Analysts and professionals alike tend to argue account based marketing (ABM) is not new. On the surface, this is an accurate statement. HOWEVER, ABM practitioners have evolved the strategy from development to implementation.
So, what does an ABM strategy look like in 2016? Instead of wadding through a series of vague “how-to kick-start your ABM strategy!” talking points, I thought it would be more helpful to examine an ABM program ZoomInfo executed this past summer. In just 90 days, we were able to increase our pipeline by 114% and customer base for this particular product by 30%.
Background of ZoomInfo’s ABM program
Here’s a brief summary of what you need to know: ZoomInfo released a new product at the beginning of 2015, named FormComplete. The product integrates ZoomInfo’s database of over 175 million professional and nearly 13 million business profiles with Marketo. The main hook? ZoomInfo’s plug-in instantly confirms, appends, and updates key criteria about incoming leads – all in real-time. 18 months into its release we were still struggling to gain adoption because the core value proposition differed from the messaging in our marketing campaigns.
And yet, there was a sizable market our solution could support.
Step #1: Planning the ABM campaign
Account identification: The first part of any ABM program is account identification. Fortunately, our criteria was relatively straightforward. Sales and marketing collaborated to define our target audience, including revenue, size of marketing team, location, and – of course – companies that use Marketo’s software.
Then all we had to do was input the aforementioned criteria into ZoomInfo’s ‘Company Attributes’ feature to define the accounts within our total addressable market (TAM).
Cadence development: With such a large TAM, sales and marketing leadership decided to break up the accounts into four cohorts, each of which would be worked within a 10-day period. The benefit of this approach was the ability to test all forms of engagement and outreach. This meant marrying traditional marketing programs with an outbound-centric sales cadence.
We kicked off each cohort with an email invite to a recurring webinar about the problems FormComplete solves, scheduled at the end of each 10-day period. Additionally, marketing used LinkedIn ads to reach the master list of accounts.
Script development: This was probably the hardest, yet most helpful part of the planning process. We knew which accounts we wanted to reach, as well as when we planned to reach them. Now, we just had to figure out what we were going to say.
Marketing worked with sales to develop the scripts for email and voicemail messages. This helped spark an internal conversation which illuminated the gaps in messaging between each department. Marketing saw FormComplete as a solution that could optimize conversion rates; on the other hand, sales focused on its ability to maintain accurate and consistent flow of information about incoming leads.
So, we did what any data-driven organization would do: we decided to test, test, test (more on this later)!
Step #2: Implementation
Streamlining the process: Here’s where many ABM strategies fall short. Marketing and sales teams develop their account lists, but fail to realize a simple truth: companies buy, but people (read: employees) decide.
With ZoomInfo, we were able to develop a simple process. Two days before each cohort began, sales representatives selected five of their assigned accounts and used ZoomInfo to identify 4-5 potential buyers within the organization to target. Why so many employees? Multiple studies confirm the average amount of people involved in a buying decision has risen in recent years.
This may sound like a ton of work, but ZoomInfo profiles include everything reps need to know for outreach – from essential contact information to other relevant pieces of background, like employment and academic history, professional certifications, and more.
Step #3: Optimizing the campaign
Optimizing our message: Remember that whole discrepancy sales and marketing had with the value proposition? Turns out, we were both right (well, sort of).
Feedback from our sales reps, combined with industry research, revealed a number of marketing automation users are not benefiting from the bells and whistles these platforms offer. Yet, we knew almost all of these capabilities rely on accurate company and lead data.
The problem? Organizations don’t want to ask for a data point like, say, “industry,” on a web form because longer forms can hurt conversion rates. With FormComplete, they didn’t have to (score one for marketing!). Our sales team was correct, too, as many of the post-form submit functionality, like a triggered DRIP campaign or lead routing, suffer from either inaccurate or inconsistent data. We applied these findings to our scripts and recurring webinar. For evidence of effectiveness, look at the open rates from each cohort:
Final Thoughts …
ABM programs are actually easy to kick-start. You may hear a lot about the various technologies that support ABM. But while developing your pilot program, forget those investments.
Once audience is determined, ABM success really depends on sales and marketing alignment. For marketing, this means tailoring tactics to accommodate specific accounts and enable sales throughout each stage of the customer acquisition cycle, rather than generating engagement solely at the top of the funnel.
Sales, meanwhile, must commit to executing outreach while using the agreed upon value proposition. To optimize the program’s performance, sales representatives must subsequently communicate the messaging’s overall effectiveness to all key stakeholders.
Want to execute a successful account based marketing strategy? Contact ZoomInfo today to learn more.