THE BLOG
05/18/2016 03:06 pm ET Updated May 18, 2017

How To Improve Business Performance With Account-Based Marketing

According to Gartner's 2016 CMO spend survey, converting leads to sales ranked second to innovation as the top area where senior management's expectations of marketing responsibility increased over 2015. Per Gartner, "account-based marketing" is emerging as a hot trend.

Account-based marketing builds on a foundation of robust data collection and analysis, the use of predictive analytics to identify expansion opportunities from within an existing customer base, and the creation of segments and relevant content based on life cycle journeys. It marries these elements with automation that enables marketers to deliver advertising and personalized Web experiences targeted for specific accounts. - Gartner

According to Sangram Vajre, co-founder and CMO of Terminus, author of Account-Based Marketing For Dummies, and considered as one of the most influential digital marketers, 2016 is well on its way to earning the definition as the year of account-based marketing. He was also Head of Marketing at Pardot when it was acquired by ExactTarget, and then my company, Salesforce. Vajre has firsthand experience with the evolution of B2B marketing, especially when it comes to an account-based approach.

So why is ABM such a hot topic? There are two important stats to note. According to a 2015 survey from the research firm SiriusDecisions, more than 92 percent of companies thought that account-based marketing was "very important" or "extremely important", yet at the time, only 20 percent of companies had implemented an ABM strategy.

It is important to note here that account-based marketing is a comprehensive approach for your marketing programs and activities. To successfully take an account-based approach, you start with deemphasizing the vanity metrics such as the number of new leads created, the number of clicks from an email campaign or the number of forms completed. There's only one metric which account-based marketing teams truly care about, and that's revenue. For years, B2B marketers have had to generate tons of leads in order to qualify the right ones then pass that contact information along to sales. Advances in marketing technology (#MarTech) have made this process erroneous.

To learn more about account based marketing, I spoke with Vajre to get his insights into the world of account-based marketing. His words of advice work well for marketing in the form of a catchy analogy: marketers need to stop being one-night stands.

"B2B marketers are historically bad dates. They never greet a prospect at the metaphorical door, on their own terms, opting instead to honk the car incessantly in the driveway hoping maybe the prospect will come out. Think about it: a sales development rep or account executive is constantly calling a prospect while marketing blasts emails, and maybe immediately, tomorrow, or a year from now, that prospect will say "okay, let's talk."

Who wants to be courted like that? There's no flowers or candy, no meaningful conversations, and no foundational activities for establishing a relationship. B2B marketers are historically bad dates, which is why Vajre refers to them as one-night stands.", said Vajre.

Here are 5 signs you might be a one-night stand marketer:

1. More focus on marketing leads, instead of engagements

Many B2B marketers still think their primary activities should include as blasting emails to the entire database, attending the annual industry tradeshow, and hosting a webinar each month. These are all activities to generate leads. You can get leads anywhere. But are they the best-fit for your business?

According to Forrester Research, less than 1 percent of leads generated will ever become customers. This statistic shows us that 99 percent of B2B marketing dollars are being wasted since they will never bring in revenue. There's little-to-no ROI from teams who practice traditional lead generation.

"It's kind of like the guy at the bar who always wants to buy girls and their friends rounds of shots hoping that she will talk to him. No way, dude. She's either going think you're sketchy, or she will take that free shot then keep hanging out with her friends. Either way, you've lost money without gaining any traction," said Vajre.

2. More focus on conversion rates instead of conversations

Some marketers are tracking conversion rates as a success metric. Most B2B marketing professionals have adopted this popular KPI. You love driving people to your website so you can cheer when a form is completed. Yeah! Score! A conversion! Then what happens?

"You try to engage this person with a follow-up phone call, drop them into a drip campaign or add them to a nurturing email. Do you ever hear from them again? If not, that sounds a lot like a one-night stand," said Vajre.

3. More focus on registration numbers instead of who is registering

Like flowers and candy, webinars are a great way to start off a date. Your prospect gets to hear from thought leaders about the problems in your industry and how your business is a solution. Your marketing team plans regular webinars and invites any-and-everybody to register and attend.

"Big registration numbers are exciting, but what does this actually do for revenue? That's what sales and your executive team care about. Sure, you got the prospect's attention with your webinar, but what happens next to turn that prospect into an opportunity is what truly matters.

When I was Head of Marketing at Pardot (now Salesforce), I recall how we saw 33% higher win-rate when someone attended a product/value prop webinar after the opportunity was created. Now that's the kind information that would shape your marketing programs," said Vajre.

4. No alignment of content to buying stages or target personas

You call them, email them, and try to have a conversation, but no response. When was the last time a CEO or executive of a large enterprise, or even fast-growing company, downloaded an ebook? The chances are never. Vajre recommends that marketers deliver content that is aligned to the buyer's stage and the persona and channel. Great pieces of content include:

  • Ebooks (for practitioners)
  • Webinars (for learners)
  • Infographics (for influencers)
  • Blog posts (for decision makers)
  • SlideShare (for thought leaders)

Account-based marketing means you send prospects something they care about.

5. Heavy dependence on generic email campaigns

"If you want to love and engage your prospects on their terms, then don't shove the same content on every channel to everyone. That's not marketing. It's called blasting! I got most of you on this one, right?! ," said Vajre.

Sending large scale emails is a true asset of a marketing automation platform. Having the ability to email thousands of people at once is a must have capability for marketers, but to do this right, you must invest in developing a customer journey based on audience segmentation by personas, so that you can personalize each email. To do this at scale, you need investment in sophisticated marketing automation technologies. "Your email has to be a love letter to the prospect so they want to see where this relationship might go with your company," said Vajre

"As the B2B marketing industry continues to evolve, I believe we must get hyper-focused on finding the best-fit prospects who will make a great fit for your business. To continue with our relationship analogy, you shouldn't bring thousands of frogs to your door, "kissing" each one with a form completion. Focus on defining what your perfect partner's qualities would be. That's the beauty of account-based marketing. Because you're starting your marketing efforts by creating an ideal customer profile (ICP) and identifying your best-fit customers and prospects," said Vajre.

This post was co-authored by Sangram Vajre (Twitter: @sangramvajre), co-founder and CMO of @Terminus