Account-based marketing (ABM) seems to be all the rage right now. At least that’s what we’re led to believe.
ABM is not new – for instance, SiriusDecisions has been talking about moving from lead scoring to account scoring back in November 2012. Traditional account scoring converts the metadata about an account, such as industry, revenue, employee size together with activity across all the roles involved in converting the account to build an account score. Then, by optimizing targeting of those top accounts, your marketing dollar can be stretched very far.
Marketo has defined ABM as a strategic approach to lead generation in which your time and resources target a key group of specific accounts. Once you have identified the best named accounts, you can drive optimization campaigns to convert the relevant leads/accounts into opportunities.
80% of respondents in an ITSMA survey (Jan’14) showed that ABM initiatives outperformed other marketing investments. A few Google searches will provide several examples with many B2B marketers seeing multiple returns by switching to an ABM strategy.
ABM is clearly a great fit for mature sales organizations that are focused on targeting named accounts at the enterprise-level. So if ABM is such a good strategy, why doesn’t more B2B marketing and sales teams adopt it? The answer lies in not having the right data or processes. If you’re currently running a lead-centric operation and want to transition to an ABM approach, here are some tips:
1. Have The Right Data In The Right Format
In most marketing automation platforms, the data is stored at a lead or contact record. All of the behavioral activities (i.e., emails opened and read, webinars attended, resources downloaded, etc.) are stored as related to the lead. And the key to all this data is a lead ID or an email address. The marketing automation platform doesn’t really require a lead to have a company or account name, and if it the “company name” data is captured there usually isn’t a data normalization process that takes place – for example, the system doesn’t recognize IBM Corporation as the same as International Business Machines Corp.
This is a barrier to ABM as the transformation from lead/contact to opportunity with dirty data can be very cumbersome. To solve this, we often find that third party tools such as ReachForce, Clearbit, Figure Eight and Kickbox are used to prepare data to be consumed for account-based marketing use cases. Mintigo also provides real-time data enrichment as a value added feature in our solution.
In addition, marketing automation platforms and CRM systems typically use an email address as a key or unique record identifier, so there may be duplicate records if the lead enters the systems via multiple ways. For example, if the lead enters the system via a form fill and later that same lead is included in a list import or is manually created within Salesforce.com by a sales rep, then there will very likely be multiple records for the same person. There are built-in tools in many systems as well as third party tools like DupeCatcher that helps you identify and merge duplicate records.
2. Establish a Process For Opportunity & Account Creation
Even if you have all your data in place and your leads/contacts and their underlying behavioral activities tied to accounts, there are still challenges. What about new leads that flow into your funnel? When the same lead comes from inbound marketing as well as outbound sales efforts, how do you pool the activity to the account? When a lead is converted to an opportunity in your CRM, how do you roll up the activity from all the other leads that are part of this buying center?
Put in place a process to ensure that sales reps are only converting leads into accounts and opportunities; ultimately a rep has to pick up the phone and talk to a decision maker or buyer, and having the right process in place to link the person to the right company or account record is critical. Buying centers play a major role in B2B sales cycles, but opportunity data doesn’t often reflect this. This can be solved by requiring the addition of contact roles for opportunities to progress beyond a certain stage – this creates the framework for ABM-ready data. If you use Salesforce.com, for example, you can use workflow and validation rules to ensure that members of the buying center are assigned to the opportunity.
3. Score Accounts Rather Than Leads
Those who want to get started with account based scoring can use a tool like Rollup Helper to aggregate the lead scores up to the account level. While not fairly accurate, it is a starting point for most companies moving from traditional lead scoring to scoring at the account level.
If you are using predictive lead scoring then you’re probably aware of how effective predictive can be in optimizing your marketing and sales operations. With ABM-ready data and a predictive marketing platform like Mintigo, you can now really step up your ABM game. In our next product release, you’ll have the ability to build account-centric predictive models by using big data from the web to identify accounts that are likely to convert based on shared characteristics (we call these “marketing indicators”) of your customers. The set of indicators and the weight assigned to each one helps you identify your ideal customer profile, which we call the CustomerDNATM. You can then export a list of named accounts that match this CustomerDNA that you can use in your targeted lists and advertising flows to provide personalized advertising and content to your top accounts.
We’ll be discussing the topic of account-based marketing in more detail in this upcoming webinar called “The ABCs of ABM (Account-Based Marketing)“ on October 13th. We’re hosting the webinar with Jon Miller, the CEO and founder of Engagio and former co-founder of Marketo. So Be sure to sign up to save your seat because you won’t want to miss it!
Have you adopted an ABM approach? What tips and best practices do you recommend? Share in the comments below!