As a frequent traveler, I’ve been on my share of planes heading to destinations new and old. Like most other commercial passengers, I buckle up and get to my destination, safe, with little turbulence and hopefully with an uneventful experience. In marketing, as in flying, preparation is an essential element for the success of any type of pilot, whether launching a plane or launching a marketing program.
According to SiriusDecisions, over 58% of companies in 2016 have initiated a pilot account-based marketing (ABM) program to focus on the core goals of increased revenue, increased pipeline, and higher quality leads. In 2015, SiriusDecisions found that 92% of companies recognized the value of adopting an ABM approach, and 20% of companies engaged in a pilot program beforehand. This approach is clearly directed to B2B marketers, who are changing how they market to their accounts. Through ABM pilots, they are scaling efforts to market to accounts on an individual basis, providing the right message, at the right time, and to the right audience in order to have a more direct impact on sales.
At Merkle, we know that accounts are made up of people and believe that it is a natural extension to leverage what we know about a person to tailor their experience in order to improve marketing efficiency, drive stronger brand connections and create business value. This methodology is referred to as people-based marketing (PBM). For a PBM pilot to takeoff, account-based principles must be aligned with the people-based preparation. We see these three preparation themes as core elements towards establishing a successful pilot:
- Enablement: Technology and Data
- Activation: Operationalizing Experiences
- Transformation: Aligning the Organization
Your preparation begins with deciding how you get to your destination and what tools you will use to book your flight. The same is true for marketing strategy. Most organizations focus on marketing automation tools first, often by purchasing new systems, to get a pilot rolling. While this is not a bad strategy, it could lead to turbulence, as configuration of these tools often focus on campaign-level data that is not integrated with behavioral or CRM data.
Executing on the people-based plan requires a unified approach which begins with determining what account data is available, where it is housed, and how to tie the technology together. The crucial building blocks to enablement are:
- Identifying and Integrating data aggregation, collection, and storage tools
- Measuring experiences using architect orchestration
- Activating audience, reporting, and insight tools
Most marketers have a vision for what they want their customers and prospects to experience. We start with personas and establish a campaign playbook. We isolate the accounts we are targeting and then individualize components of the marketing campaign execution within the campaign playbook. However, customers may be on their own journey and campaign playbooks may not account for journeys that travel outside of the designed experience. Designing for the unexpected journey requires:
- Planning holistically across all possible touchpoints for all contacts
- Extending the activation plan to include account, audience, and experience
- Creating content, channel media, measurement, and testing/learning agendas - this process determines what works, what doesn’t, what to change, and lessons learned
Organizations beginning a pilot program start with a plan, but can get off course as they adjust their efforts to meet shifting goals. Most start with aligning core accounts to target and market to them around their challenges. When business priorities change, such as marketers being asked to focus more on product line/brand messaging, account-based marketing practices can hit some turbulence.
We find that communication of the plan and the enablement of the technology is the easy part. Keeping the organization aligned around the pilot is often more difficult, but in the long run, it is beneficial. According to DemandBase, 60% of organizations that have employed ABM for at least one year attribute a revenue increase of 10% or more to its use. Organizations that succeed tend to dedicate the right funding for growth, allow both the rigor and patience to prove success internally, and most importantly, establish and maintain sales and marketing executive sponsorship. In other words, a pilot requires a runway to achieve success.
Your successful experience for launching a PBM pilot all comes down to preparation. When you have enabled, activated, and aligned this approach within your organization, you’ll achieve the ability to market to people at scale, with clear destinations in mind.
Thank you for flying.