Account-based marketing (ABM) is nothing new — it’s what sales executives have been doing since the dawn of sales itself. Executives would identify the companies with whom they most wanted to do business and they’d start making phone calls and knocking on doors.
Today, we’ve applied that concept to data-driven digital marketing, but the principal strategy remains the same. Choose the specific accounts and engage them with messages online. The advantages of digital are cost-effectiveness and, of course, scale. Data allows sales and marketing teams to target every company that fits their ideal customer profile — companies of any size, anywhere, at any time, and on any screen.
There’s a reason ABM has survived decades of dramatic change in sales and marketing, remaining a favorite among B2B organizations. It brings efficiency to the marketing process by eliminating “spray and pray” tactics and zooming in on exactly the decision-makers at each company that sales teams want to reach.
Not exactly. The problem is that buyer behaviors have changed. In the past, one could simply target the CTO regarding a technology product, but that purchase decision might now start with a junior manager in procurement and include stakeholders in many different departments from marketing to IT.
While digital ABM strategies attempt to address this shift in buyer behavior, there are several areas in which they fall short, sacrificing either the incredible scale digital marketing offers, or the fine targeting afforded by the use of data:
- By targeting an account with an IP address, marketers are reaching literally everyone with internet access at that company. That means that apart from the CTO, the purchasing department and other stakeholders, they’re also reaching everyone from the customer support staff to the mailroom — none of whom may have even the barest stake in vendor selection. That’s hardly efficient targeting, and not much better than “spray and pray.”
- Targeting by title or job function may seem to solve the problem, but the fact is that buying in B2B is by committee and the size of the buying committee has grown over the last few years. B2B purchase committees now include members across functions, departments and levels. And all of these members are significant influencers in the purchase process. Moreover, titles change from company to company. A manager in one company may be a mid-level position, but it may require 10 or more years of experience at another. Some companies have C-suites, while others may cap titles at the EVP level. Targeting by title limits the scale that makes digital ABM such an effective strategy.
- Even if you are able to reach the right purchasing team, there’s no guarantee you’re reaching them at the right time. What’s the point in surfacing brilliant offers for color printers to a company that’s just purchased 100 color printers? For ABM, timing is everything.
The best solution to the problem of “right person, right message, right time” in ABM is to target by intent. Targeting by intent gives marketers the precision targeting within each account to provide both scale and quality. Intent targeting is company and title agnostic; it very simply and clearly ensures that messages are sent to influencers who are in a buying frame of mind.
Consider again the modern B2B buying cycle. The purchasing committee within a target company decides that it’s ready to move forward with a particular solution. They then spend their time furiously researching the solution they intend to purchase. It’s during this research period that the marketing message must reach the target client. It’s the best window marketers have, so it’s critical to be aware of those signals — of a target account’s intent to purchase — and ensure marketing messages are reaching the targets at that time.
Targeting by intent insures that only the right accounts, and only the right people within that account, are reached. It ensures efficiency and pinpoints accurate targeting without sacrificing scale. That’s data-driven marketing at its best.
Amit Varshneya is the VP and Head of Account-Based Marketing Strategy at Madison Logic. In this role, he is responsible for Madison Logic’s ABM solution, helping drive product strategy and bringing the Activate ABM solutions to Madison Logic’s impressive line of customers.