Before I prove that ABM really works, let me step back and frame up what ABM is in relation to other go-to-market strategies. This framework may help you understand why the answer is so simple, even though ABM is hard to measure.
ABM 101: What is account-based marketing?
ABM is a go-to-market strategy that considers the target customer when executing sales and marketing activities through personalization.
Think of a world where your sales and marketing teams are both in lockstep with the messaging. This magical alignment means you have an organization-wide understanding of the specific problem that each prospect is experiencing, and you can make a solid case for why your product or offering is significant to them. And more so, communicate this ‘case’ so well that you can make the prospect take notice and change their trajectory of thinking.
What if we are also so aligned that marketing shows ads to specific companies that match precisely what we are pitching through the sales channel? This is deliberate. Who we target and what we say become one movement instead of two.
An ABM approach is very different than a traditional lead generation approach. The lead gen approach is about pushing the volume of leads activated through social paid, paid search, email, and other lead generation channels trying to catch individual contacts at different stages within the purchase process regardless of if the company they work for is a good fit. It’s a pure volume play. With ABM, we intentionally select target companies based on an ideal customer profile, or ICP, to help increase our probability of closing them, keeping them, and improving our overall deal size.
The nuanced difference is that we are so intentional we select specific accounts that we put in campaigns instead of seeing who reacts to our campaigns from an entire market. The most straightforward analogy is the difference between fishing with nets and fishing with spears.
In account-based marketing, we are moving away from a one-size fits all approach and focusing our efforts on where it has the most potential. This alignment across sales and marketing helps ensure that we’re working as one to identify the best places to fish and eventually catch the best fish for our company.
How Can You Measure the Effectiveness of ABM?
This is all great, says you, but does it work? Compared to the traditional one-to-one measurement of lead gen tactics, ABM focuses on measuring the marketing influence of our efforts.
First off, let’s address why we look at influence.
A single touch on one contact within an account is probably not the only thing that helped us close a deal in most true B2B purchases. Traditional marketing attribution for what drove a closed-won deal is not truthful and only tells you part of the story. (Making decisions on a partial truth is very dangerous. That is a topic for another blog post.) What we must do now is measure marketing influence.
The first ABM campaign we ever ran by default had a control group because it was a pilot program. The goal of an ABM campaign is to create pipeline revenue and closed won deals with the accounts we are targeting. Like any hypothesis, the simplest way to measure the impact is to see how the target accounts perform (in terms of pipeline movement) inside the campaign vs. how non-target accounts perform outside the campaign.
By comparing the control group to the ABM campaign group, you can infer how much marketing influence your ABM campaign has. Our standard control group includes a hand full of accounts, often 25% of the target account list, that we do not run through ABM campaigns. As the campaign progresses, we pull conversion metrics through the pipeline to measure the effectiveness of the campaign tactics. Which we refer to as marketing influence.
You can do this for any ABM campaign.
The example below is a scrubbed-down version of one of our account’s reports. It has a holdout group of 50% of the established target account list.
In this instance, we ran a targeted programmatic ABM display campaign, targeted LinkedIn paid campaigns and executed full outbound cadence efforts on all the accounts in both groups with their SDR team. To ensure outbound activity remained a constant between the two groups, the SDRs did not know which accounts were in or out of the campaigns. This constant allowed us to isolate the marketing influence specifically.
Following a traditional ABM playbook structure, we ran an activate campaign followed by an accelerate campaign for all target accounts in the ABM group. An activate campaign is focused on getting net new targets into your pipeline. In contrast, an accelerate campaign is focused on middle funnel content and pushing target accounts through to closed won deals.
As you can see from the data above, we significantly increased the number of target accounts we converted to a discovery call. We converted 74% better for accounts in the targeted group.
The coordinated ABM activity ultimately increased the number of accounts we moved to the presentation stage and positively impacted our closed revenue over one quarter.
Without a full-blown ABM platform for measurement, the impact of ABM is not always easy to obtain. But as our campaign data continues to show, when ABM is coordinated and executed correctly – it works. It delivers on what it claims – to help increase our probability of closing them, keeping them, and improving our overall deal size.
So, does ABM work when executed effectively? Yes, it does.
As with any marketing and sales campaign, I caution you not to be tempted to try an ABM campaign once and measure once and expect it to work immediately. The biggest failure we see is when the first time does not work; organizations with a lack of understanding quickly claim that ABM does not work. This misunderstanding is often because traditional marketing metrics have teams focused on outdated, vanity KPIs such as pure lead quantity. Leading organizations to pull the plug on ABM too soon.
If ABM does not work the first time, do not quit trying. In our almost 15 years of experience, it is nearly impossible to execute your strategy the first time flawlessly. The success of this strategy requires a team of people in sales, content, product marketing, paid, and other teams to work together to see it through.
Be patient; ABM takes time and effort to find outcomes.
Want to learn more about building and executing your first ABM campaign? Reach out to our team to discuss what it will take to get your ABM program off the ground.