The essential strategies you need to successfully win major B2B customers
Although the phrase has been around for over a decade and arguably being deployed by smart marketers ever since B2B sales teams have focused on target/key accounts, in recent years account-based marketing (ABM) has become hotter than ever.
As far back as 1993, Peppers and Rogers proposed marketing would take an increased role in developing intelligence on key accounts: “When two marketers are competing for the same customer’s business, all other things being equal, the marketer with the greatest scope of information about that particular customer… will be the more efficient competitor.”
In short, ABM is a strategic approach that coordinates personalised sales and marketing efforts, to target specific accounts for new business and create deeper and broader relationships with existing customers.
It’s clear to see from Google Trends, the term account-based marketing, was being searched since the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) first coined the phrase, just over 10 years ago.
Since then, it’s more than trebled in popularity or become ten times more popular in the past two years, than its average popularity over time. This is due to several key drivers, which we discuss later.
Bev Burgess, European MD of ITSMA, is famed for coining the phrase account-based marketing and co-creating the approach with organisations like Fujitsu, BT, HP, and Accenture.
Organisations seeing the greatest current benefit from ABM are typically IT, Services and Consulting companies. Due to their complex propositions, long sales cycles and large clients, these organizations are ideal candidates for ABM. It is spreading into other sectors and a benefit can be seen to be an increased return on investment and time.
If we also take a look at its popularity in the news, compared to other popular marketing topics, we see ABM is 40% more popular than CRM and almost twice as popular as marketing automation.
Why the recent popularity? The business world has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, especially sales and marketing tactics, strategies and technologies.
The Evolution of ABM
Historically, ABM was arguably a strategy only used by the largest of marketing teams. After all, who else would have the resources to focus large marketing efforts on a few accounts. However, due to advances in technologies and services, ABM can now scale. Enabled by the latest advances in mass-personalisation, retargeting and programmatic account-based advertising, to name a few, it’s now possible to treat an individual company as a market of one — targeted with personalised messages to suit their individual needs.
ABM, in its newest form, finds the right balance between inbound and outbound marketing, online and offline — to create an integrated campaign approach. All focused on the buying committee in the complex B2B buyer and the customer journey.
The benefits of ABM
There are many benefits claimed with the use of ABM. Some examples are:
- Better use of marketing resources by focusing on a smaller number of accounts
- More personalized, efficient marketing strategy; creating stronger engagement with prospects
- Optimising upsell and cross-sell with customers
- The ability to close bigger deals within targeted accounts
- Creating a more targeted approach to nurturing
- The ability to increase pipeline velocity, or to close deals faster
- Utilising data for intelligence and smarter targeting
- Aligning your marketing, sales and services teams to focus on the most lucrative clients and prospects
In partnership with SmartInsights, OGaraCo has created ‘The definitive guide to account-based marketing and sales alignment’. In this briefing, we look beyond the hype to uncover a universal definition as well as who should be using it, when and how — from development to deployment — including case studies and best practice for planning and execution. We take a balanced and unbiased approach to examining all the evidence and set a clear framework for you to implement ABM, if it’s relevant to your business. Expert members can download our guide to account based marketing today.
 Peppers and Rogers; The One-to-One Future (1993); Page 140
 OGaraCo definition of ABM, 2016, www.ogaraco.com
[This article first appeared on smartinsights.com on 17 January 2017 and updated here on 5 September 2019]
Following on from the theme of my recent posts, on what I learned today about sales and marketing automation best practice, I wanted to share more information on the essential topic of sales and marketing alignment. If you think this is a fluffy subject then read the latest industry research:
“Failure to align sales and marketing teams around the right processes and technologies costs B2B companies 10% or more of revenue per year.” IDC
“Companies with aligned sales and marketing generate 208% more revenue for their marketing, 36% higher retention & 38% higher win rates.” MarketingProfs
“B2B organisations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24% faster revenue growth and 27% faster profit growth, over a three-year period.” SiriusDecisions
Whichever way you look at it, there is no denying the power of alignment. So, if it achieves such high results then why aren’t we all doing it? Well, sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin but still on opposite sides. We do need each other and we do need to work together, in a joined-up process, for the most important person in our relationship — the customer.
