Jane Doe signs in to Paypal with her Google account and connects PayPal to her favorite retail apps. The apps share data with each other to make the process of signing in easier, and maybe qualify her for some discounts.

The next day, Jane is working on research for a totally unrelated article, but the ads alongside her search results happen to be for the new moisturizer she left in her online cart.

The connection of all of these apps on all of her devices makes it easier than ever, and statistically more likely, for Jane to make more purchases. Using that data the companies can generate better recommendations, and ultimately improve sales and marketing while also helping generate better predictions based on actual data in real time.

But at what point is Jane’s privacy being invaded? Is her data, so distributed among different apps and services, really secure?

These are some of the largest concerns that have been brought to the forefront of the marketing world. Experts insist that going forward marketing analytics must join forces with data security in order to reach its fullest potential without a major disaster.

The Walls Have Eyes

It’s a common suspicion that our devices, from smartphones to our pal Alexa, are listening in on our everyday lives. And that suspicion isn’t totally unfounded. Earl Perkins, an analyst at Gartner, explains that “as connected devices proliferate, it’s similar to having multiple ‘video cameras’ at different angles of a person’s life taking shots during the same time frame.” Yikes.

This phenomenon of cross-referencing anonymous data with more anonymous data to identify the source of the data is referred to as “de-anonymization.” It requires abundant data that’s somewhat consistent over a period of time, but that’s not hard to come by when we have such copious data at the tips of our fingers.

This is just the beginning of cyber-security concerns in the 21st century, where every device, person, and company seem to be more interconnected than ever before. And so is the information that they collect and share. How are we using it?

How it feels when surfing the internet.

Marketing and Data, a Dangerous Duo

Marketers and Data Analysts agree that collecting and studying customer data is an effective way to increase returns. Some studies even show that doing so can result in “productivity and profit gains that are 5 to 6 percent higher than those of their competition.”

Unfortunately, many marketing firms mine for data enthusiastically unaware of the potential consequences, especially in terms of data security.

Professors Kelly D. Martin, Abhishek Borah and Robert W. Palmatier noticed this gap in awareness and conducted a study about how data vulnerability affects marketing firms.

In their study, the researchers identify “four distinct effects” of data vulnerability on marketing, each with negative effects of varying intensities. Experimental scenarios were used to evaluate each category’s average vulnerability on a scale of one to seven.

The first, seemingly harmless, category is Data Access Vulnerability, This is the basic level of data vulnerability that is inherent in practices like providing personal data to retailers. At this level, the firm or business has access to one’s personal data, and will most likely utilize it for marketing purposes. Subjects were presented with the all-too-familliar scenario that “we are writing to inform you that our privacy policy has changed.” The vulnerability mean was 3.26.

The next category is Data Breach Vulnerability, which is when the company with personal data suffers from a breach. The scenario was of course the harrowing notification that “your customer profile was one of those compromised.” This category had the highest vulnerability rating at 5.57.

There was also Data Spillover Vulnerability, which is when a rival company suffers a data breach, and the company with your data is on high alert. They may send some kind of notification to let you know your data is safe with them, though they are on the lookout. The vulnerability rating here was a 3.94.

The last category was Data Manifest Vulnerability, where “a data breach allows customer data to be misused, such as identity theft.” So, not only was your customer profile compromised, but there may be fraudulent charges on your account. The vulnerability mean in this case was 5.24.

Suffering the Consequences

While it may seem inconsequential that none of these averaged the top vulnerability of 7, the professors contend that data vulnerability at any level carries consequences on market values, specifically because of customer loyalty and perception.

They demonstrate the various levels of trust that are potentially violated in each case of vulnerability, and illustrate how this can result in not just negative word of mouth, but also losing customers.

As marketers collect more and more data, there are greater chances of users becoming de-anonymized and of third parties misusing personal data whether the bad actors gained it through working with the marketing company or through a data breach.

Marketers need not forget that personal data is always to some extent vulnerable, and should be protected at all costs. As marketing gains more data than ever, the need for addressing security concerns is at an all-time high.

The account-based approach to marketing and sales is cross-disciplinary, yet concentrated, optimizing the entire sales process. So what’s the buzz all about? Is ABM just a trend, or is it really changing the way that we sell for the better?

Eric Wittlake, senior marketing analyst at TOPO, notes that early adopters are now reaping the benefits of ABM, and those results are what’s driving the strategy’s surge in popularity. Early adopters found that ABM “successfully addresses major business challenges,” and now everyone wants in on what it has to offer.

Defined Improvements to ROI

Here is where the statistics speak for themselves. In a study for Altera group, 97% said that ABM resulted in a higher ROI than other investment strategies. The 2018 ABM Benchmark Study showed that 77% of B2B marketers say ABM has helped drive success with target accounts, and 45% have seen at least double the ROI.

