Arguably the most important job for a B2B marketer is to deploy strategies that drive high-quality sales volume. Time and time again, account-based marketing ( ABM) has proven its ability to do just that by deploying personalized campaigns to a clearly defined set of target accounts vs. broad-based enterprise targets or individual persons.

In fact, reports from eMarketer and IT Services Marketing Associates suggest that by concentrating Sales and Marketing resources on such specific accounts, the overwhelming majority of businesses that use ABM experience higher ROI and an increase in both closed deals and deal size.

The positive correlation between ABM and sales outcomes is impossible to ignore. However, many B2B marketers still struggle with ABM execution and measurement—difficulties amplified by increasing pressure to activate data in a privacy-centric way, across a multitude of channels and customer touchpoints.

Although there's no silver bullet for demystifying ABM, the following tips can provide clarity and actionable advice to unlock maximum ROI.

Collaborate With the 'Frenemy' to Build an Account List

Undoubtedly, an account list is the cornerstone of any ABM strategy. Without it, there are no accounts to target, and so the edge afforded by ABM is lost. But this methodology is not without its challenges, largely because it requires looking outside the marketing channel to align with Sales.

Though the misalignment between Sales and Marketing has long been extant in business, overcoming that culture clash is a critical step in ABM. Whereas Sales may have previously misunderstood marketing requests (or vice versa) and ignored leads, ABM allows both sides to come to the table to share revenue objectives, goals, and metrics.

To make that effort a success, marketing teams must first explain the value of a successful ABM program to their own sales teams and provide a clear overview of the goals of the program. Through cooperation, Sales can then help Marketing create the ideal customer profiles by identifying the accounts best suited for the solutions it's selling—be it by company size, vertical, or another category.

Once the account list has been refined to meet the shared goal of the two departments, Sales can entrust Marketing with successfully reaching as many of the accounts as possible. That leaves just one last part of the equation: Marketers must resolve any gaps in their CRM. Doing so ensures a favorable outcome from account list activation.

Overcome the Data Deficit in B2B Audiences

B2B audiences are inherently smaller than consumer audiences. Which is why reaching as many of your target audience as possible is so important—not only because you need to ensure campaign scale but also because each individual reached can have an outsize impact relative to spending.

Although first-party contact data is a valuable place to start, it lacks the necessary scale to be the sole driver of pipeline. This is where high-quality third-party data can provide a much-needed advantage.

ABM solutions can solve these challenges by...

  • Leveraging first-party data to reach known professionals at a company. If you, as a B2B marketer, know you want to reach the CEO and CFO at a certain company, and you have those contacts in your CRM, you can leverage these contacts as part of a targeted campaign.
  • Adding third-party data to find the buying committee. With 36% of CRM data found to be incorrect or outdated, even the best CRM databases can miss key decision-makers and influencers in the buying committee. By leveraging third-party data, you can target all the individuals at an account, or narrow that down to a specific subset, and truly engage entire buying committees in your messaging.

In summary, the right ABM audiences can help overcome the deficiencies of using only first-party data by reaching the right buying committees at the accounts B2B marketers care about, and doing so at scale to reach as many relevant individuals—whether they are known in the CRM system or not.

Global Businesses Need Global Solutions

As the lines between advertising, technology, data, and e-commerce continue to blur, a global business strategy is no longer optional.

Despite the high stakes, global ABM campaigns have historically been difficult to execute. The ability to do so, at scale, is a true differentiator in the modern marketplace. Today, only 37% of B2B practitioners who are marketing globally are using ABM.

Adoption has historically been hindered because data is very market-specific, meaning B2B marketers have had to patch together multiple data providers and solutions to run campaigns across multiple markets. Compounding this complication is the proliferation of new, and varied, regulations by market, adding to the complexity.

B2B marketers must therefore seek solutions that promote the safe and effective use of data by their very design. The good news is there are now such ABM solutions available that allow marketers to create a privacy-first-based audience across dozens of global markets, removing the need to stitch together data, deal with multiple contracts and vendors, and individually review regulations by market for each audience.

Measuring Success

ABM doesn't stop once a campaign is deployed; equally as important is measuring its success.

Today, up to 60% of B2B marketers aren't measuring key ABM metrics. That's because—according to the majority (55%) of those marketers—they are unable to tie unknown and known visitor data together.

The inability to unify campaign metrics at the account level results in an incomplete picture of the impact, the accounts reached, and the resulting outcomes and revenue. It also hinders optimization, and in turn keeps the ROI needed to make the case for increased focus on ABM out of reach.

In 2020, B2B marketers should look for measurement solutions that provide account-level metrics and insights in a timely fashion to allow for optimization. In addition, optimal solutions will allow marketers to tie together campaign, website, and CRM data to close the loop from an impression to closed revenue, across both known and unknown traffic sources, and across multiple channels.

From data activation and targeting to measurement and analytics, B2B marketers require a sophisticated suite of solutions to execute ABM campaigns with global reach. They need a trusted counselor and partner that can help them navigate the complexities of ABM, while nurturing leads and preventing churn.

Forrester's Predictions 2020 report sums all of this up nicely: The enablement of sales strategies is becoming a responsibility for Marketing as buyers increase interactions with digital media; and with more and more tools available to provide timely data about buying teams in a privacy-compliant way, seller engagement is increasing as more transactions close digitally.

As we look to the year ahead and beyond, ABM has a place in every B2B marketer's toolbox.

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image of Pieter De Temmerman

Pieter De Temmerman is COO at LiveRamp B2B, where he is focused on building global solutions to B2B challenges in sales, marketing, and analytics for companies, agencies, platforms, and data providers.

LinkedIn: Pieter De Temmerman