The ultimate guide to ABX
Say goodbye to generic B2B marketing and hello to ABX. Find out what it takes to create a personalized customer experience
Say goodbye to generic B2B marketing and hello to ABX. Find out what it takes to create a personalized customer experience
You're probably familiar with ABM or account-based marketing, but you heard about “ABX” and wondered what the hell is this “new” thing?
You’re not alone.
Another acronym because yes we’re Internet folks, and we love category creation, using new terminology to look more innovative.
What it is about?
Well, it is more a new buzzword than a brand-new concept.
The foundations of ABX remain the same as ABM.
We are still talking about “a sustained, coordinated, strategic approach to identifying, engaging, closing, and growing the accounts we know we should WIN.”
But we went from “Marketing” to “Experience”.
The term “experience” compared to “marketing” is, from a semantic point of view, more appropriate as ABM is a collective sport involving sales, marketing, and customer success to drive customer-centric journeys.
So with “experience”, it is no longer labeled as a “marketing-only” topic, and this is for the best as it has never been supposed to be the case.
You might be wondering “What is the point of changing one letter then?”
Still today, most companies continue to have disparate data leading to disconnected customer journeys.
“Customer-facing teams operating in silos will lead to jarring experiences, with impersonal or conflicting communications and time-consuming barriers to getting things done.”
Salesforce State of sales report 4th edition
And it doesn’t stop there, nowadays, the average customer journey in B2B has never been more complex, especially with the COVID that accelerated the digitalization of the world.
The TOPO sales Development Benchmark report revealed that 12 touches with individuals, not organizations, were needed in a concentrated period for any campaign to be effective.
Imagine this was published in 2014, not in the context of multi-threaded outreach as we must do in B2B.
Companies will face increasing pressure to adopt outcome-based tracking by achieving closer alignment with Marketing and Sales. More than ever, companies need to acquire a big-picture look at the customer journey by tracking key metrics related to appointments set, pipeline generated, and sales generated.
This brings us back to the promise of ABX.
With ABX, revenue teams collaborate to deliver a cohesive and tailored experience across multiple touchpoints and stakeholders.
The goal is to engage and build relationships with key decision-makers and influencers within target accounts to drive revenue and customer lifetime value.
What needs to be highlighted here is that the post-closing stage is also considered, ensuring that what has been sold by marketing and sales teams is being delivered by the customer success.
According to Sirius decision, B2B businesses that align their revenue engine grow 12X to 15X times faster than their peers and are 34% more profitable.
In this article, we'll dive more into the ABX concept, why it's important, and what to think about when implementing it in your organization.
Don’t count the people that you reach. Reach the people who count.
The quote from the father of advertising perfectly fits ABX's mindset, except that we focused on accounts, not on people level.
In B2B, you have to think at the ACCOUNT level, as the typical buyer journey involves 4 to 10 decision-makers. You will be trying to reach all the players on the buying committee, not a single person.
Your ICP definition, messaging, and overall GTM strategy should have that in mind.
The unintended consequence of former account-based Marketing methods, software, and sales funnel combinations is a vast overreliance on Marketing to bring qualified Inbound Leads.
Pause here. Think about C-levels
They may have downloaded a white paper but probably delegate the insights gleaned to an associate. They probably send in their underlings to research your innovations and watch demos — They simply don’t have time.
So, by and large, inbound marketing attracts influencers but doesn’t pull in people who can actually buy.
On the other hand, the sales led only has weaknesses as well.
90% of B2B decision makers never respond to cold outreach (HBR).
It takes 18 call attempts to get a business executive on the phone in 2017*(not better now). As a reminder, the average cold calling success rate is 2% (ie: 2 calls that convert into warm leads)
What’s the secret weapon, then?
Building the bridge between inbound & outbound approaches - Often called “Allbound” strategies.
Similar to the concept of “Combo prospecting” in sales, the value of ABX remains in the combination of channels, maximizing the coverage rate and overall performances of your LeadGen strategy.
It synthesizes the “engageability” of inbound marketing with the precision and targeting of account-based outreach, rooted in an intense focus on the customer at every stage of the buying journey, using intelligent insights to know when and how to engage with each account.
Let’s have a quick review of the ABX approaches benefits.
One of the fundamental principles of ABX is recognizing that our buyers live in a world of information abundance and attention scarcity, making any interruption marketing ineffective.
Instead, companies need to build trust with potential buyers, identify the “magic moments” when customers are open to engaging, and then orchestrate the perfect interactions across sales, marketing, and customer success teams.
From a B2B perspective, organizations following an account-based strategy (ABM or ABX) have seen a customer lifetime value improvement of 80%. They have also seen win rates increase by 76%.
In a nutshell, those are the main benefits.
Now, let’s dig deeper into the different types of ABX approaches.
It’s a common misconception that ABM always involves completely bespoke 1:1 approaches, with heavy investment in a few high-value prospects.
In reality, there are different types of AB(X).
