Last Wednesday, AMA welcomed Angela Rennert, the Director of Marketing at Chronus. She shared insights from over a decade of working in B2B marketing, the industry of selling products and services from one business to another instead of straight to consumers (B2C). B2B is often overshadowed by its flashier counterpart, so this meeting offered a fresh perspective on the marketing industry—and showed just how diverse that industry can be.
This recap has been edited for clarity & length.
The world of marketing is one of continuous innovation, and never has there been a more innovative time for marketers than today. The latest innovation on every B2B marketer’s mind is account based marketing, which is the trending topic right now.
But before diving into trends, it’s important to understand where marketers are at currently. Today, the inbound marketing model is a must-have for marketing departments and immensely popular. Inbound marketing is a strategy for attracting customers through high-quality content at every step of the buyer’s journey across a variety of channels. Inbound creates brand awareness, builds trust and attracts quality traffic and leads which are converted through the funnel and ultimately result in the generation of new business. And there’s a reason it’s so popular: Inbound is one of the most cost-effective and scalable ways to grow revenue.
But all things change and with it, marketers continue to innovate.
Emerging Challenges for Businesses Using Inbound
There are a couple shifts happening now that are changing the landscape and creating challenges within inbound marketing models. So what are these challenges?
Lead-based Model: With inbound, marketing creates - and sales works with - an individual lead (i.e. a single contact at a company). But organizations more and more are moving towards a consensus-based approach when making a big decision. There are committees of purchasers with many contacts and influencers across the company, whether they’re from HR, legal, IT, or finance. This trend is creating an increasingly challenging and time consuming situation for sales in their efforts to successfully drive purchase decisions at organizations.
Sales Engagement Timing: According to research highlighted within the book The Challenger Customer, organizations typically reach out to a supplier when they are already 57% through the purchase process. Meaning that in an inbound model, when a lead first speaks to sales, they are already more than half-way through their purchase decision. This creates an uphill battle for sales to turn that lead into actual revenue.
Increased Competition: Inbound is so efficient that it’s now mainstream. Since everyone is using it, it’s harder than ever to get your content top-ranked within search results, stand out within social media or email, and to keep PPC bids under control.
ABM has gained traction as it addresses these challenges, and works in parallel to inbound marketing models to build even stronger revenue generating marketing engines.
What Exactly Is Account Based Marketing?
ABM is defined as a strategy that focuses marketing and sales resources on a set of targeted accounts and employs personalized campaigns and content designed to resonate with each account to open doors and deepen engagement.
Let’s break that down.
It’s a strategy: It’s not a one-and-done campaign. It’s an approach that puts accounts at the center. It’s a different way of thinking about customers, both in the acquisition phase as well as throughout the customer lifecycle.
It includes marketing and sales: It’s a joint approach with the success of one depending on the other—they’re intertwined. Generally, it’s driven by marketers, but it’s very much a partnership.
It’s focused on targeted accounts: While inbound is a broad approach and reaches everyone expressing interest around your products, ABM has a highly specific audience in mind. This enables organizations to focus resources and attention on selected accounts, such as those that are most likely to buy from you. Further, it moves away from an individual lead-based model, shifting to a more holistic account focused mindset that works with multiple influencers across the account.
It’s personalized: More than ever, ABM works to address the unique challenges of each account. You have to be able to understand what specific challenges the account is facing and how you can help, and that’s what will get your message across—that’s why they’ll actually listen (or at least open your email). With content marketing being the cornerstone of inbound and it being so competitive, personalized messages and content are the best way to cut through the clutter to actually reach your audience.
It opens doors and deepens engagement: ABM is a strategy that is applied to accounts across the entirety of the customer journey. ABM helps with customer acquisition by opening doors to create conversations that may have never happened and proactively engaging them earlier in the buyer’s journey. And once they’re a client, ABM helps to retain them and strengthen that relationship.
Benefits of ABM
By focusing on the account, you are able to holistically understand the account’s challenges and pain points, enabling sales and marketing to proactively educate the influencers involved in the purchase decision through the buyer’s journey with personalized content catered to their situation and position solutions accordingly. This approach enables you to more effectively and efficiently land those huge clients in a shorter amount of time. The added bonus? ABM puts sales and marketing on the same team, each gaining valuable insights from each other and making each team respectively stronger.
Better Together – Inbound & ABM
ABM is complimentary to inbound marketing, not a replacement. Think of inbound as fishing with a net, and ABM is fishing with a spear. The two marketing models each have their own strengths, which when paired together creates impactful marketing results. In fact, many companies are continuing to invest in inbound marketing and in addition, are adding on ABM as a growth strategy to further drive marketing contributed revenue.
Note: For those looking to learn more about B2B marketing, Angela recommended reading The Challenger Customer by the team at CEB.