JULY, 2019

Account Based Marketing – a new way of winning high quality business

In the beginning…..

20 years ago, at an awards dinner, I sat next to the Business Development Director of a global law firm. I was running my own creative agency at the time and, when he told me his marketing budget ran into millions, I was naturally excited.  As I was about to launch into the pitch on the wonders of brand building in the professional services industry, he cut me short and told me they spent most of their money on a process he called “One Step Closer”.

Sensing the big opportunity had gone I settled back and listened to an intriguing story of how they identified target clients around the world, used the visual metaphor of a radar screen with said target at the centre and every possible connecting point on the outside and how they questioned their whole firm on who had any contacts in the target business before assessing which ones were most likely to bear fruit.

The postscript to this particular story was that they got the client in question 2 years later!

I scoffed at such a long seduction period but when he told me how much the business was worth in fees to them on a recurring annual basis (more of that another time), I began to see the smartness of his strategy.

Incidentally, their breakthrough came from a colleague in San Francisco who ran a Little League (baseball in case you didn’t know) with a mid-ranking legal person from the target company. Not surprisingly they sponsored the Little League and got “one step closer” to the decision maker and the rest was history.  I didn’t even get a brochure out of it!

Cute story; so what?

What I was witnessing all those years ago was a prelude to one of the most successful B2B marketing strategies of recent times, namely Account Based Marketing.

The more marketing aware readers will be familiar with the concept of the marketing funnel. Namely:

  1. Awareness – broadcast your message so that you attract as many leads as possible
  2. Consideration – personalise and engage whilst the prospect is thinking of you
  3. Purchase – convert to an active client

ABM, in effect “flips the funnel” by limiting the first stage so that you focus on a small number of prospects so that the flipped funnel goes:

  1. Account selection – narrowcast your message to a small number of high value targets
  2. Nurture them – personalise and engage so the relationship deepens
  3. Long term customer – achieve trusted advisor status

For growing SMEs who don’t have the luxury of large sales and marketing teams ABM is manageable and often remarkably effective. That is not to say it doesn’t demand budget, but it does give you greater control over where your money is spent.

What is ABM?

ABM works on the basis of marketing your business on a 1:1, 1: Few and 1: Many basis, although the first two are the ones worth considering in the early stages and whilst you are learning how to do it properly.

Cliff Guy, Marketing Lead at B2B Marketing gives us a good definition:

“ABM directs sales and marketing resources to the nurturing and engagement of a specific set of target accounts and key decision makers within these accounts”

I call them the “Big Dogs” and they are the prospective businesses that will bring you the biggest number of benefits if you win one of them.  In summary ABM is about:

  • Identifying who your most valuable accounts and prospects are
  • Gathering as much insight on them as possible
  • Using this insight to align your proposition to their challenges
  • Crafting personalised marketing content and engagement around these challenges

If you do it well it will protect existing accounts and win you new business!

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