Just What IS ABM and How Do I Get Started?

Alice Bartram
Director, Product Marketing
Avention OneSource Solutions

So much has been written of late about Account-Based Marketing that I am not even sure where to start this post. You might even wonder why I feel compelled to even write a post to define ABM, given the volume of material out there.

The reason I feel compelled is that so much of the noise being generated in the market isn’t really about a true end-to-end account-based approach, rather marketing tactics that can be used in an account-based program. Display ads, personalized web pages, and the like are great tools to include in an account-based program…once you’ve looked at your market, aligned with sales, researched the targets and planned messages, content and an outreach plan. It seems misleading to me to ignore this crucial ‘front end’ part of the process. Account-based sales and marketing approaches need to be conducted within a framework of a program that includes both front end planning and back end execution. This was driven home in a conversation with Nancy Nardin of Smart Selling Tools, who confirmed that if one does not get the front end planning right, the back end execution will suffer.

ABM programs - Program frameworks

There are a number of different frameworks for account-based marketing campaigns but, in general, the following approach is used:

  • Create the strategic framework: methodology for selecting the accounts that will be focused on and framework of objectives and measures for the ABM programme
  • Planning workshop: joint marketing and sales session around each account to agree goals and explore understanding of the account and relevant propositions
  • Required research: marketing activity to build a more complete picture of the structure of the target organisation and its requirements
  • Create plan: bringing together existing corporate marketing activities with new account-specific communications to achieve account-specific goals
  • Execute: build a joint sales and marketing team to deliver on the plan
  • Review: apply measures such as the value of sales, amount of potential revenue in the sales pipeline, coverage of communications in the account, perception-shifts or appointments made

As you can imagine, we here at Avention feel strongly about conducting a full account-based sales and marketing program, backed by deep B2B account data and insights. The right data – including your own! – leads to data-driven decisions about both where to focus a program and what messages to deliver. Messages can be delivered in a variety of methods – including those display ads we are hearing so much about. Messages also need to be directly delivered by sales. Account-based marketing really needs to be thought of as account-based sales and marketing.

Of course sometimes simply getting started can be a challenge. We realize this based on numerous customer conversations as well as research we conducted this spring. In that study, respondents noted that their #1 challenge in getting an ABM program going was a lack of the right data or access to data and 70% of respondents admitted to not being able to identify ‘look-alike’ accounts that match target segments.

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