A more recent study from TOPO demonstrated that ABM maintains its reputation of improving ROI along with other related metrics, including retention, win rate, and lifetime value. As revenue attribution continues to be cited as a primary concern for B2B marketers, it only makes sense that ABM would be of interest.  

VP of Marketing at Bizible, Dave Rigotti, explains that an effective ABM strategy uses account-based attribution to keep up with multi-touch impacts that ABM is designed to make. The more thorough attribution means that “everything from the first touch to the last touch contributes to [revenue] generation.”

Tidying Up Your Focus

ABM, right down to revenue generation, is a “full-funnel effort,” thus optimizing the sales process and making for a much more efficient pipeline. 65% of respondents in TOPO’s ABM study reported an improvement in their sales pipeline.

This is most likely due to the reality that ABM must be carefully orchestrated. It’s certainly not a “catch-all” type of strategy. It definitely conserves resources by simply focusing on key accounts, but this means that campaigns must be customized to those accounts. When this is done well, the pipeline is incredibly smooth because things have been well-orchestrated throughout the process.

When you’ve prepared for something, it’s much easier to accomplish. However, when there is a lot to accomplish, our attention is divided. ABM allows marketing and sales to focus together on fewer targets. Consequently, this makes preparing and orchestrating the strategy much more efficient and increases the likelihood of success.

Aligns Sales and Marketing

The focused, high-effort nature of ABM also makes it no surprise that it has been shown to better align sales and marketing. ABM is a unified effort that requires the entire team to be on-board. ABM depends on cross-functional alignment, which when executed well, delivers remarkable results.

The State of Pipeline Marketing showed that marketers using ABM are 50% more likely to report alignment with their sales team. And TOPO’s study indicated that 90% of marketers reported improvement in their alignment between sales and monitoring.

Clear Progress Tracking

It’s easy to drown in seas of metrics. ABM alleviates some of that overwhelming anxiety by only allowing you to work with a few funnels at once. Focusing on target accounts naturally results in a smaller data set for analyzing and measuring progress. This makes it faster than ever to analyze the efficiency of your strategy, and adjust it accordingly.

If a strategy isn’t working, you’ll be able to catch the problem faster and implement a new strategy. Instead of having to rely on year-long campaigns, you can focus on matching your sales cycle. Within one cycle, you’ll have a better idea of how you’re doing.

Benefits to the Max

The success of ABM is causing more marketers and sales reps to join forces to orchestrate this powerful strategy that gives tangible results. As ABM catches on, SVP of ITSMA Rob Leavitt states that the question is shifting from why companies should use ABM, to how to get the most out of ABM. It’s up to business leaders and their sales and marketing teams to “collaborate to ensure maximum benefits from this strategic discipline.”

Not just benefits, but benefits to the max.

Have you ever wondered why it’s called a sales pitch? It’s always seemed like a sloppy term to me. “Pitching” makes it sound like we’re just throwing something out there in hopes prospects will catch it. In the most basic terms, we may be tossing out ideas or features or solutions, but ultimately describing it as pitching really doesn’t do justice to the art form of the task.

We’re surrounded by a culture that’s constantly trying to sell us things, so much that many have become cynical and guarded against the usual sales taglines and tricks. But one look at pop culture will tell you there’s something we consistently invest in: good stories. That’s why it’s time to get out of the business of pitching features, and into the practice of selling stories.

The Power of Narrative

Stories were around before we ever had anything to sell. Before we ever published anything, before newspapers and pamphlets began to circulate, before humans even decided to write everything down, stories were passed from one generation to the next. In fact, many of the most powerful narratives in our lives started as oral traditions.

Religious texts are a significant example, but we also see this power of narrative exemplified in the stories we tell each other every day. The simplest of conversations usually begin with a story. What did you do this weekend? How was your day? Stories not only connect us with our ancestors, but they also give us the opportunity to connect with one another.

The reality is that whether we’re just getting to know someone or catching up with an old friend, we tend to communicate in stories. So it’s only natural for effective sales conversations to have narrative characteristics.

Storytelling as a Skill

The ability to capture someone’s attention with a story isn’t just helpful in social situations or filmmaking. Storytelling is a vital skill, even in the corporate world. That said, telling stories doesn’t come easily to everyone. We all know a handful of people who are natural storytellers, that can capture the listener’s attention whether it’s across a conference table or a dinner table.

But for the majority of people, telling an effective narrative takes practice. Fortunately, the natural storytellers are often willing to share their skills, and their stories, with those still getting the hang of things.

The Seller’s Story

So, we’re all captivated by a good story, and storytelling is a skill many of us develop over time. What does that have to do with sales?

In a sales setting, there tend to be two primary components to the larger narrative: the seller’s story, and the buyer’s story. And each is important to understand and navigate as the seller and buyer narratives begin to interact with one another.