The potential ACV determines the number of channels, budget, touches, and personalization utilized within an ABX program.
You can have a blended approach as you’ll likely employ more than one.
1:1: Highly customized programs reserved for strategic accounts with high deal value and executed on a one-to-one basis. With 1:1 ABX, account teams build stronger relationships with the company’s most valued customers and prospects via highly targeted marketing interactions that demonstrate an in-depth understanding of their business issues.
A successful example is GumGum, analyzing the social media of T-mobile CEO John Legere, already customer, and finding out that he is a big fan of Batman. The GumGum developed a comic character called T-man, saving the city from lousy phone services with his sidekick, Gums.
By utilizing image-recognition marketing technology in the comics, GumGum helped T-mobile to spread its message while making sure he won’t churn by delighting them with this hyper-personalized experience.
Another example this time with gong prospecting Cisco.
One to few ABX is about creating and executing lightly-customized programs for clusters of accounts (industry, persona, company size, or pain points) with similar issues and needs. It still involves some targeted campaigns and personalization, but the focus is shifted from individual accounts to larger volume of accounts.
The revenue teams generate customized content for the targeted group and dedicated sales sequences per persona. This often includes a mix of ads, web personalization (custom landing pages), and, eventually, some direct mail or custom events.
One great example of a successful 1:Few ABM campaign is the one executed by Fullfunnel for their client, Iridium.
They ran a virtual summit that generated:
Programmatic ABM, or 1:Many ABM as it is sometimes called, represents the lightest touch of Account-Based Marketing. The strategy involves the mass targeting of numerous accounts, with a strong reliance on technological solutions and automation to streamline the process.
The personalization aspect relies on variables, intents personalization, or personalized assets (like banner-bear) to leverage customization at scale.
It often features a targeted display ad campaign for multiple target accounts from different industries, with the ad messaging and content offerings customized based on the industry and the customer's buying stage, as well as dedicated sales sequences based on the same criteria.
Demand generation is the process of increasing awareness and demand for your product or service. The goal is to expand your audience, build authority, and generate interest in your brand, creating demand and generating new leads. This is often a marketing responsibility.
Specifically, it involves inbound channels like ads (Linkedin, Facebook, Google), and content strategy (articles, webinars, podcasts, social posts, free products) to drive awareness and educate potential buyers.
For this type of strategy, you focus more on leads than accounts. The main requirement is to clearly understand your ICP and the pains you solve for them.
Finally, you can have a mix of all those ABX type, with conditions will route accounts and prospects to the appropriate strategy based on the deal potential value, the average engagement, the number of stakeholders involved etc..
How can you start your ABX effort by doing a Proof of Concept?
Let's get to it!
Jumping ABX require to think about many things. Let's do a review of mandatory steps.
Involving multiple teams implies gaining clarity and alignment on your ABM objectives. It can be getting new shiny logos, but that’s far from the only possibility.
Clear KPIs and tracking
It’s important to ensure that your ABX strategy can be embedded and mapped into your tech stack so those account touchpoints are captured and fully visible within a centralized source of truth.
You should be measuring results both at the account and contact levels. As you will have a multi-threaded, multi-channel, multi-touch series of engagements over time, each interaction should be visible and weighed at the company level.
Getting the Executive Alignment
Then, a vital aspect of building strong ABM foundations is to get sponsored by executive teams to ensure alignment, clear ownership, and good collaboration with other teams.
If you can’t directly and credibly tie your ABM strategies and metrics to revenue, you’re not going to gain their buy-in.
When your work is seen as essential to one or more executives achieving their goals, money, headcount, barrier smashing, and everything else you need will follow.
GTM team alignment
The other essential area where you need an alignment is between sales and marketing. They need to be co-owners of the project.
In my experience, it comes down to asking this question: do marketing and sales know and understand each other, or are they separate silos?
If not, start by identifying the likely champions and co-owners in sales and marketing to get your ABX evangelist.
Having a common set of metrics, defined ownership, and setting an operating cadence is mandatory to ensure your GTM teams are committed to the success of the ABM pilot.
You can assist the collaboration by aligning people, process and technologies: having an account scoring that triggers the handover from marketing to sales, slack notifications to keep people excited on the progression of accounts status, etc.
You can’t take your foot off the gas on your current demand generation programs and go “all-in” on ABX. You need to run a pilot first.
Once you have clear objectives and the stakeholders around the table, it’s important to define what success looks like and how many accounts you’ll need to target to get there.
For your Poc, you don’t want to target a high volume of accounts. You need enough to make it significant but not too much to let you time to iterate. At this stage, you should adopt the Paul Graham mindset, “Do things that don’t scale,” and focus on learning. “Test & Learn” is and will remain the evergreen growth motto.
You don’t need to involve everyone in the pilot. The best is to create a hybrid squad composed of different stakeholders from marketing and sales or customer success depending on your goal, get an executive sponsor and a budget, define SMART goals, and create a dedicated slack channel for this ABX squad.
