In theory, gaining a degree in marketing to later follow up with a career in marketing, should ultimately set you up perfectly to achieve success. Leonardo da Vinci famously wrote, “He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast.”
Yet, anyone who works in marketing knows that theory versus reality can lead you to two very different outcomes. Like most people in marketing, I’m now working in a specialist industry that fundamentally did not exist when I went to school. Account-Based Marketing in its own highly-targeted and highly data-fueled nature, has had a huge impact on the B2B marketing landscape in recent years.
Reflecting on my own experience of both working within this niche side of B2B marketing and studying ABM implementation for my Master’s dissertation, it doesn’t take very long to spot the differences. My report focused on global B2B organisations and the amount of resources it would take to successfully implement an ABM strategy. The findings came from a mix of primary and secondary sources; in depth interviews with subject matter experts and analysis of international research reports.
As the findings suggest, in order for ABM to be implemented successfully, companies should have a team structure made up of 12 individuals split across both specialist ABM roles and general marketing and sales roles. However, now having worked in the ABM world, the reality tells a different story. The dependence of ABM success does not specifically relate to the number of individuals or specialties in your team. In reality, I’ve found that an ABM strategy requires the right mindset, an element of risk-taking, and passion to drive your marketing and sales teams to think more strategically about their approach to generating new business or retaining existing relationships.
Another main area of focus, was the level of technology investment it takes to implement an ABM programme. In theory, the results show that utilising a CRM or marketing automation platform is fundamental in achieving ABM success, followed by paid social, retargeting and website visitor intelligence. Lower down the priority list was sales outreach automation, an ABM platform, content syndication and website personalisation. In reality, this does hold some element of truth and indeed, any investment in martech is going to benefit you in some way.
In my experience, there are few large enterprises that are able to truly harness the power of the vast amount of data they typically hold, to create the targeted approach that ABM requires, without the help of a marketing automation tool. However any business can throw as much budget as it wants into martech investment, and still not achieve a successful ABM programme – Why? Because this is just one tool in your ABM toolbox.
Another key finding within my study, relates to the reallocation of budget towards an ABM campaign. Where should it come from and how much is required? For a pilot ABM programme I discovered that the average budget can be anything from $50k (per segment) to $200k, split between HR (22%), execution (49%) and tech investment (29%). Proving the ROI in ABM is no quick win. A successful ABM programme lasts much longer than quarterly sales targets and therefore is inherently more difficult to prove that the investment is worth it in the long run.
In reality, I’ve found that our clients are faced with increasing pressure to generate leads and pipeline, it is nearly impossible to convince senior level executives to dish out new budget for the marketing team to create yet another marketing campaign. However, I draw back to my earlier comment: “ABM strategy requires the right mindset, an element of risk-taking, and passion to drive your marketing and sales teams to think more strategically about their approach to generating new business or retaining existing relationships”. If you’re able to convince your key stakeholders that this is the strategy they need to take for the long-term success of the business, you’re setting yourself up for the best chance of ABM success. This is where I’ve noticed the clients who have reaped the rewards of their ABM approach.
Everyone who’s studied ABM to some degree, knows that it requires sales and marketing alignment, senior-level buy-in and a shifted mindset from short-term demand-generation tactics. However, the most common challenge that I see with clients, is considering ABM as in its holistic nature. In theory, global organisations with such vast scale, talent and budgets should be able to implement a successful ABM programme successfully – Right? In reality, I’ve discovered that the art of achieving true ABM, is about bringing together all aspects of marketing and sales strategies and knowing which levers to pull.
In its nature, everyone’s own experience of ABM is different – what’s your version of reality?