So here are five key steps to take:
- Building jointly agreed go-to-market campaigns for awareness, pipeline and ultimately revenue
- Offer strong support through continuously improving sales enablement
- Clearly define and govern a seamless marketing and sales funnel where everyone contributes to pipeline
- Jointly agree KPIs around funnel quality, quantity & velocity — with real-time visibility, on a shared platform, for a single version of the truth
- Regular interlocks to improve communication, monitor results, share progress, course correct and build trust — working together as a team
To learn more about these five key steps, please join Dr Chris Boorman, CMO at Automic Software, on the following on-demand webcast, where we go through them in detail, and how they lead to Automic winning a sales and marketing alignment award: Improving alignment between B2B marketing and sales.
[a version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn on 2 December 2016 and updated here on 5 September 2019]
You wouldn’t drive all the way to work only looking in your car’s rear-view mirror. But when you get to work you drive your business the same way. Looking back at historical data to make crucial decisions. Most marketing and sales leaders use historical CRM and marketing automation data, like how many leads were created, sales meetings completed or deals closed last week/month/quarter. While these metrics have their importance, as leading indicators, you shouldn’t drive your business only using a rear-view mirror. Best-in-class, high-growth businesses are using forward looking metrics to understand their complete lead-to-revenue funnel. The following four categories contain the most important forward looking questions you need to answer.
As an aside, if you’re only looking at the metrics for your particular department, and not the entire lead-to-revenue funnel, then it might be worth reading my previous post on sales and marketing alignment first.
1. Planning & goals
- Is revenue on track to hit future goals?
To answer this you need to calculate if you are on track to hit your targets based on your current funnel momentum. So if you keep going, at your current pace, will you hit your future revenue goals or is there a gap you need to fill?
- Are your goals realistic?
Are your goals achievable and realistic? Possibly too high or surprisingly too low? And should they be adjusted?
- If you are not on track, what changes do you need to make?
What do you need to do now to hit future goals? Can you identify exactly where in the marketing and sales funnel the problem is occurring? Why is it occurring and what can you do about it?
- Are you communicating the right information to management & the board?
Does your leadership know what to expect from the revenue funnel in the future? Sales and marketing leaders need to keep the CEO informed and the CEO needs to keep the board and investors informed.
2. Marketing strategy & demand generation
- Are you generating the right quantity and quality of leads today to hit future revenue targets?
Are you reverse engineering your funnel, from revenue back to leads, to determine the exact number you need based on your current conversion rates? Do you need to improve conversion rates (quality) or increase the number of leads (quantity) and bringing them in at the right time to hit targets?
- Which channels, programmes or campaigns are making the greatest impact?
Can you identify what is having the greatest positive impact so you can invest more in this area?
- Which channels, programmes or campaigns are making the least impact?
Can you identify what is having the least impact so you can divert spend to the high performing activities?
3. Sales effort
- Are leads being followed up with the correct sales activities?
When sales receive or create the adequate quantity and quality of leads are they being followed up correctly? Are they being contacting in time? Are they being contacted enough times with appropriate contact methods? Can you measure quality and quantity of touches and time to first touch or first contact? Are they taking too long or not enough effort?
- Can you measure performance at each funnel stage per sales rep?
Not every sales rep has the same level of performance. How do they compare across different stages of the funnel, who is performing the best/worst and why?
- Where do you focus your efforts to grow your revenue faster?
Every business has multiple levers and dials that can be pulled and turned to make a positive impact on revenue. Can you easily identify which ones to focus on to maximise results?
4. Return on investment (ROI)
- What is the total ROI of our joint sales and marketing efforts?
There are multiple ways to measure ROI, such as customer acquisition cost to lifetime value (CAC:LTV), but are you getting the best return from your sales and marketing costs and is your ROI getting better or worse?
- What activities generate the greatest return?
Similar to looking at the best revenue generating campaigns, are you monitoring the actual return and factoring in the costs of sales and marketing time and efforts?
- What should you spend in the future on sales and marketing investments?
Should you spend more on sales and marketing activities and/or headcount to hit future goals?
As you look to drive your business forward, with a fully aligned sales and marketing team, I’m sure you agree these forward-looking questions need to be answered to give you the best possible chance of success. Many businesses have gaps in their business intelligence when it comes to forward-looking metrics. All too often the data is in outdated spreadsheets or static, rigid reports spread across too many dashboards.
As I’ve helped multiple clients manage the entire lead-to-funnel process and answer the above questions, you can be reassured it is possible. By using the Revenue Funnel Science framework you too can correctly measure, forecast and optimise your sales and marketing funnel to hit or exceed your future revenue targets.