How to Get Started With Account-Based Marketing? Start Selling (Internally, That Is)
- This is the first in a series of blog posts that tell the story of successful account-based marketing from two points of view
- See views on ABM from marketing leaders Megan Heuer and Jeff Winter
- Megan and Jeff will share what they’ve learned to help you deliver ABM results faster and avoid some common mistakes
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of blog posts that tell the story of successful account-based marketing (ABM) from two points of view: SiriusDecisions analyst (Megan Heuer, Service Director, Account-Based Marketing) and marketing leader (Jeff Winter, Vice President of Marketing, SAP, winner of SiriusDecisions’ 2015 ABM Program of the Year Award). Megan and Jeff will share what they’ve learned to help you deliver ABM results faster and avoid some common mistakes.
Megan Heuer: With so many B2B companies looking to deploy ABM, it’s no wonder clients frequently ask us how to get started and what it will take to get the resources required to make ABM work. Here are some common challenges that companies share with us:
What does it take to “sell” ABM internally?
MH: ABM sells itself when the business model demands it. If your company sells to a defined universe of accounts – or even if only a portion of your sales organization has a named account list or a set of strategic accounts to support – then ABM is the right approach. Showing how ABM maps to the reality of the go-to-market model and how it will reduce wasted marketing efforts on the wrong accounts is key to making the case.
Jeff Winter: At most enterprise companies, aligning to a select set of accounts is relatively simple. The key is to start any ABM program with a very small set of accounts (two to five would be my recommendation) to test or pilot the model. Here, you want to stack the deck –you should select accounts that have a strong relationship with the organization, where there is an established strategic relationship between marketing and sales (i.e. the account executive knows his or her marketer), and where the customer agrees upfront to engage on ABM activities. The last point is perhaps THE key to ABM success, and we’ll delve into this later.
Which audience is hardest to convince: sales or marketing?
MH: In fact, marketing requires more convincing to get on board with ABM. Sales is generally delighted that marketing finally “gets it” and is speaking its language about account-specific engagement. Sales will want to know exactly what marketing will do for it with ABM, but it’s open to the idea in theory. Marketers, on the other hand, need to understand how ABM is different from what they’re already doing and why they should change. This part is more challenging – especially if marketing is structured and resourced in activity-based silos, thus making the practice of carving out people and program dollars more difficult. Plan to spend more time on educating marketing about why ABM makes sense and more time with sales on what specifically marketing will do to help (with the permission of sales, of course).
JW: I agree with this assessment. While most marketing leaders instinctively believe that ABM is a good thing, we need to prove the ROI. If your company is like SAP, marketing budgets are tight and (almost) every dollar is viewed through the lens of a contribution model – is $1 of ABM budget going to provide a higher return than $1 for another marketing activity? So we built an old-fashioned business case – using third-party research (from firms like SiriusDecisions, Forrester and the IT Services Marketing Association) regarding the value of ABM. There also might be a concern – and there was at SAP – of what happens if we are successful? ABM is scalable, but not in the same way or degree that other tactics are. Having a vision of the mid- and long-term plan is critical to selling ABM internally within marketing. And again, always start small with just a pilot of one to five accounts.
For Next Time
In the next blog post in this series, Megan and Jeff will talk about what actions to take to implement ABM, what pitfalls to avoid, and data points that support ABM deployment.
About Jeff Winter
Jeff Winter is Vice President at SAP, Field Marketing and Channel Marketing in North America. Covering the entire SAP portfolio, Jeff’s team drives demand generation, acceleration, and account-based marketing programs. The team coordinates and executes an array of marketing tactics from content-driven events to life-style experiences to conducting rigorous analysis of pipeline and opportunities, as well as tele-related activities. Read more