It's tough to find a B2B marketing executive who hasn't heard about the benefits of ABM and the kind of ROI it can produce compared to other forms of marketing. As per a Hubspot report, ABM is now a global phenomenon that's being leveraged by 67% of surveyed B2B brands to shorten sales cycles, close deals faster and drive predictability in the sales pipeline.
If you are a marketer amid an ABM program grappling with figuring out the right tools to execute it, you are not alone, my friend!
Tools for Account-Based Marketing strategy?
By tools, we essentially mean your marketing technology stack. Needless to say, a CRM is a critical piece of this puzzle. It's where sales teams record the data of their interactions with stakeholders in high priority accounts.
Thus, it would be wise for you as a marketer to consider this question:
Can your CRM support your account-based marketing strategy?
If your answer is "I don't know", then read on!
If the answer is “I know everything”, then you should read on anyway because you might find some industry best practices that might provide some incremental benefits.
This article will discuss three ways by which you can determine if your CRM is good enough for your ABM campaigns. You can also use these as criteria to evaluate a CRM if you plan to invest in one.
So without further ado, let's dive into it!
1) Ability to segment target accounts within the CRM
While executing account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns, selecting the right target accounts is half the battle won in terms of ABM success. The easiest way to do so is by just asking the sales reps you are working with.
The other approach is to segment key accounts based on specific selection criteria. These could be parameters such as the number of employees, annual revenue, geographic presence, number of meetings, some rudimentary intent data, leads from advertising etc. A good CRM should make it easy for you to carry out this target account segmentation.
For instance, if the key accounts you intend to bring under your ABM campaign are companies with employees greater than five thousand and annual revenue of greater than a hundred million dollars, then your CRM should allow you to filter the accounts accordingly.
2) The CRM should have a robust integration ecosystem
In most organisations, salespeople use a CRM to manage their day-to-day interactions with stakeholders from existing and new accounts. So, you would expect the CRM to be a one-stop-shop source of valuable data that can provide firsthand insights into things like accounts with significant monthly recurring revenue (MRR), active contacts, engagement levels etc.
Ideally, the data in the CRM should be good enough to lay the foundations for a successful ABM program, but the real world is much more ambiguous.
There could be scenarios where there is incomplete data in the CRM or, worse, incorrect data!
So how can you as a marketer mitigate this risk?
The answer lies in having the CRM integrated with third-party systems that can provide an additional layer of firmographic and technographic information to support your decision-making process.
As an example, think of the Salesforce CRM having an integrated Discover.Org application. The sales team maintains call notes in Salesforce while Discover.org provides the latest news on the account, company headcount etc. This setup helps both the teams from an operational perspective and also helps in promoting sales and marketing alignment
3) Consistent campaign metrics with marketing automation platforms
Apart from leveraging a CRM, marketing automation platforms are an integral part of any ABM strategy.
Many CRMs have inbuilt marketing automation, but there could be organisations using separate solutions. Either way, a good CRM should sync the marketing automation platform's data when an ABM campaign is running.
The real-time sync between a CRM system and a marketing automation platform provides both teams with the same level of visibility into the results of an ABM campaign. This could serve as the foundation for an accurate account-based marketing attribution model and align sales with marketing.
Furthermore, it provides the sales team direct insights into what is working versus not working with key accounts, which it can further use to improve its outreach and messaging strategy.
4) Ease of accessing and leveraging ABM collaterals
Another simple yet underrated way to keep the marketing and sales teams aligned is ensuring that both teams approach existing and potential account stakeholders with consistent messaging. Your prospective ideal customers should feel that they are interacting with one team, one organisation, across each stage of the buying journey.
Thus, it becomes vital to have artefacts and collateral for account-based marketing campaigns in one place. They may not necessarily be in the CRM, but given that it is the system that both teams use regularly, the CRM could be an excellent candidate.
Furthermore, having ABM artefacts in the CRM allows organisations to scale their ABM programs by expediting the onboarding process of new salespersons since they have easy access to real-time account insights.
5) Integrated social selling in target accounts
The next frontier for account-based marketing and your CRM strategy is related to social selling! Social media channels and social selling have become too big to ignore in the B2B world. Based on a LinkedIn report, over 76% of the buyers are willing to have a conversation via social channels. This behaviour change plays out for ABM programs and makes integrated social selling capabilities one of the evaluation factors for a CRM.
A good CRM will empower your sales and marketing teams to trigger actions from within the CRM, such as
- making calls to prospects
- receiving calls
- sending follow-up emails
- enrolling a prospect for a drip campaign
- Set up meetings with account stakeholders
A great CRM, however, will allow the teams to
- comment on a prospect's post on LinkedIn,
- attend webinars where they can network with prospects in the ABM contacts list and
- potentially run targeted ad campaigns as well
6) Ease of implementation
This one is a no-brainer for any MarTech. Make sure that your CRM strategy, selection and evaluation process takes into consideration things like
- Time from implementation to optimisation
- The kind of support that's offered to ensure that you can derive maximum value from the CRM product
- How customised can it be for your specific industry, domain and organisation?
- What level of resources would you require to implement the CRM?
- How easily can the end-user adopt the CRM?
- Do you have buy-in from the sales team?
What about Account-Based Marketing platforms?
So far, we have talked about what marketers should look for in a CRM if they are hoping to be an ABM driven organisation.
But, there is more! ABM Platforms are an alternative approach that you can take if you don't want to have different systems. Simplistically put, there are account-based marketing specific platforms that would meet all the criteria that we have talked about in this article. Below is a more formal and detailed definition from Gartner.
"Gartner defines the account-based marketing platform as a technology that enables marketers to run account-based marketing (ABM) programs at scale, including account selection, planning, engagement, and reporting.
ABM platforms may engage audiences via display advertising and retargeting, social advertising, content syndication, web personalisation, and email, using a mix of native capabilities and integrations for activating audiences to other systems.
In addition, these platforms provide reporting across channels, campaigns, and programs to measure performance."
~GARTNER PEER INSIGHTS
When should you invest in an ABM platform?
"When to invest in an ABM platform?" is not an easy question to answer, but as a marketing executive, you can consider the following aspects:
1) The kind of ABM you are implementing
If you have dabbled enough in the ABM world, you already know of its three types: one-to-one, one-to-few and one-to-many. The first two types can be executed without an ABM platform.
You can invest in a dedicated ABM platform or have a set of integrated CRM and marketing automation tools if you follow a one-to-many strategy since there are many accounts involved, hundreds or even in thousands sometimes. Technology becomes mandatory at the scale of the one-to-many approach.
2) Team maturity
There is a learning curve with ABM, and most marketers are still figuring it out. Before investing in an ABM platform, think about whether your existing MarTech could be used as a good training ground. If your current team is trying to understand marketing automation tools, it might not be suitable to bring in another piece of technology to complicate their lives further. Wait for the team to be comfortable with the ABM philosophy and the existing tool stack and bring in the ABM platform after that for scaling purposes.
We covered a lot of ground in this article. MarTech can get tricky if you have multiple stakeholders involved across several departments. A lot of your CRM and MarTech strategy will also be governed by the kind of ABM you are planning to do and your end objectives.
We hope that this article provided you with a quick starter framework to evaluate a CRM from an account-based marketing standpoint and gave some visibility on when you should invest in an ABM platform.
You can take several paths when it comes to MarTech, but whichever route you follow, make sure it aligns with your organisation's overall strategy and makes sense from an ROI standpoint!
If you need some guidance, reach out to us!