ABM is more than just marketing. Really, "account based marketing" is a bad name for it - it should be called "account based everything." Because, to actually be successful, ABM requires coordination between marketing, sales, account management, and customer success. Account based marketing is way more than just marketing.
As we've discussed before, the focus of your revenue organization should be accounts, and not leads. Why? Well, we know an account based marketing (ABM) approach leads to more (and more efficient) revenue. We know the importance of a consistent and excellent customer experience from the very beginning of a prospect's interactions with a company. We know that a B2B SaaS business depends on retaining accounts, and not just individual points of contact. We know that account based marketing allows us to effectively target our resources on fewer, more relevant prospects. (If you're an ABM beginner, start here for an intro to account based marketing.)
To be successful at ABM, your entire revenue organization needs to be on board. Your company needs to think carefully about your buyer journey. What does your entire revenue funnel look like? You can't just focus on your marketing funnel, your sales stages, or your customer success phases. That will result in a siloed, department-level approach, not a true cross-functional ABM approach.
Think of your revenue organization as a manufacturing floor. The entire factory has to work together - bringing in raw materials, processing them, packaging them, distributing them. If one part of that factory is misaligned, your manufacturing process is disrupted.
So, how do you align your GTM organization to best support a truly cross-functional account based marketing approach?
1. Have a well-defined buyer journey with clear stages
If you ask, most sales leaders will say "of course we know who our customer is." But when they interrogate those assumptions, most teams find they don't actually know their customers as well as they think. Who is your buyer? What are their needs and concerns at each stage of the buyer journey? What are your buyer journey stages, anyway?
For many, the first stage in their buyer journey is "awareness." But awareness of what, exactly? Your company? Your product? A problem? A category? If your company is new, maybe no one has heard of you. But what if you're in a totally new category? How much category creation and general awareness do you need to do first? Even something as simple as awareness is far more complex than it seems at first.
What are your objectives at each stage of the buyer journey? Define what a customer is trying to accomplish at each stage, and what (inter)actions you want the customer to take in those stages. What does your ideal customer do at each stage? What should they do? Know what results metrics and leading indicators best help you demonstrate progress toward your objectives.
Define the resources and teams involved at each stage. Think carefully about your assumptions about who should be involved at each stage; you may have some historical biases that mean you're missing key stakeholders at different stages.
2. Instrument and align everything, from tools to process to people
An account based marketing approach only works with alignment across departments. And alignment only happens with transparency, access and trust.
So first, make sure your tools are connected across teams. You should all be using the same CRM in the same ways - your CRM should be the sole source of truth about your customers. Agree to definitions and processes to keep that CRM clean. Ensure that your sales outreach tools, your marketing automation technology, and your product usage metrics are all connected to your CRM.
That single-source-of-truth-CRM is the foundation everything else builds on. Everyone needs to know what's going on. Everyone must have access to the same data, because everyone needs to have insight into what's happening at all stages of the buyer journey. That means AEs need to know what marketing collateral a prospect engaged with. CSMs need to know what a new customer has learned before signing up. Share dashboards and reporting tools.
You need to establish an atmosphere of trust between your teams. Regular communication, thoughtful compensation structures, and continued improvement all help build that trust. And you can't let issues fester. One of the fastest ways to kill trust is to pit teams against each other. We've all seen organizations where the customer success team blames the sales team for misleading a prospect, or where the sales team thinks the leads coming in from marketing aren't any good. Nip that in the bud - your entire revenue organization is working together to close and keep an account, so you cannot be competing against each other.
3. Implement a mechanism for identifying and correcting problems
An ABM approach is a complex, dynamic approach that will require continuous improvement. Once you've aligned your tools and data, you'll be more able to identify issues in your buyer journey - and fix them.
Identify bottlenecks in your buyer journey. Where are customers getting stuck? Do you have issues of customer-product fit? Are customers looking for something you're not providing (yet)? Are there parts of the buyer journey that could be more effective? Because your revenue organization is a system, you'll always be able to identify areas that can be improved to make the entire system work more efficiently.
Take a systematic and cross-functional approach to improvement. That means looking across your buyer journey for opportunities to improve. It means turning to team members from across your company to think of new ideas.
A more aligned system can lead to better forecasting, built on more comprehensive and accurate data to better predict future success. Look for opportunities to continue to hone in on more precise forecasting models.
To successfully execute an account based marketing (or, account based everything) strategy, you need buy-in from everyone across your company's buyer journey. Want more information on how to do this? Watch this video for a detailed discussion on implementing ABM.