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5 min read

Finding the Perfect Agile Account-Based Marketing Partner

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What we call agile account-based marketing (AABM), is a newly emerging discipline. As such, the industry of marketing service providers - agencies and consultants - are just catching on. But how do agile ABM services fit into the existing B2B marketing landscape? More importantly, who can a tech enterprise looking to implement agile ABM turn to?

The current account-based marketing landscape

Google “account based marketing agency” or “ABM services” and one will find that the overwhelming majority of results will come from organizations belonging to either

  • consultants who make tech work - marketing-technology or ‘martech’ companies and
  • demand generation agencies, which is a different name for B2B marketing.

Much less apparent are the lead generation companies who are beginning to catch on to account-based marketing. They are starting to realize that marketing organizations need their talent; provided, they are able to play the roles that AABM requires - but more on this a bit later.

By making account-based marketing agile, the game has been changed for ABM organizations by implementing a sales-development-like approach of in-person, human outreach into the ABM process. When executed right, it will result in marketing delivering many more sales-qualified leads, while diminishing the general sales vs. marketing debate over lead quality. You may be tempted to think that ‘agile’ is simply an add-on to ABM - just snatching on sales development to ABM activities - there is much more to it. AABM has a bit more complex role in the organization.

Agile ABM’s main objective is to help marketing get more sales qualified leads. It weaves direct, human outreach into the ‘traditional’ ABM process - but only, where necessary. Agile ABM works alongside/in tandem with digital- and other account-based initiatives. Much of agile ABM is about integrating sales and marketing, although it’s not the main objective. Due to its interdisciplinary nature, AABM is a holistic approach, meaning it constantly builds on and directly utilizes ABM and integrates with the sales department’s activities.

In order to understand AABM, let’s look at a typical scenario - a real case from Infinityn’s experience.

An example of an AABM provider in action

In this case where our client’s ABM software signaled that a particular company performed searches for important search-phrases related to their industrial software solution:

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The marketing team concluded that the company was worth reaching out to, but lacking any contacts, they needed help opening doors. They had decided not to hand over this account to their internal sales development team, as the sales department had their own projects and deadlines, and wouldn’t have had the chance to act on time.

The above email, along with a few instructions were forwarded to their AABM partner, Infinityn and the AABM play kicked in, launching pre-defined workflows in prospect research, account-tactic alignment with the client, outreach and several more sub-processes.

Following research and a multi-threaded outreach to key leaders, Infinityn AABM reps had discovery calls with five different leaders who had all agreed to subsequent calls with product experts. Infinityn handed over the sales qualified leads to the sales team. The result of this particular campaign: 5 sales qualified leads with the account in just under two weeks.

In order to make this “deployment” work, the AABM partner has to

  1. have a good understanding of the client’s ABM plays and systems
  2. have a great affinity for the partner’s industry and solution, because they will be reaching out and having conversations with top-level managers and executives
  3. develop a process with the client that makes sure “no plates are dropped” and that the integration between marketing and sales is smooth.

This last item in itself is an important by-product of working with an AABM partner. They act as the integrating body between sales and marketing.

How to choose an AABM agency

How should enterprises go about looking for an agile account-based marketing agency? Finding the right partner can be a challenge, as most service providers target SMBs and lack some of the know-how and services that large tech companies need. Due to AABM being both a holistic discipline and also a young and emerging one, it is still tough to find a single provider who can play all the roles and AABM provider should be expected to.

Let’s look at the different agency-types along with their general strengths and weaknesses as they relate to enterprise agile account-based marketing.

Martech consultants

Companies who specialize in implementing and supporting ABM software will generally have a good understanding of ABM plays and can be expected to bring a breadth of experience with best practices to make ABM work. However, they’re usually less familiar with the sales development-side of the equation and while they can be used to set up the tech behind AABM plays, they won’t perform research, outreach, qualification, and hand-overs - the bulk of the ongoing effort in agile account-based marketing.

ABM agencies

Sometimes these agencies refer to themselves as demand generation companies. This term is usually used synonymously with account-based marketing by the majority of these providers.

Most ABM services resort to traditional digital marketing activities in a B2B outfit, namely PPC, SEO, email marketing, and content marketing. They can be very good at a single or a few of these disciplines and may also specialize in one or a few marketing automation platforms such as Marketo, HubSpot, Eloqua, etc. These companies, however, are usually not familiar with the martech, namely the ABM platforms that are typically used in an enterprise ABM-setting and thus don’t offer much in the way of operating or developing these; let alone integrating them with sales development plays. Also, ABM firms don’t do human outreach, which is a key component in the formula; so they are out of the question for agile ABM.

Lead generation companies

The opposite can be said for lead generation companies in the way of services. Their strength is picking up the phone and contacting a large number of prospects based on lists they obtain from the client or using databases they have access to. They can be used to complement your ABM team for agile outreach, but due to their specialization, you will most likely have to make compromises and can’t count on them to play the integrative AABM role for two reasons:

  1. Lead gen companies are sales-minded. Their leaders have a sales background and generally have never worked in marketing. As a result, the most they can do is operate as a bolt-on to your marketing organization and can’t embody the integrative role that is needed from AABM. Cooperation with marketing is expected to be bumpier.
  2. Many of these companies operate on scripts - and not genuine conversations. If they employ less-skilled agents, they aren’t able to adequately represent your brand in front of C- and VP-level leaders at target organizations.

Agile account-based marketing service providers

Although there is an enormous need for agencies who integrate and help in aligning marketing and sales while also getting SQLs, very few agencies offer this under one roof. AABM providers bring together the best of the above-described worlds - or at least, most of it. What they typically don’t do is content and email marketing, perhaps PPC - because these areas are usually covered by in-house talent.

When shopping for an AABM service provider, look for a blend of talent and experience in the following areas:

  • ABM know-how, both inbound and outbound marketing;
  • Understanding marketing technology and data-driven outbound campaigns;
  • Sales development expertise and capabilities for human-outreach. All phases of AABM are important, but this is where the rubber meets the road;

Lastly, as a pro tip: enquire about the existence of a formalized talent management/motivation/employee satisfaction program in the organization. You want your partner to have a sound HR strategy. This is a crucial pillar of any AABM agency. As one might imagine, recruiting, training, and retaining this blend of talent is no small task. AABM is an interdisciplinary and also a newly emerging field in marketing.

If you’d like to get more insight from an agency that is on the AABM frontier every day with tried and true processes, don’t hesitate to contact Infinityn to schedule an AABM roadmap session. These sessions are reserved for companies where we determine that an AABM campaign can create substantial-to-massive growth in sales qualified leads.

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