The question for the salesperson as they develop their story is “What is the narrative I’m inviting the customer into?” It’s setting the stage for a story that has already partially taken place, a journey that the seller is invited to partake in.

Instead of starting with the problem at hand, as you might in a traditional pitch, the seller’s narrative begins with establishing the setting. You’re not making any assumptions about what the customer needs or how you can solve their problem. Instead, you’re simply getting their attention by describing the current state of things, and how those things are beginning to shift and change.

From there, you have to demonstrate the stakes of the current situation or oncoming change. What will happen if, in the words of singer-songwriter Kris Allen, “we keep doing nothing?”

Strategic storyteller Andy Raskin describes this as showing “there will be winners and losers.” On the surface, this may seem overly dramatic, but all that you’re really doing is creating a loss-aversion, a framework in which the buyer is challenged to keep up with the pace of the current world.

The one ring to rule them all has fallen into the wrong hands for too long. He who shall not be named is intensifying his alliance of dark forces. Things have come to a boiling point and you need the buyer to help you destroy the ring, defeat the dementors, and bring relative peace and success. The only difference is that in your case, the bad guys aren’t actual people, but rather conditions.

The Buyer’s Journey

For decades, salespeople have used the paradigm of the buyer’s journey. However, the commonly used model of the buyer’s journey begins with a problem–which we’ve already established isn’t the best way to start this story. So, once you’ve set the stage and the stakes the buyer can really step into the story with you, instead of you being on a quest to solve their problems. This makes the narrative a cooperative effort, an actually engaging story rather than a lecture.

You’ve invited the prospect onto the journey, and this means setting a destination. Where are you going? What is the “promised land” that you’re hoping to reach, the “new future state” for the victors of this adventure?

Note that the destination is not your product. The product is a tool that you have to offer to the buyer to help them reach their destination. You are the Yoda, the Hagrid, the Gandalf of the situation. The buyer needs you to make it where they need to go.

Notice that somewhere along the way, the story became the buyer’s instead of yours. It is their mission if they choose to accept it. It belongs to both of you, if and when the buyer chooses to accept your aid. And that’s a saga that is crafted, not pitched.

Different methods require different measures. When cooking, for example, we use different tools for measuring out dry ingredients and wet ingredients, because the type of tool we use will affect the outcome of our work. And the outcome in the kitchen often changes how we mix and measure the next time around.

Sales is also like a complex recipe. One of those that looks like it’s way out of your league upon reading it, but then you realize it comes easier in practice. For example, I used to think southern-style biscuits were one of those recipes only Cracker Barrel and grandparents could make until I tried it myself. And while those biscuits weren’t of Cracker Barrel caliber, they still turned out pretty tasty.

Account Based Marketing and Sales metrics can give off a similarly overwhelming vibe. But when it comes down to it, the measurements that matter to you depend on your method, and the way that you proceed methodically should be informed by those measurements.

Measuring account-based sales versus basic lead-based sales is like measuring dry and wet ingredients. You can try to use the usual MQLs and SQLs to predict outcomes, but the results will seem a little bit off. Account-based selling, being an entirely different approach to marketing and sales, requires different kinds of metrics to measure progress.


ABM Metrics

Account-Based Marketing essentially turns the usual marketing funnel on its head. So, instead of trying to reach the broadest lead base possible, marketing is already focused on specific high-value accounts and their industries. Thus, measuring leads does not necessarily reflect success. For example, with account-based strategy supported by predictive analytics, Dell “reduced leads sent to sales by a factor of two,” but still doubled their revenue. Such is the power of ABM done well.

There are different metrics that can be used to show progress at each level of the ABM funnel. These measurements are largely concerned with engagement, influence, and finally, conversion and win rates.

It’s true that simply paying attention to numbers can be misleading, and that’s actually part of why the win rate is still significant here. The win rate, next to your ROI, is the best indicator of whether your account-based strategy is working, and what kind of changes you may need to make.

Win Rates 101

Calculating the win rate itself is actually the easy part. The only numbers that you need are the total accounts closed, how many of those were won, and how many were lost. Jordan Con, marketer at Bizible, provides this simple equation: Closed-Won / (Closed-Won + Closed-Lost) = Win Rate

However, the win rate itself is just the beginning. It’s how you respond to your win rates that determines their increase or decrease the next time around. By adjusting your methods, you can begin to understand what affects your win rate and even start to predict how it may shift.


Getting to Know Your Win Rate

Once you’ve become acquainted with your account win rate, you can begin to notice the patterns within it. Perhaps there are some seasons of the year that your win rate is higher than others, or a particular campaign seems to hit the sweet spot as it engages more high-value accounts throughout the sales process.

