Account-Based Marketing 101
Account based marketing (ABM) is a powerful tool in any marketer’s tool belt, especially if your annual contract value (ACV) is high and the relative number of opportunities in your market is low. ABM requires tight cooperation between marketing and sales. That's why it's important that all involved have a common understanding of what it is and the tools and techniques needed to ensure ABM success.
What is ABM?
Where and when the practices ABM started can be debated, but we know for sure that the term was introduced by the IT Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) already in 2003, and then a groundbreaking 2004 paper titled Account Based Marketing: The New Frontier.
In order to help us to understand what ABM is, let’s take a look at four things that ABM is not.
Account-based marketing is not
Account-based marketing is not a stand-alone practice that is mutually exclusive to other forms of marketing. It is a framework and a philosophy to place your tactics and strategies within.
You can run inbound as a part of ABM.
Demand generation can be a component of ABM.
Webinars, content campaigns, and in-person events can all be a part of your ABM campaign.
ABM is not demand generation with an account focus. Demand generation can be a complementary piece of your ABM campaign, but the two are not one and the same.
Demand generation focuses on driving demand rather than leads and requires sales and marketing to work together on lifecycle stage definitions and handoffs, so while it is a natural fit within the ABM framework, it is not the same thing.
ABM and using intent data are not one and the same. You can run ABM without intent data and you can use intent data without running an ABM play. Intent data helps you gain relevance in any marketing play, when deployed properly, but is not required to be relevant or personalized.
Account planning and ABM are not the same thing. Does ABM involve account planning? Yes. Does every team doing account planning have to run an ABM campaign? No. Account planning is a sales motion that can happen in a silo or in conjunction with marketing in order to market in line with the account planning done by sales.
Account-based marketing is
Account-based marketing is a hyper-personalized marketing practice that aligns marketing and sales in the pursuit of selling to target accounts. They do this by building value across a segment of stakeholders who make up a buying committee.
By being hyper customer-centric, brands become reliable and trusted by their target accounts.
Since marketing and sales are so closely synced, the customer experience is seamless and relevant to their place in the buyer’s journey.
How to do account-based marketing with HubSpot
What tools are needed to run an effective ABM campaign? How to use HubSpot to drive successful ABM campaigns? Download this playbook and find out.
Why account-based marketing fails
If your sales and marketing teams are not aligned, even ABM can't save you. Here are 5 most common challenges marketing and sales teams need to overcome.
1. Marketing-to-sales handoff
The marketing-to-sales handoff seems simple enough: when a lead becomes qualified for sales (a sales-qualified lead, or an SQL), it’s the job of the marketing team to ensure that their sales colleagues know about it. What could go wrong?
Be sure you agree to the qualifying criteria: what are your marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and SQL criteria? What are you using to ensure that these criteria are met for handoffs day-to-day? How nuanced are the qualifications?
If your sales and marketing team have different answers to these questions, the result can be handoff nightmares.
Agree on the mechanism for your handoffs. Are your marketing leads rotated automatically once qualified, or do they already have an owner before they ever get to that stage? Do you assign your sales rep a task, push a notification, send them an email, notify them in Slack, or some combination of these options?
2. Disparate Systems
There are literally hundreds of tools that your sales and marketing teams could use to run their individual motions.
What’s the result? An ABM Frankenstein.
For marketing and sales activities, data accuracy is everything. And the more tools you have, the lower the chances are that your data is reliable.
Too many systems can lead to:
- Too much context switching and the necessary info not being added to the correct tool
- System syncing issues and resulting data gaps
- No single source of truth for decision making about the success or failure of your efforts
- Misaligned handoff and scoring criteria
3. Inconsistent data
When you have too many tools, weak processes for using your tech, a lack of operational leadership or any combination of these things, your data suffers. When you can’t trust your data, you are flying blind when it comes to making decisions that impact your customers.
Bad data means that we don’t personalize campaigns, we get the handoff wrong, we put people into the wrong segmented cohorts, and that we over or under-touch our prospect accounts.
The truth is, data drives your revenue engine. Everyone in your revenue operations – marketing leaders and implementers, sales managers and reps, and customer success teams – needs data to drive decisions around how they interact with customers.
4. Misaligned goals
Teams focusing on generating MQLs rather than revenue and demand will continue to struggle with alignment and will leave themselves ill-prepared to run ABM campaigns or to provide a seamless experience for their customers.
If the marketing team has a goal to drive MQLs and they are assessed based on their ability to meet that goal, their sole focus will be on how to get as many gated content downloads as possible. But, the audience most likely to read your content is not necessarily the audience that wants to buy your product now.
To ensure alignment, the focus for both sales and marketing should be on revenue metrics instead of only MQLs or SQLs.
5. Misaligned teams
All of the problem areas outlined above – poor handoffs, disparate systems, inconsistent data, and arm wrestling over MQLs – prevents an organization from running successful ABM plays, especially at scale.
You need to work together, with a little bit of learning and listening, followed by consistent action.
Talk with our HubSpot specialist now
Ready to get started with ABM using HubSpot? Book a meeting with our expert and explore your options.