Interest in Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has never been as high as it is today. Many industry leaders have seen all the buzz around this new way of marketing over the past 2-3 years.
“Unless you have been living in a cave, it is impossible that you have not noticed the noise that is being produced around ABM”
ABM is the sensation of B2B Marketing. Something that has been “cooking” for the last four or five years. On the simple basis that B2B marketers concentrate sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts and run custom campaigns designed to solve each account, ABM is fast becoming the staple of modern focused B2B teams. in getting returns on your sales efforts. But how did we get there? Why has there been this change from selling to individuals to selling to “accounts” ? To answer this question we need to gain perspective and understand how the way of buying in B2B has changed.
The current B2B buyer is anonymous, divided and shows resistance.
Today’s B2B buyers prefer to remain anonymous for much longer in the sales cycle. Some studies show us that B2B buyers can complete about 70% of the purchase journey without the need for a seller to participate. In addition, add to this the fact that a B2B “buyer” is not a single individual , sometimes it is part of a committee of up to ten people, even more, from different areas of the organization. Therefore, it is beginning to be understood that B2B purchasing has become a much more fragmented exercise. Each member of the purchasing team only owns a small part of the transaction. In this new scenario, each member of that committee must participate at different times, with different approaches and with messages of value, in the hope of reaching a consensus among all the functions, needs, maturity and scope of the various participants.
Now it is the B2B buyers who are in control of the flow of information, the pace of the sales process and the preferred communication channel. In addition, they are more resistant to committing or participating in such a process until they have done their own research and comparison of products and / or services. This has created an additional difficulty for business generation teams, known as the “dark funnel” .
Approximately 90% of B2B buying activity takes place in the “dark funnel”.
This dark funnel is made up of all the research activity and purchase signals within an account, such as anonymous visits to a website, research carried out with third parties, forms with false data and all traffic and navigation that sales and marketing systems and teams are unable to capture or even predict.
The way of buying has changed and prospecting has become obsolete.
While B2B shopping has evolved, we basically continue to do things like we’re groping in the dark . We rely on the same old game of tricks for the business process: forms with fake data, spam and cold calls.
Ever since marketing declared that “content is king” , we have tried to attract all of our prospects to that dark funnel by selecting the content we think they need so that they can make an informed decision (or, at least, present ourselves before them as experts in that field). It is therefore thought that a prospect will step out of the shadows and abandon their anonymity in exchange for exclusive and relevant content.
However, marketers are beginning to realize the fact that B2B buyers are not willing to sacrifice their anonymity to access information that is easily available online, so the doors that were opened with content every They are increasingly difficult to open and, by extension, increasingly difficult to access potential customers.
B2B buyers can complete about 70% of the purchase journey without the need for any interaction with the marketing and / or sales team.
But even with this happening, we are still hopeful that if we shut down some of our “high-value” content , this approach will continue to provide enough quality opportunities to meet our pipeline goals because, a priori, anyone who completes a form “ should ” be a good prospect .
Another of the actions that we find very attractive to attract prospects and take them out of the dark side of the funnel and turn them into “potential clients” is to scan accreditations at conferences. There is no one faster in the Wild West than a business development manager at a trade show with a scanner in hand. “I got 142 accreditations today!”, Leaving aside the raffle at the stand for a Bose headset or a next-generation mini drone with an HD camera.
So, Marta García and Pedro Fernández, are now “leads ” that need to be processed, qualified and attended with a correct follow-up. This, of course, means that they will probably enter our nurturing process , and will start receiving all of our videos, eBooks, blogs, posts, newsletter invitations, article links, and customer testimonials which, whether relevant or not, means simply put them in the quick queue to become unsubscribe.
Maybe they will open one of those emails … maybe not. What difference does it make! It doesn’t really matter, we’re going to call you anyway. After all, we have determined that they are MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) even knowing that they have not expressed a real interest in our brand or virgin avocado oil producing facilities . But above all, we are really monitoring them. The BDRs (Business Development Reps) call and call, leave message after message until, finally, one day, that “lead” appears in the report of “leads without interest” , and the business development team asks “¿ why is no one following up on that lead? ”… at the end of the day, it was nothing more than “ a contact from a fair ” .
On the other hand, it does not matter whether that lead is from an account to which we cannot even sell (too small, too big, wrong industry, incompatible technology, working with a competitor, etc.). Nor does it matter that they have not shown a single indication of future purchasing behavior , apart from investigating a little (reactively) or having visited us at the fair booth interested in that hook gift that we had offered them. And much less we care that it is not even a person on the purchasing team … what matters is that “we have a lead!”.Absurd, right? Seen from a distance and in this humorous tone it might seem so, but a large part of the activity of B2B marketing and sales teams is carried out in this way, not to mention those cases in which someone from the team salesperson wakes up thinking: “let’s see who I call today to become a lead …?”