Predicting your win rate is similar to a science experiment. You formulate a hypothesis of sorts, starting with an observation from your win rate trends. Say, for example, that your win rate for October was higher than average. What did you do that month that may have resulted in better engagement with your marketing material? What market forces outside of your control might have boosted your numbers? Was there just a huge event like Dreamforce?

When it comes down to it, ABM is more concerned with quality than quantity. This means that while increasing your pipeline is beneficial, you can actually fluctuate your win rate without necessarily increasing your pipeline or widening your marketing funnel.


Methods and Materials

When you’ve studied your win rate and how it changes over time, then you can really experiment with it a bit, even predicting how it may change. Back to that higher October win rate. Look at your engagement methods and materials for that month, and compare it to those closed opportunities.

How many of the closed opportunities were engaged by email? Influenced by social media? Relegated to a particular team or rep? Find those common factors, just as you would when segmenting out accounts.

Choose a factor that could use improvement and pair it with one that seems to be working well. Combine it into a predictive statement, and ta-da! You have a hypothesis.

Using the October example, it could be something like: 4 out of our 5 closed-won accounts that month engaged via social media. If social media is a primary means of stakeholder engagement, then social media engagement with stakeholders will increase win rates for the month of November.

Using previous data, you can even identify social media patterns among stakeholders over previous months. Is this a recurring pattern? What methods within social media have resulted in greater influence and engagement?

These are your instruments in the great experiment of predicting your win rate. Say that social media engagement in the past has increased the number of closed-won accounts by one or two. You can then easily predict how November’s win rate may shift depending on how you adjust social media engagement.

Or, maybe that engagement increases the number of accounts that you interact with overall. In that case, the win rate could shift either way depending on whether those new accounts are lost or won.


The Power of Predictive Analytics

You don’t need beakers, bunsen burners, or test tubes to harness the power of predictive data science. However, you should make sure that you’re measuring the right variables to begin with, depending on the strategy that you use. Shifting to account-based marketing and selling means shifting the metrics you use and the perspective that you view them from.

Win rate becomes a helpful lab rat along the way to predicting account-based progress. The numbers themselves though, aren’t what’s most important. You have to be willing to use your data to your advantage to cook up the win rate you’re looking for.

Sales is an epic journey. You make your way past a series of gatekeepers and challenges in order to reach the Great Decision Maker to strike up a deal. This journey can be exhausting, and by the time you get to the supposedly all-powerful decision maker, your work still isn’t done. In fact, a recent CEB study revealed that an average of 5.4 people have to sign off on every purchase.

It’s a classic, familiar quest: to please one person, you have to talk to another person, and they lead you to someone else, and so on and so forth. Eventually, you hopefully accomplish what you originally set out to do.

Now that there are more decision makers than ever before, it’s all imperative that we find ways to reach those people efficiently rather than dancing with scarecrows, stopping by poppy fields, and discovering the truth inside of us all along.

Alongside the rise of entire networks of decision-makers are the prominence of Account Based Marketing and selling strategies. ABM strategy makes it possible to cut back on marketing waste and reach those most significant accounts quickly. Each high-value account is treated to a personalized marketing strategy, driven by an ideal customer profile. ABM has proven to be highly effective when it is done well, and that means we can’t forget about the humans behind the accounts–the men and women behind the curtain if you will.

The Persons Behind the Persona

The danger of developing and emphasizing those ICPs and Key Accounts is that we begin to view them like that: just accounts. Over time, they become corporate objects rather than dynamic organizations. We forget that companies are made up of living, breathing humans and that a handful of those humans will be the ones to grant us influence over the account that we’re holding so dear.

Mark Ogne, CEO and Founder of the ABM consortium, predicts that ABM will continue to shift from focusing on “accounts to people at accounts.” And this shift is necessary in order to reach decision-makers efficiently. Ogne explains that “the stark reality is that a target account has never bought anything.” It’s the people behind those accounts that “influence and make purchase decisions every day.”

This may seem obvious, but Ogne laments that many account-based marketers qualify and disqualify accounts without factoring in the influence of the persons behind those accounts.

Reaching Behind the Curtain

How far our reach extends actually depends largely on the process prior to personalizing any content. Engaging decision makers in the ABM process begins when you’re identifying key accounts and establishing buyer personas.

Despite the name, defining ABM targets doesn’t stop at identifying high-value accounts. Once you’ve identified high-value accounts, you should devote some time to really segmenting them. Sort them according to your data: firmographic, technographic, all that you have access to. Identify their similarities and their differences and compare them to your ICP.

That seems easy enough, but the step that often gets left out is mapping individuals to accounts. This is where you’re making connections between those target accounts and the individual people who will have power in the purchasing decision.

