As luck would have it, I joined the 6sense Breakthrough22 conference and learned the latest and greatest from the best in the Account Based Marketing (ABM) trade. Here’s some takeaways and some practical advice on how to start and scale ABM in 2023. But first: a short detour along marketing memory lane.

The Story of the Empowered Buyer

We’ve been saying for years that buyers are in control. More than 10 years ago, my team and I built a framework for how the buying process was changing. We named it the Digital Authority framework. We argued then that the world of marketing and sales was transforming — with buyers claiming more control over their journey. Building Digital Authority — attracting buyers at the top and middle of the funnel with content that pushes them to rethink the status quo and from there with their choices — was the way to win hearts, minds and wallets of your prospects.

Scratch Marketing + Media, circle 2012
Scratch Marketing + Media, circle 2012

We posited that to achieve strong Digital Authority, marketing must reign supreme with education, driving a pervasive evangelism enveloping prospects and customers, before they had made up their minds on with whom to do business. Only after the value of the brand had been thoroughly inculcated into the mind of the customer, would sales take over to guild the selection process.

Related Article: What B2B Buyers Want, and Ways to Align Your Customer Journeys

Marketers Face Bigger Challenges Now

Fast forwarding to 2022. The customer still reigns supreme, as does the need for Digital Authority, but new realities face marketers, sales teams and companies:

  • Buying committees have doubled in size or more, growing from an average of five people to 11 or more. (Gartner).
  • Form-based lead collection has cratered, with only 3% of website visitors filling out forms. (6sense).
  • Worse yet, an average of 39% of visitors who fill out forms give fake credentials because they don’t want to be harassed by sales reps and marketing emails. (LinkedIn).

So what’s a marketer to do? Here are a few lessons learned from the ABM trenches shared at Breakthrough22 this year.

Lessons from 6sense Breakthrough22

FARO (3D measurement, imaging and realization) leveraged highly targeted and personalized communications to deliver highly-enriched experiences and valuable content to their target customers to prepare customers for an eventual buying decision that would be more likely to include Farro, without focusing narrowly on form fills. Over the course of two years, Faro added mass customization to every stage of the buying funnel

Sage Intaact relaunched their ABM program and turned its ABM platform into “the central nervous system of the enterprise”. The mission-critical use cases?

Sage Intacct
Sage Intacct

Five9 used ABM to influence millions in their pipeline, resulting in significant revenue. The Five9 ABM team, led by Jayashree Rajan, VP, global digital and demand gen, stressed that ABM must be an iterative learning process. Companies should be prepared to identify their false starts and learn from them, equipped with the right data.

Efficiency comes over time with tests, adjustments and then more testing. Organizations must set realistic goals, be open to new solutions, and leverage a mix of technologies to understand and improve performance. Patience is essential, as there are likely to be many adjustments on the way. As Jayashree shared with me: “If a large enterprise like HP, with lots of complex systems and processes, could $15M+ in revenue within two months, so can we and so can others.”

Related Article: Are You Suffering from Account Blindness in B2B Marketing?

Learning Opportunities

3 Tips for Successful ABM Scale

Tip 1: Align Your Marketing and Sales Teams and Then — Your Tools

Modern ABM is intricate operationally, so before your organization tries to get in market with ABM solution, ensure you have a clear inventory of your tools, get a good grasp on how you can iterate and orchestrate them, and only then plan for how your marketing and sales teams will jointly work the funnel.

Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Identify sales and marketing tools and use cases with the help of sales operations.
  2. Map an initial set of use cases together with sales.
  3. Partner with sales and sales operations to define each group’s roles for each use case and workflow.
  4. Pilot and document the process and outcomes with select sales users to test and refine processes and develop a wider training program.
  5. Share timely traction dashboards to keep stakeholders involved.

Tip 2: Make Your Sales Team the Heroes

We’ve all seen rollouts of new marketing initiatives that fail because sales reps didn’t buy in. To ensure the success of your ABM program, infuse the fabric of your sales organization with information that will get your sales teams on board and involved from the get-go.

  1. Introduce your ABM program at your sales kickoff meeting as an ABM-as-a-service benefit for them.
  2. Create a collaboration channel to answer ABM questions and provide support on the fly.
  3. Provide an “Intro to ABM” session during sales bootcamps to integrate new employees into your initiatives.
  4. Offer self-paced learning through on-demand lessons.

Tip 3: Make ABM Part of Daily 'Jobs to Be Done'

Once you get going, keep ABM in the forefront of everyone’s minds by creating a pervasive rhythm around it.

  1. Use weekly huddles to highlight wins, stoke friendly competition, review data and adjust targets, goals and execution.
  2. Ensure speed, efficiency and trust through rigorous data hygiene, clear and accurate dashboards, while zeroing in on the immediate opportunities.
  3. Keep goals in sight by tracking pipeline.

Ready, Steady, Scale!

Prospects are getting more difficult to capture than ever: they are increasingly unlikely to volunteer for the pending onslaught of sales and marketing communications by filling out forms.

By building a sophisticated ABM program that delivers highly personalized experiences, you can still influence the 97% of customers who won’t raise their hands. You just need to embrace the long game — or rather, the infinite game. As Simon Sinek says, “There are no winners or losers in an infinite game; there is only ahead and behind.”

Go playing, go scaling.