People just can’t stop talking about account-based marketing (ABM). With new technologies to help organizations scale, and a shifting focus on the customer experience, the age-old strategy of focusing your marketing efforts on a shortlist of your most desired accounts has suddenly become all the rage. And a new report shows us why.
Account Based Marketing: Real-world insights and recommendations, conducted by TOPO for the ABM Leadership Alliance, outlines the strategies, challenges, metrics and results associated with the most successful companies using ABM.
Below, we’re recapping the key findings of the report. And, since we believe that advocate marketing is the perfect complement to ABM, we also give you some hints on how advocates can help you make the most of your ABM strategy.
1) ABM leaders define and target Ideal Customer Profiles
The most successful ABM marketers take the time to define their Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) and key stakeholder personas, and then target accounts that match those profiles.
Since ABM is all about increasing revenue by focusing on high-value accounts, getting that target account list right can mean the difference between success and failure. However, the report notes that getting agreement on the ideal customer profile and creating an actionable target list are two of the top three challenges facing ABM marketers today. (The other is sales and marketing alignment.)
The report further states that those who are just starting out with ABM are struggling to scale, and recommends that companies: (1) define those customer profiles early on, and (2) segment target accounts based on expected annual contract value (ACV) or lifetime value (LTV). Sound like a tall order? Here’s where advocate marketing can help:
• Ask your advocates for referrals: Instead of waiting for referrals to come to you, ask your advocates for referrals to companies that look like them. Those most likely to advocate for you are also most likely to match your ideal customer profile.
• Get warm introductions from advocates: Take those referrals one step further by asking advocates for a direct introduction to people in those best-fit accounts. Taking the proactive route will get you in the door much faster.
• Look at the connections of your target accounts: If you already have a target account in mind, scour their networks to see if you can find a face that’s friendly to your brand. Ask those advocates to connect directly with your target accounts by phone or email.
2) ABM leaders are uncovering new opportunities with current customers
Although marketers who have implemented ABM for a year or more are using it to generate new leads, the report shows that newer practitioners of ABM, including many large companies ( > $500M), are focusing their initial efforts on current customers.
For those using ABM to penetrate existing accounts, the authors recommend getting a better handle on current customer data, and going deeper to find out where new opportunities might exist. This “white space” could include new business units, buyers or influencers that can be tapped to maximize customer value.
Karen Steele, Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Marketo, says that advocates are a marketer’s secret weapon when it comes to building the value of those existing customers.
“Success in marketing no longer means just filling the funnel. The most effective marketers today invest in engagement marketing: building a virtuous circle of customer acquisition, increasing lifetime value and empowering advocates to influence prospects.”
Here’s how advocates can help you go deeper into your existing target accounts:
• Advocates can share industry and account-level insights: Since they are the ones who are out there in the trenches every day, they can give you valuable updates on what’s happening in the industry, as well as insights about the personal connections they have within your target accounts.
• Advocates provide feedback about the buying process: Allow them to help you better understand the buying process by providing feedback about their motivations to buy, decision-making process, and which messaging resonated most with them. Apply these ideas to your ABM efforts to ensure you’re focusing your resources in the most effective manner.
3) ABM delivers results, from ACV to pipeline velocity
Companies that use ABM have seen major boosts in pipeline velocity and close rates, and up to a 171% lift in average annual contract value (ACV), according to the report. While these gains are impressive, with your advocates, they could be even stronger. Consider these points:
• Advocates provide a steady stream of references throughout the sales cycle: Close deals faster by asking your advocates to act as references for target accounts. Encourage and reward them for sharing their success stories at every stage of the buying process to help push those leads through the funnel.
• With advocate-generated content, you can deliver account-specific interactions: Online reviews and testimonials are powerful forms of social proof, but when they come from companies that fit the same profile as your target accounts, the impact becomes even stronger. Using advocate-generated content is one of the easiest ways to customize experiences for your target accounts.
• Advocates add credibility to your brand with social proof: Talking to your target accounts about the benefits of your product or service won’t help you close more sales. But the same message coming from a peer who is trusted by those accounts will. Nudge buyers in your direction by helping your advocates spread positive word-of-mouth, and surround your target accounts with the social proof that drives results.
Need more evidence around the importance of social proof? The report also found that newbies conducting ABM-planning are turning to peer-sourced case studies to find out what makes the most sense in the planning stage, as well as researching industry best practices to determine which ABM-specific metrics are working for others.