ABM Is Just Good Marketing

Credit: Getty Images by 10’000 Hours

Interest in Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has never been higher than it is today. As Forrester’s Laura Ramos put it, “unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t have helped but notice the hype around ABM.”

It’s not just hype: ABM is quickly becoming a staple of modern B2B revenue teams because it’s a simple idea that works. B2B sellers concentrate sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts and execute personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each account.

The principles of ABM aren’t revolutionary (though scaling can be a bit tricky). My view? ABM is just today’s buzzword for good marketing — and let me tell you why.

We can all agree that Account-based Marketing shifts the focus from a “lead-based” approach to an “account-based” approach, where knowledge and insight about an account are used to create targeted, personalized outreach. But, if you ask 50 people, you’ll get 100 different definitions of what ABM is and, more importantly, how to do it right.

Related story: The Modern CMO: Appirio’s Latane Conant

According to Forrester, “ABM is a strategy through which marketing and sales jointly obsess over how to pursue, establish, and grow long-term, highly engaged revenue relationships with specific customer accounts.” Yet, Gartner says “ABM combines B2B lead management and B2B relationship management techniques to grow LTV by engaging accounts and individuals across all stages of the buying process.”

I’m a simplifier, so I’ll break down the ABM process in its most straightforward and simplest form:

  1. Pick good targets (often based on previous success).
  2. Know something about who you’re marketing to.
  3. Engage them on their terms.
  4. Share what you learn with sales. And finally,
  5. Measure what matters.

Sound familiar? Marketing has basically been doing exactly this (or trying to) for roughly the last 40 years — pick quality targets, know something about who you’re marketing to, engage with them on their terms, share what you learn with sales, and measure what matters. It’s just good marketing!

What’s the Problem?

So, what happens when companies fire up an ABM pilot? Naturally, they are wildly successful. As if by magic, they see an increase in pipeline, larger deal sizes and improved sales and marketing alignment right out of the gate, all common benefits of ABM — and, I might add, good marketing.

But, here’s the rub. While marketing is high-fiving and chest-bumping to this newfound success, sales is throwing them a disapproving glare at the small number of accounts. The wake-up call comes when you realize that ABM is really hard to execute at any kind of scale. Traditional ABM is about quality, not quantity. And, since we have a business to run, we have to be able to scale the program or it simply isn’t feasible.

Our industry is full of creative, smart, hard-working people, great processes, and tons of technology to throw at it, so why is it so hard to scale your ABM program? The simple answer is limited insights and no real orchestration in your solution.

What’s Next for ABM?

The real challenge we face as marketers and sellers is the growing disconnect between how today’s B2B buyers want to buy and our reliance on yesterday’s marketing and sales tactics. Luckily, if you think I’ve crushed your dreams of using an Account-Based Marketing strategy to solve the problem, ABM can still be the best way to connect with modern buyers — you just need insight and orchestration.

Prospects don’t want to be inundated with irrelevant emails, unwanted calls, or give up their anonymity to find out about our solutions. They want help and guidance to educate themselves, eliminate confusion, build consensus and move the entire buying team through their buying journey. As revenue teams, we have to engage with them every step of the way, based on their pace and timing.

The ability to personalize for timing requires real-time behavior scoring, predictive modeling and cross-system, cross-channel orchestration, which can only be achieved on a consolidated platform that delivers behavioral and predictive insight and cross-channel orchestration. A platform infused with AI capabilities that can collect, connect and orchestrate data and functionality creates a prospect experience driven by real insight that puts our audience first and enables us to successfully execute ABM at scale.

If you thought ABM was a mysterious black box that requires you to rethink your entire strategy, retool your entire tech stack, and recast your entire revenue team, it isn’t. Yes, in order to successfully scale beyond an ABM pilot, you’ll need a robust technology platform that can provide both insight and orchestration. But, with the right ABM platform you don’t need to hire a team of data scientists or become an expert on CDPs and data lakes to make it happen, you just need to get back to doing what you do best — which is just executing good marketing.

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