“How have you been able to adapt your ABM strategies during the pandemic and what challenges still remain for CMOs and their sales partners?”
With successive lockdowns, the stalling of field marketing and events has had B2B marketers globally reconfiguring their annual budgets and targets. ABM is now a common—if still misunderstood—replacement. HotTopics.ht’s Marketing Leaders Meetup sought to clarify the increasingly popular strategy with the above debate question. Discover their collective eight-point roadmap below.
The pandemic-induced shift to virtual working has had a tremendous impact on field marketers. The mainstay of the sales and marketing funnel, especially for the B2B sector, was effectively quashed in a matter of weeks. Marketers have since been forced to re-evaluate their entire function: their team distribution, client focus, technology investments and relationship with sales (again). One historic strategy they have been increasingly focusing on is Account Based Marketing, or ABM. By treating individual accounts as their own markets, CMOs have been able to pivot alongside the shift to digital and still provide value to clients and to their own businesses.
There are still question marks, however. For example, marketers want to understand precisely how much of their capital and time should be spent on ABM—their sales teams and CFOs demand evidence, something ABM cannot do in the short term. And speaking of, because of the nature of ABM’s structure, it is in fact bringing sales and marketing together under a long term, sustained pact. But what are the hurdles to avoid along the way?
Thank you to our Meet-Up’s moderators, alongside myself, Emma Roffey, Steven Goddard, Tricia Stinton, Shallu Behar-Sheehan and Louise Robertson, for their excellent debate handling and note-taking, of which this article is based. Below is the compilation of the Meetup’s collective thoughts on ABM:
- Hands tied: Many of the leaders felt “forced” to activate ABM because of the closing of physical events; but still others complemented that with a shift to virtual events, creating in one example a ‘Virtual Advisory Council’ that helped further the relationship with key clients.
- Shared Responsibility: Although ABM has been pushed by marketing, it’s a shared responsibility between that and sales. That requires the latter’s buy in: be transparent about the long term benefits of ABM to avoid awkward conversations later.
- Data-centric: Like any strategy, ABM works best with good data and intelligence. These build the foundations of campaigns to drive intent and digital platforms then generate engagement with and for clients.
- Quality results: That should help with the MQL to SQL handover: it can be a lead dump no longer, and insights are required as they provide an opportunity to learn even more about clients than before, which sales can use to talk with them in a more structured, personalized way.
- Measurement issues: There is still a question on measurement. What does a good ABM strategy look like? It isn’t by number of leads, according to the group. A metric for the long run makes more sense—more thought is needed on what that could be.
- Boardroom genesis: And also, ABM is difficult, full stop. By its very nature there are few overarching plans that work for every client. The group highlighted one key lesson: Choosing which clients to focus on ABM-wise must start in the boardroom, not sales or marketing, because bias in either will disrupt the business potential in the target list—this also ensures buy-in from senior management. In short: ABM must be based on business strategy.
- Content is key: Content is absolutely essential to ABM success. Being seen as a thought leader elevates the message, but clarity and variety of content supercharges the strategy. One group thought of it as ‘versioning as a service’.
- Reliance trap: ABM is not a panacea for marketers and should be carefully considered first, even if it is here to stay. ABM at scale may be a contradiction in terms, so when considering your overall spend, consider instead integrated marketing to drive your reach and help you become an adaptive, resilient marketing team.
Thank you to those who contributed to the above insights and to our moderators who expertly disseminated their own debates’ content. HotTopics.ht’s Meet-Ups allow for technology, business, marketing and HR leaders to each meet for informal debate and peer-to-peer networking on alternate Friday’s 4pm GMT.
Email me at [email protected] for more information.