ABM – it’s a no brainer! Right? Figure out where your key revenue could come from, understand the buyers in those businesses, create content and events that are of value to these buyers, and keep communicating with them regularly until they enter ‘buying mode’. 

There are few doubts around the value and impact of ABM, but with so many people doing it so badly, what are pitfalls to avoid and opportunities to harness for those who want to get it right?

We take a look at what’s tripping your ABM programme up and how to drive larger returns by refining your approach.

Harness the power of ‘the big creative idea’ 

As with all tech stacks, what you have the capability to do and what you actually use rarely adds up. Rolling out the system is only half the job and with ABM it’s no different, Platforms like Demandbase, Engagio and Terminus, and even powerhouse Marketo, have created powerful solutions to enable marketers to run ABM programmes.

But while this tech stack offers huge potential, a number of studies are quoting around 80% of B2B marketers say they aren’t using it effectively. Perhaps not surprising as we’ve often seen tech lead and “figuring out how to use effectively” coming later.

ABM seems to be at that tipping point – while the tech allows us to deliver a message and create joined-up experiences, it doesn’t determine the right message or the right individual. Tech alone can’t evoke emotion that drives action.

In the drive to digitally transform and roll out the ‘latest and greatest’ tech, it’s often forgotten that your B2B buyers are also consumers. Consumers who experience slick, immersive and emotively driven B2C content intertwined throughout their working day. This exposure to consumer-focused content has reset expectations of what great B2B communication looks like. 

The power of ‘the big creative idea’ is without doubt the most powerful tool in your arsenal. There’s a couple of stumbling blocks when it comes to nailing this though. Either B2B CMO’s lack the time and thinking space to invest in this, or work within organisations that fear originality and change, resulting in a state of ‘inspiration starvation’. 

In a world where great customer and buyer experience is no longer a point of differentiation, the inability to nail the ‘big creative idea’ and produce engaging content around it, is the missing ingredient in so many ABM programmes.

Here are some ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

  • Start a set of regular internal creative workshops focused on ideation and creative concepts is a good place to start.
  • Draw inspiration from content you engage with in- and out-side the office, that latest Nike campaign may hold more relevance than you originally thought.
  • Look to a range of sectors for inspiration and get guest speakers into the office from all walks of life to provide you new and fresh perspectives.
  • Don’t be afraid (and fight for the right) to take some risks, identify ways to measure your success and scream it from the rooftop to start to shift perceptions internally.

Invest in the early stages of your purchase journey

Organisations typically invest the most in the final stages of the sales process or bid. However, all the evidence points to this being not being the most effective approach, both strategically and financially. 

If 50% (Forbes) of the purchase decision is based on the whether you like the person you are engaging with, but 70% of the process (Google) is done online before a buyer makes direct contact, how can you influence early on in the process? 

When you boil it down; buyers want to establish that you are credible and relevant. They want to know that you’re good enough to work with, that you have a product or service that solves their challenges and you are within budget.  After that it’s about relationship, relationship, relationship! 

A recent report, ‘Winning Bids with ABM’ says that investing in marketing before being invited to bid, will deliver on average 90% ROI compared with 24% at bid stage. 

Here are some ideas to bolster focus on the early stages:

  • Re-focus your ABM strategy on getting your sales team in front of buyers as early on in the process as possible 
  • Create a well defined nurture process and programme and then incentivise your sales team to lead nurture properly to drive higher returns on your ABM programme. 
  • Self-Diagnose Regularly - ABM is ultimately just good B2B ‘business development’ – the foundations are very similar for both and to coin an over used phrase, being ‘agile’ in your approach is important. Whilst heavy analytics are key, they are time consuming.

Here’s a quick self-assessment exercise: 

We get our clients to carry out this exercise regularly to give an optimisation lens to ABM. Grab a pen and paper, assess how well you think you are performing and use it as a blue print of where to focus your time in improving your ABM strategies:

  • Do you understand who your key accounts are and why? 
  • Do you know exactly who your different buyers are in your key accounts, what their personas and needs are?
  • Do you have clearly mapped ABM buyer journeys? 
  • Do you have the right tech stack to deliver ABM? 
  • Do you have a central content theme and narrative that resonates with your audience? 
  • Are you creating compelling content and events, does it stand up to the experience they may have as a consumer?
  • Do you know your conversion rates at each stage of your purchase journey? 
  • Are you proactively optimizing each stage? 
  • Are your sales teams trained in ABM and effective at lead nurturing? 
  • Do they use interactive, non-linear selling tools?

Over and out.