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How to Implement Pilot Strategies for More Successful ABM

Melody Selby
July 26, 2023 6 MIN Blog

New to ABM? Why a pilot strategy is a great way to get started.

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach that combines insights-driven marketing with sales to increase awareness, develop relationships with buyers, and drive revenue growth from specific high-value accounts. ABM aims to build trust, increase relevance, and position your brand as a trusted partner that can solve a business problem. According to research by the ABM Leadership Alliance and ITSMA, 76% of marketers saw a higher ROI with ABM than any other marketing strategy.

However, marketers new to ABM often need evidence to make a business case that it will work for their organization. Pilots are a best practice that allows you to outline, trial, and benchmark your planned ABM activities. It helps you gain insights and ensures that all involved teams have the necessary resources before launching a full campaign. Pilots are also a great strategy to test ABM before further expanding campaign strategies into other regions or business units.

Guidelines for Developing the Framework of a Pilot Campaign

Marketers often jump full-force into ABM campaigns without a framework to ensure they maximize their resources. Pilots are only as good as the framework they work within. Dedicating time and resources to ensuring your pilot campaign is well planned out and set up for success is important.

Here are some guidelines to consider for your pilot campaign framework:

Define the parameters and approach of your ABM pilot

Set realistic goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), secure the internal go-ahead, and determine the duration of the pilot. Forrester finds that most companies fail with their pilot campaigns by not indicating an end, making it difficult to assess its lessons and create a business case for full deployment. Forrester recommends a pilot not exceeding six months with a defined and limited scope for the greatest success.

Before launching your ABM pilot strategy, you must assess your organization’s starting point regarding ABM maturity. This assessment will help determine the level of personalization and targeting you can achieve. Organizations with a high level of ABM maturity may be able to target accounts and contacts at a 1-1 level, using account-specific insights and personalized content. On the other hand, organizations with limited insights may target at a 1-to-few or 1-to-many—focusing on broader accounts and persona levels. Understanding your starting point will guide your targeting and set realistic expectations for your pilot.

An ABM pilot also requires a budget that includes content production costs, paid channel budget, offline asset production, multimedia budget, insights development, and tech stack investments. The length of your pilot will also impact the total investment required.

Develop insights about target accounts, buyer personas, and decision-makers

Understanding the audience you’re trying to reach will help inform campaign messaging and targeting strategies. This is not a best-guess exercise; you need data to be honest about choosing in-market accounts. Combining your first-party data through customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation systems with third-party buyer intent data will uncover insights you probably didn’t know about your target accounts.

For example, ML Insights data on healthcare buyers reveals that the highest engagement with content is among those in IT, Health, and Operations roles, which your first-party data may confirm. Still though, the rapid rise in engagement from Government Administration professionals reflects a competitive opportunity based on the demand for advanced healthcare technologies in that sector. You can be more personalized and targeted with your ABM pilot by identifying and prioritizing the accounts and contacts most likely to become sales opportunities according to a comprehensive data source that serves as a single source of truth.

Develop content and messaging that resonates with buyers

According to Gartner, the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision-makers, each armed with four or five pieces of information they’ve gathered independently and must reconcile with the group. To capture the attention of these buying committee members and keep your solution top of mind, you need personalized experiences and content to increase engagement and drive conversions.

For example, high-level executives focus on the strategic implementation of an investment. They want to see how the solution aligns with the company’s vision, improves competitive advantage, and drives growth. Finance and procurement individuals are interested in the total cost of ownership, pricing models, and potential savings, while IT managers want to know how a solution fits into an existing technology stack. Ensuring your content and messaging speaks these pain-points and concerns helps you establish a deeper connection with these specific buying committee members.

Define the right strategy you need to deliver the value propositions you developed

ABM works when marketers select the appropriate channels, content formats, and engagement strategies to build trust and relationships with a buying group before they speak to a sales representative. Developing this trust requires a personalized experience that delivers the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

Buyers don’t typically spend all their time researching solutions on one site; to effectively engage accounts, marketers must surround all buying committee members with personalized information in the places they spend the most time online through a multi-channel approach. Data enables marketers to create highly targeted ABM campaigns that speak directly to their target accounts’ needs and pain points. By leveraging data to match content to the buyer’s mindset within their customer journey, marketers can balance the brand-building necessary for long-term revenue growth.

Additionally, when used with a multi-channel approach, a full-funnel strategy provides potential customers with a comprehensive and consistent experience throughout the buying journey, from initial awareness of a problem to post-purchase engagement. When marketers use a full-funnel strategy, they build their organization’s reputation from start to finish and beyond in the customer relationship and keep their brand and content top-of-mind.

Determine metrics to measure

When you measure the success of your ABM pilot campaign, you need to look beyond lead generation and focus on expanding relationships with quality accounts. This means looking at metrics from engagement and pipeline conversion perspectives.

Engagement metrics reveal how content is performing and how a buying group may respond with data points like email open and click-through rates, website visit duration, content downloads, social media interaction, and webinar registrations.

Conversion and pipeline metrics such as deal velocity and size, pipeline movement, and conversion rates can reveal how buying groups progress through the pipeline and unveil areas of opportunity based on previous benchmarks. Data unlocks a more accurate picture of the buyer’s journey and provides a more thorough understanding of engagement and pipeline impact that marketers can use to uncover optimization opportunities and increase the efficiency of their media investment.

Ready, Set, Pilot

Running an ABM pilot before launching a full-scale campaign is a proven approach to trial, optimize, and benchmark ABM activities. The considerations outlined in this article will help you build and run a successful ABM pilot that sets the stage for long-term success. With careful planning and execution, your ABM pilot will provide valuable insights and lay the foundation for a successful campaign.

Did you know that Madison Logic is a leader among intent data providers? If you’re looking for more information about how data helps shape your ABM campaigns, click on the links below: