Account-based marketing is quickly becoming a fact of life in many organizations. A study by SiriusDecisions found that 71 percent of B2B marketers have implemented a program that includes ABM elements.

We predict that number will soon approach 100 percent. ABM is inescapable. And it’s a good thing — for both marketers and their customers.

Why? Because ABM enables marketers to do something they’ve always dreamed of: communicate with prospects and customers on a much more personalized level — a level that can often approach a one-to-one conversation. ABM, in its purest form, enables companies to communicate with a “market of one,” says Nick Panayi, Head of Global Brand & Digital Marketing at DXC Technology.

Four macro-trends are contributing to the inexorable adoption of ABM:

  • Customer control
  • Robust sales and marketing alignment
  • The rise of data-driven marketing
  • The relevance imperative in content marketing
“Don’t count the people you reach; reach the people that count” — David Ogilvy

The customer is in control

With the Internet offering buyers more information than ever, it has become axiomatic that the customer is in control. For example, a car-buying process illustrates this newfound power that the customer owns. Prior to the Internet, the car dealer held far more information than the buyer, which gave the car dealer the upper hand. But the availability of pricing, reviews and performance information from other car buyers has given the customer significant power and forced the car dealer to cater to the customer. We are seeing a similar dynamic in Enterprise marketing, where the differentiating aspect of one’s brand, whether you are selling software, services or something else, is the customer experience.

“Today’s reality is that a customer is not a customer when they sign a contract, a customer is a customer when they express intent.” — Shail Khiyara

At the same time, marketers and sales professionals also have more information about their customers and prospects, which gives them a better understanding of their audience. In turn, these insights can help companies develop more effective marketing — and better products.

As Joe Payne, CEO of Code42 (and former CEO of Eloqua), explains in The Big Data-Driven Business,

“For the first time we have a pretty good sense of how people are using our software and when they’re using, how frequently they’re using, and how many people are using it. If you pay attention to all those things, it can give you insight that will help you win your market.” — Joe Payne

Using insight into the customer mindset, companies practicing ABM can develop a targeted communications strategy that is seamless across marketing and sales, leading to a better experience for prospects and, ultimately, customers. This is precisely the kind of experience that customers crave. They want authentic and relevant content that is personalized to their needs, which is served at the exact point they need it in the buying cycle. ABM delivers this exact experience for Marketing and Sales professionals.

Robust sales and marketing alignment

With an ABM approach, a company such as Panayi’s DXC can, not only, customize marketing messages at the company level, but tailor those marketing messages to specific members of the buying team. For instance, a company’s CFO would receive a different message compared to the CIO.

ABM helps customize communications — almost to the personalized level of a sales call. Today, data-driven technology enables marketers to tailor their messages to individual accounts or groups of accounts — which is key to the rise of account-based marketing.

With the growing popularity of CRM and marketing automation tools, sales and marketing are closer than ever. To make these technologies work, marketing and sales teams must agree on target audiences, lead definitions, point of contact, and other criteria.

ABM is not an isolated marketing campaign, nor a sales account-specific effort, it is a philosophy that requires a boundary-less organization that shares one common goal. This means that while marketing drives target selection with sales, content to be pushed, and identify touch points, sales owns the responsibility of engaging those touch points, jointly nurturing them with marketing’s help, and more.

A symbiotic relationship with a common understanding of when and why sales should contact an account is critical. Hunters, farmers, gatherers, however you define it, are now part of one village.

LinkedIn research has shown the positive impact of sales and marketing alignment, which includes:

  • 70 percent of sales professional and marketers say alignment delivers a better customer buying experience.
  • 58 percent say collaboration delivers improved customer retention.
  • 54 percent say it boost financial performance.

The rise of data

Perhaps the most important trend enabling ABM is the rise of data-driven marketing. Thanks to Moore’s Law, more and faster access to digital data is a fact of life. As chronicled by Russell Glass and Sean Callahan in The Big Data-Driven Business, B2B marketers can use this data to target ad messages based on a prospect’s industry, job title, and company. Similarly, marketers can also tailor web pages to visitors based on this and other data. By mining their own databases, marketers can ascertain the characteristics shared by their best customers and then target similar companies with account-based marketing.

They can then enable systems outside of CRM and marketing automation, like social media management tools, Data Management Platforms (DMPs), and website personalization engine, to link to accounts that provide rich and relevant data which leading to responsive insights.

The relevance imperative in content marketing

Like ABM, content marketing has become an important tool in the modern marketer’s arsenal. But it’s not perfect and content marketing has its own set of challenges. For one thing, B2B marketers now find themselves publishing their content on the same devices where customers are reading The Wall Street Journal, watching “Peaky Blinders,” or keeping track of their fantasy baseball team.

But the existence of this competitive environment doesn’t mean that B2B buyers aren’t interested in content that will help them do their jobs better. In this environment, marketers must simply create content that their prospects will want to read and target that content to these prospects in intelligent, data-driven ways.

Beware of ‘GMOOT’ or Get Me One of Those (see — An Unwieldy Truth — Marketing is not Dead, just Broken). Marketers create content for a new product launch or when they want to push out a differentiated message, which is important but not enough to be called content marketing.

In an ABM strategy one needs to focus on content that is relevant, choose the mode/channel of delivery (social, web, email campaigns, or a combination of them) and decide when this content should be delivered, for example, trigger points in a buying cycle. Your content execution in an ABM strategy should be totally different from you’ would do in a product launch.

Serving the right content at the right time to the right person is a key element of successful ABM, and it’s getting easier to accomplish with new offerings such as LinkedIn’s Account Targeting, which enables targeting by company name on the LinkedIn platform.

Customer-centricity, content relevance, data-driven marketing, and sales and marketing alignment are must-haves for marketers.

Until the sun rises in the west, ABM is modern marketing’s inescapable reality.

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