The concept of ABM – Let’s Agree on the Basics

Account Based Marketing dominates the conversation in B2B Marketing. Media vendors speak about it, marketing bloggers write about it, and no media-agency pitch presentation in the last year and a half has gone by without having discussed it…. And each time “ABM” seems a little different. So what can we all agree on?

Let’s break down the basics: What is ABM? What can it do? What enables its success and how can we measure it?

  1. What is ABM and why is everyone talking about?

The principle is as basic as it gets – target accounts instead of individual leads. ABM, therefore, simply acknowledges the buying committee involved with any purchase. This of course is especially important for B2B sales: the bigger the enterprise, the more people are involved with each buying decision.

The idea is not new, so why did it just recently become so popular? There are two main reasons:

Firstly, this is marketing and we are all trying to find “the next big thing”. The current wave of ABM-talk is very much self-energizing. The general concept is simple and everyone can add to the discussion. Secondly, and this is where it gets interesting, ABM is data-driven and has been greatly enhanced by new technologies. Sophisticated retargeting, evolving marketing automation, and widely-used inbound marketing software make any passionate marketer daydream about the new opportunities that arise for the old idea that is ABM.

  1. What can ABM do?

It is impossible to reach every potential customer. ABM enables business to allocate marketing and sales efforts towards the right accounts and to approach these accounts in the most productive way.

ABM is a strategy not a tactic. The goal is to approach each customer in the most relevant way and create a great experience. ABM requires the involvement of everyone in the organization that contributes to the customer live-cycle. Furthermore, ABM should be seen as an addition to the existing demand generation funnel and not as its replacement.

Done correctly, ABM can create a more satisfying customer experience – a personalized approach through a reduction of irrelevant information for the customer.

Enhancing the customer experience and focusing on the right targets increases close rates and leads to a better ROI.

  1. What enables ABM success and how can we measure it?

So it seems like ABM can do lot for our business success. How do we implement it? I believe there are 4 main points that we have to look at:

Define goals:

What do we want from ABM? – The surprisingly simple question that has to be answered before we do anything else. We can’t reach a goal that hasn’t been defined.

Do we want to target current accounts to up-sell or to defend against competitors? Are we going after net new leads in high priority target accounts? Do we want to assist already ongoing sales processes via active nurturing?

Good data:

Every ABM tactic can only be as good as the data it’s based upon: The most critical is deciding on the actual ABM list, not always as easy as we might imagine. Best sources are CRM data to identify existing accounts to promote extended services to; intent data to identify high priority targets that are in active research mode and/or sales data to inform ABM programs that assist lead nurturing and speed to closure.

Data is needed for every step so the question to be asked is “do we have the necessary data and do we trust it?”

Sales/Marketing alignment:

ABM is not just marketing, it should be called “Account Based Everything” – a term associated with both TOPO and Engagio. To be successful, sales has to coordinate their efforts with their marketing counterparts, share their deep customer understanding and align outbound messaging with sales follow up and nurture. Marketing has to embrace its own role in revenue responsibility and ensure both teams in the organization are pulling in the same direction.

We have seen more ABM fails because collaboration between sales and marketing was not optimized prior to the program. Communication is key: What activities are marketing running and what output should sales expect? Has sales been armed with scripts and assets that align with the program? How are success metrics translated into action plans for sales? How is sales feeding back information to marketing for optimizations?

New Measurements:

ABM allows us to step away from the CTRs, MQLs and website clicks that we all have learned to love. The success of account-level marketing can only be measured via account-level metrics: Lift in website traffic from a specific account and marketing contribution to pipeline progression, enhanced sales conversion rates, bigger deal sizes or speed to close.

If we measure ABM against the wrong metrics it will always look like a failure.

Finally, if you think this just another agency pitch for a digital campaign then think again. ABM does not necessarily even require paid media and it certainly isn’t an online-only strategy. Just about every marketing and communication tactic can play its part: Targeted print advertising, Out Of Home, events, content marketing, direct marketing and social marketing. They can all contribute. Use your imagination, look back at some of the old ABM tactics used historically and enjoy the new capabilities that ABM technologies can offer.

chris becker

C H R I S   B E C K E R
Sr. Media Account Manager, Austin



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