I am exaggerating to prove a fact. (Or maybe not?). Forms, spam, and cold calling don’t work. The way in which we carry out our process of attracting prospects and their conversion to leads does not work properly, and the worst thing is that we know that it is so. Do you want proof?
The total number of business emails sent and received per day exceeded 293,000 million in 2019 and forecasts show that it will be 347,000 million by the end of 2023, for a world population of 7.700 million people.
With 293k mill. of emails sent we have 249k mill. that are never read (15% open rate). Which tells us that 44k mill. of posts are opened and only 1.4k mill. generate a click (percentage of 3.2% of open emails). We are talking about an effective interaction rate of 0.4%, which means that 99.6% of the emails sent for commercial purposes do not generate any type of interaction .
If these numbers sound too big to understand the situation, let’s get down to the personal level. If our potential client works in an office, he receives an average of 121 emails per day. Of the total received, 18 will open (103 will be filtered or eliminated as garbage). Of the 18 it opens, only 0.5 will cause a click. That’s right, it will hardly establish any kind of interaction with an email every two days . Could it be ours? Unlikely.
The numbers aren’t much better for cold calling. According to InsideSales.com, only 1% of cold calls turn into meetings and 90% of B2B decision makers say they do not respond to cold calling efforts. In addition, only 28% of the calls made generate some type of conversation. The good news is that 74% of B2B buyers admit that they would speak to someone who offers them value and relevant information . The bad news is that those same buyers indicate that only 20% of the total is capable of offering that value. We are simply talking, no more, no less, about adding knowledge to the relationship. It sounds simple and it should be.
It is precisely this lack of knowledge that remains in the “dark funnel” that makes it so difficult to reach prospects effectively in this age where B2B buyers are anonymous, divided, and resistant. Altify , a customer revenue optimization company, dug into their numbers and discovered that there were salespeople who were trying to get sales worth $ 1 million with companies whose average contract size did not exceed $ 100,000. This was a loss of $ 218,000 per sales rep over the course of a year from tracking the wrong leads and chasing the wrong opportunities.
Okay, do not worry. We are going to leave it to the MarTech B2B industry to do its job in that elegant way we have come to call ABM. All our prospecting efforts now have their continuity if we know how to take advantage of what technology offers us, if we put rigor in our business processes and if we are willing to change the traditional way of working our ill-conceived “commercial funnel” .
ABM to the rescue
Account-based marketing shifts the shift from a “lead-based approach” to an “account-based approach , ” where knowledge and information about an account are used to create a targeted and personalized reach . This includes a number of additional benefits such as shorter lead times, larger average contract size, higher conversion / success rates, and the difficult alignment between marketing and sales.
But now what? What does this mean for our business? Do we need 63 different tools for everything to work or hire consultants to design and implement a work methodology that translates into a 90-page document? Some will say that if we ask 50 people, we can get 100 definitions of what ABM is and how to run it correctly.
Marketing has been doing just this (or at least trying) for the past 40 years. Pick good targets (often based on past successes), learn something about who you are trying to impact, commit on their terms and needs, share what has been learned during the sales process, and measure what really matters. This is good B2B marketing!
Currently, 50% of all companies have ABM pilot programs and more than 60% plan to invest in ABM technology. 84% of B2B marketers believe ABM provides benefits to retain and grow current business relationships. – Sirius Decisions.
So what happens when companies start an ABM pilot? Typically, you get great success. As if by magic, they begin to see an increase in the portfolio, bigger deals and a better match between marketing and sales from the beginning, in short, all the benefits common to a good ABM strategy (and, of course, B2B Marketing the good one).
But here’s the problem. While marketing is doing its job, the sales team is frowning. 20 accounts, 50 accounts, maybe even 100 accounts… but that’s the most a marketing team can handle. If you are a seller who does not have many accounts on that (limited) list, you are probably uncomfortable with the new methodology, what about me and my accounts?
The punch to the stomach comes when you realize that a good ABM process is not that simple to execute in a scalable way. This is where technology comes to help us, where we have to build a true strategy based on people, processes and technology.
It is well known that we need to run a business and not scientific experiments, so we have to be able to scale the program or is it simply not possible? We have creative, smart, hardworking people, great processes, and tons of technology ( 7,040 tools to be exact), so… why is an ABM program so difficult to scale? The answer is simple: limited access to the target accounts and NOT having a true orchestral direction of the whole process . But that means opening another melon that we leave pending for a future blog post.