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ABM: Only use it if you want to win!

 Posted  6/5/2017

Account Based Marketing drives customer acquisition

UPDATE:  Check out the Infographic by clicking here.

If I put a dollar in a jar every time I hear a new acronym, I’d have one heck of a savings account.  And although we are starting to hear ABM, or Account-based Marketing, more frequently, the term originated more than 10 years ago.  From current trends on Google you can decide for yourself what pace the industry and technology is adopting this topic.

Google Trends for ABM over time

Let’s start with the definition of ABM as stated by Marketo:

Account-based marketing is, in many ways, the exact opposite of the traditional demand generation approach. Rather than reaching broadly across a large number of organizations, companies that employ an account-based marketing strategy focus their sales and marketing resources on a targeted set of accounts and look to deliver strategic, orchestrated campaigns personalized to those accounts. The accounts that you target with ABM are high-yield, and are often considered a better fit for your products or solutions. These accounts are likely to generate more revenue, and often have other strategic significance, like helping to penetrate new territories or influence a market.”

This definition really highlights the divide between how traditional sales works and the ideal goals of the marketing organization.   In other words, Sales is looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.   Whereas, if Marketing had their way, there would be personal conversations with every prospective customer.    But, to Sales, that probably sounds unrealistic.  

Overall, the goal of ABM is to improve effectiveness by aligning marketing efforts with sales goals.

Instead of broad-reaching marketing campaigns that touch the largest possible number of prospective customers, an ABM strategy focuses resources on a defined set of targeted accounts and employs personalized campaigns designed to close deals.  

In the digital world, technologies such as content targeting, recommendations, engagement, and personalization are already available in easy to implement content delivery solutions like Episerver’s end-to-end marketing capabilities.  And, the ability to automate this capability is only one way of more closely aligning marketing efforts with sales goals.

There are many benefits that can be claimed by using ABM, such as:

  • Better use of marketing resources by focusing on a smaller number of accounts
  • A more personalized and efficient marketing strategy
  • The ability to create stronger engagement with prospects
  • Optimizing upsell and cross-sell with customers (in person or even using AI)
  • The ability to close bigger deals within targeted accounts (and this is why an acronym created 10 years ago is still around!)
  • Creating a more targeted approach to nurturing, making life easier by focusing firmographics and not just throwing darts at a dartboard.
  • The ability to increase pipeline velocity, or to close deals faster.  Handshakes and cups of coffee (or personalized conversations) are what makes deals happen.

By aligning your marketing, sales and services teams to focus on the most lucrative clients and prospects using ABM you also have the added benefit of utilizing data for intelligence and smarter targeting.   So, how do we create an ABM strategy?

ABM Steps to execute

How to create an ABM strategy
The first place to start with any ABM strategy is to ensure your marketing goals, and sales goals, are aligned with your overall business objectives.  Seriously, consider this: if you cannot get buy-in from BOTH Marketing and Sales, then every downstream effort you undertake with ABM will likely end in hours of disagreement and frustration.  Or, re-stating this again for emphasis, it is imperative (and strong words are reserved for this end of the article…) that you establish alignment between Sales and Marketing leadership before getting started.  But once you do, it’s game on.

Step 1:  Gather the data.   
We are going to need lead lists from Sales, and from Marketing we need demographics, firmographics and whatever we can learn about a customer, client or partner that makes them stand out.

Step 2:  Create a Target List.     
Ultimately, we cannot know everything about every company.  We need to focus.  If your demographics are regionally based, then start there.  If your firmographics are limited to specific verticals like education, government, health care or banking – then figure out how to refine it to, for example, special education, naval training, health care systems, or credit unions.   If your market research is aligned well enough, you might even find a new niche!

Step 3: Imagine making a connection!  
Wait… what?  Imagine you are in this industry, what would you need to know?  Who would you interact with (maybe suppliers? vendors?).   I am not suggesting stereotyping them, but are there common traits among people who work for the companies on your target list?   Do you know them, do you know how to get to know them?   Are there conferences that your target demographic is more likely to attend?  Or, if you are looking more regionally, are there social ways to connect based on common interests?   What sparks their passion?

If you are ever in Denver and want to discuss the finer points of music talent from almost any band on the planet, then you should get to know Mozaro’s head of sales!   This is where you win with ABM.

Step 4: Execute.   
Okay, to be fair, every good strategy needs this.   ABM is no different – it is not just about imagining your goals – it is all about how you make it happen.  How well you rally your Sales and Marketing to align with this type of initiative, how good your market research is, how you choose to reach your goals, and how well you are paying attention to these accounts … all requires execution.

We are a web company, and of course through our lens we would argue that every single company on the planet is in business to make money somehow.  If you sell online then you’ve probably seen Amazon’s “people who bought this also bought …” product recommendations.   It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that there are no actual humans sitting in a back room somewhere waiting for you to land on a page on their website so that they can make a recommendation for you as you navigate down the page to look at the reviews.  It’s done through Artificial Intelligence.   And, if you are still into the acronym thing; AI.   The point is that digital marketing technology, including automating ABM capabilities, is getting smarter and hopefully making life a little easier too.  From the ways in which you communicate with your customers… to the ways you engage them as they interact with you (or on your site) ... to the ability to target content by delivering the right message at the right time, technology and marketing research can improve your sales velocity too! 

I’ll leave you with this final thought…

Time Travel

Back in 1993, Peppers and Rogers proposed an axiom that marketing’s role in developing intelligence on key accounts would increase as it relates to key accounts: “When two marketers are competing for the same customer’s business, all other things being equal, the marketer with the greatest scope of information about that particular customer… will be the more efficient competitor.”

A good strategy shouldn’t abandon traditional sales efforts but should incorporate ABM also, but only if you want to win!