ABM requires a new mindset, not just a technology overhaul

Why do CMO’s put ABM as their number one priority for B2B Marketing nowadays?

Recently I was at the diner after the annual B2B summit in a nice place called Castle “de Wittenburg” in Wassenaar, on invitation of the organizer of the event, Shimon Ben Ayoun of SpotONvision.While enjoying excellent food with about 50 CMO’s and other Marketing executives we discussed one of themes of the B2B summit: Account Based Marketing (ABM).

ABM is hot and trending. It attracts a lot of attention within the marketing community these days.
The latest survey amongst top CMO’s presented during the diner clearly showed ABM as priority number One for them.
Why do CMO’s put ABM as their number one priority for B2B marketing nowadays?

ABM is not new it already started many years ago. In 2003 ITSMA was the first who pioneered the concept of ABM. Why did it take that long before ABM became booming?

ABM: marketing for only very few accounts?

In the early days ABM was focused on large accounts with a one to one approach. This approach set high requirements on selecting the right account, getting really into the insights of that account and engaging with the right contacts in the account.
This was and still is not common practice for most marketeers.
Most marketeers prefer campaigns, page views, click through and other typical “traditional” marketing activities and outcomes. They consider job done when the lead was thrown over the wall to sales.
Even more important for ABM is the alignment with sales for the specific account(s), but in many organizations there is still a gap between marketing and sales. Marketing has to show sales how to align and cooperate to close the gap. And there is a risk that sales say: what the hell is marketing interfering with, as they could see ABM as a kind of account management. Not an easy job to really cooperate with sales and vice versa.
On top of this ABM means a serious investment in terms of time, resources and budget and for ‘only’ one account. And in most cases it will take more than a year to get some real benefits and big deals.
Last but not least in many cases there is a lack of executive sponsorship due to lack of understanding ABM and what the impact of ABM is especially for the big deals..
So no surprise it is not always easy to start ABM and even more to continue………in the short term it cost too much and shows too less results.

What has changed to make ABM the big promise?

For some years ABM was a bit of a hidden secret to the happy few B2B marketeers who were able to close the gap with sales and execute tailor made programs on well selected accounts to make a big difference for the big deals. There are very successful examples and there are strong promoters like ITSMA and SiriusDecisions who paved the way of ABM.
That helps, but what really causes a breakthrough was the technology.
Technology created a revolution in marketing automation as in many other areas.
The technology opens a customized ‘ABM” approach for almost every “specific” target group by marketing automation. With this programmatic development ABM become much more attractive for most marketeers and closer to what they are used to do. It will limit cost, risks and investments per account and make ABM scalable to larger target set of accounts.
No surprise that almost every self-respecting marketing automation vendor embrace ABM and a lot more rumor around ABM was created by these marketing automation vendors.

Combining the success of the one to one approach for the big deals (when the right account has been selected!) with the scaling and programmatic approach to address larger set of accounts, ABM is much closer to the heart of B2B marketeers,
So now the big promise of ABM is within reach of the B2B marketing community: Target the right prospects or customers leading to better leads and higher conversion in less time.
But is that all and How can you realise the promise of ABM?
You may wish it’s that easy to just scale ABM approach by applying the right marketing automation.

Key for successful ABM is not the tooling, but the mindset and methodology.
Don’t start at the wrong side with marketing automation, how promising the technology sounds

Marketing automation does not make ABM easier, of course it can help to scale but after your organization and people are ready to scale. First a different mindset should be adopted: alignment between Sales and Marketing, flipping the funnel, outside-in instead of inside-out.
It is not about filling the funnel, it’s about engaging with customer during their lifetimes !

I will mention three key elements to realize the promise of ABM:

1. Sales and marketing need to work together, adopt this new mindset and approach.

Together with sales you need to walk over new ways:
When you focus on new accounts / prospects treat them like customers. In other words go with them a full customer journey and not just focus on getting the (first) deal.
Keep the entire buying committee within the account in mind.
Clearly, a multi-threaded approach has been shown to boost results. The key is to identify and engage the right people in a relevant way at the right time.

2. The structure to success:

In reality you need to align marketing with sales to make ABM work. You also need to re-evaluate – and likely retool – your existing sales and marketing process.
A good solution could be to assign business development reps between sales and marketing.
These reps should:
– own the one-to-one relationships at target account
– engage through personalized outreach
– orchestrate the engagement for sales reps
– own the reporting dashboard (see below)
– get commitment for long term benefits, but also show impact with short term quick wins to build confidence.

3. Important is to create reporting dashboard that gives you the view on the progress, but also shows the impact of ABM during the whole journey with the account(s) for your organization.

Show and share the success. Therefore you need to have clear metrics in place that show the outcomes of ABM. We are not talking about traditional marketing metrics, but metrics that are closely aligned with the business/sales targets for the accounts in terms of relationship, engagement, funnel, revenue, but also customer loyalty and satisfaction.

You see none of this is about marketing automation. First start small (1 or 2 carefully selected accounts) with new mindset amongst sales and marketing.
Build your own experience with the right ABM mindset and methodology. You are much better equipped to know what exactly you need in terms of marketing automation.

I’m sure if you then apply marketing automation when you scale up to many more contacts in one account, more accounts e.g. vertical approach and programmatic to larger groups, ABM will be a huge success for your organization.
In this way you really make the promise of ABM happen.

Have a great journey!