The Latest from the ABM Experts
September 19, 2019
Learning From The Past To Shape The Future Of ABM
Written by Sangram Vajre
History tends to repeat itself.
That’s why it’s so crucial to study historical trends and behaviors in order to prevent repeating mistakes.
The same idea can be applied to ABM. By grabbing snapshots of past procedures and their outcomes, we can form a better idea of how to implement ABM today.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- Highlights of past ABM methodology
- The current landscape of ABM
- What leaders in B2B are doing in ABM
- How to shape your own ABM strategy like an expert
What did ABM look like in those early days?
Dave: It was very much spreadsheet driven. People used spreadsheets as their project management tools.
Insights about targeted clients, customers, or executives mostly came from the sales team and what they knew or what they had discussed with specific contacts. Clearly there were documents and online information about people, but oftentimes that was limited. There were no such things as social footprints. There wasn’t any data on intent or search data sources.
It was very much face-to-face planning by a seasoned field marketer that would get together with the sales team. Whether it was through very focused events or customized collateral, in those days it was much more physical than anything.
It could be presentations, or it could be white papers, or research and other things that would be tailored to a specific account based on what they care about and how you could help them.
Are we too reliant on intent data and behavioral data and digital tools?
Dave: We have face-to-face time with many of the very complex and larger companies we work with. They have people that are based out in the field responsible for account-based marketing for an account or a cluster within an industry. They’re based in a field near where those accounts and the account leaders sit.
That involvement and face-to-face time still exist.
What’s exciting is ABM principals and ABM processes for one-on-one strategic accounts are also being applied to large numbers of accounts, accounts that still fit the ideal profile for your company and the executive and have interest in the type of solutions you have.
In a world where your ABM program is targeting a large set of accounts, those tools, that data, and that information are really critical. There’s less involvement with sales, other than maybe sales operations, sales planning, or some key people that are providing input to planned campaigns for a large set of accounts.
When you talk about search data and intent data, that information can be valuable for companies who have a one-to-one program and are focused only on a set of 10 or 15 or 25 accounts.
There are some companies that literally every week provide intelligence reports to the account team based on information they’re seeing with their internal systems. How specific executives are engaging, as well as what topics they’re interested in externally, doing searches on, posting articles about, you name it.
The role of marketing being an insight provider to sales is really, really important.
Leaders in ABM
What are the innovators, the leaders, doing to stay ahead of their competitors?
Dave: All ABM programs aren’t built the same. They don’t have the same objectives, aren’t trying to accomplish the same things.
ABM programs, ABM people, ABM structures can be focused on a range of things. Penetrating new logo accounts and trying to land them as clients and customers. Expanding work with existing customers. Going deeper into certain regions and going after certain types of accounts to grow a foothold in the area.
The best companies are very specific about the objectives they set. They plan their programs and what they’re doing to achieve those objectives. Then, they report on those objectives over time.
Other elements are the people, the tools, the skillset, the community, and the collaboration within the organization. Also, making sure the right accounts are part of the program and having expertise in deep account of the stakeholder insight.
Shaping an ABM strategy
How do you work with an organization to make sure they’re truly pursuing the right objectives?
Dave: It is important to have a vision for your ABM program and a plan that fits with the needs of the business. ABM needs to have sponsorship within the company to get the kind of support and air cover that’s needed.
Often, that sponsorship is with a business unit leader, a geographic leader, a leader of your top platinum accounts, or another place where they are marketing-oriented. They know that with marketing support and help, they can grow business within the region, the business unit, and the geography.
The alignment is really, really important. Metrics should be developed based on what the organization is trying to accomplish.
Take, for instance, HP. They found a lot of cold, dead, and hostile accounts that they hadn’t worked with for a while.
They did deep research on those accounts. They discovered key executives that are still with those companies, understood how to develop content targeted to key executives that may have had a relationship with before, and organized marketing programs and campaigns targeting these individuals.
They looked at the campaign afterward and literally 75% or so of those accounts that they didn’t have active conversations with were now engaged with them through content, events, and conversations.
ABM is about aligning people, skills, programs, and activities to help achieve specific objectives and then checking on them over time.