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“Traditional marketing no longer works.” 

As marketers, we’ve heard this for years; it’s often the line used as a sales tactic for the latest marketing tool or technology. But now, I believe that it’s finally true for B2B—traditional marketing no longer works to drive growth. 

I say this after witnessing big marketing budgets be slashed, and surprisingly, the pipeline remained the same. That’s right—even after demand gen budgets were cut by millions of dollars, we saw very little impact on the pipeline. The same amount of pipeline generated from exorbitant “spray and pray” budgets have been developed from budgets half or even a quarter of the size.

And you know what was even more interesting? When forced to cut the fat from “spray and pray” media budgets, the quality of the pipeline actually improved. However, to actually see growth and result in sales, these companies must make radical changes to their entire go-to-market approach. The radical change? Account based marketing (ABM)—once a niche discipline separate from other demand generation efforts.

Traditionally, ABM has been relegated to a sales aligned function while traditional demand and lead generation works the top of the funnel. ABM acknowledges the entire account and buying process accelerating prospect engagement across the entire funnel. Unlike traditional demand generation that typically ends when a lead or MQL is deemed ready to hand off to sales.

This isn’t just my experience in the companies I’ve been involved with—according to Forrester, 72% of CMOs say their ABM programs deliver a higher return than any other form of marketing investment. Because of this, ABM has started to seem a lot more attractive to Demand Generation marketers as well.

To achieve that level of return, marketing and sales must work together to engage customers in coordinated efforts. Sales must think of how to cultivate customer relationships to provide the digital experience buyers want. Marketers must lean heavily into a buyer-centric, end-to-end GTM approach. This requires detailed account data management and account based marketing software, shared across the company for full visibility and collaboration.

Everyone must focus on buyers within a target account through their multi-constituent, complex internal decision-making processes with quality engagements that deliver a connected experience across a transparent, multi-touch program. The programs with the best design will expeditiously maximize sales to high-value accounts and build customer relationships for the long term. 

Though b2b account based marketing has been around for more than a decade, many companies are still not sold on using an account based marketing strategy. They see it as a niche tactic for the field instead of a core strategy for b2b marketers and sales. Shifting to ABM requires a change in mindset, skillset and operations—the entire sales and marketing team must be on board to prevent efforts from becoming siloed in order to improve the overall experience with the target audience and gain an edge over the competition.

Marketers who traditionally throw qualified leads to the sales team must be more involved to share accountability and ownership of what happens to the relationship across the funnel. This is about thinking of accounts as groups of people to cultivate relationships with, not a number on a spreadsheet.

Sales reps who traditionally work alone when it’s time to close the deal will now learn to lean more closely on the previous engagement that has been fostered by marketing and see their selling process as a critical node in collaborative relationship-building process. The teams in charge of display ads and email marketing campaigns must coordinate their efforts to deliver timeliness and relevance to individuals throughout the marketing and sales cycle. And like another member of the team, the tech stack must be integrated to allow for visibility, agility, and responsiveness across all the stakeholders.

ABM Or Get Left Behind

Transform or get left behind is another phrase we often hear; but I think  “ABM or get left behind” is now more appropriate. For companies to survive and thrive, they must look to existing, successful account-based marketing examples and embrace it now. Buyers are more savvy than ever, and with their own budget cuts, it’s not enough to be sold on the specific benefits your products offer them. They must feel supported by brands with a personalized individual and account-oriented experience as they lead a complex team of decision-makers internally. Brands who make that easy for them will win.

With or without budget cuts, traditional marketing and sales tactics will begin to stand out for their obvious disconnected, unhelpful, and impersonal approach. Companies that haven’t embraced ABM will be left without qualified account opportunities, burning through resources trying to meet traditional metrics over ABM metrics. Their efficient efforts will increase the likelihood that they’ll miss out on existing buyers who are being persuaded by competitors with relevant, high-value experiences at every touchpoint.

CMOs Lead The way

Shifting personnel and the tech stack to ABM is an overwhelming process. I see this as a huge opportunity for my fellow CMO colleagues—leaders who naturally think beyond demand generation and into the role that the sales channel and external communications play in developing a company’s overall brand experience. They use marketing account intelligence to lead the way to better, more contextual and personalized relationships.

CMOs already have strong collaborative relationships with sales, customer success, product, and comms teams. They understand the company’s culture and help set the tone for the company’s brand. More than any other c-level executive, CMOs are uniquely qualified to bring the multiple disciplines and tools together to lead the company to a single, unified strategy and operating model. 

Navigation Support For The Road To ABM

According to a Forrester benchmark study, the biggest challenges organizations encounter are internal—customization, personalization at scale, measurement, and building relationships with sales. 

Even the most experienced CMO most likely needs help implementing account based experiences (ABX). In my daily conversations with CMOs, they cite the road to ABX as one of the biggest challenges of their career.

I wish I could provide a roadmap that would help every company, but the reality is the nuances that give each company a competitive advantage are the same nuances that make the shift to ABX difficult. There are many paths and routes to get there, and having a navigator will help your company find its way faster, and with fewer bumps along the way. 

While it’s tempting to get started and charge forward immediately, I recommend first taking a step back to develop the right objectives and create a plan for your customer and organizational needs. Take account of the current methods, the operating procedures and the team dynamics and identify how success can continue during the transition. 

Organization-wide change is often faced with resistance. Bring in support to help sunset traditional practices and get the team up and running with new techniques. Find new ways to motivate while aligning sales and marketing, and encourage continuous learning. Bring in third party support can help navigate the journey to lead your company to deliver valuable customer experiences and realize the benefits of ABX.

Need help getting your company up to speed? Find me on LinkedIn and I’ll help you find the way to your company’s ABX. While you're here, check out my previous post on Marketing Trends Leaders Need to Know, and make sure you sign up for the newsletter.

By Mary Gilbert

Mary Gilbert is the Chief Marketing Officer of Folloze, a company that makes the world’s only no-code digital buyer experience platform. Gilbert is leading the B2B buyer experience revolution with her unique perspective on cultural transformation and marketing technology innovation. She specializes in modernizing high-performing integrated B2B marketing organizations through the digital transformation age, approaching opportunities and problems from the perspective of the people involved, the customer experience, the team, and the organization.