Is Account-Based Marketing Next For Your Company?
I’ve held leadership positions in both sales and marketing, and love the increasing use of “Account Based Marketing” (or ABM). From my work in Sales, though, I think of the basic approach as an extension of my company’s Strategic Selling®; a customized approach to every opportunity. I love that the Marketing discipline is harnessing powerful technologies; applying their creativity, efficiency, and talent into an individually personalized approach that was previously the exclusive domain of sales. I hope that anyone thinking of embarking on an ABM initiative will realize that it can only be effective as a tightly coordinated multidisciplinary effort between sales and marketing.
A good introductory article in Direct Marketing News: describes ABM as “a strategic approach to integrated, branded communications to customers and prospects that treats an individual account as its own highly specialized market opportunity.”
Wikipedia’s definition is similar: “a strategic approach to business marketing in which an organization considers and communicates with individual prospect or customer accounts as markets of one. Account based marketing is typically employed in enterprise level sales organizations”.
Traditional Marketing is “lead-based”; the marketing process is to start with a large population, generate awareness, then interest, then turn them over to sales when they progress to “lead”. An account-based approach spends a lot of up-front resources in defining an ideal customer profile, targeting high-probability accounts, and then – like a Strategic Selling® practitioner has always done – do the work of penetrating that account and facilitating multi-person buying decisions. Marketing digs for not just contact information but backgrounds, provides decision-specific content targeting specific buying influences, and builds on success by repeating the process for cross- and upsell opportunities. I hope you begin to see why ABM is most effective when executed as a joint operation between Sales and Marketing.
The kind of micro-targeting that ABM demands has only become technologically feasible in the last decade or so – cost effective for only part of that time. The last five years have seen a tremendous maturing of the field, and establishment of best practices. There was a time when human interaction was the only/best source of actionable account-specific information, but no more. Modern tools, mastered by the Marketing discipline, help companies perform ultra-targeted communication to more influencers at more companies than sales can cost-effectively identify and address. The mass-efficiency of a Marketing campaign combined with individualization formerly requiring sales is an extremely powerful tool.
ABM provides a basis for highly engaging content and interaction. Marketing is able to facilitate a more meaningful portion of the customer’s buying journey….in theory. To realize this ideal in practice, you need accurate insight into each specific customer journey, a pursuit that sales or business development should be able to add significant value to.
When ABM is done right:
- ABM guides, facilitates, and accelerates a customer journey.
- Responds adaptively to make each journey as interactive as possible.
- Seamlessly engages live people who will respond appropriately and proactively.
- Tracks progress through a journey and analyzes best next steps.
- Smoothly dovetails with sales, helping them be more prepared to conduct conversations without missing a beat.
For most business-to-business selling, ABM can make for significant efficiency gains. …and more importantly: serious effectiveness gains.
Please share your thoughts and/or experiences with account-based marketing below, or contact me directly to have a more in-depth discussion.
To your success!