buy-in from your CFO makes it easier for you to allocate the resources needed. If you're not the CFO, here are the key benefits of ABM from a CFO's perspective:
ABM can deliver higher ROI as the employees involved focus on accounts that are most likely to become customers.
How to align marketing and sales
If you want to create personalised experiences for your customers, you'll need to align marketing and sales. But let's be clear — if you don't have a seamless collaboration today, don't expect the alignment to happen overnight. Once you have received buy-in from your stakeholders to start with ABM, you don't have time to wait for the alignment to work perfectly. Instead, it would be best if you put together a test team and get started.
Assign an ABM test team
The test team can be a small team with some colleagues from the marketing department and some from the sales department. When selecting the participants, make sure that you start with interested people who are willing to test new methods. Begin with an introduction to ABM for the team, and mutually decide which account you should start with. It's often enough with only one account to get going.
How to select the account to start with
When selecting an account to start with, you should know the company inside and out. You need to be aware of their business, objectives and motivation. You should know who the key stakeholders are, and you need to navigate the internal politics. It may sound complicated, but it's not.
My colleague Anders has included everything you need to know to get started with your account planning in this account planning template. If you're about to get started, I recommend you download it.
How to decide what content to start with
After you have got buy-in from stakeholders, built a test team and filled in the account planning template, it's time to think about what content to use when targeting your account. If you have used the template, you have defined the account's key business initiatives, decision-making unit, and sales opportunities.
First of all, it's essential that you have a clear picture of what content the decision-makers need to read in order for them to make the decision you want. Once you know that, you can do an audit of your existing content. If you have produced and published knowledge content before, you may have written relevant articles about the topic that could be interesting for your target audience. That's the most efficient way of getting started with ABM. But if you don't have any relevant content, you'll need to create new content based on the needs of the person you want to target.
How to do ABM with limited resources
By now, you should have everything in place — the buy-in, the engagement and the execution. But depending on your situation, you might ask yourself how you can manage this machinery when you're short on resources. It's a tricky question. To implement a complete ABM approach, I believe many organisations will have to fundamentally adapt to this customer-centric approach, which will require more buy-in than approval to test it.
Here, my advice is to run the experiment based on your capacity. Keep it small, focusing on only a few accounts, and then analyse and evaluate the result. I'm convinced you'll find many good reasons why your organisation should adapt to the ABM approach.