In our Clear & Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing, we had the opportunity to catch up with Megan Heuer, VP and Group Director at SiriusDecisions.
Megan is a sales and marketing thought leader with more than 20 years of industry and professional services experience. She leads SiriusDecisions’ Account-Based Marketing and Marketing Operations services, and helps clients bridge the divide between best-practice theory and real-world requirements to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Read more.
Q: How can marketers scale the insight generation needed for ABM?
A: The first thing is to understand how your accounts are segmented, because there’s a different level of insight needed for major strategic accounts, versus, say, a broad base of mid-market or SMB type accounts. Then for each of those account types there will be different insights required to prioritize focus and determine what actions to take. This is the idea of account personas, where you understand the different sizes and types of accounts in your audience and build from there.
With segmentation in place, the next step is to use tools to automate insight gathering and analysis. You need technology that helps you bring together a bunch of different data sources and serve it up in a way that helps Sales and Marketing make good choices and timely responses.
In addition to automated data feeds, there’s also a role for traditional phone-based insight collection. Generally this works better with a third-party doing it, rather than inside tele functions. Companies who do this type of profiling on a regular basis get more information about the accounts than an internal business development team can get.
Q: Is content creation a major burden in ABM?
A: It’s only a burden if marketing hasn’t done the work to improve content strategy and is too focused at the top of the funnel.
It’s a must to tune content development to buyer needs and all buying stages (not to mention customer needs and post-sale lifecycle stages, but that’s for another discussion), and to target the types of accounts that sales wants to reach.
Smart marketers have already started to develop a content agenda that maps better to buyer personas and buying stages. Some also layer in industry or other account-type considerations. These content inventories, when done right, are a starting point to build what’s needed to reach the right contacts in buying centers in target accounts. So the raw material that the ABM folks can pull from is getting better. From there, it’s not customizing so much as configuring new content.
I suggest that marketers worry less about scale when it comes to content in ABM, and be more concerned about relevance – there’s too much content being created for a need that doesn’t exist. ABM folks need to connect with the people defining the content agenda to make sure that the content will ultimately be useful to help sales bring value to the accounts that the business cares about growing.
Q: How personalized does ABM content need to be?
A: We see a lot of content still targeted at the top of the funnel for overly generic personas. This happens when marketers say, “We sell into 20 industries and we’ve got 5 different personas in each and 5 sales stages and we can’t develop content for all of them.” So people throw up their hands and write something for CIOs in general and call it thought leadership.
What happens next is the overly generic content goes to Sales and can’t be used because Sales says, ‘I’m calling a CIO in this specific industry and he only cares about these two things’.
For named Account Based Marketing, Marketers really need to go back to the drawing board, inventorying their content in a much more account- oriented way based on sales priorities and identifying holes in coverage. This will help to get leverage from content because its development was prioritized based on customer and sales needs.
Of course, when you have very, very large strategic accounts with massive deals, that’s often going to be a completely customized content effort.
Q: What are the obstacles to ABM?
ABM can be the victim of its own success. If you start with one or two people being asked to ‘take on’ ABM and it works really well, then Sales will want more. But marketing leaders can be reluctant to shift resources away from the things that they’ve always been doing.
When that happens, ABM marketers aren’t able to scale their teams or their work as quickly as they’d like and they get a bit frustrated. It’s a real issue.
For the full interview, read our Clear & Complete Guide to ABM.
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