ABM – maximum effort required!

Woman on old phone switch system concentrating

Account Based Marketing is the new way to build Key Account portfolios – but if you’re looking for a quick fix we’ve got some bad news. There are no shortcuts!

In B2B circles, a key account portfolio is the silver bullet for sustainable commercial success. Whether you’re in technical manufacturing or delivering specialist expert-to-expert services, key account relationships provide robust, repeatable revenues that allow future investment – in innovation, expertise, and as every business seeks future growth, today’s topic, Account Based Marketing.

Back in the day, Account Based Marketing (ABM) had another moniker. Known as Key Account Marketing (KAM) it’s purpose was to provide a strategic approach to business marketing, based on account awareness, knowledgeable sales people and good, old fashioned, real-life relationships, where an organization considered and communicated with individual prospects or customer accounts as single micro-markets.

As a starter for 10 (OK – 6), there are several measures that Account Based Marketing helps companies achieve:

  • Understand and increase account relevance
  • Engage earlier and higher up the food chain with deals
  • Align marketing activity with ‘one account’ strategies
  • Get the best value out of under-pressure marketing budgets
  • Inspire customers with relevant and compelling content
  • Identify specific contacts, at specific companies, within specific markets

While business marketing is typically organized by industry, product/solution or channel (direct/social/PR), Account Based Marketing brings all of these together to focus on individual accounts. Today, as markets become increasingly commoditized, customers see little or no difference between suppliers and their competitors, with price the only obvious differentiator.

The rise in consultative selling.

In tech sales, the process begins with ‘discovery’ – an attempt to uncover the client’s business issue – in a world where customers might not always be aware of the breadth of solutions available to them.

Next? – changing the target mind-set

“It’s always about fully understanding the customer needs, and convincing them about a solution – rather than simply selling them a solution. It’s a subtle change but it enables clients to clearly see benefit rather than complexity”

Where are the centres of influence – the decision-makers?

With target accounts identified, you need to quickly identify and reach the decision-makers. This is where the struggle begins for many marketers, especially those who believe that a Martech platform will provide all the answers. In truth, the answer is not difficult; sales teams will be the primary source of this data.

But how do you interpret the intelligence? Focus only on the business motivation of the people (or teams) making the decisions, or go deeper – taking into account personal interests based on social profiling?

And when does this deep dive become intrusive?

There have been many recent examples of data abuse that are having a massive impact on both the trustworthiness and integrity of data management and those who want to use it.

“If someone moves every two years and is given greater responsibility, you can assume that they’re ambitious. If they’ve been with a company a long time, it’s a short leap to identifying them as loyal. If they run marathons in their spare time, that shouts determination and a strong competitive will – a very distinct mind-set.”

Beyond these very simplistic lines, data can be a very dangerous tool, as we found out with Cambridge Analytica.

With ABM, you’re not marketing to accounts

When thinking about ABM don’t get confused by thinking you’re marketing to an account. The 3-letter abbreviation (or TLA) itself, ABM, makes people think they’re marketing to Shell or IBM, or whoever. Be mindful you’re selling to a group or team of individuals who work at and are, very often, proud to represent an account. And secondly, if you know the people you’re selling to, or know their general profile, you can always find them! Anonymous advertising to these people is just lazy marketing – do the heavy lifting to find out who you’re selling to. If you’re not willing to do the hard work, you’re just ticking the ABM box.

Measuring your success

“I wasn’t expecting conversions.”

“We wanted people to engage with what we sent, and then get them on a phone call.”

“If we get someone on the phone with a sales person that’s a win. And usually if they get people on the call, 50% of them convert.”

Let’s not ‘beat about the bush’, ABM can have long-sales cycles. It can be difficult to show results that align with monthly or quarterly reporting schedules.

Measurement metrics should be designed to reflect whatever you want to achieve with the account – whether you’re trying to provide ‘air cover’ and raise awareness, get an opportunity to pitch or convert opportunities. These metrics should be established in advance of the programme, ensuring all involved understand and embrace the objectives. The measurements must be absolute – not flexible!

For many, the measure of success in ABM comes down to the three ‘R’s – relationships, reputation and revenue. Get the first two right – relationships and reputation – and this inevitably leads to the third. And there are IP processes that enable this level of brand and campaign integration*.

“Once you’ve got really great relationships with the right people, and your reputation is where you need it to be, you’re in a really great position to capitalise on any revenue opportunities that come along”.

“We have to take full responsibility and be very smart by relating to client’s problems”

“Our budgets are super-tight, it’s being measured quarterly by our stakeholders. They are looking at us to maximise our resources in a very resource-scarce environment.”

Used responsibly, Account Based Marketing will position your brand in front of the decision-makers in your top targets – especially those that are difficult to open up. It’s a way of aligning sales and marketing to identify and appeal to those ideal, ‘profile-fitting’ clients.

Our ABM Take outs

  • No shortcut to marketing success
  • More effort on data will bring results
  • More effort on content development – because no target is the same
  • More investment in things like format, personalization and variable data
  • More attention to Martech deployment
  • More collaboration and integration between sales and marketing teams

But most importantly, if your targets seem hard to reach, ABM is no shortcut to marketing effectiveness. Only hard work, attention to data and creating quality content will help ABM deliver robust revenues and growth.

*Idealogy is one of the South’s most intelligent, creative and versatile consultancies. We are obsessed with what motivates consumers and businesses to part with their hard-earned cash and, after 30 years in business, we have developed a number of IP processes to enable our clients to maximise the opportunity that sits within their brands, their people, their products and their processes. BrandPrint, TouchPoints, BuyCycle and iDX are designed to position, prioritise, promote and understand the value of your clients and how the impact on your brand. Call +44 2380211642. It’s not a short cut. It’s the first step to rewarding your hard work.