As each day passes, B2B marketers are hearing more about Account-Based Marketing (ABM) from every direction. Over the last 18 months, the concept has taken root and developed into more than just the topic du jour as early adopters report tremendous success with the strategy and the technologies that support it.
As I interact with more and more B2B marketers, the majority understand the concept and what it can do for their business but are facing a new set of challenges to bridge the gap from theory to reality. They need to know how ABM will change the way they plan for marketing — from budgeting to goal setting, to program execution and measurement.
The budgeting cycle for a new strategy often takes place well in advance of the final goal setting or program planning. As a result, marketers wanting to make the jump to ABM are left scratching their heads as to how they can finance this change when they have previously committed budgets to other approaches or programs.
Working with some of the early ABM adopters over the past several years, a few trends have emerged in how B2B marketers have been successful financing ABM initiatives. Let’s explore a few scenarios that can help you determine where you stand when it comes to budgeting for ABM.
Your company already bought into ABM
If you’re lucky enough to have ABM be a primary directive at your company, you obviously won’t have to find ways to finance its adoption.
In this scenario, you want to consider goals and technologies you’ll need to execute and measure success. Base your budgeting on those plans — just as you would have done in a pre-ABM world.
The roll-up budget plan
Sometimes trying to create a new line item in your budget and justify that to the rest of the executive team isn’t an easy feat — especially when you haven’t proven its success at your company yet. Often, marketing leaders will find ways to incorporate ABM into other initiatives.
For example, you most likely have a website budget. If there are plans to relaunch your site, rolling up an account-based approach to personalization on your site can fit into that initiative and allow you to prove the effectiveness of ABM for future investment.
Likewise, I’ve also seen marketers incorporate the first elements of their ABM initiatives under the Marketing Automation line item in their budget.
Many marketers set aside a portion of their budget to try new things. If you are one of them, you can use your experimental budget to test ABM initiatives and technologies to measure their results.
Just be conscious of how you plan to measure success. If you’re running an ABM “experiment,” know that some of the deep-funnel metrics typically used to measure success — like pipeline, close rates, ACV (annual contract value) and velocity — may not be the best metrics to measure your test. It may take longer to see the results than more top-of-funnel metrics related to engagement, like target account activity on your website.
Partnering with other departments
Sales and marketing alignment is a two-way street. Marketers have been investing heavily in focusing on outcomes that empower their sales teams, and sales often has its own budget for tools that enable them to be more effective.
In an ABM environment, marketers are looking to provide account-based insights and intelligence to their sales team. If you’re struggling to find the budget for ABM tools, you can always ask your sales leaders to help finance this investment, since it ultimately makes their teams more successful.
Shifting or reallocating existing budgets
The options listed above are typically the outlier cases I see when B2B marketers are trying to build and invest in an ABM strategy — but they do happen! Most B2B marketers are going to fall into this last category, where they have to work within an existing budget framework. These marketers will have to take an honest look at performance and make adjustments to find budget to fund their ABM initiative.
Technologies such as CRM, MAS, DMP, CMS, Analytics, Predictive and more are the infrastructure to your marketing tech stack and won’t provide much wiggle room. Instead, look to your program and channel investments to identify where adopting an ABM philosophy will free up budget to invest.
For example, marketers spend heavily in digital advertising that is untargeted. By simply applying your digital advertising dollars to an account-based advertising approach, you can reduce your overall digital advertising costs, produce better results and reallocate those savings to investing in additional ABM technologies and strategies. This is just one example of where you can find space in your budget that can be optimized and reallocated to ABM — and where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
October is likely the time that you are beginning to think about your 2017 marketing budget. ABM proves that marketing can have a direct effect on the company’s revenue. Be sure to budget for it, so you start impacting your company’s bottom line.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.