Jessica Fewless, Senior Director, Field and Partner Marketing, Demandbase, examined account-based marketing (ABM) and how it enables marketers to partner with sales teams in her presentation to Argyle's CMO membership at the 2016 Chief Marketing Officer Leadership Forum: Spotlight on B2B Marketing in Atlanta on Oct. 27. In her presentation, "Sealing the Deal: How Marketing Helps Sales Close Deals with ABM," Fewless highlighted the true value of ABM for today's marketers.
According to Fewless, sales and marketing "misalignment" remains a major problem in many businesses worldwide. Although both sales and marketing departments may be part of the same company, these groups may operate separately and rarely collaborate with one another.
"Sales and marketing alignment has been one of those struggles that most B2B marketers have dealt with," Fewless said. "[There's been] this environment of conflict between marketing and sales."
Fortunately, over the past few years, marketers and sales teams have collaborated more frequently to achieve common goals. But marketing and sales groups often have varying metrics that they use to measure success.
"Metrics and measurement has been all over the board in B2B marketing and sales," Fewless noted. "Sales has been focused on pipeline and revenue, and marketers have been focused on things like hand-raises and NQLs."
For a business to thrive in a highly competitive global marketplace, ABM is key, Fewless noted.
"Marketing and sales really do need to be in lockstep to make sure that they're saying the same things."
With ABM, sales and marketing can collaborate with one another along each stage of the customer journey and discover the best ways to foster long-lasting partnerships with customers.
"Marketing and sales really do need to be in lockstep to make sure that they're saying the same things," Fewless noted. "[ABM] now has sales and marketing talking the same language, looking at the same accounts and it's far more efficient."
ABM also may enable sales and marketing to develop common metrics to ensure a company is better equipped to accomplish its short- and long-term goals.
"Marketing has been largely focused on quantity-based metrics … whereas sales [teams] have been focused on quality," Fewless said. "Marketing was throwing as much as it could into the top of the funnel … but now, the role of sales and marketing is starting to merge. Marketing and sales are working together upfront to identify what that target account list should be."
ABM empowers sales and marketing to optimize the time, resources and data at their disposal as well.
Sales professionals commonly understand the real world marketplace and will work with customers to fulfill their requests day after day. Meanwhile, marketers usually will collect data about customer segments to ensure a business can provide its customers with relevant, timely messages to promote its products and services.
"Sales has the real world, in-territory experience of what kinds of accounts are going to be good for the company, but marketing can back it up with data."
Together, sales and marketing can determine which messages will work best for a particular audience as well as ensure customer data is collected and evaluated over an extended period of time. That way, both departments can complement each other's everyday efforts and ensure a business can improve its customer interactions.
"Sales has the real world, in-territory experience of what kinds of accounts are going to be good for the company, but marketing can back it up with data," she noted. "Sales and marketing can work together to identify who those accounts should be, and then marketing … is involved throughout the entire customer journey."
ABM gives marketers the ability to tailor their messaging based on sales' feedback too.
With ABM, marketers can develop a campaign based on a sales team's insights. This will enable marketers to produce relevant content to reach the right audience at the right time. Plus, the content may complement sales team's day-to-day efforts.
"We, as marketers, can run messaging in parallel to the messaging that sales is giving [customers] throughout the customer journey," Fewless said.
Bridging the gap between sales and marketing represents a major problem for many companies, but ABM may prove to be an effective solution for businesses of all sizes.
ABM offers a viable solution because it encourages both sales and marketing to use their day-to-day efforts in conjunction with a business' goals. Sales and marketing can continue to perform as they regularly would, but ABM enables both groups to engage with and learn from one another along each stage of the customer journey. As such, it may prove to be exceedingly valuable for companies around the globe, particularly for those who are searching for innovative ways to drive ongoing business improvements.
"Account-based marketing is picking up steam," Fewless pointed out. "We no longer want to be accountable for stuffing as much as we can into the top of the (sales) funnel. We want to be in partnership with our sales team and really affecting the bottom line."
After 3.5 years at Demandbase (and 20+ years in B2B Marketing), Jessica has seen it all when it comes to Account-Based Marketing. Playing an instrumental role in Demandbase’s rollout of an ABM strategy, and educating over 1000 B2B marketers on the principles of ABM over the last 12 months, Jessica has become a resident expert. From building the right target account list and understanding the impact of ABM on marketing programs, to selling ABM within an organization and finding budget for your strategy, Jessica has worked with organizations to build, hone and measure the success of their own ABM strategies.