Everyone seems to be talking about account-based marketing (ABM) as a new approach for strategically targeting your marketing efforts. ABM might be the next big thing, but it's not technically new: B2B sales teams have been targeting key accounts for years, giving their hottest prospects special attention in order to close the deal.
But is that approach scalable in the era of content strategy and inbound marketing?
Nipul Chokshi says it is. He's senior director of product marketing at predictive analytics company Lattice Engines. Previously, he built and ran the solutions marketing and sales enablement functions at Yammer (acquired by Microsoft in 2012); before that, held product marketing at Marketo.
I invited Nipul to Marketing Smarts to discuss account-based marketing: what it is, how it works, and how your company can scale this approach, and revenue, by focusing your marketing on certain key accounts.
Here are just a few highlights from my conversation with Nipul:
Account-based marketing isn't actually new (but it is newly scalable) (04:34): "Account-based marketing has been around...since the nineties. Typically, it was an effort that was reserved for your top 10 or top 50 accounts, but now, with the advent of Big Data processing, with marketing moving more and more online, with companies having more and more access to that digital footprint that prospects area leaving out on the Internet, there's an opportunity for marketers to be able to scale that effort beyond your top 10 or top 50 accounts. You can even do it to thousands. We have one customer...that's doing [it] across 500,000 accounts. It's all about helping marketers be a lot more personalized in terms of their marketing so that they can be more effective."
Account-based marketing can keep you from wasting resources on the 99% of leads that will never pan out (07:24): "1% of all leads turn into real revenue opportunities. 1%! In my mind, there's a lot of waste there.... This recent movement to expand and take those principles of old-school account-based marketing and apply it on a larger scale rose out of that. You want to be a lot more effective. You want to say 'who is it that I'm targeting?' That's number one. Based on that, What is the problem I'm trying to solve? Based on that, What are the messages and offers that I need to create? And then, at the end, it's all about the channels and tactics that I'm going to be able to use."
Don't toss your personas, but do make them more effective with data (08:18): "Personas are more relevant than ever. The way that we approach personas...there's an ideal customer profile, and there are two components to that. There's the company-level persona, which is traditionally like if you go ask a sales guy, 'What kind of companies do you typically sell to...' that's kind of like a company-level persona. What predictive analytics and data enables you to do is add all this other data and insights that would have been really hard for Marketing to collate without buying data from, like, 15 different data sources, cleaning the data, making it all consumable.... So there's this company-level persona that's part of this ideal customer profile that's very relevant, but at the same time because of predictive analytics and Big Data, it's made very much richer.
"The second component of the persona is the actual individual. Ultimately, it's the companies that are going to buy your solution in B2B, but you'll sell to teams of human beings. There have been a ton of studies done. On average, the number of people involved in a B2B sales cycle has gone up from eight or nine people to 17...so it's important to be able—from a personal level—to identify who those people are. What are their roles? What are their titles? Where do they hang out? Are they active socially or not? Do they respond to in-person events...? So it's really important to have those personas built out at the person-level.... Personas are not outmoded; they're more important than ever. It's just that you want to make sure you build as rich a persona as possible at the company level and at the individual level."
Nipul and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
Music credit: Noam Weinstein.
Nipul Chokshi, senior director of product marketing at predictive analytics firm Lattice Engines. Prior to joining Lattice, Nipul built and ran the solutions marketing and sales enablement functions at Yammer (acquired by Microsoft in 2012). Before Yammer, Nipul led product management/marketing at Marketo and Merced Systems (acquired by NICE Systems). Follow Nipul on Twitter: @nipulc.