How to overcome the demand gen problems in ABM

First we clarify what it means ABM: it is the umth acronym and stands for Account-Based Marketing, or marketing focused on a particular customer – which makes sense probably only in the B2B area.

Come superare i problemi di “demand gen” in ambito ABM

photo credit: HendersonStateU Chamber Orchestra via photopin (license)

A second clarification, to be done at the beginning, concerns the term “top funnel”, understood as the upper part (or entrance) of the funnel. Here the funnel is the “sales funnel”: a metaphor that indicates how the road that goes from the generation of the demand to the purchase resembles a sort of obligatory path that is going to shrink, since it is necessary in some way to “channel” people interested in the final decision; the upper part of the funnel is the entrance: the point where the entire cycle is fed (given that those who bought it can fit into the funnel).

Demand orchestration is a term that suggests the need to harmonize and integrate the various components that contribute to create a successful marketing strategy.

We know well that the development and execution of a marketing program focused on particular clients (ABM, in fact), involves the coordinated use of several instruments (as for an orchestra). Unfortunately, there is an area from which sometimes out of tune notes come out: it is the upper part of the sales funnel – in which, speaking of ABM, specific methods of demand generation (demand gen) are needed that are appropriately “tuned” to each other. and with the rest of the orchestra.

Another note: by demand gen we mean everything that helps to attract contacts and interest them in our offer and then push them to become customers; this process, in particular, consists of three phases: the generation of leads (lead gen), their maturation (lead nurturing) and the conversion to a purchase decision.

That said, let’s see what the demand orchestration consists of and how it can help B2B marketers successfully implement their ABM strategies.

What is the demand orchestration?

In a nutshell, demand orchestration (in what we call demand gen) is a B2B marketing approach used to efficiently manage and coordinate top funnel activities aimed at acquiring new contacts, in order to integrate them with those typically carried out by Marketing Automation tools in the context of lead nurturing. The specific objective of the demand orchestration is to increase the sales pipeline, on the one hand improving the efficiency of the top funnel tools, on the other by enhancing and making more effective the efforts made at mid and bottom funnel level (the zones intermediate and low respectively of the funnel).

The adoption of this approach is increasingly widespread in B2B, since the channels and lead generation campaigns are managed separately and without a true integration either with the CRM, or with the marketing automation activities. In practice, the Marketing Automation tools of the first generation (those typically adopted by B2B companies) were based on pre-existing contacts lists or acquired from third parties and only more recently began to invest in lead generation activities supported by digital marketing, that is from elements such as online advertising, website monitoring, search engine marketing or social media.

It is exactly the opposite of what happened for e-commerce and B2C companies, where we started from digital marketing and online sales to introduce only later optimized tools for contact maturation (lead nurturing) in the case in which the complexity of the type of offer made it necessary.

Without tools for the orchestration of demand (or more advanced Marketing Automation platforms, which include them natively), marketing organizations are forced to manually manage the various pieces of the complex puzzle consisting of the programs of top funnel – putting together with campaigns, digital channels and contact data, as well as the whole part regarding performance analysis and related reporting, struggling to present to the company management the economic justification of the considerable investments made to generate new leads.

On the other hand, the privacy regulations and in particular the new GDPR introduced in the European Community, have in fact obliged companies to enhance the organic (or spontaneous) acquisition of additional marketing contacts to be included in the database, using each tool to provision to appeal as little as possible to lists provided by third parties. In the ABM field, then, it is a somewhat unavoidable approach: how to get otherwise the contact data of many people potentially interested in the marketing message by looking for them in a large organization like a typical customer of a B2B company?

In short, demand orchestration is a way to centralize the management of data and information sources related to leads, facilitate campaigns for generating new contacts and automate their inclusion in nurturing and qualification activities before they are passed to sales forces – without forgetting the production of reports able to illustrate to what extent the investments made at the top of the sales funnel contribute to the growth of the pipeline and turnover.

The ABM programs suffer due to inefficiencies at the top of the funnel level

Precisely because they are “culturally” inherited from the past, ABM programs start from the fund rather than from the top of the funnel, taking into consideration mainly the contact data already available in the CRM; in practice, we limit ourselves to analyzing this data to identify the people to whom the marketing message should be transmitted, but in this way the possibility of reaching an audience that is not only wider, but also made up of a whole series of people, is totally eliminated. and roles that, little or much, have a certain influence in the purchasing decisions and in the choice of products and suppliers – and the more the target company is large, the more numerous this potential audience is.

