To look at the research is to believe account-based marketing, or ABM, is changing how B2B companies organise their marketing organisations and sell to customers.
At its core, ABM adherents treat a fewer number of current and prospective clients as markets unto themselves with the goal of nurturing long-term, high-value relationships that ideally benefit both parties.
Sound good? It should. Highly profitable enterprises have been executing high-touch marketing programs for generations.
The only reason more companies don’t take this approach is that it’s difficult, potentially costly, and easy to get wrong.
Knocking on the same old door
There’s a reason ABM is popular right now in B2B. It comes down to B2B’s “80-20” rule, which says 80% of your revenue comes from just 20% of your client base.
An April 2015 survey from Sirius Decisions found 92% of companies call ABM a B2B marketing must-have, yet only 20% had full programs in place for more than a year. More than 60% were planning to invest in technology to support ABM initiatives at the time of the study.
However, it’s important we as marketers don’t naturally revert to technology as the answer to all the challenges we have in front of us. A recent Forrester report predicted B2B marketers will actually reduce their focus on experimental technology in 2017 and instead concentrate on specific tactics or programs that will help them deliver a more personalised service to their customers.
In other words, marketers will be more strategic not only in the experience they’re focused on creating but also in the technologies they use to enable those experiences.
While technology is an important component of ABM, let’s also acknowledge ABM can – and will— be taken to a silly extreme. Contacting the same people at the same company over and over and over again will produce fatigue, especially if your marketing and sales teams aren’t working together to provide new value with each interaction.
While you may initially believe executives control all the purchasing power and therefore warrant the greatest attention, remember every organisation is different
What you end up with instead is your team becoming ‘those people’, the salesperson and their marketing partner who haven’t been given the training or tools to understand badgering won’t land lifetime clients, no matter how good your product is.
They’re relying on an old model that simply doesn’t work any longer, and the reality is there are thousands of other B2B companies who can also solve your customers’ problems.
Like you, they’re deploying salespeople and partners in marketing in hopes of finding potential friends on the inside with whom they can build deeper, more long-term relationships. And they may be doing ABM right.
When the time for ABM is right
Falling into traditional, lead-focused marketing and sales tactics is easy when spinning up an ABM strategy, but it’s important to remember ABM is the antithesis of classic lead-generation programs.
So how do you fight the temptation to revert to the norm? You focus on value on a more intimate scale.
First, recognise “value” is an amorphous term that can change from account to account.
Having a wide range of content and programs for answering questions and satisfying needs is crucial. Second, you need to be willing to create new value when you have nothing to offer from your existing inventory.
For instance, say you’re selling enterprise security software and a large existing client is starting to explore the Internet of Things (IoT). However, the customer doesn’t have a strategy for securing these new devices.
Why not work closely with the customer to help them develop their IoT strategy including the integrated tools, resources, and training their organisation will need to tackle and manage this technology trend. Invest the time in educating your customer or prospect beyond how your specific solution can help them and connect them with technology partners and other customers who have encountered similar challenges.
Show you’re willing to invest in the relationship in a way that benefits the customer first and then your bottom line.
‘Who’ matters more than ‘what’
Once you’ve defined the value you can offer to targeted accounts, focus on who within those accounts will receive and appreciate the value you’ll offer and can move the needle for your business.
While you may initially believe executives control all the purchasing power and therefore warrant the greatest attention, remember every organisation is different. Map and understand the organisational chart and reach out to contacts in a value-driven way. Seek out customer leaders who are under pressure to produce results and listen to them.
Document their needs and concerns and then start an active discussion about how you can help to solve them. Become the trusted provider that offers up compelling content that informs decisions they’re trying to make and frankly, warrants their time and consideration.
Connect them to other customers or experts you know who’ve faced a similar problem in years past. In other words, don’t sell to them. Provide value to them.
In the ABM world, marketers and their sales partners who can provide Aspirin when headaches occur are much more likely to build the deeper, mutually beneficial relationships all B2B brands are after. Now that’s a winning ABM strategy and one we can all get behind.