We are officially in the era of account-based marketing (ABM). 

A recent SiriusDecisions study reported 92 percent of B2B companies called ABM “extremely important” to their overall marketing efforts, and 60 percent plan to invest in ABM in the next year.

ABM has been around since the mid-90s, so why the surge in interest?

It's only recently that ABM has become easier to implement. For many years the data and algorithms necessary to scale ABM were missing, and only the top marketers could successfully incorporate ABM strategies into their organizations. 

Predictive analytics and big data collection solved the issue of scaling ABM, allowing companies to apply ABM not only to their top 50 accounts, but their top 500, top 5,000 and even top 5 million accounts.

But it isn't only about the infrastructure. 

Aligning Sales and Marketing Teams

To efficiently close more deals, B2B marketing leaders need to effectively communicate how ABM differs from traditional marketing and equip their teams with the technology, tools, people and processes needed to conduct personalized, strategic outreach to highly targeted accounts.

While sales teams have zeroed in on specific accounts for years, marketing has largely been removed from the process or focused on only a handful of accounts. More often than not, marketing has been measured solely on the number of leads sourced rather than the quality of leads sourced. 

It’s time to close this skills gap and bring marketing and sales teams together to smartly and efficiently execute against ABM strategies.

Adjusting KPIs to reflect lead quality over lead quantity can align marketing and sales on the messaging and tactics needed to address every stakeholder involved in the buying decision. This will in turn help sales convert big accounts to improve the company’s growth. 

Businesses looking to bring account-based marketing to scale should first understand how it changes the marketing and sales landscape. Here are three of the most disruptive changes that come with the rise of ABM:

Upend the Traditional Sales Funnel

ABM shakes up the sales funnel, as it starts by identifying specific accounts to convert. 

The traditional process had one primary goal: to gather as many leads as possible at the top of the funnel and enter them into a flurry of marketing and sales communications. 

ABM flips that funnel on its head and starts by identifying best-fit customers first, instead of following the traditional lead generation model of distributing marketing content to a broad set of channels. Identifying your best-fit customers from the start makes it easier to allocate resources and budget where they will be most effective.

Instead of simply passing leads on to sales, marketers using ABM focus on identifying the best-fit companies, engage using the right content and channels, and turn customers into brand advocates.

Focus on the Post-Sale Customer Lifecycle

While savvy sales teams have always focused on the second half of the sales funnel to generate additional revenue, that hasn’t always been a strong focus for marketing teams. 

ABM applies not just to finding and landing net new customers, but to expanding the relationship with existing customers. Developing highly customized offers and tailoring content for your highest value existing accounts will increase the number of closed deals and further establish marketing as a primary driver of revenue.

Marketing and Sales Teams Work Closely Together

One of ABM's biggest benefits is that it aligns sales and marketing. Unlike traditional lead-based tactics that encourage marketing teams to focus on “getting leads” and sales teams to prioritize “closing accounts,” ABM relies on marketing and selling to a set of accounts (or segments) that sales and marketing define together. For your ABM program to be successful, your organization must commit to bringing teams together, aligning them on common goals and working hand-in-hand while keeping the customer top of mind.

Like it or not, account-based marketing is here to stay — it’s time to brave the transition from traditional lead generation to ABM and learn how to adapt. After all, sales teams don’t celebrate when they win a lead — they celebrate when they close an account.

Title image "Handstand" (CC BY 2.0) by  Jonathan Petit