Marketers are always looking for the next best thing. So it’s no surprise that with the evolution of account-based marketing and technologies that enable it, B2B marketers are paying attention and trying to figure out how they can implement an account-centric approach. But as most marketers already practice broad-reaching demand generation, adding ABM to their overall marketing strategy can often seem like the tyranny of ‘or’ versus the genius of ‘and‘.
At the center of an effective ABM strategy is the need to aggregate contacts and accounts into continuously updating audiences that are easily accessible without having to create tons of additional work for your marketing team. Thanks to a marketing automation platform that supports ABM, you can practice both, or just focus solely on ABM, at scale.
Audience Management for Account-Based Marketing
In today’s digitally-empowered world, buyers are developing their own conclusions about your products and services long before they reach out to your sales team. This means that influencing specific audiences within the evaluation phase is a mission-critical component to delivering on your revenue objectives. As a result, it’s essential to have a solution that will automatically guide marketing interactions based on segments and sub-segments from the very beginning of the customer lifecycle.
With ABM, you’re targeting and engaging specific accounts and prospects within them, so you may need to segment based on multiple dimensions to reach the right people with the right message at the right time. For example, your campaign might target multiple criteria such as verticals, sub-verticals, product-fit, employee size, and more. Without a proper ABM solution, managing, engaging, and measuring audiences on difference channels for each of these dimensions usually means increased manual setup and list management.
Let’s say an organization wants to target the technology vertical with high-level messaging, but also wants to carve out specific sub-verticals like ‘microprocessor’ or ‘semi-conductor’ manufacturers for heightened focus. Without an ABM tool, marketers would need to target the technology vertical, then sort through and route responses on each channel based on sub-verticals once prospects have engaged.
A similar story is true for key account targeting and on-the-spot initiatives. While companies may be able to easily build out a solid vertical focus, carving out the top accounts to go after within it can be a tricky endeavor. This is often the result of challenges with updating account categorization to match your objectives.
The symptoms of audience management for ABM without the right solution are all-too-familiar:
- Hours of pulling and re-pulling lists to match category-after-category of new verticals and sub-verticals
- Disconnected messaging that does not consistently support or connect with the right audience
- Last minute requests for strategic messaging and marketing support that cannot be fulfilled in a timely manner
All of these are symptoms of manual work that cannot be scaled across an organization or over time. Are you turning away the idea of adding new channels to your programs unless you have additional marketing staff? It is essential for the future growth of an ABM strategy to have a marketing automation platform that can manage, engage, and report on audiences while reducing the amount of time needed to support campaign management.
In this blog, I’ll cover three features of a sophisticated marketing automation platform that supports the latest go-to-market ABM strategies:
1. Nimbleness in Building Aggregate Audiences
How many times do you receive last-minute requests to target new trends or hot accounts? How quickly can you respond to the latest movements within your industry and connect relevant messaging to the right audience?
A marketing automation platform gives you the flexibility and nimbleness to respond to requests for account-based initiatives within hours rather than weeks. By decoupling the dependence on pre-coded categorization and assignments, marketers can target the best audiences for their messaging without having to worry about disrupting the day-to-day strategy. As a result, it is possible to align lead-routing, call-center support, and consistent messaging with the right audiences.
Let’s break down the typical process for building and managing an ABM audience to see where sophisticated marketing automation platforms help deliver on your strategy while reducing the amount of manual work. Below is a comparison of ABM execution without automation versus with a sophisticated automation platform:There are a couple of major distinctions here. With automated account-based marketing, you can build rules that automatically associate the right leads to the right accounts as new contacts are identified over time. This, along with the ability to group audiences based on identified criteria, allows you to create self-maintaining and accurate audiences that support your business objectives over time.
Instead of using Excel spreadsheets or rebuilding lists every time a new ABM focus is identified, a sophisticated marketing automation platform with ABM capabilities will allow you to create and then perfect the aggregate self-updating audiences that support your campaign objectives. Since these audiences can be created without a dependency on current relationship mappings in your CRM, it is possible to then deliver and measure focused multi-channel ABM marketing based on historic and new marketing initiatives while removing a lot of the manual work.
2. Lead-to-Account Matching
Targeting high-value accounts requires identifying accounts that may be outside of the standard territory distribution and CRM assignments. Chasing down and managing data outliers within your strategy often makes list management and campaign execution very time-consuming. However, marketing automation can help marketers address this issue by automating the ongoing aggregation and attribution of leads-to-accounts-to-groups.
Think of the last time you developed a vertical strategy and all of the logic that went into grouping individuals with the right target accounts. Imagine setting the right rules, then having to update your lists consistently over time to include new contacts from tradeshows, webinars, and forms. A marketing automation platform that supports ABM leverages user-defined rules and contact-to-account matching logic that maintain audience relationships over time.
Additionally, cleaning and associating leads to the right companies is often challenging. Many times, the marketing team is responsible for normalizing contact-provided information so that all of the right variations on the same company are grouped into the same account—for example, Acme Inc., Acme Co., and Acme International may be the same company. If you are currently manually correcting these associations, there is a much better way to automate this one time with marketing automation, rather than having to clean your lists over-and-over-and-over again.
3. Self-Updating Accounts and Account Groups
While many companies have built very sophisticated methods for grouping lists of target accounts, it is worth considering how easily these groups can be updated, modified, or used for tracking and responding to engagement. While it is possible to manage groups of accounts through basic lists, automating the updates across marketing channels by making a single adjustment to a centralized list can be a huge time-savings and results accelerator for your ABM efforts. Not to mention, your ABM reports will accurately reflect the latest data, without having to spend hours updating them.
While it’s possible to implement account-based marketing without a solution designed for it, it won’t allow you to scale or optimize as your needs and focus shift. By automating your ABM programs, you can reduce the amount of time and stress on your entire marketing team. And with the added capability of self-updating account lists and account groups, you can cohesively engage audiences across channels and consistently report results without having to manually rebuild lists and reconfigure settings for each new campaign.
Are you currently implementing ABM with a marketing automation platform? Share your experience in the comments below!