Account-Based Marketing. ABM. Those three little letters caused quite a bit of head-scratching in 2015 for B2B marketing leaders as they struggled to get their arms around if and how they should approach the strategy. 2016 seems to be the year that many of us will actually put those thoughts into practice. This isn’t to be taken lightly. An ABM strategy carries with it serious costs, both in spend and time. I attended a great TOPO event recently where Craig Rosenberg explained that if you’re going to start an ABM effort against just 100 target accounts, you need to create 800 unique offers to go along with ABM best practices. Ouch. Add to that the cost of finding the right accounts (ideally using predictive analytics), contact records for all the right people at those accounts so you have adequate coverage, increased pay-per-click (PPC) costs, expensive oh-so-clever direct mail tchotchkes, operations needs (lead to account matching for instance) and ABM is an expensive proposition. Given this cost and all of our finite resources, we at BrightFunnel feel like the majority of marketers will undertake an ABM initiative as a piece of their overall marketing mix, a “hybrid ABM” approach.

Just going after enterprise whales? Super niche industry with a limited target account list? Totally get it. Pure ABM makes sense. But for the rest of us, a hybrid approach is probably best… and how most of us will likely tackle this. Unless you are marketing to exclusively to a relatively small, focused target list, you will likely find that there’s an optimal balance where you can carve out a number of top target accounts who can get the full ABM treatment and market to the rest of your target audience with more traditional demand generation strategies. You may layer in tiers: Top accounts get fully-customized messaging and more expensive tactics like direct mail, the next tier is broken out into industry-specific messaging (mentioning your customer in that space for instance) and the last tier gets a broader approach (though still segmenting personas hopefully).

So how do you find that balance? In short, understand your resources, understand the marketing impact of ABM and optimize accordingly.

Here’s a basic recipe of how you might approach this:

  • Identify your top 100 target accounts (or a number that you know your operation can handle without a massive impact).
  • Split those 100 into a test and control group (50/50).
  • Plan and execute your fully-baked ABM strategy against the test group while the control group gets traditional demand gen tactics.
  • After enough time (dependent on your typical velocity), measure the impact. I’m not talking about increased display and email click rates. I mean revenue-impacting metrics like lead to opportunity conversion rates and velocity. BrightFunnel makes this surprisingly easy to do with a simple set of filters for your target account test and control groups.
  • Using this impact, model out the benefit of expanding your ABM strategy vs. the resources (budget, headcount) you have.
  • Expand efforts (if appropriate) and optimize on an ongoing basis as that optimal balance may change.

Yes, ABM is expensive. So it better work. And it does for many, including several of our clients who are leading the ABM charge like Invoca, SevOne and Cloudera. I would just urge you to dip your toes in those deep ABM waters with a measured, data-driven approach like the one I’ve outlined.

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