If you worked in sales or marketing in the past year—you’ve already heard the news: Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is an incredibly effective way to target qualified prospects and close more deals. Don’t believe us? Consider these statistics:
- Companies that have an ABM strategy in place generate 208% more revenue for their marketing efforts than companies that don’t use an ABM strategy (source).
- Almost 85% of marketers who measure ROI report that ABM delivers higher returns than any other marketing approach (source).
- ABM outperforms a traditional marketing approach across a number of categories, including sales and marketing alignment, overall customer lifetime value, contract value, close rate, and ROI (source).
I think we can all agree—ABM has proven to be more than just an industry buzzword or passing phase. So, like many companies, ZoomInfo decided to give ABM a shot. The following article outlines the thought-process behind our ABM campaign and offers four important lessons we learned along the way. Keep reading!
The Problem: Poor Adoption of a New Product
Here’s a quick summary of our ABM campaign and methodology: ZoomInfo released a new product at the beginning of 2015, called FormComplete. This particular product is an integration between the ZoomInfo contact database and Marketo. The main selling point? FormComplete instantly confirms, appends, and updates key data points as leads come in—in real time.
Yet, two years after this product’s release, we were still struggling to gain adoption—mainly because the core value proposition differed from the messaging in our typical marketing campaigns. Even still—there was a rather large market FormComplete could support.
The Solution: A Comprehensive Account-Based Marketing Campaign
Our final ABM campaign was relatively complicated and involved many moving parts. But for the sake of this article, we’ve condensed it into five basic steps:
Step One: Account Identification
The first step of any ABM program is account identification. Fortunately, our product and account criteria were both relatively simple. Our sales and marketing teams came together to define our target audience using specific, measurable criteria. These included revenue, marketing team structure, location, and of course, technological considerations—i.e. companies that use Marketo software.
Then, all we had to do next was input these criteria into the ZoomInfo database to secure a list of accounts within our total addressable market.
Now, we understand ZoomInfo has a unique advantage when it comes to understanding and identifying target accounts—after all, that’s what we do for a living. But this step doesn’t need to be complicated, even for companies who don’t have access to the amount of data we have. We’ll provide more tips and tricks to successful account targeting later. On with the strategy.
Step Two: Outreach Cadence Development
Because we had such a large total addressable market, we decided to break up our target accounts into four cohorts, each of which would be worked within a 10-day time period. We found this approach to be an optimal way to test all forms of account engagement and sales outreach. The final result was a happy mix of traditional marketing and outbound sales outreach.
We kicked off each sequence with an email invite to a recurring webinar—an overview of the common problems FormComplete solves—scheduled at the end of each 10-day period. Marketing reinforced this outreach by sending targeted LinkedIn advertisements to select accounts.
Step Three: Script Creation
Now, on to one of the most difficult—but rewarding—steps in the process. We knew which accounts we wanted to reach, we knew when and how we planned to reach them, but now we needed to figure out our messaging.
Both the marketing and sales departments worked together to develop scripts and talking points to use in voicemails, phone conversations, and outreach emails. This resulted in some truly helpful internal conversations that shed light on some important messaging inconsistencies. The marketing department saw FormComplete as a solution to optimize conversion rates, whereas sales viewed FormComplete as a way to maintain an accurate and consistent flow of information about inbound leads.
So, to resolve this issue, we conducted tests and surveyed users to see how customers and prospects viewed FormComplete—more on this later.
Step Four: Streamlining Our Strategy
If you take one thing from this article, let it be this: Companies buy, but people decide. What we mean is, although we had our list of target accounts clearly defined, we also needed a better understanding of the people within these accounts. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to effectively sell or market to them.
Here’s the process we decided on: Two days before each cohort outreach began, our sales reps selected five accounts and used the ZoomInfo platform to identify four to five potential buyers within each organization. Why so many? Research confirms the number of people within the average B2B buying committee is growing.
Step Five: Message Optimization
After running extensive tests on our messaging, we were able to resolve the discrepancy with our value proposition. As it turns out, sales and marketing were both right.
Tests revealed marketing automation users weren’t reaping all the benefits their platforms had to offer—mostly because marketing automation capabilities rely on accurate data. The problem? Organizations can’t ask for all of the information they need on their forms—or else they run the risk of tanking conversion rates.
And, our sales department was on to something as well. Most post-form submit functionality—like email campaigns, lead scoring, or lead routing – suffer from data inaccuracies.
We applied these insights to our messaging and saw a notable uptick in email open rates:
Ultimately, these are the main steps we took to achieve ABM success. Now that you have this basic background information, let’s jump into the purpose of this article— what we learned, and what you can take away from our experience.
4 Lessons We Learned from Our Own ABM Campaign
Although our campaign may seem like it went off without a hitch—this wasn’t the case. We made mistakes and we experienced some setbacks—but at the end of the day, we learned a few important lessons. Let’s take a look:
1. ABM works.
In only 90 days, our qualified pipeline for FormComplete skyrocketed by 114%. More importantly, our customer base grew by 30%. Our point? Account-based marketing (ABM) works!
This may seem like an obvious point—but it’s important to mention. We’ve all read other ABM success stories and blog posts about ABM, but it’s completely different to put into practice and actually generate results. We were pleasantly surprised to find that ABM is much more than a buzzword.
2. ABM requires access to high-quality data.
Bells and whistles aside, all you really need to kick-start an ABM strategy is data. Without data, ZoomInfo wouldn’t have been able to target, identify, or reach out to key accounts.
To make a similar strategy work for your company, we recommend working with each department to define your ideal customer profile (ICP). An ICP is a set of characteristics shared by your target accounts—characteristics that make them a good fit for your product or service. This may include a specific industry, technology stack, a financial metric, or more basic firmographic characteristics.
Whether you work with internal data resources or partner with a B2B database solution like ZoomInfo, high-quality data is a non-negotiable.
3. Companies buy, but people decide.
Although identifying the right accounts is important, you can’t forget about the people within those accounts. Always remember to personalize your approach, not just to the account, but to the individuals who make up the buying committee.
4. ABM facilitates sales and marketing alignment.
We went into our ABM strategy thinking of sales and marketing alignment as a prerequisite to this type of methodology. Little did we know how much ABM would actually facilitate inter-department alignment. In fact, 70% of companies with an ABM strategy said their sales and marketing teams were mostly or completely aligned—compared to 51% of companies without an ABM strategy (source).
As part of our ABM campaign, marketing had to provide the sales department with support throughout every stage of the funnel—this included message testing and even account-specific content enablement. On the flip side, sales was able to communicate how the strategy was, and wasn’t, working with specific accounts.
Think about it—marketing now has a better understanding of the sales cycle and sales has access to better, more personalized content. Everyone wins.
And there you have it—an inside look at our successful ABM strategy. If you have yet to jump on the ABM bandwagon, we say put your hesitations aside and go for it. With organizational buy-in, high-quality data, and internal alignment—you’ll be set up for success.
Have you experimented with ABM? What kind of success have you seen? Let us know!
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