By Ricky Abbott - 15th July 2016
When you get in the car, you have a destination in mind. You accelerate, brake, turn and reverse (sometimes) to get to that destination. If you had no idea where you were trying to get to, you’d simply drive around wasting time and fuel. And who knows where you’d end up.
On familiar journeys, you know the route immediately. But when you undertake an unknown journey, you need a map, a Sat Nav, something to guide you on your path.
The same theory applies to marketing. Why would we embark on a large transformational project, such as Account Based Marketing (ABM), without an understanding what your destination (goal) is and a plan of the steps to take to get you there?
If we chose the wrong tech and/or it doesn’t integrate with our current tech, then the output won’t fit our sales and marketing model – or at least the sales and marketing model we want to build. Let me give you a real life example. Client AA has been using SFDC, pushing in leads that convert to contacts and which the sales people then assign to accounts. However, Client AA has multiple versions of the same account. Some clever spark at Client AA has bought an analytics platform from Demandbase and are really excited about integrating this all into SFDC and giving the sales team anonymous account level activity alongside lead based activity. BUT, how do you know which accounts to put this information into? Is your SFDC and more importantly your sales team setup to work in this fashion? A classic case of sales and marketing misalignment.
These are just some of the questions that continuously trouble marketers trying to undertake an ABM project. One of the biggest questions I get asked is ‘where should I start?’. When working with clients on building an ABM strategy, I often get thrown a load of problems and buzzwords and tactics that people think they should be using.
It is vital to not fall victim to the hype but to take a step back and identify your desired destination. This will help you to prioritise which steps to take to tackle the task ahead. It doesn’t always need to be the whole hog from the outset, sometimes starting small, proving the concept, testing, optimising then rolling out to larger more expensive solutions is your best approach. Just be sure not to mistake this for going in and doing a few things and then complaining about the outcome.
Let me expand here as I’m sure some people are slightly confused by this.
In an ABM programme, tradition and experience tells us to focus on events, maybe some emails and then go in with some inbound. But you probably think email doesn’t have that much effect and inbound doesn’t really work. Why is that?
Well, either the tactics aren’t being used in the best possible way or all tactics are being measured with the same success factors; sales people will always prefer to talk to someone over receiving a lead that may or may not be interested.
So, when I say ‘start small’, I don’t mean cut out tactics. I am referring to ensuring you are tracking all your activities in the right way, attributing value and then optimising. Put simply, your customers consume information across a myriad of channels and sources, so by limiting your strategy to only one or two sources, you potentially miss out on them. You have the opportunity to get your message in front of your audience everywhere they go and at all stages of their buying decision; it is vital to seize this opportunity by building an integrated strategy that covers all touch points of the customer journey.
Sound simple? It is, but where marketers can often fall down is in not using the distribution channels to their optimum level. What I’m saying about an integrated customer journey isn’t new, it’s been around for years and all your competitors are doing it so how do you keep yourselves in front of them? You must deliver engaging messaging and content in the most appropriate channel and ensure you’re using technology that actually helps you track success. Companies are now getting the first part of that sentence right, and sometimes (dependent on their expertise around new distribution channels) the second but the last part is a real problem. Tracking success is where the myriad of tech can help, but you need to know which ones to use.
Similarly, you create a company list (given to you by sales based on gut feeling) but there is very little data to tell you whether the list is correct or not. You could use predictive analytics or intent data to help build your list and then segment the types of marketing tactics you use to distribute your messaging to those various segments. For example, if you used an intent engine to create a list by plugging in the demographics of the companies that you want to reach, then aligned that to your services, you would get a list of companies that match your targeting but more importantly are interested, or at least browsing content related to your offering. It means you can easily segment ALL the companies between those that are more likely to engage and those that are less, meaning different messages and potentially different tactics to the two types of prospects.
It sounds much easier than it looks, but as with a long car journey, you need to have a destination in mind and build out your roadmap. This will make your life much easier.
– Don’t be afraid to ask sales how they built their company list and question the approach
– Start small, figure out the bare essentials to prove the approach works and then grow
– Build out a roadmap and integrate in new tactics, tech, direction as you evolve
– Make sure the way you report is the same way sales report, whether that is a change for them or for you
President, Americas, Transmission