Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is one of the most exciting concepts in marketing today, shinning like a brand new toy. However, as with many new concepts, it is just too often misunderstood.
We read very often of ABM as a set of technologies that will solve all of digital demand generation challenges. In fact, ABM means as many different things as people and vendors you can talk to. As a term, ABM is, let’s be honest, an abused concept.
So much that it is just too easy to forget the basics, that there’s a crucial body of work that ABM depends on. A fundamental first step that, if overseen, will render near to impossible to unlock the real benefits of the approach.
When ABM means different things to different people, and more fundamentally, not the same to your sales and marketing teams, then it isn’t really ABM. Period.
As a marketer, you may have achieved a high degree of sophistication by implementing customized account plays but if it’s not connected to what Sales is trying to achieve with the account in question then it has limited value.
Let me share a little story. Some years ago, way before the current ABM hype, I ran a major project for a Global IT Services company. It was a comprehensive CRM and analytics framework & strategy for EMEA and the Go-to-market of about 100,000 customers. It incorporated business intelligence, customer insights ( digital & offline), marketing spend optimization and behavioural modelling to drive advanced contact strategy. The implementation involved both Marketing and Sales and the entire process was reiterated on a quarterly basis. That’s what I call a truly integrated ABM program before we all knew about the term.
The lessons learned are clear: success relies on an extended handshake with sales, understanding what you are aiming to achieve and how to measure its success. The discussion around metrics and objectives for ABM can become unnecessarily complex. As example, in the marketing teams we looked at success in terms of revenue uplift! Everything else was nice to know but revenue was the golden rule, as the ultimate objective for all marketers should always be revenue contribution.
The fact that you can have different pieces of technology to plug is of course nice but it is not the foundation of any strategy, no matter what different vendors say. The wonderful thing about an ABM programme is that it transforms any organization into a customer-centric team. This is priceless. The transformational effect on your company is the most important benefit you should be looking at. Everything else will derive from it and nothing can flourish without.