New Mindset, New Results, Account-Based Marketing ABM

Also found on Linkedin (rated top marketing article in July 2016):

As someone not trying to sell you on an ABM solution, I’ll share something different about the category or strategy. Yes indeed it is one of the hottest topics in the B2B marketing space and with it has come a great deal of exuberance, education, and opportunity. I’ll take a pragmatic perspective and help pull you through the noise. Why the term? Are we really doing anything different? Does it provide a justifiable impact? Who are the true players in the market whom we need to partner to deliver on ABM?

So, I don’t currently sell ABM services or products. Over the course of 15 years in marketing technology, I’ve operated in capacities as a startup, vendor, customer, analyst, consultant, and advisor. Up until the last couple of years, I’ve worked with teams on go-to-market operations – building, aligning, and enhancing marketing, sales, and retention teams. My approach for any of my clients to invest in the enablement of their teams and executives’ capabilities to build a resilient business.

Resilient revenue is critical for long term growth. @AnandThaker

It’s a great time for each of these groups. Let’s dig into the possibilities of what account-based _____ means with smart marketers looking to contribute to the bottom line in an ever-evolving customer-centric world.

ABM is a Mindset Change for Marketers

Navigating folks through the noise in our beloved MarTech space, I initially felt ABM was, what I call, a #JAB (just another buzzword) to marketers. However, after reflecting on the many struggles with CRM and Marketing Automation that many B2B firms experience, I changed my tune with ITSMA nailing down and others perpetuating the term – Account-Based Marketing.

Why the change? Before answering, let’s talk about the marketer’s iterative evolution. Borrowing from Scott Brinker’s post, we as modern marketers are forced to learn and develop competency and expertise at a faster rate than the next incoming wave. None of this is a criticism of the marketing and sales teams. This simply appreciates the nature of marketers’ essential role in staying competitive in the Red Queen Effect of Marketing Technology.

For any given [accelerating MarTech] wave, it takes a marketing team years to adopt and master it. @chiefmartec, Scott Brinker

The struggle for B2B marketing teams is that many still borrow heavily from B2C tactics. Marketing automation has only perpetuated that mindset. Marketing automation and “Digital Body Language“, driven by Steven Woods and the Eloqua folks had intended to focus on gathering more data and intelligence about consumers in B2C or *collective individuals* involved in the decision-making process in B2B – then relevantly respond in scale.  But that was just the start of the wave, especially for B2B.

MA platforms since then have worked extremely well where there is an individual decision-maker. However, for B2B, the account-focused sales teams, and lead-focused marketing teams had to bridge the gap to ’emulate’ an alignment through tactics or technology integrations, sometimes with heavy support from MarTech consultants. So in a pre-ABM wave, we have learned more about 1) Our Customers, 2) Our Processes and 3) Ourselves operating in the digital world. Not a bad beginning, so what’s next?

ABM reframes the B2B mindset of Marketers to think and operate like Sales at scale. @AnandThaker

Because of this need to reframe marketers’ minds, Account-Based Marketing *is* the right term for technology supporting this marketing approach and revised tactics supporting it. Eventually, it will fade into the definition of B2B Marketing. What’s Old is New Again.

Um, What About Everyone Else?

Again, I initially once challenged the term ABM for this exact question. As an advocate of alignment, I questioned why do sales, customer success, SDRs, and those poor thought leaders out there seem to be left out of the ‘term’?

Well, none of these other groups are excluded. The change in the mindset as found in many of the talks throughout the martech industry, illustrates, once again, that B2B marketing is evolving and aligning to match the approach of other groups. Also, by making even greater strides to support the larger team in opportunity creation, customers, partnerships, and advocates places marketing squarely in a revenue generation capacity.

Twice I have influenced major trajectories of Marketo, and still, today get calls from the firm’s customer success teams to help their high-growth clients achieve MA success. So, I can appreciate what Sangram Vajre and Jon Miller are attempting to ‘ab’ everything,  but we’re simply talking about an evolution of B2B strategies and tactics through greater collaboration and alignment. Every other group (sales, SDR, customer) already executes or is refining B2B strategies/tactics. On the other hand, my prediction with Jon, who never thinks small, and the Engagio team aims to be the core B2B marketing platform. Possibly replacing entirely or in part the disparate solutions of marketing automation, sales enablement, customer success, and some CRM capabilities.

