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PHOTO: Alexandre Croussette

Account-based marketing (ABM) has moved beyond the hype in the last three years. Ninety-one percent of respondents to a recent SiriusDecisions survey said ABM has made a difference in the number of deals they are able to close. 

It’s early days with ABM. We're still developing methods for implementation. Like any tactic, it takes the development of people, processes and tools. ABM tactics build off of your inbound infrastructure and as your programs mature, your resources, processes and tools need to change.

ABM: The Change Agent

One of the biggest changes we're seeing is in how you use your sales development resources (SDRs). 

SDRs are critical for inbound programming because they are validating a high volume of leads, assisting in validation and assessing lead quality. But with mature ABM programming, leads are already identified and the more targeted the prospect, the more personalized engagement goal is required.

Given how much of the prospecting is done by marketing and martech, is there a need for another intermediary — the SDR — when the target has been qualified, is engaged and has booked a meeting direct with an account executive through through a form fill request or website chatbot?

Related Article: Confessions of an ABM Skeptic

Emergence of a New Role

Making the case for more marketing support for lead sourcing and qualification, the role of the SDR transitions to marketing. We call this role the marketing development representative, or MDR. MDRs are responsible for defining the ideal customer profile; development of the buyer personas; account and contact list development; development and execution of campaigns; sales playbook creation; TOFU, MOFU and BOFU (no, not soy products: top, middle and bottom of the funnel) inbound and outbound multichannel tactics and campaigns; development of dedicated funnel stages to capture key performance indicators and reporting (engagement, conversions, revenue, etc.).

CONSIDER THE 3 MODELS FOR ABM PROGRAMS:

Large Account

Named Account

Industry

Goal

New market penetration within target accounts

Cross- or up-sell into existing accounts

Improve lead quality and/or automate lead qualification

Lead Sourcing

Inside Sales/Account Executive

MDR

SDR and/or MDR

List Size

1-100 strategic accounts

50-5,000 strategic accounts

Over 1,000 accounts

Lead Engagement

1:1 in person/virtual meetings and personalized MarComm

Firmographic audience targeting for digital marketing campaigns

Firmographic audience targeting for digital marketing campaigns

ABM Tactic(s)

TOFU, MOFU + BOFU (full) approach (multi-channel and new ABM funnel)

TOFU approach (inbound and outbound email outreach and new ABM funnel)

TOFU approach (account based advertising and web personalization and existing leads-based funnel)

Personalization

High

Medium

Low

Measurement

Engagement, Lead Quality, Pipeline Velocity

Engagement, Lead Quality

Lead Quality

Impact

High

Medium

Low

You can see that the more robust the ABM program, there's less need for SDR involvement because the qualification is done through highly personalized, multichannel marketing programs for every stage of the buying process. You’re also targeting a smaller subset of accounts. All programs ultimately increase the number of sales meetings, the lead quality and overall sales productivity, but ABM is most impactful in 'large account' programming.

Related Article: Stop Talking and Start Doing: What it Really Takes to Excel at ABM

3 Reasons Why SDRs Can Be Ineffective With ABM

  1. Personalized marketing campaigns are more relevant, on message and on brand than any SDR email. Outbound emails typically come off as ‘spammy’ and the cadence is typically too intrusive.
  2. It is difficult to align messaging between campaigns and SDR outreach for consistency. With ABM campaigns, each has its own specific messaging that requires a high degree of coordination and enablement from marketing.
  3. Engagement for account-based leads requires a higher degree of knowledge of the product/service being sold. It’s not just about validating role and need.

3 Reasons Why MDRs Are More Effective Than SDRs

  1. Qualified leads can be easily routed to book meetings through conversational marketing chatbots and/or web chats rather than a form fill that needs further qualification. (Forbes recent Cloud 100 list of the top private SaaS companies found while gated content is on the decline, conversational marketing is on the rise.)
  2. Predictive analytics can further qualify and route engaged leads to account executives the moment they engage within a marketing channel.
  3. MDRs focus on real-time, on-demand experiences that are highly personalized. Those interactions are positioned to be where the buyer lives and is responsive when they are engaged. 

Related Article: Account-Based Marketing: Digging Into Facts, Uprooting Myths 

An Opportunity for Sales and Marketing to Change

ABM is targeted, effective and can deliver the highest ROI of any B2B marketing tactic. It allows marketers an opportunity to personalize and hone their messaging and communications and deliver those messages in channels where their target audiences live. Targeted prospects are more likely to engage with content that is geared specifically to them, and is relevant to their business and their role in the buying decision. That’s better than any outbound SDR email or call can ever deliver.

Alternatively, ABM presents an opportunity to change the way we utilize our resources and the tools we use to engage — both in sales and marketing. The marketer running an ABM program begins to operate much more like sales — thinking in terms of accounts versus leads, how to target and engage them, and generate revenue. And sales needs to behave like marketing — thinking in terms of how to deliver a message that resonates, understanding their role and needs in the buying process, and delivering content that helps educate them and move them through the process in a very nurturing way.