Lead generation and lead management both play equally important roles in fueling the revenue engine for your business. Where lead generation creates interest among your target audiences, lead management tracks, manages, and engages these leads to qualify them for sales.
However, the rules of B2B marketing are changing. According to Demand Gen Report's 2020 ABM Benchmark Survey, 98% of respondents are currently using or plan to use account-based marketing (ABM) strategies. Brands are embracing ABM strategies, which revolve around engaging the right buyers, not just generating thousands of unqualified leads. It brings together the right people in your organization to develop coordinated strategies for engaging, converting, and expanding target accounts.
As B2B organizations prioritize lead quality over quantity, marketing and sales must take a sophisticated, data-driven approach to lead management. According to Forrester SiriusDecisions, there are three ways organizations can think about this.
- Large accounts: A very small number of large existing or targeted accounts. Some call this one-to-one, as this is when they employ highly targeted marketing and engagement tactics, such as including the company name in a piece of content, landing page, etc.
- Named accounts: A moderate or larger number of defined existing or targeted accounts. This is also known as one-to-few ABM.
- Industries/segments: A moderate or larger number of new or existing accounts in the same vertical or other specific segment, also known as one-to-many ABM.
Effective lead management improves alignment between marketing and sales to better identify and prioritize high-quality leads for sales outreach. This means focusing on key accounts with a high intent to buy.
However, few organizations have a solid process to successfully prioritize and identify those accounts, impacting the organization’s ability to reach and exceed revenue targets. Fewer still have a method for curating a highly targeted and personalized offer, even once the best accounts are identified.
Let's take a closer look at six core best practices that contribute to account-based marketing success.
1. Align sales and marketing around the buyer’s common goal.
This has been a popular narrative in the B2B marketing world as organizations work to create more seamless customer experiences across all channels. Every buyer journey is unique. Some may never interact with sales, while others expect a high-touch, consultative experience. It’s up to sales and marketing to have unified goals and follow a cohesive brand story and approach to buyer engagement. Therefore, any combination of sales and marketing can be ready to assist buyers wherever they are in the decision-making process.
Defining shared goals may seem like more of a marketing responsibility, but the evolution of sales ops also makes that group a key contributor to this process. According to Steve Silver, vice president and research director for sales operations at Forrester, sales operations has evolved from a largely tactical function to a more integrated one that now informs and enables sales strategy and aligns with other components of the revenue engine to support growth objectives.
Leverage their expertise and combine insights from both sales and marketing right from the start. Don’t plan in disconnected siloes; plan together to ensure both organizations are working toward a common set of goals centered on the buyer.
2. Prioritize accounts.
Identifying and prioritizing the right accounts requires robust, connected data. Company data, including location, industry, and revenue, plus online signals such as new acquisitions, hires, and funding rounds, can help you select accounts that are most likely to buy—even when it may not seem obvious to your sales operations or demand generation team.
Such data should be unified across your marketing automation and CRM environments, so both sales and marketing have a comprehensive view of the accounts. Marketing can leverage these insights to fuel marketing campaigns, while sales can use data to guide account and territory planning. Your ABM approach (one-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many) will dictate how many accounts you need to select.
3. Enrich account insights.
Typically, sales and marketing have an established lead scoring method, aligning certain behaviors and actions to a numerical value. When leads and accounts reach a specific threshold, they’re officially qualified and handed off to sales. Both marketing and sales should contribute to the lead scoring methodology, accounting for the number of contacts within an account that engage with your brand.
These metrics can help marketing and sales understand which accounts may have a higher propensity to buy. For marketing, this helps guide lead assignment. For sales, this helps reps prioritize the leads in their queue and determine where to focus their time and energy. When it’s time to engage, sales can pull from a wealth of account information and smart talking points to guide their conversations with these target accounts.
4. Tailor account engagement accordingly.
In their conversations with prospects, sales reps can have deeper conversations focused on the specific contact’s unique situation within the organization. These can be more emotional insights that often funnel up to larger, account-wide issues such as the strategic direction of the broader business. Plus, marketing can relay important engagement metrics, like an account’s behavioral interactions with campaigns and messaging, so sales knows what resonates.
All of these insights transform the selling process from transactional to consultative, helping forge stronger customer relationships. Using innovative technology like artificial intelligence (AI), sales can receive automated actions on how to further engage a contact, or get automatic alerts for leads that are at risk of stalling, so they can re-engage.
5. Personalize offers and proposals.
One common approach is for marketing to manage campaign planning and execution, creating logical segments and offers for the campaigns while sales negotiates and closes the contract once a customer has expressed interest.
But rather than view these as two distinct engagements, marketing and sales can work together to deliver the personalized offers most likely to resonate with key accounts, helping customers make decisions faster. Prospects receive curated offers for recommended products and services, optimally priced (with help from AI) and ready for signing. This creates a single, coordinated, hassle-free buying process.
6. Measure and optimize.
ABM isn’t just a one-off tactic. It’s an ongoing strategy that should influence the way your entire organization engages with accounts and buyers. That's why access to real-time insights is critical to ongoing success.
Data around campaign reach and impact, sales engagement, and results will help you gauge the impact of your ABM efforts and identify opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell within certain accounts.
Reinventing lead management for the experience economy
In the Experience Economy, it's crucial that marketing and sales collaborate more closely to deliver on their brand’s promise and exceed buyer expectations at every touchpoint. Stop thinking simply in terms of lead handoff, and create new ways to collaborate to meet each and every buyer at their point of need.
Oracle is dedicated to helping sales and marketing professionals thrive in this era, and that’s why the company has once again been named a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management 2020. Most notably, Oracle was recognized for native tools and solutions that support ABM strategies because its deep legacy in data drives product innovation. And in the age of ABM, those insights are critical to driving client relationships and generating long-term value for the organization.
Download Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management 2020. You can also contact us to learn more about how the Oracle Advertising and CX suite of products can help you reach your sales and revenue goals with engaging, connected customer experiences.