ABM may be a trend everyone’s following, or it may seem to make such perfect sense for the business that it doesn’t require defending. However, there will come a day when ABM’s value will need to be put in concrete terms.
“If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you jump too?” So goes the time-honored retort of a frustrated parent pointing out the faulty logic used by a child willing to do something silly just because the other kids are doing it. Another favorite: “Because I said so,” is traditionally used in response to a barrage of questions about a statement whose logic is so obvious it doesn’t warrant defense.
For the record: Neither of these works when defending the value of account-based marketing (ABM).
ABM may be a trend everyone’s following, or it may seem to make such perfect sense for the business that it doesn’t require defending. However, there will come a day when ABM’s value will need to be put in concrete terms. Here’s how to do it:
Always align ABM strategy to the go-to-market model. The value of ABM is obvious when it supports the way sales operates, as well as the post-sale needs of customers. If sales doesn’t believe marketing is relevant, that’s often a sign ABM is needed. When evaluating a move to ABM, start by defining marketing’s role in the context of the go-to-market model. Figure out what sales reps and customers need and how to tell if your tactics work. That’s where value is delivered.
Set appropriate expectations for what marketing can do. Marketing cannot source the same share of pipeline in an account-based model as in a broad-based demand creation model. For a large-account model (i.e. a dedicated sales team assigned to a very small number of very large accounts), we don’t see marketing source more than 10 percent of the sales pipeline. The sourced-demand percentage is higher in named-account models with more new opportunity, but the range is 15 to 25 percent. This means marketing must set the expectation that its primary contribution will be influence on the pipeline, not net-new demand creation. This is hardest in companies that have traditionally measured marketing’s value in volume of leads. If there is no reality check, ABM results may look unfairly low when value is delivered.
Track near-term results to show long-term potential. Especially for large accounts with long buying cycles, ABM results can take a long time to show up as revenue, so demonstrate progress in areas that show up faster and point to the potential for long-term success. Early progress can be shown in several ways (e.g. identification of new contacts in defined accounts, more knowledge of key aspects of those accounts, engagement or activity from key contacts within accounts).
Link to advocacy improvement. One often overlooked high-value ABM contribution is the ability to get contacts within accounts to participate in various forms of advocacy – e.g. providing a traditional reference, speaking at an event, joining an advisory board, sharing a success story. Since we know that peer-based data is valued more than other sources of information during the buying process, cultivating advocacy should be emphasized as a significant marketing contribution.
Link everything to long-term revenue outcomes. While near-term activity and insights help show progress, eventually revenue and growth must be tracked. All actions taken by marketing should be shown as building longer-term revenue outcomes. Present all activity in the context of the account-specific goal it is meant to support, and make sure goals link to revenue, even if they start with relationship building. Set an expected timeframe for delivery of revenue goals, and coordinate with sales to ensure alignment.