These stakeholders are the decision-makers you’re trying to reach, and there’s typically more than one. CEB reported that “the likelihood of a purchase drops sharply as the number of decision makers increases.” This is because when there are multiple stakeholders, all who may have veto power over purchasing, sales and marketing teams not only have to persuade each stakeholder, but also bring each one to a consensus. The larger the group, the more difficult the consensus. If not all stakeholders are persuaded, then they’re likely to just not buy at all.

CEB Executives outline this principle to the Harvard Business Review, where they explain that connecting individual stakeholders to the supplier is not enough. The best way to encourage customer consensus is “to more effectively connect customer stakeholders to one another.”

Tools to Start the Journey

How do you make these connections between stakeholders? Well, it’s difficult to know whether a company’s stakeholders are in consensus to begin with. You may have some idea from previous research, but the reality is that anything from personal beef to the state of the economy can affect how those stakeholders are already interacting before you even step on the scene.

The wisest strategy is to identify the key stakeholders, and then proceed to identify the web of relationships between them, the respective channels you may have to travel to, and the interests of each individual.

But don’t just focus on the differences between stakeholders. Since ABM is a highly personalized strategy, you may run the risk of over-personalizing content later on. What you’re trying to do is help the stakeholders understand their common ground. This common ground is based on the account persona overall, like company values, goals, and needs. Make sure each person knows the same big picture objective that your product addresses and why it’s important for their organization as a whole.

It may sound like a lengthy process, but identifying respective stakeholders and finding common motivations doesn’t have to be a chore. Put down the red string and step away from the corkboard. You have more technology in your service than ever before!

It’s easy enough to find basic information on a company’s website or social pages like LinkedIn. The more challenging part proves to be reaching those decision-makers behind the company principles. One tool that can help you find the contact information you need quickly and easily is SalesIntel’s new Google Chrome extension.

With the SalesIntel extension, you only need to go to a company website or LinkedIn page and select the extension to see the associated contacts provided by SalesIntel. The use of this extension is unlimited and free, and sure beats the endless games of guessing emails, social messages, and phone transferring we often play just to reach a decision maker.

Make Some Connections, Reach Some Consensus

The journey to stakeholder consensus begins with traveling to the stakeholders. Make sure that you’re taking the fastest route, and know that you’ll be more than likely meet even more decision-makers along the way. Get these decision makers on the same page so that you can continue on to consensus, and don’t be afraid to use the data and tools available to you to make that happen.

An account based marketing (ABM) approach allows marketing and sales to combine their efforts to target the highest-value accounts and create customized content.

Some devoted segmenting and analysis make it easy to identify high-value accounts, and different types of data allow for the development of Ideal Customer Profiles. But what does it mean to have high-value marketing content that reaches out well while still being as personalized as ABM requires?

(Re)Defining High-Value

Typical marketing content seeks to attract the most prospects as possible over a certain amount of time. However, a 2014 study revealed that 50% of marketing leads aren’t actually followed up by sales. Sirius Decisions and DemandBase found that using such a wide content funnel results in incredible “marketing waste.”

Essentially, striving to reach the most possible people with the most material in the shortest amount of time ironically results in the waste of money, material, and time. That’s certainly not high-value. High-value content is relevant to your specific, ideal targets. ABM strategy allows you to identify those targets and cater your content to them. It’s a more ergonomic use of resources.

High-value should also be defined in terms of value to the prospect, not just what it saves your company. Information Technology Marketing Association (ITSMA) research reveals that 75% of executives will read unsolicited marketing materials if they happen to be relevant to their business. Logically, this just makes sense, like how I’ll keep the coupons that show up in my mailbox if they’re for items I’d actually buy.

One way that we exercise this concept every day is with our pets. My dog Moose will pay attention if you offer him carrots for his trouble. But if I really want to persuade him, the best incentive is some plain chicken. Real meat is a high-value treat for most dogs, yet what is high-value to one dog may not tempt another dog. Some pups go wild for cheese or even canned peas. The value of the treat, by and large, can actually depend on the dog.

High-value doesn’t mean expensive, and it doesn’t even mean farthest reaching. In an ABM strategy, high-value means specially customized content relevant to that account. Once we’ve reached this understanding of high-value, developing well-suited content becomes a natural part of the process.

Know Thy Accounts

Knowing your accounts and their stakeholders well is essential for thoroughly personalized content. If you’re implementing ABM, before generating content you should have already developed your Ideal Customer Profile The data from that should be your starting point.

While the ICP helps you identify and segment your most valuable accounts, and target new ones, you will need more specific information on those accounts to create the best-personalized content. This means keeping an eye on your regular interactions with target accounts, as well as their annual reports and even social media, to identify their particular interests and pain points.

Survey Current Content

Fortunately, customizing ABM content doesn’t mean that you have to start from scratch. After all, with limited resources, it’s not possible to generate entirely new content for each individual client.

