Within the world of sales and marketing over the last two to three years, account-based thinking has risen to prominence as a top-of-mind initiative. Analyst firm TOPO recently reported that 80% of all client inquiries are related to account-based topics. Advisory firm SiriusDecisions called Account-Based Marketing a “must have,” in 2015, revealing that nearly all (92%) companies surveyed recognize the value in ABM. Even the online search activity around “account based marketing” has grown almost 10X since 2013.
Revenue-minded B2B leaders have always sought out tactics that will land more of the big deals, the ones that include long, complex sales cycles. But account-based thinking is not a shiny object that should be ignored until the next trend comes along. As B2B marketers and sales team face increased pressure to deliver results to their organizations, the account-based mindset has finally begun to earn the recognition it deserves as a surefire way of driving growth, as it has for years. Why? Because it’s perfectly suited for B2B.
Account-based sales and marketing is not new; it’s just been ignored by MarTech.
Advisory firm ITSMA first started discussing the concept of ABM 12 years ago. However, in the last decade, B2B demand generation has almost completely re-invented itself. Just look at the collision of disciplines such as marketing automation, inbound, content marketing, analytics, email, search, social media, and more. These tactics have armed marketers and sales teams with data-driven tools to create more efficiencies and produce more revenue.
The problem is that these technologies are optimized for single-buyer deals; ideal for high velocity, low-value purchases. They are built around the ‘lead,’ an individual buyer who progresses along your funnel until they are ready to buy. Their limitations have ushered in a new wave of technology available to accelerate and scale account-based activity.
B2B requires Account-Based Everything.
The nature of B2B buying and selling demands a different process, as it always has. In many cases, the buyer is never a single person. He or she is almost always part of a buying team. The bigger the deal, the more people, departments, and disciplines get involved. Up to 17 people influence the typical enterprise purchase (up from 10 people in 2011) according to IDG. Each of these people has a different motivation, a different pain point, and is rewarded differently.
It’s due time to realize that we’re really selling to an account – not just a lead. To support selling into a large account effectively, it’s critical that your team understands how each individual fits into the larger account and has a sense of the relationships, influences, and connections that bind them together. Your marketing team needs to understand the context of the account relationship to decide how to interact with any new person that comes into the system. Your customer success team needs to systematically expand the depth and breadth of relationships across client accounts to cross-sell and retain happy customers.
This is not only Account Based Marketing, nor is it just Account Based Sales Development. This is Account Based Everything. And it’s a critical prerogative for modern B2B organizations.
Now, more than ever, is the right time for account-based thinking.
The Corporate Executive Board has discussed several external factors behind the growing number of stakeholders within organizations; a company’s aversion to risk requires buyers to build consensus to move ahead with any purchase; the complexity of technology means the involvement of IT, operations, and procurement in purchases; globalization brings regional players into the mix; regulatory requirements warrant legal and compliance oversight; and finally, flat, networked organizations prioritize cross-silo collaboration. These factors all mean that in today’s world, more than ever before, it’s critical to build relationships across accounts, rather than focus on one individual “lead.”
Beyond these external factors, there are internal economics that are driving urgency behind the buzz around account-based strategies. For many organizations who sell into the enterprise market, big deals are worth 10-20 times more than the average deal size. Account-based activity is more efficient, leading to bigger wins, increasing the quality of opportunities while accelerating deals. It aligns sales and marketing, enables sales excellence, and delivers a consistently relevant experience to customers. These are powerful reasons why companies are designing sales and marketing strategies specifically for these types of deals.
What’s more, relying on tactics such as inbound only serves to limit growth potential. As powerful as inbound can be, most programs take 6-9 months to start seeing results, and a full 12-24 months to start seeing significant value. Most companies simply don’t have the luxury of waiting for the lead-centric inbound model to ramp up, or expand when facing content saturation. Account-based strategies and outbound activity are a faster route to revenue, and can help break through the noise in crowded markets.
The future of B2B is account-based.
Our own efforts to help companies adopt account-based thinking are being met with enormous positive traction. Beyond our own validation of this concept, reports from the front lines of account-based programs have been astonishingly positive. These programs have been shown to yield the highest conversion rates, and the greatest revenue growth of all the programs run by pioneers who have proved this model.
According to the ITSMA, “account based marketing delivers the highest Return on Investment of any B2B marketing strategy or tactic. Period.”
In an interview for Martech Advisor, Megan Heuer of SiriusDecisions predicts the future of account-based thinking. She describes it as “the future of B2B – insight-led, technology-enabled and just plain the smart way to focus on growth and customer relationships.”
From where we sit, we couldn’t agree more.
Brandon Redlinger is the Director of Growth at Engagio. If you want to join the Account Based Everything revolution, Engagio has put together The Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Sales Development. Download the guide for free today.