Imagine your ideal client.
Not just a persona of a great client, but a specific company that you’d give anything to do business with. Go ahead, imagine that perfect relationship the one with profitable revenue and long-term value for both your business and your customers.
Who are your ideal clients? And with whom do you need to build a deep relationship with in order to convert that business?
Maybe you don’t know yet. Then again, maybe you’ve already gathered the sales insight and information you need via your lead generation and nurture activities and are ready to create a personalized, targeted campaign to build a unique relationship with them.
In a nutshell, that’s account-based marketing (ABM).
But if you want to achieve that dream client goal, first, you need to achieve sales and marketing alignment. Next, you need to know how to leverage that alignment and know how to build on your current marketing and sales activities to get there.
How to align sales and marketing for next-level strategies
“81 percent of organisations with a tightly aligned sales/marketing relationship (SLA) view their marketing strategy as effective.” HubSpot State of Inbound 2017
If you’re already taking an inbound marketing approach, you know that strong sales and marketing alignment is core to success. After all, for any campaign to deliver exceptional results, both sides of a business need shared clarity on objectives and goals. Both departments must work on a joint plan, goals and return on investment.
Taking a first-hand example, while aligning sales and marketing may be complex, in Strategic Internet Consulting’s case, as an inbound to ABM agency, we use sales and marketing alignment as a starting point to elevate our marketing from inbound, to ABM:
With a closed-loop marketing automation platform and CRM in place to streamline our marketing and sales alignment, we’re able to build on a foundation of targeted inbound marketing activity.
Then, using inbound marketing as our wider demand generation, nurture, and qualification strategy, we can create a relevant lead pool and dig deeper to identify high propensity ABM-worthy accounts.
Finally, by aligning sales and marketing over these ABM account targets, we’re able to nurture high-value opportunities so when and where the time is right, we can elevate from inbound nurture to a more targeted, personalized ABM approach and take account relationships to the next level.
Strong sales and marketing alignment is core, and success can be achieved when you:
1. Align sales and marketing via an integrated marketing automation platform and CRM
By integrating your marketing automation, sales platform and CRM, it’s possible to form a closed loop that gives each team the data, insight and technology required to coordinate.
In Strategic’s case, we use HubSpot across marketing and sales to achieve this for a number of reasons. First, we can keep track of our campaign personas and goals (avoiding dispute over what the business is working toward). Second, as everyone is able to use the CRM and sales platform to access lead insight (lead stages, challenges, interactions history with marketing content, etc.), it’s easier to explore what actions to take to achieve our defined goals.
2. Consciously focus on improving lead qualification
Part of sales/marketing alignment means agreeing, ownershipwise, on who is responsible for leads throughout the funnel. Adopting closed-loop, inbound marketing practices means greater access to insight, which enables sales teams to better prioritize leads and gives marketing teams clarity over which leads need more nurture.
For example, when an inbound lead comes in, your sales team should review that lead against defined buyer persona profiles (and marketing insight) to identify if they are a good fit/low fit, high-interest/low-interest opportunity or otherwise.
When everyone across your sales and marketing team has access to the same lead data and history, both sides of the business can use this insight to prioritize lead management. Done well, this minimizes disputes over what constitutes a good lead and creates a clear view on what actions (sales follow up, marketing nurture, etc.) should happen next.
Through this alignment it’s also possible to begin identifying the most appropriate (high value, high propensity) opportunities for any ABM activity.
3. Have marketing and sales coordinate on content
This should be both in terms of content idea generation and development, plus ROI measurement. For example, have your sales and marketing teams sit down weekly to run through upcoming content, then identify any gaps where new content is needed.
Sales should provide insight into any middle-of-funnel (MOFU) or beginning-of-funnel (BOFU) content requirements (based on social listening, sales conversations, trigger items and related insights) to progress MQLs to SQLs to customer conversions, and should share insight into lead challenges that may inform new content.
Should you have any ABM appropriate leads, the sales team can also outline any personalized content requirements that would help them develop the relationship. The content team can then prioritize creating those bespoke, account-personalized assets.
4. Coordinate on nurture activity
Once both sides of the business are closely aligned, it’s possible to get creative when nurturing inbound generated leads. With a sales team enabled with marketing data, you gain a clearer view of your leads and can tailor nurture activity appropriately.
This is particularly powerful when you want to create a personalized ABM nurture offer, such as unique blog posts or videos tailored to address a target account’s business challenge, or when personalizing sales assets, such as one-to-one video messaging, personalized whitepapers or smart landing pages.
Remember, however, that ABM personalization and nurture activity must always be tied back to revenue and opportunity for return on investment. Personalizing sales and marketing activities for ABM can be resource-consuming but worth it if you invest in the right places. Approximately 94 percent of senior-level executives believe that delivering personalization is critical for reaching and retaining customers (according to a PWC Digital Services group study).
5. Ensure both teams work together to identify and agree on ABM opportunities
As above, inbound campaigns can form an integral foundation for persona-focused lead generation. Evolving this to the next level, at Strategic, we’ve started to explore our pool of inbound-generated leads, using it as a base for sales and marketing to collaborate in identifying and investing in particular high-value ABM targets that will deliver best ROI.
Better alignment = better insight for tailored campaigns
Improving your sales and marketing alignment is the first step toward making the most of resource load, meaning you can be more efficient in achieving your campaign goals. Achieve this, and it’s possible to create more customer-centric campaigns that leverage insight from new and existing customer conversations for continual improvement.
Regardless of whether you’re implementing inbound or ABM campaigns (and for best return on investment, a blend of both is often recommended), sales and marketing alignment forms a foundation of insight-led activity, allowing a better understanding of your buyer’s needs, meaning you can tailor campaigns to resonate at a deeper, more personalized level.