Once you know your accounts’ pain-points and habits, you can survey the content that you already use for the most relevant pieces. This phase of content creation is often known as a content audit. Sort through your content and consider its place on the customization spectrum, anywhere from “100% personalized” to “general content but still relevant.”

The chances are that when you audit your current marketing content, you’ll find you already have what you need to construct a personalized approach right before your eyes.

Fill In the Gaps

Once you’ve determined where your relevant content lies on the customization spectrum, you can fill in the gaps to create a more thorough and targeted strategy. Even broad content–as long as it is still of high-value relevance–can be catered to those selected accounts.

Jon Miller, CEO of Engagio, encourages that “you can turn a relevant but broad piece of content into a super-relevant piece with some simple tweaks.” This can be as simple as adding a more targeted subtitle, or as complex as threading in analogies and references relevant to the account’s industry.

The goal is to fill in the gaps of content that you already have so that you’re avoiding any excessive marketing waste and saving your team time and money while still providing quality content.

A few tweaks to the headline and key paragraphs can take a piece of content from a general audience to being for a specific industry.

You Don’t Have to Reach Far for High-Value

High-value accounts can initially seem intimidating, as can the process of creating content that will truly be high-value to them. The good news is that incredibly customized content for these accounts is not out of your reach. In fact, you probably have basic materials right in front of you. Take stock of your resources, and with the help of your ICP, construct your content wisely.

The ABM Consortium recently released their predictions for the growth of ABM in 2019. The consortium, which is devoted to research and growth of Account Based Marketing and Selling strategies, took part in DemandGen’s 2019 report.

ABM Consortium Founder Mark Ogne admits that the popularity of account based growth has been a “roller coaster,” but that recent trends indicate that ABM is increasingly relevant as “the concept of defined audiences will remain and become pervasive across B2B marketing.”

In other words, even though ABM has been around for a while, the time has come for ABM to develop and triumph in 2019. The market conditions are primed for the highly-personalized and cohesive customer experience that ABM provides, and advances in technology have made adopting ABM easier than ever so that it will continue to gain momentum in 2019. It may very well pick up so much speed that any B2B Sales Practitioner won’t be able to keep up without it.

Market Conditions

Ogne explains that ABM provides vendor consolidation that will solve the plight of marketers “as their vendor selection becomes unstable over the next few years.”

He writes that this instability is the “natural response” to the rise of “venture-funded experiments” that are highly demanding in terms of generating content quickly at a reasonable price. These conditions have put marketers in a bind as “data and customer experiences are siloed, tech stacks bloated, and results impossible to measure.”

When ABM strategy is adopted, marketing and sales experts work together, consolidating not just vendors, but their data, technology, and resources. Thus, in such a market, ABM is not only convenient but necessary for marketers in 2019.

Highly Personalized Experience

The buyer in the 21st century is hyper-aware and expects a highly personalized buying experience. CEO of Parchment, Inc. Jimmy Montchal notes that “more and more the focus of marketing is on the experience — not just that of a prospect, but also the complete customer experience.” Parchment, Inc. recently adopted an ABM strategy with customer experience at the forefront of their vision.

ABM caters to the 21st-century buyer by delivering highly focused and relevant content. Then, in the words of TimeTrade CMO Lauren Mead, ABM allows you to identify the right targets and “offers to reach those individuals in real time.”

It’s also projected that as ABM grows, it will focus not only on accounts but the individuals behind the accounts. The drift away from measuring surface-level interactions has “been a huge driver in ABM-caused sales.”

Technology & Intelligence

Technological advancements and help from AI make 2019 the opportune time to adopt ABM. A variety of software is becoming available that provides the interconnectivity and integration that ABM requires. Lauren Mead refers to this as “personalization at scale with tech and intelligence,” central to her own company’s implementation of ABM.

Meanwhile, technology is also making it more convenient to gather and analyze the wide variety of data a well-developed ABM approach requires, like intent data, firmographics, demographics, and engagement information. Ease of access to growing pools of data will provide the tools necessary to create the foundation of ABM–the ideal customer profile.

Gaining Momentum

Ultimately, ABM is proving to be just plain effective. For example, in 2018 Forrester saw B2B marketers “enjoy significant results” from adopting ABM, so much so that they have allocated their resources to optimize their ABM efforts.

TOPO Analysts Craig Rosenberg and Eric Wittlake even go as far as to say that ABM will soon become synonymous with B2B marketing, explaining that marketing needs and trends are aligned with all that ABM has to offer.

ABM is moving fast, so don’t let it get away from you. Account-based strategies are bound to become necessary in 2019 as marketing and sales experts combine their efforts and customers continue to demand an increasingly personalized buyer experience. The availability of a variety of technology makes the time ripe for the adoption of ABM, the strategy that is predicted to soon encompass B2B marketing entirely.

Who is your ideal customer?