Your objective is to figure out which channels, assets, messages, and CTAs REALLY move the dial, and which ones are ineffective (or maybe even counter-productive).
Then you should be able to start your PoC. Only after reaching your success metrics will you be looking to expand your program.
Let’s dive into the core components of your ABX program.
Everything in an account-based experience strategy depends on a deep and reliable understanding of the accounts and audiences you’re targeting.
ABX leverages first and third-party data to identify which accounts are the best fit to do business with your company
For this step, getting your TAM centralized in one place, the promise of a PRM, giving you access to internal and third-party data, can be useful in identifying high-quality target accounts.
The best account targeting is a mix of
After leveraging firmographic, technographic, and intent data to prioritize accounts, you need to start identifying the buying committee and everyone involved in the purchase decision, potential blockers included!
Building out organizational charts or “account maps” and setting a policy of multi-threading will ensure you are not limiting your opportunity creation and deal velocity.
Indeed, to close a significant deal, you need the line of business, IT, Stakeholders, and procurement in the loop. You need to establish multiple bridges to span the moat into the castle.
These are called threads, and the #1 reason deals d'ont close is becoause the seller is working single-threaded or is dependent on one stakeholder. Even the most senior of people won't sign off unless they are convinced that there is a consensus for the business case and change management.
No one (except Elon Musk?) make unilateral decisions or try to push decisions down the organization, so you need to build multiple relationships
The more you have stakeholders in the loop, the more you increase the odds of converting an account. Plus, you can save them into Linkedin Sales Navigator as leads and accounts for news, updates, and insights to drive meaningful conversations.
Once you’ve identified at least 4,5 (up to 15) stakeholders per target account, you can think about how you map your solution to their priorities.
Once you know who you’re talking to, you need to figure out what to say.
The efficacy of precise targeting in Account-Based Marketing (ABM) hinges on the ability to create and deliver content that aligns with your target accounts' priorities and pain points.
Here it very much depends on the size of your clusters. The type of ABM will tell you how deep you should research.
The fewer people you’re targeting, the more important it is to understand them intimately.
For Strategic ABM, personas don’t matter. What matters is the individual and their unique needs. On the other hand, for programmatic ABM, creating content (ie: landing page) at a persona level would be enough. You will also run persona/industry based sequence, creating sales assets that scale using a tool like bannerbear etc.. You can also make your website dynamic using a tool like Mutiny, or doing it manually with an IP reveal tool (Clearbit, Albacross) coupled with GA4/ Google optimize for instance.
Tools like Uberflip can adjust content and tailor it for specific accounts, industries, or personas (when the visitor’s company is identified)
Once you understand your accounts and the journeys you need to take them on, you need to think about delivery: choosing the right channels to engage them.
Each channel plays a role in the overall engagement strategy: Inbound channels are suitable for educating and warming up leads, while outbound channels are more effective in persuading and getting in touch with prospects.
However, it is important to optimize for the ultimate goal of the campaign rather than focusing on individual channels. The goal again is to deliver a consistent, coordinated experience.
Don’t optimize the sub-system. Optimize for the ultimate objective.
Personalization is an essential aspect of the customer experience, and should be applied consistently across all stages, including social, display, events, sales sequences, and assets.
A typical ABX strategy would be divided into 3 main stages featuring different channels:
Top of the Funnel: The goal is to drive awareness and start influence the accounts.
Middle-of-funnel: The goal is to educate on their pains, position your solution as the best provider to suit the prospect's needs
Bottom-of-funnel: BOFU is the closing stage.
When dealing with multiple channels, multiple stakeholders, and sophisticated strategy like ABX, the hardest part is to have a reliable attribution model and metrics that supports the overall strategy.
The most important thing is to ensure your metrics very clearly map to your ABX objectives and that everyone understands how to measure success. It’s much less about the impact of individual assets or campaigns, and much more about the total impact of ABX activities on sales outcomes.
You should measure Account-Based metrics like, coverage, awareness, engagement and impact.
For the tracking part, you would need to combine UTM parameters with tools like Segment or Rudderstack to do identification everywhere possible where you deal with known accounts.
Wether it’s to track from the ad platforms, website interactions (form submissions), links in email, you need to have a clear tracking plan and ensure you don’t miss any impactful prospect actions.
IP recognition tools tools like Clearbit Reveal, or Albacoss can be useful to identify anonymous targeted account arriving on your website.
Check this great DIY article by Dreamdata to learn more about the ABM funnel tracking.
As soon as you have your data in the warehouse, you can use cargo as the brain of your business operations: the main system that rules them all.
You can push create a segment both on account or people level, enrich them further, verify the data validity, score them based on fit, intent and behavioral attributes, push your segment into custom audiences, and trigger sales or marketing sequences based on their journey stage.
A simple 1:M ABX journey logic you could do:
Here is what it would look like visually:
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