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This article is taken from a free whitepaper produced in collaboration with MeritDirect which explored the value of ABM and how to unearth it. Click here to access.
ABM is the bedrock of modern B2B marketing. Its purpose is to drive awareness and advocacy across target organisations. It focuses on individuals, as opposed to building contact strategies around products, services or channels. Each customer is treated as being unique.
In 2021, 70% of marketers reported using ABM, up 15% from 2020 according to Hubspot.
If ABM is to bear fruit, a spray and pray approach to sales and marketing won’t work. The solution is a framework of contact data that allows you to hone-in like a laser beam on the most influential people at prospect firms.
Key information on these individuals can include intent, transactional, first- and third-party data. It can be acquired across multiple channels, from the web to connected devices (the Internet of Things) to external suppliers.
Just as consumers can baffle brands with the number of touchpoints and devices they use, business customers also interact with marketing in a myriad ways. Understanding where and how they connect with your content, what your next best action should be, and how to make the best use of tech innovation is key.
True ABM today is a blend of marketing, technology, content and processes that creates a new operating model for sales and marketing engagement. The golden thread running through all of those functions is data.
Read on to discover how innovation in data-driven B2B marketing can deliver real growth.
Data as a driver of business transformation
That ABM is fashionable is not in doubt; Forbes hails it as “proven”. Meanwhile, Forrester highlights its success: “ABM… does produce results for marketing and sales… it may take some work but focusing sales on specific accounts does increase the return on those efforts, especially over time.”
Although the road to the first sale can be long, it’s an investment that can continue to deliver results over time. Yet ABM’s efficacy will stand or fall by the quality of the data it’s founded on. According to Gartner, organisations face an annual deficit of $15m in lost revenue if they do not take a strategic approach to data.
At a structural level, one of the main barriers to ABM is the schism between sales and marketing. Too often, these teams’ mutual objectives are poles apart. There should be an invisible join between the two if they are fully aligned and working towards the same goals. Data is the glue that can bind sales and marketing together.
A “quality in, quality out” approach is vital. This means auditing the touchpoints used to collect customer data. It also entails keeping data clean and up to date whenever contact is made. Simply having “a big database” is a tactic of the past and one doomed to failure in this age of busy professionals and copious content.
A strategic approach to data should not just involve sales and marketing. High-quality data can be a true driver of transformation across a business, crucial for creating a competitive advantage.
According to IBM research, just 13% of businesses believe they have a “comprehensive” strategy in place. Furthermore, a fifth of B2B firms have nothing in place compared to 12% in B2C. The importance of data strategy isn’t lost on organisations, however, as 55% of all types of business confirmed they have begun to develop one.
Sharing and nurturing leads between sales and marketing teams is vital. It underpins a demand management strategy that allows your organisation to assign leads to the most relevant opportunities, building an agile operation and healthy pipeline. Remember to continuously enrich your customer database, avoiding inaccurate profiles that can halt your drive for growth
Dream big: data’s huge opportunity for marketers
The opportunities afforded by the data that surrounds organisations cannot be overstated.
Data is everywhere. Your customers are seeking information and willing to connect at multiple touchpoints through a growing range of devices. Forrester has found business decision-makers consult on average 15 different sources during a purchase journey.
73% of retail consumers use multiple channels to shop, according to Harvard Business Review. To gain a unified consumer view, marketers must connect all of their channels.
Technology is driving digital marketing and can be the solution to the seemingly unmanageable amount of data that’s being created. It’s not enough to simply spot and collect your key targets’ information. Smart marketers will filter out the noise of unnecessary data created as people interact and transact.
Sorting the wheat from the chaff isn’t easy. Data is too often collected as a matter of course and left unstructured, mountainous and useless. If the data collected at source is high quality, understanding and processing it for ABM will be much more straightforward.
Consider the differences between, and the different uses of, first- and third-party data. Those businesses analysing greater sources of both types of data are known to do better than rivals not raking in data and joining the dots.
Popular sources of first-party data used in ABM include website analytics (e.g. Google Analytics), email and CRM data. Offline data such as direct mail and call centre stats can also be included, though they are becoming much less likely to be used.
Third-party data is collected from demographic and behavioural data providers to validate and enhance first party data; other sources include unstructured feeds such as social media (though less so in B2B than B2C); and third-party APIs.
The opportunities for ABM and targeting the individual with smart marketing are vast. But it requires a 360- degree view of data feeds. According to IBM, just 22% of all organisations are fully integrating those sources across channels.
In a highly competitive data-driven world, those who join the dots are the ones most likely to prosper. Are you rising to the challenge?
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