No, really, think about it. We often quickly abandon our criteria for ideal clients at any prospect of a sale, but the truth is that a targeted approach often proves to be more effective. Account-based marketing, for example, continues to trend in the new year. And as a highly-focused approach, the Account-Based Marketing method, or ABM, relies heavily on your Ideal Customer Profile, or ICP.

If you’re adopting ABM, then you hopefully already know who your biggest client targets are. But, that information alone is not enough. The hyper-personalized nature of ABM demands an extremely thorough understanding of your ideal customer. Enter the ICP, your constant companion and reference for the ABM process.

What is an Ideal Customer Profile Really?

Tom Searce, who is Senior Analyst for Demand Generation at TOPO, describes the ICP as a “critical, strategic document” that serves as a roadmap to “identify the accounts most likely to become high-value customers.” These high-value customers then become the focus of your ABM strategy.

The ICP, according to Searce, is “critical to sales-marketing success,” especially in an account-based system where sales and marketing work closely with one another. A great ICP paves the way for “compelling business results,” like faster sales cycles, higher conversion rates, and greater annual and lifetime contract values.

Most importantly, an ICP is a plan for action, not just a series of brainstorming sessions or an elaborate thought exercise. Upon completion, Searce insists that it should be “shared across the entire organization and embedded in sales and marketing programs.” In fact, it shouldn’t just be embedded, it’s part of the framework for successful sales and marketing programs, particularly those that choose account-based strategies.

How to Build Your ICP

Each company’s ICP is unique, so it’s difficult to imitate anyone else’s framework. However, the intentional process of building the ICP always requires the same essential elements:

Cross-Departmental Input

When it comes to ABM, departments should already be working side-by-side. It’s important to make sure that input for your ICP comes from a variety of sources. The ICP according to a salesperson may look different than one according to a marketer or an accountant.

Make sure to collaborate so that you get the basis of your ICP and a better idea of the data that composes it.

Collecting ICP Data

Just like you’ll need all kinds of input regarding the ICP, you’ll also need a few different kinds of data. Basic firmographic data is an obvious choice, such as identifying a client’s revenue, number of employees, or market share. However, the ICP goes deeper than just those surface characteristics.

You should also consider internal data, drawing from past experience and even looking up some closed-won accounts on the CRM. What do those highest value accounts have in common? What accounts are noticeably good candidates for growth according to their information and your interactions with them?

There’s also some more extensive research to be done about what Hubspot’s Aja Frost refers to as “Technographics.” What kinds of solutions and tools are clients already using? Could your product complement their current process? Are they looking to transition from one product to another? (SalesIntel can help both with researching your ideal customer and finding similar companies since we offer full firmographic and technographic data on all our company profiles.)

Then, the ICP also pays attention to behavioral data. What are common behaviors among your customers? What are the “trigger events” that commonly lead high-value accounts to you?

Segmenting Categories

Once you’ve collected all of that juicy, useful data, you can sort it into categories. Then you can choose the targets that are most aligned with your current sales strategy. When using ABM, it’s common to segment by high vs. low value, though depending on the volume of your data, there may be more categories.

Overall, remember that the focus of ABM is a more precise vision of the ideal customer, so while the variety of input and types of data is absolutely necessary, don’t let yourself drown in it. If you get too busy categorizing, you’ll lose sight of the action aspect of your ICP

And an ICP is Born!

Yes, sorting through all of that customer data may seem like quite the ordeal, but it’s entirely worth it for the results that highly specialized, account-based selling can provide. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the prospect of building your ICP. Using a variety of resources and departments, come together to nurture your ICP, bring it to life, and put it into action

Account-based marketing was an increasingly popular inquiry throughout 2018. And now, according to Google Trends, within these first few weeks of the year, interest levels in the topic are already close to reaching levels that were only peak points of the previous year.

Account-based marketing, or ABM, has taken the business world by storm. While it used to be the preference of a select few, with sporadic interest shown by the majority, ABM is quite possibly a contender for one of the hottest sales trends in 2019.

What is ABM?

ABM, also referred to as an enterprise sales process, is less about lead-hunting and all about focusing on specific, valuable accounts. When it’s done well, Forbes notes that the enterprise method brings marketing and sales elements together to “become customer-centric in a way that creates better engagement and results.”

An account-based strategy alleviates some of the stress and pressure of accruing and following all possible leads, no matter what. Instead, you target only the most relevant prospects, and then treat those target accounts like their own markets.

This results in a high-engagement, multi-touch process that requires every team to be interconnected and on-board. However, when implemented well, ABM has the potential to revolutionize the way that you sell and streamline the process.

That said, AMB’s highly-specific nature means that it may not be perfect for every business. High-contact, multi-touch marketing requires a redistribution of time and resources. How do you know if an ABM approach is the resolution for your company this year?

Ask Yourself These Questions to See if ABM is for You

What is our usual customer base?

