Ops-Stars 2018 Keynote Recap: How ABM Enables Sales to Drive Revenue

November 20, 2018 Karen Steele

Ops-Stars is an annual event where sales and marketing ops professionals learn exclusive secrets to ops success. This year’s event took place at the historic San Francisco Mint and featured a stunning array of industry-leading speakers. 

At Ops-Stars 2018, Forrester’s Laura Ramos led one of the most impactful keynotes of the event: “Retro Yet Revolutionary: How ABM Enables Sales to Drive Revenue.” 

At the keynote, Laura revealed data from the Forrester report, “Not Yet The New Normal: ABM Must Evolve Into Account Based Engagement” exposing how leading companies have developed successful ABM strategies over the past two years. 

Here, we’ll dive into the findings of the report and recap Laura’s insights to learn why ABM is important, how it can boost sales and how buyers can choose the best ABM solution for them. 

Click here to watch the keynote recording now.

Why Is ABM Important?

One of the things that make account-based marketing (ABM) today different than it’s been in the past has to do with buyer preferences: Sixty-eight percent of B2B buyers now prefer to conduct their own online research (a 15 percent increase since 2015), and 62 percent say they can develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list based on digital content alone.

These statistics seem to reveal something alarming to sales and marketing pros alike: Power has moved from the company to the customer.

Technology, scalability and the cloud are just some of the many factors that have contributed to this shift in power.

In this new customer-centric world, companies must create outstanding customer experiences in order to gain a competitive edge. This is why Forrester believes that account-based marketing must evolve into account-based engagement.

To succeed, each company in its entirety must be committed to the idea that accounts matter, and relevant engagement is more important than traditional marketing. As a result, companies will enjoy stronger customer relationships and increased revenue.

Key components of successful ABM include:

  • Improves customer centricity.
  • Makes you a better marketer and seller.
  • Helps your company become customer-obsessed.
  • Enables you to win in this digital world.

What’s the Current State of ABM?

Some may wonder whether ABM is truly crucial to driving significant growth or is simply the latest fad. To address that question, Laura revealed a few key statistics:

  1. Ninety-three percent of respondents think that ABM is extremely or very important.
  2. Eighty-seven percent of companies say ABM delivers higher ROI than other marketing.
  3. Eighty-one percent of ABM marketers believe the ROI of ABM is higher than other initiatives.

In keeping with those findings, companies with established ABM strategies now outnumber those that are just beginning to experiment with ABM.

However, despite the correlation between ABM and higher revenue, 26 percent of respondents haven’t yet been able to demonstrate value from ABM.

This may result from the fact that 53 percent of marketers think that ABM is applied too broadly. Although that number has fallen by 20 percent from 2016, it’s still clear that there’s plenty of room for improvement.

One of the reasons that ABM is still applied so broadly has to do with the many misconceptions that surround it. Here are just a few:

  • ABM is separate from demand generation.
  • ABM requires a whole new tech stack.
  • ABM is something new.
  • ABM is a standalone marketing effort.

Those misconceptions may contribute to marketers’ tendency to fund ABM with money rather than headcount: Fifty-three percent have dedicated marketing budget dollars to ABM, while only 22 percent have marketing headcount working exclusively on ABM.

Forrester analysts, including Laura, believe that in order for ABM to become more widespread and successful, that headcount needs to increase.

Additionally, the two factors most important to ABM success – personalization and high-quality data – are cited by marketers as their biggest challenges.

The fact remains, though, that despite its challenges, marketers still report that ABM has a powerful positive impact on their efforts:

  • Sixty-eight percent say ABM results in a significant increase in per-account pipeline.
  • Fifty-eight percent say ABM has led to significant increases in per-account revenue.
  • Forty-three percent say ABM has the highest ROI of any B2B marketing approach.

Laura stressed that based on Forrester’s research if companies want to succeed with ABM, they need to be more focused on what they’re trying to achieve, and less focused on the mechanics.

How Can ABM Help Sales?

To understand how ABM can enable sales, it’s important to remember that ABM is nothing new. Rather, it puts the focus back on three core fundamentals: Segmentation, targeting, and alignment.

In truth, ABM only feels new because many of the current generation’s marketers are more focused on marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs) than anything else.

To reconnect with those three fundamentals, marketers can follow four steps to set themselves up for ABM success:

  1. Select and target: Set a strategy, prioritize accounts and identify and target contacts.
  2. Gather insights: Identify key issues, develop insights and set a communication plan.
  3. Design engagement: Create assets, messages, and plays to engage accounts.
  4. Orchestrate interaction: Execute aligned activity, capture interactions, and track progress.

According to Laura’s analysis, since the only way to succeed is to understand what you’re trying to achieve, the most important step is the first.

There are four main ABM strategies that Forrester sees:

  • Prioritize and hunt big accounts.
  • Deepen customer relationships.
  • Find lookalike customers who are ready to buy.
  • Break into new markets.

Although most respondents reported trying to incorporate all four, Laura says that to be successful, companies need to adopt a tiered approach to ABM. Although they may only start with two tiers, they can eventually grow to all four.

Sellers can reach ABM success by becoming more human, helpful and handy.

Sellers can do this by utilizing key tactics, such as:

  • Direct mail.
  • Custom data visualization.
  • Tangible packages.
  • Automated follow-up.

With the help of those kinds of tactics, sellers can capture the attention of key decision makers earlier and faster than before.

Finally, it’s essential that sellers remember that ABM isn’t going to automatically result in more leads; it’s all about patience, dedication, and perseverance.

At the end of the day, ABM is unique in that it helps sellers to:

  • Engage the right buyers early.
  • Reach prospects more efficiently and effectively.
  • Shorten timelines.
  • Increase deal size.
  • Improve lifetime value.

To ensure that ABM enables sellers, Laura advises companies to:

  • Pick a strategy.
  • Collect and distill insight so it can be easily shared.
  • Make ABM a team sport. Build an account pyramid to balance resources.
  • Tightly coordinate the execution between sales and marketing.
  • Use technology to expand successful efforts.

How Does ABM Technology Factor In?

As ABM has grown in popularity, the technology landscape has grown as well. Because of this, many companies view the current vendor landscape as confusing and complex.

To illustrate this, consider the discrepancy between the ABM vendors that respondents actually use and those that they rate as being among the top ABM technology providers:

To cut through the noise and find an ABM technology or product that’s right for them, Laura recommends that companies assess and close gaps in four key areas:

  1. Account selection and intelligence.
  2. Account engagement.
  3. Interaction orchestration.
  4. Measurement and reporting.

Key Takeaways

Laura’s keynote contained a wealth of valuable takeaways, including these five:

  1. In order for ABM to become more widespread and successful, marketing headcount needs to increase.
  2. Companies need to be more focused on what they’re trying to achieve, and less focused on the mechanics.
  3. Companies need to adopt a tiered approach to ABM.
  4. ABM is all about patience, dedication and perseverance.
  5. Companies can find the right ABM technologies for them by assessing and closing gaps in four key areas.

We were honored to have Laura speak at Ops-Stars 2018, and we can’t wait to see the keynotes and speakers that next year’s event has to offer. Be sure to save the date: Ops-Stars 2019 will take place Nov. 19-20th, 2019 at the San Francisco Mint.

To hear more of this keynote, watch the full recording here. For a complete recap of Ops-Stars 2018, head to our blog and check out the event’s sales and marketing highlights.

About the Author

Karen Steele

Karen is responsible for all aspects of product marketing, brand strategy, demand generation, customer and employee advocacy, and the customer journey. Prior to LeanData, Karen was Group Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Marketo.

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