The Secret to B2B Sales Success: A Holistic Account-Based Strategy

At the most recent TMA event Cindy Zhou, VP and principal analyst at Constellation Research, talked about her latest findings, which reveal that B2B sales success requires a holistic, account-based strategy.

Account-based marketing is incredibly popular among B2B marketers, but, before we go any further, let’s take a second to make sure we’re all on the same page about what it is. Per my friends at Wikipedia, “account-based marketing (ABM), also known as key account marketing, is a strategic approach to business marketing based on account awareness in which an organization considers and communicates with individual prospects or customer accounts as markets of one.”

Zhou found that 86% of B2B marketers were interested in ABM, while 92% of respondents have or planned to start an ABM program in 2017. However, perhaps a bit concerning is that some respondents who expressed interest in ABM only said it was “because the CEO asked me to look into it.”

However, whether you are looking into ABM because you are genuinely interested in it or because someone else asked you to, ABM can be highly effective, and deserving of attention, as it offers many benefits. In fact, there are three main reasons to consider ABM:

  1. Instead of a “spray and pray” approach, targeting pre-qualified, higher lifetime value accounts means you can get more from your marketing campaigns. Sales has long been operating this way but the idea is just gaining traction with marketing.
  2. It allows you to concentrate your budget to maximize your impact.
  3. It shortens the sales cycle and delivers a higher ROI.

However, Zhou cautions against going it alone.

Rather, Zhou recommends partnering with sales on targeted accounts, which can help moves sales forward. A few tips to help get started include:

  • Having sales and marketing account plan together
  • Aligning marketing and sales performance goals
  • Jointly engaging with services to identify accounts for cross-sell/upsell opportunities

From there, Zhou feels teams are ready to move forward with what she refers to as the “Five Elements of Account-Based Strategy:”

  1. Set objectives together. This entails understanding how accounts are currently organized in sales and services and then shifting marketing goals from quantity of leads to targeted account conversion. Doing so allows your marketing and sales teams to align their goals with each other.
  2. Identify target accounts and contacts. At this stage, you should start with your best customers and undertake lookalike modeling. The services team can help you understand what this looks like. They can also help identify the best title to target, what vertical they are in, and which influencers you should touch. During this stage, it is also encouraged that you develop your content strategy and align materials by role, industry, geography and sales stage. Don’t spend effort on activities that aren’t working and not producing results.
  3. Organize your accounts. There are several ways to do this, including by go-to-market: vertical, market, region, company size, industry; by status: new, in-flight, lost; and by the relationship: partner, reseller, competitors.
  4. Launch cross-channel campaigns. In this stage, you want to shift from volume to engagement. Key considerations include making your campaign mobile friendly, but don’t just rely on responsive design, which can be limiting and clunky. A site that is truly designed for mobile will respond better and provide all the functionality needed for someone on their smartphone or tablet. Also, Zhou recommends providing gradual levels of personalization. You want to have a purpose for sales to engage, but it’s wise to start small – invite the person to a webinar or share a piece of content. Avoid bombarding them and immediately jumping to wanting a phone call.
  5. Develop actionable insights from analytics. To ensure complete alignment, sales and marketing should agree on the metrics to track, identify and fix issues along the way, and ultimately find opportunities to refine and improve the process.  

While this is not a comprehensive roadmap to ABM success, developing a solid account-based strategy can set you on the right course. These five steps can make sure you stay on the path.