The same concerns go for the ABSD term. I am unaware of any SDR role at a B2B firm that should not already be engaging the account as a whole.

Unproductive acronym debates aside, it’s important to know that ABM is noted for changing the marketing mindset and complete approach to becoming more aligned with the other account-based groups.

B2B Sales, SDR and Customer Success are by definition executing ‘account based’. Marketers can join the chorus with an ABM mindset. @AnandThaker

I’ll throw out an alternative: Maybe we just move away from B2B to Account-Based as an industry term. B2C is already moving to “Consumer-Based”.

Having been in the mix with many B2B operational teams working on alignment, efficiency, and visibility challenges for over a decade, I tip my hat to the forethought in marketing challenges by ITSMA’s insight and the ABM thought leaders to help reframe marketers for more natural alignment.

Multiple facets of ABM

Unlike most other MarTech categories today, ABM is very fragmented… so much so that as of this writing, there is a few true pure-play ABM head to head competitors. There are a lot of ‘pivots’ to be included in the hot category, and that is cool. However, in doing so, let your vendors explain what part of ABM do they solve?

ABM can be a mindset, tactic, strategy or a category, not a technology. Ask a vendor ‘What ABM pain do you help me solve’? @AnandThaker

The folks at TrustRadius, have done a good job of categorizing major solution areas within ABM and of course listing some of the top vendors in the space:

  • Predictive Sales Analytics and Intelligence
  • Lead Management and Marketing Automation
  • Content Personalization and Content Marketing Tools
  • Ad Serving & Retargeting Software

On to the next point, with fast movers in ABM, I recommend forgetting about landscape illustrations which grow inaccurate as they are published and instead, think about your needs.

ABM Stakeholder Considerations

As a:

  1. Marketer – How can sales, SDRs, and customer success better be supported by our account-based campaigns? How do we scale our messaging to accounts?
  2. Sales – What intelligence can I deliver to marketing to make ABM type campaigns more successful?
  3.  SDR & Marketer – How do we balance managing leads (Demand Gen) and targeted accounts (ABM)?
  4. Data Person – What greater context do we need to our data to conduct better account targeting or prioritization?

CRO / CMO / Sales Exec – How does ABM deliver performance useful to me at the next board meeting?

Final Words and ABX

Expect even more fragmentation for a short time. As I see B2B marketers continue to struggle to emulate the alignment with the rest of the ‘account-based’ teams, it’s worth the effort to begin sooner than later. We really should be discussing a more comprehensive approach to account-based as we do in B2B. I’ll suggest we begin using ABX, Account-Based eXperiences. The ‘X’ would not merely represent a placeholder for a specific role. Instead, APX views the engagement with a prospective organization.

Should you bite on ABM as a B2B organization? Yes and here are a few tips:

What to do…

  1. Love your sales and customer teams; they’ll love you back.
  2. Speak to a lot of other marketers on their experience with ABM.
  3. Develop a keen understanding of your marketing, sales and customer process.
  4. Incorporate attending ABM educational events – with peer discussions – into your budget.
  5. Begin with revenue, work backward.
  6. When you hear an ABM only being used as a #JAB (just another buzzword), make the conversation go deeper and more specific.
  7. Remember, you’re still talking to individuals.

What NOT to do…

  1. Worry so much about landscapes – Focus more on the opportunity and retention goals.
  2. Use cookie cutter guidebooks – Instead, read case studies and get peer help or if necessary consultative help.
  3. Attend massive sessions – Invest more time in a niche or smaller groups which allow for greater dialogue.
  4. Assume all ABM tactics are relevant – your firm, teams, and go-to-market are different from others. Scale efforts on deal size and quantity.
  5. Use the same message to all accounts – The point here is to find account segments to deliver the most personalized/relevant message.
  6. Pilot ABM efforts only in marketing – I see this too often limiting the scope of the program. Alignment is the critical component, so find one or two sales, SDRs, or customers success folks to include in the pilot.
  7. Ignore entry-level individuals at accounts.

ABM change in mindset has been one that has been a long time to come for marketers… go out and embrace it! This is an opportunity for marketing to expand their leadership across the organization and begin adopting full B2B or ABX strategies for revenue growth and retention.

How has ABM changed your go-to-market strategies? Where do you need help?