B2B Account Based Marketing
B2B Account Based Marketing: It’s what’s on your plate
The smart money knows that at your B2B SaaS, Data or FinTech business, Personalized or Account Based Marketing (ABM) is on your “Invest more, do more and show me better results” list
How far will companies go to get ABM right, or let’s say “efficient and effective?” How long is a piece of string?
Board members, CEOs, PE and VC Investors all understand directly how personalized marketing has been transformational in B2C — we all experience it every day as Netflix and Amazon users. Your Board, Investors and CEO also understand that there are differences for companies in B2B, and, of course, the application of personalization and ABM depends on lots of other factors including size, scale, service offering, etc.
But the heads and guts of investors, executives and Boards tell them more can be done and done better in B2B, and they demand it of you. They’ve experienced firsthand how ABM has affected their own individual buyer behavior when they think about, say, that standby generator for their beach house, which got served up as their dream solution, with insistent repetition, until they (more or less) happily acquiesced. Their conviction that more is possible through ABM is also echoed dramatically in the continued explosion of well-funded startups in MarTech.
A Gartner CMO survey for 2018 had MarTech spend at 29% of marketing budgets, up from 22% in 2017. Scott Brinker’s Marketing technology landscape hit 6,829 solutions, up 27% from 5,381 in 2017. It’s clear PE and large software companies are funding a lot; all pitched ultimately at CMOs to providing new, improved and ever more specialized technology solutions. It’s a great time to be a CMO with all the focus and increased responsibilities and expectations, but clearly, it’s increasingly a more stressful role.
They’re adding tech, spinning dials and pulling levers… but what about impact?
The 2018/19 Gartner survey found investments in personalization a nearly universal requirement as a strategically important marketing capability given the spotlight on customer experience and the ever-increasing battle for customer attention. Marketers investing in personalization should proceed with caution, however, because increasing spend doesn’t guarantee success. One head of sales remarked, “there’s a great deal of activity, but I’m not sure they’re going anywhere?” Another VC “They’re spinning dials and pulling levers… while they almost drove us right off a cliff.” What is it about “personalization” (i.e. digital, sales disintermediation and marketing disruption) that is being missed?
To just say it requires leadership that is committed to aligning the optimal customer with “who we really are” in the midst of constant and relentless change, focusing this at new investments/ initiatives, with a laser like focus targeting hot topics to differentiated client segments and data that defines and separates them, across an integrated martech stack, while coordinating people and activity across many functions, with the ability to measure progress/results objectively… does take the breath away? A long sentence, but really just a flyover of what is involved.
You Can’t Go into Personalization and ABM Alone
The odds are stacked against success for a number of reasons (proliferation of thousands of solutions, software, apps and platforms), but outside help can turn the odds in your favor. The expectations are just too high to go it alone with the amount of investment that follows gaining and keeping effective customer alignment / personalization against new tech knowledge and integration, coordination needed to establish new initiatives, drive innovation and help implement and manage programs.
Outside expertise in the mix will dramatically increase the chance for Investors, Boards and CEOs to view results as successful. The CMO is probably directly on the hook “accountable,” but the CSO is right there as well. At TechCXO, as experienced C level business leaders, we bring the “have done it” into the mix, along with specific hands on experience with what will work in your situation to amplify your personalized story across data and your Martech and people stack.
Experience accelerates progress and this influences the view towards success for CEOs, Investors and Boards.
10 Building Blocks of Personalization and ABM Integration
This is a list of 10 examples required that you address. It is a complex integration and workflow of many different and connected pipes. Any restriction or pause along the way will greatly reduce or stop flow.
- Understanding and alignment of the “who we are”, “who we sell to”, and “why we do what we do” to the customer – because everything that doesn’t follow from this gums up a high velocity growth engine while wasting precious investment – consistently and relentlessly within and through the core leadership team.
- Prioritized, meaningful account segments – Having account segments is important but knowing which ones to focus on, when and why is even more critical.
- Hot topics per segment. Biggest opportunities and biggest challenges. Topics get tired and everyone wants to be forward thinking.
- Content, offers, solutioning, meetings, events, or other on that topic. Quality matters. The total investment on everything else counts on the quality and clarity of your story to significantly improve the position of the company/solution. Where a topic requires greater expertise and/or specific technical knowledge, the production process, regardless of the form, will be a challenge for most companies (particularly smaller ones).
- Contacts, personas, roles, at a given account or accounts within a segment. You may believe you have 95% plus of company names in a segment, but the biggest drop off is the depth of key contacts who are part of the buying process, and role definitions that can be accessed straight through (automated).
- MarTech stack integration and automation. Can I easily, and specifically, reach who I want and where I want quickly? Overshoot – when we cannot get at a smaller better target group we overspray. Typically, many manual steps here. Undershoot – Too many contacts not properly identified or just missing. How to avoid missing the target. Updates and best information is in different silos in stack. No golden copy, out of date information persists. Additions are constant but deletions get less focus.
- Measurement, and the communication of impact. Individual single activity vs. another similar or the same activity done previously is straightforward but repeats have become straightforward to report on and evaluate but the combinations of multiple key contacts (at a target) and touches/ interactions is more valuable. Where activity is different value assignments are more challenging. Combos of activity over time – the data set gets large quickly.
- AI or Intelligent dashboarding, reporting or analysis on the combination of all activities. What’s the noise to knowledge ratio on high probability to meaningful leads? AI aside, does you MarTech provide clarity on next actions that is viewed as practical. Many firms are unable to mine objective data and still live with over-reliance on small pools or individual data observations or direct contact impact anecdotes. Misleading investment with gut feels.
- People, process and technology performance. There will always be poor or slow hand offs or inputs. People are not machines. Process can be or become inappropriate. How do issues get expedited and resolved. Permanent changes implemented. Resources allocations adjusted. The resource draw has been extending much wider in tapping functional teams (priority challenges emerge). Who owns prospective and client data and who keeps it clean. What is an MQL or and SQL – what happens next. What does aging and recycling look like. The often quoted “sales and marketing need to be aligned” is of course still important, but where is it most important? Prioritization can get crowded-out with people faced with lots of data much of which is difficult to qualify.
- Cycle timing & throughput/ volume – What’s enough How long does it take from planning through scoring results of a single cycle program (or multiple layer program)? What does it mean to be always-on? What is the capacity and how does that measure against the results required. Client retention and improving client experience, loyalty and advocacy can be high priority goals but competes with new client acquisition particularly where throughput is limited or ramping up. How many interactions are required, over what period of time, with how many key contact or contacts, within what type of target company before a positive impression sticks and delivers sales-readiness.
It’s an exciting time to be operating in digital marketing in the B2B space. The pressure for measurable progress and financial results will continue to increase on CMOs, CSOs and COOs and CEOs. Getting clarity, and a leg up to increase your chances for success by including outside experts on the team is a smart move that Boards and Management Teams will support. Start fast with confidence.
Dave Merrill is a TechCXO Sales & Marketing Partner Based in Boston. See his full bio.