If you are a long-time reader, you know that this month at HITMC, we are discussing all things Account-Based Marketing. If you’re a first time reader, we decided to ask six B2B marketing experts who have an ample amount of firsthand experience with ABM for their insights as part of part of our “Ask an ABM Expert” series. You can read part 1 of the series here.
In Part 2, we dive a little deeper into the account-based marketing realm to learn what factors are truly needed to ensure a successful ABM campaign from start to finish. Here’s what we asked our experts:
- What does a successful ABM program/campaign look like
- We have a long sales cycle, how do we demonstrate ABM success along the way?
- What data do you need to effectively drive an ABM program?
1) What does a successful ABM program/campaign look like?
Melanie Hilliard, Senior Marketing Consultant, Clarity Quest
A successful ABM campaign looks similar to any successful marketing campaign … but on steroids.
You start with a well-defined buyer persona, develop content that speaks to every stage of your buyer’s journey, and then execute on delivering that content to your buyer when and where they are most receptive.
For an ABM strategy, your buyer persona gets quite specific. You’re not only identifying who but also naming (by name) the company or organization where the buyer works. In other words, an ABM strategy enables marketers to target their company’s dream accounts at scale.
Now comes the bulking up part, taking personalization to a whole new level. A successful ABM campaign is not just targeting the buyer, but also the many influencers at an organization.
For example, a health IT software vendor is trying to get the attention of a busy hospital CIO (their buyer). An effective ABM strategy would also target the hospital CFO with content about the cost savings and efficiencies the solution offers and the clinical decision-maker (CMIO or equivalent) with content about improved patient outcomes and more efficient clinician workflow. You may also want to target the IT Directors who report to the CIO as they are likely tasked with researching solutions to the hospital’s problems.
Chintan Shah, President, President & Managing Partner, KNB Communications
A successful program is specific, has target prospects and is customized to winning the hearts, minds and checkbooks of those customers. It is also one that scales based on its success. Bite off what you can chew first, gain some wins, then expand the program. Starting smaller and growing is often more successful than starting out with too many prospects and losing sight of the personal, custom experience. It also includes involvement and support from multiple parties – sales, marketing and leadership. These parties need not be extremely large, but a single person trying to do an entire ABM program will be challenging. It is possible, and startups can and should certainly leverage ABM principles and tacts when possible, but as with many marketing programs, more hands on deck will help drive results faster.
Caroline DeVore, Senior Director of Account Strategy, StudioNorth
- It’s a laser beam, not a shotgun. You’re building a connected journey to penetrate specific accounts and people within those accounts.
- It’s integrated with sales to determine the best time to contact leads. People understand that sharing their contact information means they’ll be contacted by a salesperson. Make sure the assets you gate are worth “paying” for—and know when the lead is warm enough to warrant contact (hint: it’s probably not after one asset download).
- It’s long-term and agile, with each step based on the response to a previous step.
Alaina Lamphear, Strategic Marketing Consultant, Access Marketing Company
Winning means something different for each client, but overall, success can usually be measured in 1) engaged accounts sent to sales and 2) closed deals.
Marissa Lindstrom, Digital Marketing Strategist, Matter Communications
The first way to identify success in an ABM program is your ability to win/close on those accounts. Calculating your conversion rate from prospect to lead and lead to customer won is crucial. In addition, there are other important factors to consider in an ABM campaign, with users that may take longer to convert.
Because ABM programs focus on a smaller pool of accounts that offer a much higher potential value, it’s sometimes easier to measure success with ABM efforts over other marketing initiatives. Here are some examples of what you can monitor:
- Were you able to reach your desired list of contacts?
- What’s your email open rate?
- What’s your click-through rate?
- Did they watch your videos? Or other content served?
- What percentage of each video did they view?
- Are they visiting your website after you’ve reached out? What’s the overall traffic from your target accounts, and is it increasing over time?
- Are they converting?
- Are you experiencing an increase in opportunity velocity?
- How many new sales meetings have been scheduled with your target accounts?
- How many new clients did you secure?
- How much new booked revenue did this result in?
- Is ABM increasing your average deal size? If yes, by what percentage?
- How much incremental revenue are you projecting from these new accounts over the coming 12 months?
Cristina Stahr, Marketing Operations and Strategy Leader, ProviderTrust
Defining the success of an account-based marketing campaign can look different for everyone and look different based on your level of experience with ABM. But generally, I would look at the following 3 key success metrics: increased website traffic by named accounts (make sure you measure a baseline!), digital marketing engagement from named accounts (email open rates & CTRs, content downloads, social interactions), and successful outbound efforts from your sales team – even just one conversation with the right person at the right account can lead to big things!
1) We have a long sales cycle, how do we demonstrate ABM success along the way?
It’s great if you know that going in. Set expectations up front that you will need multiple touch points before moving into the consideration phase. Then, set up different Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to use during each phase. Start with digital metrics: email opens, clicks, conversions.Then move on to scheduled calls, meetings and other engagement. ABM allows you to open doors to prospects that otherwise were sealed shut. Every prospect who engages in some way has opened the door a little more for you to walk through. Demonstrate that to leadership to show that you are moving closer to a sale.
