Account Based Marketing: Where to Start

Posted on by Sharon Gillenwater

Light bulbsAccount based marketing (ABM) is getting a lot of buzz, and for good reason. Companies with sustained ABM initiatives are seeing positive and measureable results. As Marketing Land notes, “companies practicing ABM have better alignment with sales, often close bigger deals with target accounts, and increase pipeline velocity.” According to a 2015 survey by SiriusDecisions, 92% of companies recognize the value in ABM, calling it a B2B marketing must-have.

Marketing automation enables B2B companies to create a more relevant customer experience, thereby helping to drive more engagement and sales with key customers. But, they’re not silver bullets for ABM by any means, in that they don’t eliminate the need to do the heavy lifting that ABM requires for your most important customers, your “named accounts.”

Dorothea Gosling of CSC, an experienced ABM practitioner, perhaps articulates this dichotomy best. “With the help of new digital tools, we are better able to analyze our client base, segment them, identify personas and intent. They give us the ability, to some extent, to scale elements of our ABM efforts, while at the same time still keeping it personal…one of the key objectives of ABM is to build relationships and advocates within client organizations. Much of that, these days, can be done online. But the quality of these relationships, and therefore what ultimately determines whether you win that big deal or not, or whether your NPS score tracks in the right direction, happens in the real world, through the quality of human-to-human interaction. In an age where much of the buying process is pre-informed through online research, relevance becomes the key differentiator. And in a good ABM program, this relevance applies not just at the business level, but at an individual level in the buying center.”

What Gosling seems to be saying is don’t forget the two R’s: relationships and relevance. And when we talk about relevance, we mean one-to-one relevance at the executive level, where business strategy is set. In other words, when it comes to named accounts, do you understand the top decision makers and do you know what they care about?

SiriusDecisions’ ABM expert Megan Heuer talked about the importance of business insight and relationship building in a recent interview. “The B2B battleground today is about who’s best at delivering value to customers in a way that respects their investment and their needs, and encourages them to want to become advocates on our behalf because we’ve earned it,” she explains. “ABM is the future of B2B marketing—insight-led, technology-enabled and just plain the smart way to focus on growth and customer relationships.”

Given that AMB is a hot topic at the moment, B2B marketers have an overwhelming number of tools, consultants and resources available. Where to start?

1. Follow the thought leaders

Gosling and Heuer regularly share a wealth of information, from how to talk to sales about ABM to which metrics you can use to track ABM success.

2. Spoon feed insight to your account teams–but find out what they need first.

The discovery phase is important because the need for insight on named accounts varies greatly from company to company. Huge enterprises such as IBM have big, dedicated teams for their named accounts and tend to know more about their customers than the customers themselves. Most companies however, assign multiple named accounts to each account team. In these cases, the account teams are likely hungry for ongoing insight about their customers.

3. Start with some basic insight and go from there.

We’re big fans of one-page primers, because they zero in on the most important information so the account teams do not get overwhelmed.

Create an “account anatomy” framework for the basic account information required for an ABM effort, including the following:

  • Company Strategy and Priorities:What is the company’s strategy for the year and what has occurred recently that could impact those plans?
  • Current Strategic Priorities:What specific priorities are company leaders focused on right now?
  • Sales Triggers:What are the specific company needs or initiatives that will enable your sales team to “connect the dots” to a deal?
  • People You Need to Know:Who are the key players—and what do they care about?

If you are prioritizing ABM, paying attention to all of the above will help you be more successful.

Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders.



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