One of my favorite things from 2018 was the opportunity to join Ryan McInerney’s podcast to discuss the pros, cons, and myths surrounding Account-Based Marketing (ABM). Ryan also hosted Sangram Vajre, the founder and CEO of one of the very first ABM applications, Terminus. The conversation was so engaging that one episode quickly turned into two. (You can listen to episode one here and episode two here.)
There’s no question ABM is still hot. The good news is that, as account-based approaches have matured and technology has evolved, the opportunity to implement effective account-based programs is better than it has ever been.
But, realize that merely saying that you’re adopting such an approach does not change anything. If you’re changing your strategy, you must change your behaviors.
In our work with companies implementing or embarking with ABM, we’ve identified five overlooked or weak elements that are often the cause of failure. If you’re considering implementing such an approach, be sure you address these items.
1. A Clear Definition of What Account-Based Means To You
By definition, if you’re involved in business-to-business (B2B) pursuits, whether you realize it or not, you’re implementing some form of account-based marketing and sales. The biggest concern I have when I hear marketing or sales executives excitedly or confidently state that they’re adopting ABM is that they often can’t clearly articulate what differentiates their approach. When this is the case, jumping on the bandwagon doesn’t result in a real difference. When we’re designing account-based strategies and playbooks we use one or more of these four game plans:
Strategic, High-Value Target: this is 1:1 targeting, where you’re generating individual strategies, messaging, and tactics for each target account.
High-Value Target: this is still highly personalized with approaches customized to clusters of accounts
Core Target: I’ve seen this also referred to as programmatic account-based marketing and selling. This approach mirrors the traditional B2B sales approach, with account-based marketing tactics integrated with sales.
Basic: this is a highly tactical approach where you mix account-based tactics with more traditional leads-based approaches.
2. A Clear and Meaningful Account Segmentation Strategy
When I talk with growth executives about their ideal client profile, most of them tell me it’s clear who the target/ideal customer is. The reality, however, is that they have only a general idea of the types of companies that fit.
Before embarking on an anything more than a basic game plan, you must first have a rock-solid Ideal Client Profile.
If you want to implement anything more than the core account-based game plan, you must go even deeper. You must be able to segment your accounts using clear criteria. Each cohort must stand out with distinct differences. If you can’t break your accounts into distinct cohorts with typically less than 250 accounts within them, then you may call what you’re doing account-based, but it’s really just traditional b2b selling.
3. The Ability to Identify Accounts and Source Contacts
The fundamental difference between account-based and inbound approaches is that with account-based you don’t wait for the account or lead to find you, you identify them.
This may sound obvious, but if you can’t confidently identify the accounts that fit your segmentation strategy and the key personas that you want to connect with, then you can’t implement a true account-based program.
4. A Strong Point-of-View and The Insights to Go With It
Finding the account and how to connect to your target persona is not enough.
You must also get their attention.
But getting their attention is not enough
You must get engagement and influence, and engagement and influence are, well, really hard.
Realize that when you begin to generate awareness and attention (or even if you’re already communicating with an account) the people you’re reaching out to are busy and occupied with lots of other things.
Okay, so sharing that the people you want to connect with are busy isn’t a particularly new insight. What’s even more important than that and is rarely identified as a barrier is that the people you want to influence have a preexisting mindset.
Most content - even really good content - is ineffective because it doesn’t do anything to reframe the issue and break the recipient’s existing mindset. If you don’t do this, you may do a great job of educating your prospect. They may even thank you for sharing. They won’t, however, be any more likely to buy from you.
5. The Right Dashboard to Track (The Right) Progress
The most common complaint I hear from people who are implementing account-based programs is that most of the sales and marketing technology stack isn’t designed for account-based strategies. Marketing automation is still far more skewed toward leads-based and even CRMs struggle to support account-based programs.
Another major problem, a little less obvious but even far more damaging, is that most metrics businesses use to track demand generation don’t align with account-based approaches.
A successful account-based strategy requires that you define clear objectives and key results (OKRs) and build the dashboards that align with those OKRs to track them.
In short, unless you consider all five of these elements when implementing ABM, your results will be far less effective than you’d planned. If you’re going to put forth the effort, make sure you do it right by creating a clear roadmap and making sure you have all necessary capabilities in place.