Account-based marketing: Why 2018 will see a spike in adoption

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The traditional model of broad-based, anonymous lead gen is dead. Sales and marketing professionals now want to target customers precisely, and prospects expect a personalised interaction. Learning who to target, when to target and, most importantly, how to target them, can lead to marketing efficiencies and accelerated sales in the long run. One of the best ways for large B2B organisations to target high value accounts is to use an account-based marketing (ABM) approach.

At its core, ABM targets individual, high-value accounts. And now, thanks to data and technology, companies can employ ABM at scale to create deep relationships with target accounts and reach the right prospects in the right accounts with the right message. With clear benefits to the bottom line, we’re seeing more businesses embracing ABM.

In fact, 58% of B2B organisations currently employ an ABM strategy, and 28% plan on doing so in the next six months, according to our recent study. Businesses using account-based marketing also seek efficiency in their sales approach and gain higher revenue per sale while using fewer resources. And, revenues have increased by 10% at more than half of the organisations that have been using ABM for at least a year.

So, what should you consider for your ABM initiatives in 2018?

Building the foundation

To execute a successful ABM campaign, you need accurate, current information on your target accounts. To achieve this, you should standardise, organise and integrate data across your organisation. This also includes infusing your data with trusted third-party data sources to ensure your customer records are current. Once this standardisation is complete, the data can be surfaced to the right people at the right time so informed decisions can be made.

Having this ‘single source of truth’ gives your business a shared view of target accounts so you can make decisions, boost efficiency, improve customer service and identify new opportunities.   

Getting aligned

It’s not account-based marketing. It’s account-based marketing and sales. When it’s done well, the line between marketing and sales blurs and the teams work together, almost seamlessly. Sales and marketing share insights, data, processes and measurements and goals.

When looking for ways to measure the ROI of your ABM programme, engagement or account penetration can be used to measure success early on. Ultimately though, when you scale the programme, you should look at the metrics the sales team cares most about such as pipeline, sales and close rates. At Dun & Bradstreet, we measure our marketing team against closed sales, not just pipeline and leads.

To really maximise your ABM programmes, you’ll also want to get alignment across your entire organisation. By making sure all departments are working on the account holistically, the customer will receive that personalised experience they expect. 

Being data-driven

To drive ABM, you must accurately identify the target accounts that will drive value. By only focusing on those accounts most likely to buy, you focus your resources and speed the path from prospect to closed sale. By using analytics and input from sales, you can get a highly accurate picture of which accounts will yield results.

Start by studying the characteristics of your best customers – the ones that continue to renew, the ones that spend the most money and the ones that grow at the fastest rate – and then apply those characteristics to find ‘look alike’ customers that could provide opportunity for your business. As well, predictive analytics can prioritise highest sales opportunities (which, by the way, could be existing accounts). 

Beyond account segmentation, you need to identify the buying groups within each account that are going to be making the purchasing decisions. You need to understand how each of those individuals fits into the overall account structure and how that might impact your outreach. Company hierarchies and corporate family trees can be essential in making sure you are focusing on the right influencers within each account.

By using ‘intelligent segmentation’ and contact identification, you can reduce time and resources and save money.

ABM in 2018 and beyond

While ABM isn’t new, we will see it evolve in 2018. Companies will begin to put more structure around the ABM process as tech and data capabilities continue to improve.

In addition, we’ll see companies use the data they have to drive both measurement and the personalised customer experience. By identifying the on and offline actions of people in target accounts, businesses will be able to better track success of campaigns and drive desired future behaviours. 

And by using that same information, you can begin to craft more customised programs for target accounts that span marketing, sales, customer service and more, providing a completely personalised customer experience at all touchpoints. 

As data becomes increasingly scalable and interconnected and analytics become more advanced, ABM will continue to be a powerhouse of modern day marketing that drives growth for large organisations.

Rishi Dave is CMO at Dun & Bradstreet.

About Rishi Dave

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