Today’s buying process is, on average, 22% longer than just five years ago, with 68% of B2B buyers preferring to research independently online, before ever engaging with a sales representative.
The modern buyer’s journey is no longer the linear set of decisions we once envisioned. In fact, consider the path as Gartner describes it:
- A series of parallel “jobs”
- Completed by up to ten decision-makers
- Each decision maker revisits each decision cycle at least once
- They’re armed with an average of 4 different pieces of information
B2B marketers now engage with more decision-makers, across more channels, and more deeply into the buying process than ever before.
To be successful, B2B marketers need to simplify the buyer’s journey and, like their B2C counterparts, deliver a five-star experience along the way.
This, combined with downward pressure on marketing budgets and increasing expectations around revenue contribution, means B2B marketers must focus their efforts to improve their yield.
Rev up revenue with account based marketing
While account-based marketing (ABM) is nothing new, B2B marketers now have more data and better tools than they had in the past to identify high value accounts, drive greater targeting and personalization of campaigns and attribute, and measure performance.
An increasing number of marketers consider ABM a foundational component of their demand arsenal. In fact, according to Sirius Decisions, 92% of B2B marketers consider ABM “extremely” or “very” important to their marketing effort.
3 ways to get the most from an ABM program
So how can marketers get the most from their ABM programs?
Here are three things to keep in mind:
- KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
In contrast to traditional demand generation, ABM begins with a clearly defined set of target accounts and focuses on cultivating relationships with decision-makers and influencers through highly targeted, personalized engagements.Marketers should start their ABM efforts by developing a deep understanding of their ideal customer to narrow the total addressable market into a prioritized set of initial accounts.Existing first-party data is an extremely valuable asset to inform profiling, helping to identify key characteristics of high potential accounts.An optimal data set goes beyond basic firmographics to include experience data (interests, affinities, interactions, voice-of-customer etc) and operational data (transactional, financial, contractual etc).Other third-party data, such as intent data, can be used to further refine and prioritize marketing and sales efforts by identifying active decision-making groups, called demand units, who have already shown buying interest in a particular product or product area.
- ALIGN WITH SALES
According to the ITSMA, 97% of marketers agree that ABM has a “somewhat” or “much” higher ROI than other marketing initiatives. The key to successful account-based marketing is syncing efforts between marketing and sales.This means working collaboratively with sales to develop the target account list and account insights, coordinate outreach and measure and optimize ABM efforts.In order to establish a strong working partnership with sales, marketers should consider committing to metrics beyond MQLs.Metrics such as close rate and average contract value can unite ABM strategies around a common set of revenue-oriented goals and minimize the traditional debate over quantity vs. quality that often impairs marketing and sales relations.
- EMBRACE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
The proliferation of customer interactions, channels, and devices has resulted in an explosion of customer data. The challenge for B2B marketers is that traditional methods of analyzing customer data and translating insight into action can’t scale against the sheer volume of data being generated.Awash in data, but unable to extract meaningful insights, marketers struggle to keep up with the experience demands of the modern buyer. AI can address these challenges by simplifying the process of bringing data together, uncovering patterns and quickly surfacing insights.But where to start? One high impact, jumping off point is to leverage AI for target account selection. Here, predictive analytics can be deployed to select the best set of target accounts and rank them by their propensity to convert.A second application is lead nurture and qualification. AI-driven lead and account scoring can be continuously and automatically applied across the breadth of customer interactions to further segment accounts according to interest, engagement, and readiness to make a decision.The end result improves the ROI of ABM efforts by increasing the relevance of engagement and focusing investment and resources where they can deliver the greatest impact in the shortest period of time.
Make marketing a trusted source of revenue
According to the CMO Council, 70% of CEOs expect CMOs to drive revenue growth. This, coupled with recent shifts in B2B buying behavior, have accelerated the urgency for B2B marketers to embrace account-based methodologies.
ABM allows marketers to deliver consistent, sustainable revenue growth by forging a collaborative approach, with sales, to customer lifecycle management.
In this paradigm, marketing becomes the tip of the spear, and a trusted source of revenue, by smartly leveraging its access to vast amounts of high quality, first-party data, and machine-driven insights to cultivate high value accounts and arm sales with right information to quickly and profitably close deals.
Marketers still contemplating whether ABM is right for them should consider that aligning marketing and sales under the ABM umbrella could drive as much as 32% growth in revenue.
The key to encouraging sales to the table is to start small and focus on those activities which can quickly demonstrate value and build confidence in a combined approach toward revenue.
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