Earlier this month, I attended the #FlipMyFunnel conference in Boston. It was a great event, sponsored by Terminus, focused on account-based marketing for sales and marketing professionals in the B2B (predominantly tech) sector. The theme of the conference was “Humanizing B2B.” It was all about humanizing interactions with customers and prospects in a technologically advanced world. Various keynotes and sessions talked about how to personalize and optimize your interactions across each touchpoint in ways that don't feel manufactured.

In this blog post, I’ll outline a few of my main takeaways from the event.

ABM Is a Strategy, Not a Tool or Tactic

This event made it clear that many organizations in B2B Tech are shifting to an ABM model for their sales and marketing teams. Some organizations are moving their BDRs/SDRs under marketing in order to enhance cross-functional alignment to better implement their ABM strategies. Some organizations are also focusing on ABM to develop better relationships with their existing customers and drive upsells. Some organizations are even developing ABx (they are dropping the "M" because not everyone is on the marketing team) committees that oversee all orchestration, activities, and results. This is also reflected in their internal reporting structure.

The point is that every company does ABM differently — it's not a "one size fits all" approach. However, it's clear that companies leveraging ABM don’t think of it as a single campaign or set of campaigns. Rather, it's a holistic approach to identifying, prioritizing, targeting, and engaging the accounts in your total addressable market and customer base.

Buy-in is Critical

ABM is not going to work if your team does not buy into the strategy. Whether that's your own internal team, another internal team, or across departments, "buy-in" is critical to the success of ABM. This concept was brought up again and again throughout the conference. Several speakers even mentioned that, while shifting to an ABM-centric sales/marketing model, "detractors" were let go for refusing to align to the new processes. One speaker even declared that you need to "hire for culture and fire for culture!"

At the end of the day, ABM is a collaborative effort and everyone needs to be on the same page for it to work effectively. While hopefully most organizations do not need to resort to layoffs to make this work, it’s worth taking the time to ensure that everyone is on the same page before diving in.

ABM is an Iterative Process

Many of the speakers throughout the event described how their companies are rolling out "phases" or "versions" of ABM. In short, they are taking a small portion of their whole account list and piloting ABM-related activities against those accounts. Then, based on the successes and failures of that initial program, they are iterating and scaling. Many companies referred to the phases of their ABM program as V1, V2, etc.

At Evergage, we expanded our ABM efforts after starting at a smaller scale. Once we outlined our ABM program, we piloted our first list of target accounts. A little over one year later, after launching and executing our ABM strategy for our Tier 1 and Tier 2 lists, we are now working on defining and expanding to a Tier 3 set of accounts! While exciting, this process takes a lot of time and refinement, as we’ve learned so many lessons along the way. Trying to do everything at once is definitely not the most effective strategy, considering ABM spans across entire teams and functions. It is likely that you will make mistakes trying to take on too much at once.

Personalization Matters

Personalization is a critical component of account-based marketing. Whether your business development representatives (BDRs), sales development representatives (SDRs), or even account development representatives (ADRs) are personalizing their outreach, or you are creating custom account-specific website experiences for your prospects, you want to ensure that each “touch” (or outreach) provides value. One-to-one personalization is the best way to engage prospects, delivering hyper-relevant materials and content.

Personalization is not simply the use of custom or dynamic fields in an email, delivered by a sales or marketing automation tool. With true 1-to-1 personalization, you can understand how an individual is interacting with your site and identify what that behavior says about his preferences and intent, then show him something relevant to him in real time — online, in app or via email.

When you incorporate personalization into your ABM strategy, you are focusing your efforts at the account level. You are paying attention to how many prospects within the account are engaging with your site, who they are, where they are spending their time, and what they are doing. However, you are not trying to engage “the account.” You are trying to engage individuals within the account.

Understanding each prospect’s behavior immediately humanizes your approach. Each individual isn’t just a random person on your website from an account that you want to book a meeting with. He is a real person, with real interests and a specific role to play within his company, who wants to be treated like a person. Providing a highly relevant experience to each individual is the best way to maximize the value of each interaction. While you’re not going to engage every account on your target list, you will certainly engage most of them if you are able to provide many great experiences, across many different channels, to many individuals within the same account.

Conclusion

Account-based marketing isn’t just another trend — it’s here to stay. Many marketers are still working to figure out exactly what “ABM” (or ABx) looks like at their organization, but there is no doubt that ABM is changing the way that B2B companies are thinking about sales and marketing. It was very insightful to hear all of the different ABM stories across sales and marketing at other organizations, and I am excited to implement some of the tactical strategies that I learned at the event at Evergage. I look forward to seeing how ABM evolves, both internally and within the B2B community, over the next year!