Why You Need an Account-Based Marketing Leadership Team
May 20, 2021 •Mason Cosby
You are in the process of implementing an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy. You know ABM requires more than the help of marketing and sales. You have heard that ABM functions best when you have a leadership team made up of numerous departments.
Why does a marketing strategy require input from so many departments?
Account-Based Marketing Fundamentally Changes How You do Business
Most other marketing strategies attempt to attract as many potential customers as possible, then qualify them and convert them into paying customers. This is where the concept of the marketing funnel comes from. Put as many potential customers at the top, and some will convert into customers.
This marketing approach works. You have likely found success using this approach. The problem for most business-to-business (B2B) marketers is this approach has a lead to customer conversion rate of 1%.
So for every one hundred leads you put at the top of your funnel, you get one new customer. Most of your marketing program focuses on attracting everyone, then disqualifying most of the leads.
An ABM campaign takes a radically different approach.
With an ABM program, you focus your efforts toward attracting specific accounts you have already pre-qualified as a good fit. As a result, most marketers start to see greater long-term success from their ABM efforts.
If you’re in marketing, this all sounds fantastic at face value. You may not have realized that by transitioning from the traditional marketing funnel approach to an ABM strategy, you went from playing defense to play offense. In playing offense, many of the vanity metrics will decrease.
ABM programs don’t care about the number of leads coming in, the number of website sessions, or social media engagement. ABM cares about delivering key accounts to sales. But if this shift in marketing approach is not communicated upon across the organization, there will be panic.
If marketing typically delivers 300 leads a month and drops to 75 leads a month, people will panic. It will take some time during the transition for ABM to deliver results, so everyone across the organization needs to be prepared.
Account-Based Marketing Directly Impacts Strategic Vision
When most businesses get started, they don’t have the option to be picky with their customers. They are trying to get something going, and the priority is cash flow. As the business matures, cash flow tends to become more stable.
With a stable cash flow, businesses have the opportunity to focus more on long-term strategic decisions. One of those decisions could be the kind of customers a business wants to serve.
Enter account-based marketing.
With ABM, you focus your efforts on the account level. You predetermine exactly who you want to work with before you start marketing by creating your target account list.
This target account list needs to input from numerous departments because these are the accounts that will become customers. Marketing doesn’t have the information required to create a target account list. Marketing departments rarely touch customer success, support issues, profitability reports, or reports on company operations.
The company's mission is to serve customers well. As you are determining the accounts you target, you determine the customers your company will serve. When you realize your marketing efforts directly affect the strategic mission of your organization, you will want to bring in other departments to help form the future direction of the company.
Account-Based Marketing Require Organizational Alignment
Directly related to the impact on strategic vision, ABM requires organizational alignment to create success. If only marketing agrees to move forward with ABM, there will be serious pushback.
In addition to the reason listed above, account-based marketing strategies can’t work without organizational alignment. You need to work as a unified front to create an incredibly personalized and engaging customer experience.
ABM strategies succeed by implementing numerous marketing tactics that deliver highly personalized content to key decision-makers in key accounts. If marketing creates an incredibly personalized experience for an account, then sales treat the account like a stranger, the potential customer loses the trust previously established.
Even if you have your marketing and sales teams aligned, the same experience can happen once you have transitioned the account to a customer. The goal is to develop a lasting relationship with each account, so they stay your customer. By involving the influential members of key departments in your ABM leadership team, you can start to cultivate a culture that naturally lends itself toward prioritizing the customer experience.
Account-Based Marketing Needs Supporters Everywhere
When you start implementing ABM, you will need some supporters in every department. Most people don't like change. A fundamental shift in how you do business (like ABM) won’t have universal support.
As this shift occurs, there will likely come pushback from a variety of places. The influential leaders in your ABM leadership team will understand the larger picture of ABM. These leaders can reassure individuals that might be skeptical and help the transition go more smoothly.
With that said, there could be a temptation to mentally villainize those that disagree with ABM as people trying to hold the company back. People only look at the world from their own perception. There is a sense of security that comes from everyone in the organization when the sales team feels a bit overwhelmed by leads. An overworked sales team makes everyone feel like the company must be doing well.
When people hear you aren’t going to focus on leads and are going to focus your efforts on target accounts, they may not immediately understand the value of closing few best-fit customers instead of calling every lead.
With such a fundamental shift in how business is conducted, some internal marketing and communication from the Chief Marketing Officer could dramatically subside any fears or worries. When people see their leaders come together to rally around an idea, they will have more confidence in the direction of ABM.
Account-Based Marketing Requires Actionable Information
Like mentioned earlier, marketing doesn’t have all the information they need to create an account-based marketing strategy or target list. With so many factors impacting what truly determines a best-fit customer, you need more than pre-pipeline information to have a full picture.
That’s where the key players from each department come into play.
- With someone representing product development, you can see which customers provide the quickest adoption of your product.
- With a representative from finance, you can see which customers require the most resources to maintain.
- With a representative from customer success, you know which accounts are more pleasant to work with and easiest to up-sell.
- With a representative from operations, you know which accounts work the best with your existing processes.
- With a representative from sales, you can understand which accounts are easiest to close.
- With a marketing representative, you can understand which accounts typically engage most easily.
Each player has their own unique perspective on what makes a best-fit customer. When you meld all of these perspectives together, you end up with an incredibly accurate ideal customer profile (ICP). You can then measure accounts against your ICP to see if they are worth targeting.
Additionally, no account is unchanging. New opportunities arise. A previously un-fit account suddenly becomes a great fit. These events could include an investor providing more funding, a new executive hire, or the onboarding of some new technology.
Marketing may not always be attuned to these changes. Your ABM leadership team can help by providing additional insight when events happen with potential target accounts.
Account-Based Marketing is an Ever-Evolving Process
As a direct result of the data required for ABM, an account-based marketing strategy is ever-evolving. Your first target account list will likely miss key indicators of success you’ve never noticed. When your marketing was only ever concerned with leads, the nuances of each account tend to go unnoticed.
When you transition to ABM, you start to look at each account with new eyes and notice similarities. Maybe every best-fit customer uses the same CRM, and you find your product works incredibly well with their existing technology. Maybe you find your worst fit customers all have the same role as the main point of contact. With these nuances you start to see, you can further refine your target account list.
Additionally, you may start to realize opportunities to create strategic partnerships with the products your best-fit customers are using. To go back to the CRM example, if every best-fit customer uses the same CRM, that company likely has many other customers that would be best-fit customers for your product. By developing a strategic partnership, you can start to market directly through those partnerships.
By starting to collect actionable data and insight, you can adjust your ABM strategy to result in better customer relationships and higher revenue.
So, Who Needs to be on the Team?
Now that you know why you need an ABM leadership team, who needs to actually make the team. The goal is to create a team large enough to provide insights from a variety of viewpoints, but small enough so you can work effectively.
As you look at building your ABM leadership team, you will want someone influential from your marketing, sales, service, operations, product development, and finance teams.
If you don’t have all of these roles in your business, either look for roles equivalent to what insight each role provides, or don’t find someone to replace that spot. The goal is not to have a team of six people. The goal is to have a small team with various perspectives on what makes a best-fit customer.
Once you have identified the team, get everyone together and start assessing your target account list.
Many of these roles speak in almost different languages. Finance doesn't speak in leads, and marketing doesn't speak in a profit and loss statement. If you’d like help aligning your teams and implementing an effective ABM strategy, schedule a call today.
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