In practice, this focus on the bottom funnel only increases the complexity of the (inevitable) lead generation activities of top funnels, which rely on different data sources, channels, tactics, processes and systems; as a result, these two areas risk being totally disconnected, unless you manually reconcile them. To better understand the problem, let’s go over the typical phases of the launch of an ABM program.

First of all, the available data are put together, starting from those contained in the CRM – but we also refer to everything that is present in the database of the Marketing Automation system or to what we have managed to recover through digital marketing. The purpose is to identify the most suitable contacts but, in fact, we are faced with the need to integrate heterogeneous and quantitatively significant information (especially if we include elements such as visits to the company website or what comes from social media); we also need to put together entities such as interest in a particular product and conversion rates, any content downloaded or participation in particular events and the amount of economic transactions made in a given period – all while trying to give a score to each element to obtain a ranking from which to extract names and roles to which to direct the campaign.

The next phase consists in starting from the list of contacts thus obtained to finally pass to the action, segmenting it further and then choosing a series of specific channels and messages to be addressed to each type of interlocutors (one account is to speak with a technician, another is to involve a finance manager or an analyst in the purchasing department) – all taking into account the specific needs of the individual client company we are addressing.

When communication, more or less articulated and automated, has reached the pre-established objective, it is necessary to evaluate how the audience has accepted it and how it has reacted to the stimuli proposed; this will mess up the cards again, will highlight new elements and, finally, will lead to the definition of the (definitive) list of people with whom to continue the dialogue through proper nurturing activities – which generates further information to be included in the database (information which, however, must be validated and standardized, especially if the initiatives included in the campaign include the organization of events and someone extends the invitation to colleagues).

Trying to summarize: the ABM requires extreme precision in the definition of the target and in the collection and management of contact information, on pain of the risk of contacting the wrong interlocutor and nullifying part of the efforts made. Moreover, if the “pin” of the whole initiative are the CRM and the Marketing Automation system (which deals in practice only with the lead nurturing), all the additional data collected on the leads risk becoming a chaotic set to be managed – just because on the one hand they must be used without any doubt, while on the other hand one can not risk “polluting” the primary sources of information with partial, inaccurate or incoherent elements.

How does the orchestration of the application manage to support ABM?

The tools for request orchestration, integrated with, or natively included in the marketing automation platforms, have the purpose of coordinating the various activities of the top funnel in order to eliminate manual interventions as much as possible, guaranteeing the quality of the data and giving marketers the ability to focus on nurturing and lead qualification – so as to offer sales forces better opportunities both for new contracts and for cross selling or up-selling of additional products.

Orchestrating the demand (or extending automation beyond the lead nurturing by pushing it to integrate all the digital channels necessary for collecting, managing and connecting with contacts) means in practice centralizing all data and communication systems marketing – from CRM and other information sources in the company to the web and to social media, including mobile platforms.

If the CRM (and all the other company databases) is right to remain the exclusive preserve of those who use it for their work, the marketing must still have an expanded visibility of all users who in one way or another, come into contact with the brand – both online and offline. Not only that: the data managed by marketing, by their heterogeneous nature, must be able to be standardized, validated and managed in a totally automatic way, so as to be a reliable resource on which to capitalize to organize all kinds of activities: from generating new leads (contacts interested) to their selection and segmentation, from training (nurturing) to the qualification and then to the sale, to the subsequent follow-up – taking into account that all this is even more strategic if the target is a large organization and what is being put in the field they are initiatives of ABM, an area in which identifying the right interlocutor is fundamental (as well as very difficult).

The automation and integration of processes and the centralization of data within ABM (but not only), offer a number of advantages such as:

saving time and resources
greater return on investment
more efficient tools to support marketing and sales
better data quality
pipeline increase
greater precision in the identification of the reference audience
the ability to analyze the performance of each activity in detail

Put simply, the demand orchestration (or however we want to call it), both in terms of software resources and processes, allows to manage the leads efficiently regardless of the channel (internal or external) from which they come for the duration of their entire life cycle (and in compliance with regulations). This allows not only to acquire more valid contacts and to establish an effective relationship with each brand, but especially in B2B and ABM, it is the only way to explore large organizations in search of the best interlocutors to support the pipeline and to increase turnover.