Account-based marketing is changing the status quo of B2B marketing and sales. While the term “account-based marketing” was coined in 2004 by ITSMA, it’s now gaining traction due to the rise in marketing technology (MarTech).
Since the launch of marketing automation platforms in the late 2000s, in the past decade there have been more than 2,000 vendors who have entered into the MarTech category. In late 2015, G2 Crowd added the first-ever account-based marketing subcategory for users to post review on ABM platforms. Clearly ABM is here to stay and B2B NN’s primer on the trend will give you a rich overview of why it matters for your B2B firm.
So what is account-based marketing exactly?
Before we talk about how we got here, let’s talk about how we got started. In your CRM, you have data on thousands of contacts, but you can’t dedicate time to marketing to each individual. Your marketing team sent email blasts to everyone in your system, inviting them to events, and trying to engage them in activities.
At the same time, your sales team was calling and emailing all of these people to try and get them agree to a discovery call or demo. The steps in the B2B purchase process looked something like this:
- Awareness: These marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are created through inbound or outbound marketing.
- Interest: Your leads showed their interest by visiting your website, downloading a whitepaper, or attending a webinar.
- The leads were given to a business/sales development rep (BDR or SDR) becoming sales accepted leads (SALs).
- After a discovery call to determine if they are a good fit using “BANT” criteria for Budget, Authority, Need and Timing, these leads either fall out or become sales qualified leads (SQL) and move into the opportunity stage.
- Consideration: The sales team is doing everything they possibly can to convince their opportunities to buy from your company.
- Purchase: The deal was won and your opportunities became customers.
Then came marketing automation
Marketing teams had the ability to see exactly which contacts were engaging with specific content. Scoring and grading made it easier than ever to identify which contacts were interested in potentially buying something from your company.
However, marketers were still adhering to this traditional funnel. The belief was to close new business, marketing needed to generate as many new leads as possible to pour into the top of the funnel.
But according to Forrester Research, less than 0.75 percent of the leads generated ever become revenue-generating customers. Why should your marketing team invest its resources trying to connect with people who 99 percentof the time have no interest in working with your company?
I was so frustrated with the traditional funnel. In early 2015, I was on an airplane coming home from a conference when I wrote the buying process stages down on scraps of paper. I rearranged them to look something like this:
Welcome to the world of account-based marketing
These four stages represent an account’s journey going from a prospect to customer.
Identify: You find your best-fit prospects first. Instead of “spraying and praying” for traditional lead-generation, you start by finding these accounts using qualification criteria.
Expand: You take the list of companies you created and add contact data for the accounts you identified. The contacts in these accounts should fit “persona” criteria such as the job title, department, and responsibilities
Engage: You execute a variety of different marketing activities targeted to the contacts in your accounts. These activities include inviting them to events, sending emails sharing your new content, connecting with them on social media. The point is to market to the contact on their own terms instead of sending them tons of emails or calling their phone all the time.
Advocate: Your marketing pays off by creating enough interest and “air cover” for sales to close the account. The account becomes a revenue-producing customer.
With account-based marketing, marketing and sales are aligned to form a “smarketing” team. “Smarketing” isn’t wasting time and money trying to generate leads. It’s about targeting key accounts who fit within your ideal customer profile (ICP). Your ICP is based on the industry and size of the company, or account, who you know is a great fit for your product or service.
Ultimately, account-based marketing is about going beyond the typical B2B buyer’s journey to a comprehensive account lifecycle. This is why my team and I created this account-based marketing framework:
I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments section below, or via Twitter at @b2bnewsnetwork.
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