What Do Software Marketers Need to Know About ABM?

March 2, 2021
Contributor: Rupal Bhandari

For B2B software and SaaS marketers, it is important to keep pace with developments in demand generation methods, and they should consider launching or enhancing their ABM strategy.

Account-based marketing (ABM) has been gaining traction among B2B marketers of technology and software products because of the stronger response it generates compared to traditional demand generation and prospecting methods. It can provide a lift to marketing efforts by improving marketing metrics such as campaign response rates and click-through rates, and sales metrics such as monthly recurring revenue, win rate and deal velocity (full report available to Gartner clients). 

However, for an ABM program to be effective, it is critical to have buy-in from both the marketing and sales teams. This article helps digital marketing leaders for software and SaaS providers get that buy-in and take the initial steps to plan and execute a B2B account-based marketing program. 

What is ABM?

ABM is a go-to-market strategy targeting certain accounts with a synchronized, continuous set of marketing and sales activities. With ABM, instead of casting a wide net, a B2B marketer gets intentionally selective about focusing on leads or accounts that have a high chance of conversion. 

Marketers provide a targeted account with a steady stream of personalized content tailored to individual business and buying context. It is almost like creating a universe of one for the targeted account, such that all interaction over advertisement, email, phone call and social media the contact has with the software provider is relevant to business needs and immediately resonates.

How to get started with ABM

There is no standard approach to getting an ABM program off the ground. The optimal ABM campaign depends on the unique needs of the business. It also relies heavily on a thorough understanding of the target account’s business and buying context, including key business objectives, value drivers and information needs along the purchase journey. 

account-based marketing target account buying journey example

The first step to setting up an ABM program is securing alignment between the marketing and sales teams around mutually established goals. There has to be agreement on points of discussion such as how the target account is selected, who is responsible for driving the engagement and how, and what ongoing coordination looks like. A lack of agreement on contacts to target, misunderstandings on when engagement has to occur or lack of visibility into the engagement can derail the ABM program or result in it never getting off the ground. 

traditional versus account-based marketing sales and marketing relationship example

The next step is deciding how to prioritize or select accounts or contacts to target with the ABM program. A weighted measurement matrix (full method available to Gartner clients), predictive and prescriptive analytics, and opportunity fit scorecard (full method available to Gartner clients) are some methods marketing and sales teams can use to ascertain a contact’s need or readiness to buy. However, an easy and far less technical way is to ask three qualifying questions:

three qualifying account-based marketing questions to ask a customer in the purchase journey

Once these two things are done, defining an engagement strategy is an iterative endeavor. It is a good idea to use a mix of online and offline channels for outreach, as well as play with proven and experimental techniques to optimize the engagement approach. Building a documented list of planned and executed engagement tactics over time can also help understand what works and what doesn’t. 

For those looking to run a pilot or a small-scale ABM program, here are some tips to keep in mind:
  • Target accounts that look similar to each other. The criteria for identifying such accounts could be the industry, business function, current software in use or key problem. 
  • Get the marketing team to work with a handful of experienced and responsive sales reps as opposed to having them onboard new members from the sales team frequently. 
  • Limit channels of outreach to a select few that can be measured and closely monitored as opposed to trying to include every outreach channel the business uses. 
  • Ascertain the effectiveness of ABM by benchmarking the target accounts against similar accounts receiving only broad-based or traditional outreach campaigns. 
  • Revisit the capabilities of the martech stack or other marketing and sales software being used by the business, and consider adding ABM software if required. 

Execute ABM one step at a time

An ABM program is only effective when its objectives are clearly defined and aligned to the business goals. While it does offer a significant promise for marketers of software and SaaS solutions, executing an ABM program can be an overwhelming experience. 

A good way to execute an ABM program is to start with small steps and focus on one at a time. In the planning phase, get alignment between marketing and sales teams. Then, ascertain the metrics to be used to select target accounts to prioritize. In the execution phase, use a mix of proven and experimental engagement strategies and closely monitor them to optimize the approach. 

Done one step at a time, an ABM program should be easy to incorporate into any software provider's broader marketing strategy without causing a significant strain on monetary or human resources.

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