- Account-based marketing (ABM) is the new standard in B2B marketing, and much has evolved in terms of strategies and technologies in recent years. That’s why a recent study of 900 professionals was deployed with the goal to gain a clear picture of what landscape looks like today.
- The study demonstrated that alignment and unification between sales and marketing is a solid predictor of ABM success. It also proved the reverse – sales and marketing teams that are siloed and work separately end up at a disadvantage.
- Companies need to invest in foundational measures from the outset in order to see ROI from ABM later down the line. This means focusing on target account selection, technology and sales and marketing alignment in the beginning before eventually deploying true orchestrated, multi-channel account-based plays.
- Sales and marketing alignment isn’t something that can be achieved once and then forgotten about. Leaders must continually prioritize alignment so that once teams reach unification, they may remain unified, and reap strong results in the long run.
Account-based marketing (ABM) has become the new standard in B2B marketing in the past few years. And although the strategy and its supporting technologies are ever-evolving, it’s become clear that ABM is here to stay.
In an effort to help marketers become more successful with the approach, we wanted to get a clear picture of what the landscape looks like today. So, we conducted a study with several partners, surveying 900 professionals to find out what their experiences with ABM have been so far.
The responses uncovered several challenges, as well as some key indicators for success. But there was also a unifying thread throughout the data: sales and marketing alignment.
Turns out, it’s not just a buzzy word to use in boardrooms, but actually what many marketers have known all along: an essential piece of ABM’s foundation.
Here’s a little more about what our report confirmed about achieving success with ABM and the importance of true alignment.
1) Alignment is both a requirement and an outcome for successful ABM programs
There were two key takeaways from our study that hit on alignment, including that 43% of companies named sales & marketing alignment as their top priority for ABM this year, demonstrating the value of getting everyone working in unison.
Furthermore, the companies that performed highest reported involving more of their marketing team in unifying efforts, channels and tactics. This unification was a solid predictor of whether success with ABM would ultimately come; and a lack of it was similarly a predictor in the reverse.
This means that alignment isn’t just nice to have; it’s actually crucial.
But, it’s important for teams to recognize what alignment really means. It’s not just about sales and marketing colleagues being friendly with each other, or not scuffling over the definition of a lead.
It’s also not about putting more meetings on the calendar or making sure your CMO and CRO grab lunch regularly. It’s about a unified approach to sales and marketing that is cohesive throughout the entire organization.
Of course your teams need to be on good terms with each other, but that’s just the first box to check.
From there comes the real work. What we learned is that the most aligned companies are those whose sales and marketing efforts move in a single motion, with every effort and outreach coordinated to specific target accounts.
At Demandbase, we walk the walk by having regular alignment meetings, engaging sales to develop our target account list, encouraging blogs and LinkedIn posts across the sales and SDR teams, soliciting campaign ideas and collaborating on our quarterly “Shark Week,” in which the integrated teams make a concerted push for meetings with top prospects.
2) High ROI is linked to a high initial investment into alignment
Not only is a business’ marketing and sales alignment an important part of the foundation for its ABM program, but it’s also a key indicator of the ROI the company can expect from it.
Foundational measures must first be set, and then investments into specific channels (e.g. direct mail) and content can follow suit.
Only then can companies move past setting up ABM infrastructure (e.g. target account selection, technology, and sales and marketing alignment) and get to the real heart of ABM (e.g. deploying true orchestrated, multi-channel account-based plays).
The highest performing companies recognized this need for significant initial investments and a comprehensive understanding of ABM start to finish.
These companies consistently demonstrated expertise across all dimensions of ABM, from measurement to marketing and sales alignment, and also invested more budget into ABM programs.
If you’d like to see more ROI from your own programs, it’s a good idea to match this approach.
3) Continual investment is required to maintain quality
Just like marketers learned years ago that marketing automation isn’t a “set it and forget it” kind of technology, sales and marketing alignment isn’t something that’s achieved once – and then never looked at again. In fact, investment into alignment should be ongoing, no matter where a company is in its ABM lifecycle.
It seems that most companies understand this, as our report showed that 46% of companies plan to invest in their alignment.
Twenty-four percent of companies that had immature ABM programs reported having problems with alignment, however, which shows that a continual investment is important in order to remain ahead of inevitable issues as programs grow.
ABM’s ROI potential has continued to be proven over the past few years, which is why it’s not surprising that B2B companies have seen a 40% increase in ABM budgets over the past twelve months.
What may be surprising to some is the way in which sales and marketing unification is the foundation for strong ABM strategy. Now, more than ever, is the time to embrace it – and see richer rewards and better success.
Peter Isaacson is CMO of Demandbase and a member of ClickZ’s Advisory Board.