Aja Frost of Hubspot explains that ABM requires the “necessary manpower and resources” to devote to each account. This means that the enterprise method is better suited for B2B sales where the deal size is at least mid-market.

If you find yourself trying to devote more time and energy to those high-value accounts, then ABM may be a huge help.

How much customer data do we have?

ABM is distinct and effective because of its specificity. An integral part of adopting ABM is developing the proper and thorough Ideal Customer Profile. If your target markets are too varied, or you simply don’t have enough customer data, then ABM will be much more difficult to implement as it would be with a well-researched ICP. Companies such a SalesIntel can help you find contact information for your campaigns, but you have to know who you’re searching for first.

How many stakeholders are there?

If there are often multiple stakeholders, then ABM is ideal because it focuses on targeting all stakeholders and not just one or two important people. So if you find yourself juggling multiple stakeholders regularly, the ABM is worth a shot.

What’s kind of product are we selling?

It’s also important to consider whether your product is well-suited to ABM. Frost notes that ABM is most effective when you’re selling something beyond a one-time product, such as services and solutions that have tiers or subscriptions.

A Perfect Match?

ABM covers a lot of bases so that all facets of the process work together to target high-value accounts. It can save time and heartache in the sales process if it’s used properly. This year, take the time to consider whether ABM may be right for you.

A recent study from SiriusDecisions revealed that more than 70% of B2B companies are committed to using Account Based Marketing, or ABM. Peter Isaacson, Chief Marketing Officer of DemandBase, describes the popularity of ABM as a “meteoric rise” of what has become the “growth strategy of choice because it drives the outcomes that really matter to businesses: increased pipeline and revenue.”

So what exactly is this growth strategy that’s transforming the way we sell? Why has it blasted off into such popularity? And how does one jump onto the ABM bandwagon?

ABM is gaining speed, and it’s definitely not just a fad. It’s a highly strategic method that invites prospects to engage with content rather than interrupting prospects with your content. As with most things, one size does not fit all, but there are steps you can take to develop an ABM strategy that works best for you and your company.

What is it?

According to Forbes, ABM is “all about shifting your focus from lots of leads to highly targeted accounts that are very specific organizations and companies that are the best possible fit for your product or service.

In short, the two primary components of ABM are:

      1. Targeting only the most relevant organizations and accounts
    1. Treating those accounts like their own markets

These phases consist of a variety of subsets, but that’s all you need to know to understand ABM in a broad stroke.

Identify Your Targets

Since ABM begins with targeting your most relevant organizations and accounts, the first step in ABM strategy is to identify those relevant accounts. There are many different ways this can be accomplished, often depending on your current client base.

Mike Rose of Mojo Media Labs suggests that in order to identify your targets, you should develop the ideal customer profile. It may seem unnecessary to create a profile when you’re actually trying to narrow the scope of your client base, but a good customer profile will give you one level of evaluation to decide which accounts are the most relevant.

You can also use a variety of segmenting strategies to reveal which customers to focus on. Segmenting will help you identify those common characteristics of your highest grossing clients, and may even reveal a relevant, promising account that isn’t being marketed to at its full potential.

Do Your Research

Once you’ve identified the most relevant clients, research them. Note that this does not yet mean narrowing it all down to specific contacts at those companies. Your goal is to treat those companies like personas in and of themselves.

This goes beyond basic firmographic data into trigger events, internal data, and even predictive analytics, if you’re feeling fancy.

Create Personalized Content

When you’ve thoroughly researched your target companies, you can then create personalized content specifically for those businesses. This is the point where ABM and Inbound marketing will seem eerily similar. Rest assured that though they work together well, the two are not the same.

Amanda Zantal-Wiener reminds Hubspot that when it comes to ABM, “content should be focused on the single deals you’d like to make with each specific organization.” She adds that in this process, make sure your reps are communicating clearly so that there aren’t multiple people in the same organization receiving “mixed signals.”

Select Relevant Channels

Just like ABM chooses to target only the most relevant companies, another aspect of ABM is to only focus on the most relevant marketing challenges. Even though you’re painting with a broad brush treating a company as its own persona, you’ll still need to use detail to decide which channels are relevant to which clients.

And Don’t Forget to Evaluate

As with any method, you should always take the time to step back and evaluate your ABM marketing process. Targeting specific markets doesn’t mean limited growth. Continue to nurture leads that fit that aforementioned Ideal Customer Profile.

Take note of how those companies choose to engage with your content, because the odds are that it will change over time. You may have to tweak your strategy from time to time, and since ABM strategy relies on those relevant customer profiles, you will have to occasionally reassess the process at its roots.

ABM, once it’s broken down into steps, isn’t quite as intimidating as it sounds. The mention of accounts can make us squirm, but the essence of Account Based Marketing is nothing to fear.