Marketers are up against a ticking clock to prove returns for their ABM.
Marketing ROI

How to Measure the ROI of Account-Based Marketing

5 Minute Read

You’ve got management on your side. You’ve got an infrastructure in place. But you’re also up against a ticking clock: when account-based marketing (ABM) gets the green light, it only has so long to prove its value.

You can’t blame leadership for giving marketers a short leash. Account-based strategies aren’t cheap to execute, in large part because the content around those efforts is expensive and takes a long time to create. Successful ABM requires time to research targets, cultivate a brand-specific content strategy, and then execute that vision, and this investment needs to be justified by strong returns on investment coming back to the organization. Content plays a huge part of its success: not only can it help drive ROI for ABM, but it can also help prove that the positive returns are coming through.

Ultimately, the success of ABM depends on several moving parts, all of them interrelated. You need a strong strategy and infrastructure in place, but you also need great, relevant content tailored to accounts. For example, a brand that hopes to sell to Apple might create a custom eBook just for them, as one part of the strategy. Evaluating that content requires a solid marketing automation solution, plus smart marketers who can draw the right insights from that platform.

Making the Numbers Argument

Unlike other types of digital marketing, ABM is a solid marketing channel for organizations that want clear returns on their efforts. According to an Engagio report, The Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing, the return-on-investment potential of ABM has proven itself for many organizations that have leveraged the strategy. The report found that 84 percent of organizations saw returns on investment that was either significantly higher or somewhat higher than the ROI of other forms of marketing. The vast majority aren’t just generating positive ROI: they’re surpassing what they were seeing in the first place.

C/O Engagio

The most prevalent driver of those returns was also clear. In a survey question asking to identify the top benefits of ABM, close rate blew away the competition, with 75 percent of respondents saying their close rate improvement saw significant improvement. Another 84 percent of respondents noted that ABM helped their organizations get better at retaining at expanding customer relationships.

These are all promising numbers, and they can be indispensable in drumming up organizational support. But at some point, leadership approving of ABM campaigns will expect to see similar numbers for your own organization. These numbers should remain top of mind as a template for the sort of success your own organization should succeed, but the promise of this research eventually needs to give way to in-house returns numbers.

Solving the Problem, Backward

When we spoke to Engagio’s Director of Marketing, Charlie Liang, he offered a suggestion for analyzing ABM returns. He recommended working backward from the end goals—revenues, account-specific opportunities, meetings and so forth—and measuring the success of content against other types of marketing campaigns. This measurement should consider the effectiveness of each campaign channel to convert each section of your account funnel.

“Assign fixed costs so you can track ROI. This is easier when it’s third-party content, but even in-house content should have ballpark costs tagged,” Liang said. “Content tends to skew top of funnel, so make sure you track direct conversions as well as view-through conversions. And don’t forget to measure the channels in which you distribute the content—this is very important as optimal content types vary by channel.”

But how, exactly, can an organization do this? Given the deep dive that will be taken into your content, it’s clear that marketing automation software will be needed. Through an effective platform, marketers can track a number of data points specific to each piece of content, tracking a target account’s activity from the exact time they found the content, to the point at which they took a clear action—subscribing to a newsletter or following on social media, for example—and so on, all the way down the chain to the closed sale.

How to Track Your ABM Content

Content analytics are nothing new to marketers, but there’s a different way to look at these things when it comes to account-based marketing. Liang recommends tracking content’s ability to drive engagement, and making sure the right accounts, and right points of contact, are the ones engaging with your content. Because your marketing approach is specific, the volume of content’s reach is irrelevant: you’re in the market for very particular targets. Engagio

Another data point to track is coverage and focus, which means tabulating the number of target accounts that have downloaded content, and determining which percentage of downloaders represents your target people working for your target accounts. Essentially, you’re looking to see how much of your content is reaching your targets in a general sense, then from there figuring out how often you’re reaching the ideal points of contact.

Lastly, you want to track the impact and influence of content on a conversion. This can have a different look depending on your history with the target account. If there’s no history, you’re looking to see whether the content catalyzed any awareness and interest from the target. If you’ve had interactions in the past, you’re looking for evidence that the scale of the deal increased after them downloading the content. Conversely, you might be looking at the deal cycle to see whether content accelerated the closing. If any of these things happened, it’s clear the content had a positive influence on that target, and played an integral role in landing the account.

Once you have your data and returns numbers in place, the next steps are easy: You divert your in-house resources away from less successful forms of content, and pour that commitment into high-performing content. Then it’s just a matter of rinsing and repeating: retargeting your accounts, publishing content, and waiting to see what comes in.

And with that baseline of ROI success in place, you’ll have bought yourself time to perfect your approach.

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Jonathan Crowl specializes in digital marketing and content creation for both B2B and B2C brands, with an emphasis on startups and technology. His past and current clients include B2B brands IBM, LinkedIn, Mad Mobile, Oktopost, BrightSpot, and Waze, as well as B2C brands Porsche, Epson, and PayPal. He lives in Minneapolis.

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