Every health IT company has a long sales cycle 🙂 If this is your situation, make sure you gather baseline data for your target accounts: content downloads, website visits, social media interactions, email stats; and show how your targeted ABM campaign increased the prospect’s awareness of your brand! Just like a tradeshow, ABM is a small part of a big picture.
We encourage companies to look at early indicators like engagement because we can’t attribute ABM to closed sales for sometimes a few years! However, if you can show your sales team that certain accounts are active on your website, emails or social ads, and mobilize the sales team to take action at the RIGHT time, it can be a great nod to the success of the program long before you get to count any sales from ABM. You can also see how your content is resonating by evaluating the consumption. This is one reason why so many businesses are hesitant to try ABM – because it’s a long-term commitment from all departments and often takes several quarters to bear fruit. ABM is an act of faith!
Account based marketing, with the right tracking tools in place, is a marketing initiative that is often easier to track than others. You know exactly what accounts you are going after, so it should be pretty straight forward to track conversions, engagement and responses to your efforts from these particular accounts. If you have emails of the individual and they are on your website, with the right tracking tools and IP detection, you can see exactly what pages they are searching on your website, how long they stayed, and much more. If you’ve sent them an email, you can see exactly what they clicked on, and what pages of the site they went to. You can track from the beginning whether they even opened your email, or viewed the video you sent them, as long as you have the proper tracking codes and metrics set up as a foundation.
- ABM is a long-term engagement—it can’t live and breathe over just one quarter. It’s like dating: Are your calls returned or sent to voicemail? You might meet your target for lunch, then dinner a few times before they’re willing to introduce you to friends and family. There are a lot of touch points along the path to building trust and deepening a relationship.
- Seriously … over the course of the campaign, you need ways to interpret when a lead is engaged. So prepare a weekly campaign snapshot of companies, titles and the content they’ve engaged with.
- Don’t create all your content upfront! You need to see what people are engaging with, then build more of what people want. Plus, the market is always changing. (Everything you created in January might now be completely out of date.) You need to be seen as a company that’s with it and understands – not tone deaf.
- Always focus on the people who are responding to the content and messages and value props you’re marketing. These are the contacts who see the value in what you’re selling. Don’t waste time (and money) trying to convince early hand-raisers who really aren’t interested.
Back when people worked in offices, it was easier to demonstrate if your ABM strategy was working as you’d be able to tell via your marketing automation system if people from the same IP address or company were visiting your website and responding to your campaigns.
The key metrics throughout the journey are going to be reach and engagement. Remember, the ask from the stakeholders and influencers is their attention. Getting them to sign up for a newsletter or to read your white paper is what’s valuable. Slow and steady wins the race.
3) What data do you need to effectively drive an ABM program?
To execute an effective ABM strategy, you need to gather as much information as possible about the accounts you’re targeting so you can properly understand who you are targeting, identify what drives them to take action, and properly assess how and when decisions are made and who the decision maker is. First party data you have collected yourself will tell you the most about how the contacts have interacted with your brand. This data can be augmented with a trusted third-party partner who can help you grow your reach.
You need to know who you’re talking to and what is happening in their world. The key to ABM is to be as personalized as possible, and without the research on the front end, you have no way to do that.
- You need metrics that tell you what’s working and where to back off. A/B test to see what your targets are engaging with, and who is reading and listening to what, so you can tailor future touchpoints.
- Based on testing, finely tune your display ads. You typically get a better email open rate on your nurture follow-up when an engaged audience has also seen ads. But be aware that display ad fatigue sets in at 45-90 days, so mix up your creative.
- Create your test plan upfront, with precise milestones built in. Don’t be afraid to try something new! Some actions will work, and some not—it’s hard to get people to open an email—but email is still a strong communication channel.
- Lead scoring is essential for helping marketing (and sales) measure engagement. Ideally lead scoring is automated (through a platform such as Marketo) and integrated with your sales team’s CRM (salesforce).
For starters, you need good contact data for your target accounts. Beyond that, it’s helpful to have engagement data – views, opens, click-through rates, conversion rates; and sales data – opportunities and revenue.
We look at data in two ways for ABM programs: 1) internal tracking data and 2) external engagement data.
1) Digital metrics are important. For email and social media, use engagement metrics and clicks. This will show if your messages (and channels) are working.
2) You also need data that is compelling for your targets. Internal and industry data that is eye-opening and surprising will encourage engagement and conversions. Use a data point from your software stack or a usage rate from your device sales. Share industry data (citing where appropriate) and make the connection with your product or service.
For starters, you have to have a handle on the accounts you are targeting for this approach and why.
Here are a few preliminary questions:
- Name the company and organization you are targeting.
- Where are they located (geographically)?
- Do they utilize a GPO or an in-house purchasing department for the product/services you offer?
- Who is the buyer?
- Who influences the buyer?
- What is the competitive landscape? (i.e., did they recently buy the product or service you offer from another vendor? If so, do you think it’s likely they would turn around and buy your product or service?)
- Have there been recent media articles that indicate they have a need for your product or service?
- Do any of your team members (executive or otherwise) have relationships with the buyers or influencers at the account?