As economic uncertainty mounts, companies are looking for ways to save money on their digital marketing. Lately, I’ve heard lots of smart marketing minds float the idea of moving money away from tried-and-true performance marketing tactics in favor of account-based marketing (ABM). Now, under the right circumstances, ABM can work – but it can also be a big waste of time and resources if it’s not approached the right way.
In theory, ABM makes a lot of sense: put a laser focus on organizations squarely within your ICP (ideal customer profile), get in front of them frequently to familiarize them with your brand, and have your sales team reach out to a warmed-up audience rather than going in cold. You want to provide “air cover” for your sales team so that they can be more effective as the boots on the ground.
The switch to ABM is more than a change in how you spend your marketing budget; it’s a fundamental change in how your revenue engine works. In this post, I’ll break down the ways you need to approach ABM as an organization, not just a marketing team.
Square up your sales resources
For starters, you need to make sure you have the right sales team in place. SDRs/BDRs are often hunters or gatherers but rarely both. A sales team that has been qualifying inbound leads and handing off to account executives will likely struggle to go out and find new qualified leads through cold outreach, even if there is solid ABM air cover running in tandem.
If you don’t have the right sales team in place, ABM won’t be a solution, and rehiring or retraining a sales team so that you can be successful is extremely expensive. Make sure you have a sales team that can leverage the door-opening support the marketing team is offering before investing your marketing dollars in expensive tech, creative design, and media.
Adapt your measurement
Before you go too far down the ABM path, make sure you have a strategy for measuring success. I got into performance marketing and not traditional marketing because I loved being able to understand the overall effectiveness of its campaigns. Too often, ABM campaigns don’t incorporate the same rigor to performance measurement, and that is a huge mistake.
How will you know it worked? How will you know your marketing dollars are well spent? If you don’t know how you’ll get those answers, stop, go back to the drawing board and answer those questions first.
An easy measurement strategy would be to take a list of, say, 1,000 companies, and break out 800 to show ads to, but hold out 200 of those companies for only cold outreach. (To keep the test blind, don’t tell your sales team which is which.) Then measure the overall close rate lift on the 800 companies exposed to ads vs. the 200 holdout companies.
Align your marketing and sales messaging
To succeed, ABM and sales need to work as complements to one another and not as disparate strategies operating independently (while this is important for any marketing campaigns, it’s crucial for ABM). Talk to your sales team, understand the messaging that’s getting results for them, and build creative that helps lay the groundwork for that conversation. (It works in reverse, too – if you’re finding winning messages in your ad copy, relay that info to your sales team.)
Plan, plan, and plan some more
Before you invest a dollar in ABM tech or people, build a testing thesis with well-defined benchmarks and guidelines that will allow you to gauge whether ABM is actually working. (The only thing worse than a failed strategy is sticking to that strategy because you’re already invested in it.) That’s not to say that ABM should be an immediate success, but you should set up early indicators that will direct you to move some of your budget back to performance marketing if needed to support your sales team. In other words, don’t sacrifice your pipeline as you figure things out.
Ultimately, remember to start with strategy before you dig into software provider research or start creating assets. ABM can be a powerful strategy or a misdirected use of money and personnel – which puts even more emphasis on the strategy stage. No one would enter into a Formula 1 race without a deep understanding of the car they will be driving. Entering into ABM should be no different.