What the C-Suite Needs to Know About ABM | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

What the C-Suite Needs to Know About ABM

By Mike Burton


The buzz in sales and marketing circles around account-based marketing (ABM) refuses to die. And with good reason, because ABM works. A full 87 percent of B2B marketers surveyed by ITSMA reported that the ROI from their ABM initiatives outperformed their other marketing investments, and companies are seeing three times higher win rates with larger average deal sizes (91 percent of companies reported increases in average deal sizes with 25 percent seeing average increases of over 50 percent) when using ABM.

But building a successful account-based strategy comes with changes, and change can make some uncomfortable, especially those in the C-suite. Successful ABM needs the entire organization to align on the go-to-market approach (indeed, the "marketing" term has proven so limiting that many now refer to it as "ABX" or "Account Based Everything"). While this sounds obvious, teams often underestimate the challenge of getting alignment across the board and understanding future implications for performance metrics, operational changes, and human resource allocation.

While ABM can produce amazing outcomes for those who succeed, it can be a giant waste of time, money, and resources if it's not implemented effectively. That's why it's of the utmost importance that everyone in the C-suite cares about the impact ABM will have across the enterprise, and, most importantly, why the implementation is happening in the first place.

Adjusting to a new paradigm

Businesses everywhere are struggling to find ways to stay competitive and overcome a whole new host of issues in our new world of remote and hybrid work. These include:

  • 43 percent of buyers want a "rep-free" buying experience.
  • Sales reps are having more difficulty getting in front of the right stakeholders, especially now that they're remote.
  • 49 percent of organizations cite pipeline and demand gen as their top critical incentives.

Given this landscape, ABM is perfectly positioned as the tool to help evolve with the times. Why then do many businesses fizzle out after the first several months of testing an ABM strategy?

While 80 percent of marketers agree that ABM improves customer lifetime values (and 86 percent say it improves win rates), the short-term metrics with an ABM approach look different from the results that come with a traditional "volume approach" to sales and marketing.

It might be jarring to have a few dozen webinar attendees that fit your ideal customer profile (ICP), instead of a few hundred. Both approaches probably bring in the same number of qualified prospects that match the ICP. The benefit of ABM is that your follow up is much more focused, without having to sort through hundreds of attendees.

Buy-in from the top

Of course, if your enterprise only looks at the raw numbers and fails to understand this distinction, your ABM attempt is likely to be short-lived. Successfully pivoting to an ABM strategy requires effort and buy-in from all levels of your organization from the CEO down. Here's what each member of the C-suite needs to do to trust the process:

  • The CEO needs to drive the executive vision and expectations around committing to an ABM strategy. Without a strong stance from the top, businesses can falter at the first sign of difficulty (such as lower webinar attendance than previous efforts).
  • The CFO must educate the wider organization on where revenue comes from today and where the firm is looking for it to continue to grow in the future.
  • The CRO must implement compensation that drives the right behavior from the sales team.
  • The CMO has the pivotal piece of driving alignment behind ABM and establishes the "why" for cross-team buy-in and collaboration.

The entire C-suite needs to understand that the shift to ABM is a sizable undertaking that takes a little experimentation and a lot of patience to deliver positive long-term results. All leaders must make sure their teams are supported with the budget, tools, and human resources they need at each stage of implementation.

Why implement ABM?

To truly implement an ABM strategy, the business also must understand why the strategy is being adopted in the first place. Answering this question will help drive the executive team's actions in the section above, but there needs to be a clear, easy to grasp business motivation for the implementation. ABM won't survive in your organization unless you're solving a real business problem.

Yes, ABM can help an enterprise overcome a variety of challenges, including slowing sales and difficulty uncovering untapped opportunities, to declining wallet share and general stagnant growth. But it requires the support and investment of your whole organization to drive the strategy to success. While "why?" sounds like a basic question, if the answer is "because everyone else is doing it," then ABM probably isn't the right choice for an enterprise.

So, what problem is your organization – and more importantly, your C-suite – trying to solve?

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Mike Burton is the co-founder and SVP of data sales at Bombora