The Power of Sales and Marketing Alignment in Account-Based Marketing

With account-based marketing (ABM), marketing messages are based on the data insights of targeted accounts. Sales and marketing resources are concentrated and then deployed together, yielding better tailored marketing messaging and more productive sales engagement – and more account conversions.

It’s the inversion of the traditional B2B lead-generation based marketing, and it works remarkably well.

80 percent of marketers who use ABM say it outperforms other marketing strategies, significantly. 97 percent say it has at least a somewhat higher ROI than other initiatives.

The problem is, a lot of organizations are still behind on this evolution in marketing. This is partially because a move to ABM is rooted in more than a change in technology. It requires an organizational shift. Sales and marketing teams need to be aligned.

Sales and Marketing Roles in ABM

For account-based marketing to work, sales and marketing teams each need to play their parts. They have clearly defined roles that are supposed to support and synchronize with one another.

This is what the roles look like for each team in effective account-based marketing:

Sales Roles in Account-Based Marketing

Sales are the ones who understand the accounts. They know the biggest accounts, the ones that need the most attention, and which fit the ideal buyer description. So, it is up to them to identify the target accounts, which is step one in account-based marketing.

Also, because of their on-the-front-lines level of insight, sales teams can offer the meaty details about current and targeted buyers to help marketing create really dynamic buyer personas, which is step two for ABM.

Marketing Roles in Account-Based Marketing

Armed with this information from sales, it is up to the marketing team to decide the right content, to be delivered at the right time, via the most appropriate channels. Marketing will be launching their social, email, website and in-person content, along with any advertising. Sales will be strategically responding to social engagement, following up on marketing’s email campaigns, and taking other steps to guide buyers along the sales cycle.

This means, marketing develops the multi-channel strategy to be used for targeted accounts, and both marketing and sales follow it. This is one area where there can be some resistance from sales. Here’s a tip for ABM success: get input from sales before finalizing the marketing strategy.

Measuring and Optimizing ABM Initiatives

The alignment and concentration of data resources are important, not just for developing targeted multi-channel strategies, but also in measuring and optimizing them. This means, both teams need to work together to define the key performance indicators.

What you’ll find with ABM is that traditional marketing KPIs are too broad or simply miss the mark. There are different reasons for this. One issue is, there are changes to the sales cycle – Sirius Decisions has found a 24 percent increase in length for B2B businesses using account-based marketing. Another change is priorities. The focus is no longer on new lead generation, but rather motivating identified target leads, so there will be a natural shift to more qualitative metrics.

Ultimately, the most essential KPIs will depend on your industry and the unique needs of your organization. However, here are some of the most widely used ABM metrics you may decide to use:

  • Engagement rate – You’re marketing automation platform likely will aggregate this data (clicks on adverts, social engagement, website visits, white paper downloads) to produce an engagement score for each account.
  • Marketing-qualified accounts – This is an evolution from marketing-qualified leads. MQAs offer a more holistic look at an entire account’s activity.
  • In-funnel conversion rates – Instead of looking at individual contact conversions at each stage, you’re tracking when the entire account converts. Possible goals would be email responses, booked meetings, and account conversions to customer.

Making Account-Based Marketing Work

From creating richer buyer profiles to establishing qualitative KPIs that will directly show the impact of your ABM initiatives – and where they need to be refined – when marketing and sales join forces you have fuller, clearer information to work with. Which means, it’s possible to make better-informed marketing and sales decisions.

But, the key for this aligned approach is good communication between teams. How can two traditionally adjacent teams suddenly mesh well together?

  • Establish open communication channels right away and define what they are.
  • Designate an individual or small group from each team to be in charge of cross-team communications.
  • Develop a system for sharing data.
  • It’s important for marketing to involve sales in more than just account identification and developing buyer profiles, making them part of strategic decisions.

Alignment doesn’t have to happen overnight. In fact, allowing the shift from being adjacent teams to strategic partners be an unfolding process can reduce some of the natural friction that such a change can bring. Those teams that can master inter-team communications have a lot to gain. The richer insights and synchronized efforts are what make account-based marketing the powerful tool that it has proven to be for revenue growth.

This post originally appeared on DNB.com/perspectives

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.