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AUGUST, 2019

Account Based Marketing – Successful implementation

How do you make it work?

Leading B2B organisations have been practising ABM for about 3-5 years now but to the vast majority of marketing professionals, and to SME business leaders in particular, it is a relatively new concept and, whilst it seems easy and like common sense, it takes some work to make it effective.

  1. Business alignment

In my experience, this is one of the hardest challenges to pull off. To make ABM work every stakeholder in the business needs to buy into this from the Board down. It is crucial that sales and marketing work together and take collective responsibility for its success (or failure) and it will also need finance and production to contribute too.

ABM belongs to the whole business and it isn’t just the domain of sales, who tell marketing what to do, or marketing, who think sales just follow their orders! However, if you can get your sales and marketing functions to work together in harmony by pursuing ABM then you will have a much more productive business.

  1. Account definition

ABM works by limiting the numbers of target accounts, maybe only looking at 5 to 10 as you get started. The reason for this is that you will need to align the skills you need to make it work with the existing skills in your sales and marketing teams (not everyone will be adept at it) and you will need to gather a lot of data on your prospects to have an impact. That takes time!

You need to select the number, size and type of accounts you want. You can do this by region, market sector, turnover, cluster or by cherry picking individual businesses but each one must represent huge potential for your business and unlock significant value if you are successful.

  1. Data and Insight

ABM works by personalising your approach. In effect it is the polar opposite of broadcasting and brand building where you want as many people as possible to have an awareness of your business – there is nothing wrong with that by the way and, it could be argued that this is a precursor to effective ABM.

You need to figure out who the influencers and decision makers are, what the pain points are in the organisation, map and profile their stakeholders, record what is known about the prospect and what knowledge gaps you have and you need to give the individuals real personas so that your messaging has resonance and isn’t just white noise….arguably the scourge of modern marketing.

This won’t be easy as you will need to do a lot of research and even getting your own people to share their intelligence can be a challenge – hence buy-in from the Board is vital. At some stage you should consider investing into Martech systems and tools (marketing technology) through third party data providers, but at the beginning a spreadsheet, a basic CRM and a solid process will suffice.

  1. Create bespoke, value-focussed content

Arguably the most important bit. The modern decision maker is hard to find (they never answer their phones or respond to unsolicited emails!) and they are bombarded with bland, generic and sales focused massages. That is why your content (more about that in a future article) has to be personalised to them, their business, their challenges and deliver bespoke propositions based on as much insight as possible….or it goes in the bin.

As the creative director of a leading London agency says:

“Every time marketers get a shiny new toy (in this case ABM – my italics) it doesn’t take long for them to stop thinking about quality or whatever their prospects want…and just compete by making more noise”

In the USA John Deere (the tractor people) have run a customer magazine called The Furrow (great name!) for years which focuses on the issues that farmers face and which strictly limits the number of times it can mention John Deere, so that it is genuinely valued….end result? Massive kudos for the manufacturer and a brand love that is almost obsessive.

The keys to ABM content success?

  • Position your product/service in terms of the target’s strategic and business goals and not your own
  • Aim to become a trusted advisor (like John Deere) who adds tangible value to the decision-making process
  • Connect with individuals on a human and emotional level
  • Use your content and marketing to enhance the existing knowledge of the potential customer
  1. Choose your engagement tools wisely

Cold calls and generic emails are going to waste your money and irritate your target, so you need a structured programme of content which is delivered through a series of channels which are most likely to hit the mark.

I like this quote from the MD of Agent 3 a marketing tech agency:

“B2B buyers seek out their own sources of information. Most of them so their own research and self-educate before they are willing to speak to a vendor….throughout most of their buying journey your prospects are invisible to you.”

So true. Therefore, you need to invest in research to find where they “hang out” so to speak. Identify the events and networks they belong to, the web sites and media they consume and the people they are influenced by and then use these channels to get your content in front of them when they are most likely to listen.

You can use traditional tools such as whitepapers, blogs, infographics, your core web site, microsites, social media, sponsored links, direct mail, seminars, hosted events, awareness days and even hospitality but it is important that your content and the channels you use are based on intelligence and insight

Why do it?

If winning new business was easy we would have no need of sales and marketing people. We would simply have order takers and fulfilment execs.

If you want your business to grow (and if you don’t you will soon shrink!) then you need to devise strategies and tactics to maximise your opportunities within the confines of your budgets.

Brand building and awareness creation are superb strategies and they undoubtedly work but they cost a lot of money and you must have deep pockets to sustain the investment. The beauty of ABM is that you can start in a small way by selecting 5 to 10 target accounts and work hard to convert them. The more you invest (in people alignment, training, content development and tech) the better the ROI is likely to be, but this approach does work for many and it can work for you.

Some stats to finish with. These are from ITSMA presentations (Institute of technology services marketing association – they think….no one ever talks about the exact definition!)

  • 87% of B2B marketers say ABM gives them better ROI than traditional Lead Generation strategies
  • 84% say ABM improves their reputation in the eyes of prospects and customers
  • 74% say that ABM keeps prospects warm until a real salesperson can close the deal

If you want to know more about how to create and implement an ABM strategy Xeed Marketing would be delighted to help you.

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