5 things you need to know about account-based marketing

A group of a sales and marketing professionals breakdown the concept of account-based marketing and provide real-world insight and examples of why your organization needs to pay attention to ABM.

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Influitive runs ABM initiatives around major events, including its Dreamforce "Most Wanted" campaign, in which it targeted top prospects at the 2015 annual Salesforce conference. The company created a "most wanted" list of its top 125 prospects and placed a $100 bounty on each one, according to Williams. Anyone who delivered a top marketing prospect to the Influitive booth received $50, and so did the prospect. Influitive publicized its campaign on its website, on social media, and in email marketing campaigns, with notable results, including 632 social media mentions, 18 product reviews on sites such as G2 Crowd, and 31 high quality customer referrals, Williams says.

What are account-based marketing's biggest challenges?

Sales and marketing departments don't always see eye-to-eye, but for ABM to work, it's essential that they do. Otherwise, ABM can be a "waste of time," according to Miller.

"Marketing and sales need to align on what are the goals, which people in which accounts should be targeted, what are the criteria to use in targeting those accounts, and where the ABM program is going," Elkin says.

Organizations may also need to reconsider how their marketing professionals are compensated, Miller says. For example, some companies compensate their marketing team members based on metrics such as how many new prospect names they add to the company database, and how many people respond to marketing campaigns. With account-based strategies, however, those metrics aren't particularly relevant. "It doesn't matter how many people attended a webinar," Miller says. "How many people attending a webinar were from accounts you care about? What is the quality and depth of the relationship with those accounts? Do we know who the decision makers are at those accounts? Are those decision makers engaging with us? Is that engagement deepening?"

The account-based approach requires a "different way of thinking about success," and thus, a different way to compensate team members, Miller says, which can cause a "big change" at some companies.

Reliable data, which isn't always easy to obtain, is critical to the success of any ABM program, according to Steve Pogorzelski, CEO of Avention, developer of the OneSource ABM platform. "Having a single source of truth for your customer data is a critical element of ABM, and it helps make sure sales and marketing are aligned," Pogorzelski.

What role should IT play in account-based marketing?

Many marketing automation tools are available in the cloud today, and marketers often feel like they know what they need better than IT, so they may go ahead and sign up for tools on their own, says Elkin. "But partnering with IT will help ensure that the data is being collected in the right ways and that organization-wide priorities are reflected in any tech purchase."

"With the rise of SaaS technology and the cloud, marketing teams like ours shouldn't have to wait for IT to approve and implement the technologies we use to engage with our audience or customers," says Williams. "The marketing world is moving way too fast, and marketers who wait for their IT teams to identify, select and implement all of their technologies for them risk being left behind."

Modern marketing teams often hire their own technical talent to make the most of the plethora of complex and powerful technology options available to them, such as marketing technologists, marketing operations specialists and data specialists, according to Williams. "Marketing is no longer just arts and crafts," he says. "There's an art and a science to it, and your scientists can't be your IT team."

Account-based marketing is possible "with little to zero involvement from IT," Vajre says. "But IT can help make sure that when someone is using these tools, it's on a secure platform, and it's tracking all the things in the right way." IT may need to help integrate marketing automation tools that facilitate ABM with other platforms, such as Salesforce, Vajre says. "But if the platform vendors' APIs are good enough, there's not much heavy lifting to be done."

The CIO also "tends to be the owner of data at a company, and so they need to take some responsibility to ensure there is 'one single source of truth' for sales and marketing, that it is enriched, and that it has a peak set of attributes that provides the ability to import additional data sources to strengthen that single source of truth," says Pogorzelski.

Ultimately, if a company can't trust its data, it can't build ABM at scale, and IT can play an important role in ensuring that sales and marketing can in fact rely on their data, according to Pogorzelski.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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