We do great work in harvesting the low-hanging fruit in our ABM accounts. We do this by sticking to our personas, applying stringent filters, and insisting on the highest data quality.
We’ve been successful in using outcomes nearer the bottom of the digital campaign funnel. Heck, we may be as smart near the bottom of the funnel as we’ll get for some time, after the twin impacts of privacy mandates for cookies and pixels.
Yet, regardless of all that success, there’s a paradox within the classic ABM approach or, as some would say, its’ “Achilles’ Heel.”
According to Wikipedia, an Achilles’ heel is a weakness despite overall strength, which can lead to downfall. It seems so applicable to a discussion of a typical ABM campaign’s execution.
“Paradox?”, you say. “Achilles’ Heel”?
Yes, when you consider that those very filters are also constraints on fully accessing available demand. In other words, while we secure the most specific of short-term outcomes, we also limit our ability to source the earliest forms of demand. We sacrifice the future for the present in that we blatantly ignore what would enable our earliest competitive advantage.
The general marketing assumption that the form is the pinnacle of engagement with our copy. We discount the likelihood of it being mere interest – not intent – and assume a higher level of engagement than is implied. Often, our SDRs are confounded when these “leads” aren’t ready to make a purchase decision – or already have.
How did we miss the boat? Because we ignored all the other activities that happened in and around our content. After all, they can’t be that interested if they don’t want to fill out a form, right?
Clicks precede form completions as early engagement. Ignore them at your business peril while they self-educate and then discuss with internal folks that you just didn’t think would be part of an “ideal” buying group. They’ll fill out your form when they’ve pretty much made a decision that may not be in your favor.
And related, the brutal reality is that most of us don’t have nearly the amount of “coverage” we need inside those accounts. Often, we’re making educated guesses about their procurement process, let alone the buying group that is making the purchase decision. Even if we believe an account is “in-market” because it’s shown “intent” (digital behavior at the domain level), we’ve little idea who the players are inside the account.
If one of the business goals is reaching diverse members of a buying group, enabling self-education becomes highly important. Marketers need to offer content that suits a variety of personas that could make up a buying group – not just the ICP. This mix of content should balance gated and ungated, high-level, and in-depth, text and visual, static, and interactive content, and cover each stage of the imagined purchase process. And clearly, we want to deliver that content in customer-desired channels.
Now we arrive at the third challenge for marketers: tying together content interactions of the group as a whole. Not easy when you consider that members of the buying group may share information or browse anonymously and avoid identifying themselves.
Let’s explore how to overcome those challenges with early demand data.
Once high-value outcomes are realized, where do we go from there?
The modern buying process has created a need for engagement data outside of form completions. Users do too much independent research to ignore the activities before identifying with a brand.
Securing earlier demand from desired accounts is key to beating your competitors to available budgets. Your ESP identifies your clicks for you if you’re doing email marketing, and some social media networks enable the same data capture.
(Strangely, we don’t ignore early demand when it comes to opens and impressions. Most “intent data” is derived from domains generating those opens and impressions.)
Brand Audience Coverage
According to Forrester SiriusDecisions, expanding insight on known demand units in named accounts is crucial. To influence differing members of an unknown buying group, you need to leverage multiple channels and develop content that informs the broader audience while enabling self-education for the buying group.
Leveraging earlier demand data, brands can prioritize and develop the most active buying groups using targeted content. Doing this makes it infinitely easier for the sales teams to close deals, especially when Sales is in alignment with the messaging.
Specifically, this means we target our ICP(s) but are not myopically focused on what we think rather than who makes up the buying group. Some influencers range well beyond your ICP.
What’s important to remember is that if ABM focuses on an account, then that focus implies that we communicate on their terms into that account. That’s how hearts and minds – and influencers – are won, whether downstream from the ICP or above. Preparing to “meet them where they are” is at least partly driven by how soon you plan to engage them.
The added cost of expanding your reach in an account using early demand data is mitigated when you compare the reduction in individual lead cost by 80%+.
Connecting the (Demand) Dots
Lastly, we address the challenge of unifying marketing data from its respective channels. While certainly not exclusive to ABM as a challenge, it’s more than safe to say that no demand can be squandered with the “smaller universe” of ABM. Assembling the right data stack/SaaS solutions is key to integrating all that information, and not minor in importance within that stack is an API partner.
An API partner could be integral to your unification success. Generally, such a partner not only ingests but normalizes your incoming marketing engagement data, with the added flourish of cleansing it of erroneous data.
Near the center of your stack must be well-fleshed out marketing automation. Lead scoring, business rules, etc., must be applied at scale with early demand data, and only automation provides that.
And, if you think of it, why shouldn’t the business need to identify and leverage early engagement/early demand data be momentum enough to adopt and adapt a marketing tech stack such as this?
And there you have it. ABM is a fundamentally important approach, but its weakness to date is ignoring early demand. You can overcome that “Achilles’ Heel” by including early demand data in your ABM strategy.
Doing so is more cost-efficient than limiting engagement to form completers, and it enables you to expand your buying group/influencer coverage within target accounts. But remember – to leverage early demand data at scale, you need both the right martech stack and the best marketing practices.