How important is Account Based Marketing (ABM)?
Let’s call this what it is: an intervention.
In my 20 years kicking around big tech companies I’ve seen so many crazes. All of which were important. None of which was a panacea. Running the risk of an ego trip here I’ll share just a few that I’ve been involved with. What have yours been? Let me know in the comments!
When I launched trackable email with DoubleClick at Intel in 2002 it was a big deal, a huge deal for the cross EMEA email marketing campaigns we were running. When we set up the first Microsoft Office Twitter presence in the US subsidiary, we were at the forefront of big companies engaging on social. When we launched the content marketing film Flavor and Fuel for Microsoft Dynamics (still available on my YouTube channel), it was award winning and ground breaking corporate storytelling.
None of these alone is the answer. They are tools on our bat-belt.
ABM is the same.
Content Marketing is not dead (don’t believe people who tell you it is)
As with all marketing buzzwords, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture when a large concentration of resources get dumped into one particular area. Outbound and Inbound marketing are not dead. Evergreen content is not dead. Growth Hacking is not dead. Content Marketing is not dead (don’t believe people who tell you it is). All these live on with their new sibling ABM. Together they evolve into a more complete, more mature approach to marketing.
So what is ABM, in a nutshell
In a nutshell, ABM is about going beyond the lead (as in ‘sales lead’) and using all of the tools at your disposal to surround the complex decision making by committee approach in companies with the right information at the right time and to do so with automation that greases the skids for sales conversations. ABM helps lift the prospecting burden from your sales force and focus on Powerbase Selling or Challenger Sales approaches that result in more meaningful relationships. Like all good technology, it’s automation helping reduce human burden.
For many years much of the marketing profession has been focused on the lead, nurturing that lead through an imaginary funnel (we are humans, we like analogies) to a point of purchase. The best marketers then worked to support post-sale interactions to turn the customer into a legitimate advocate.
The problem is that selling, and buying, has become more complicated. There are more products, more companies and more people involved in the decision-making process than ever before. It's true for enterprise sales and also for complex personal sales - you put more thought, research and family agreement into a financial advisor or retirement account than you do into a candy bar bought on a whim at a super market. Sofas, cars and houses all sit on a spectrum of increasingly complex, expensive purchases.
All of these things have the power to move us closer to or further away from the decision
As we go through our own experience leading up to and through purchase, we touch the many edges of marketing messaging and promotion. TV ads, web ads, content marketing, social media, tastemakers, online reviews, email marketing, website experiences – even our friends, family, and contacts become everyday influencers that affect our decision making. All of these things have the power to move us closer to or further away from the decision – that coveted narrow end of the funnel.
Aside, on the marketing funnel: We as humans love analogies because they are micro-stories. The funnel analogy works because it communications “vague, abstract and unobtained” moving to “specific, real and results”. Don’t believe people who try tell you the marketing funnel is dead. By all means come up with new, better analogies – but popular analogies die hard. Don’t waste your time trying to kill them – “It’s only a flesh wound”.
Then there came the explosion of channels and the tools to manage the experience (Marketo, Salesforce, Hubspot, AgileCRM and more). Resources that marketers can use to design and execute experiences in a way that respects the complex sales and the individuals involved. ABM is about joining your customer on their journey.
ABM needs marketing automation, programmatic ads, great messaging, wonderful evergreen and inbound content. Internally it requires an aligned business strategy. Senior leadership must be brought in. Sales must have co-ownership. As a marketing team, you must understand and develop buyer personas, clear and detailed segmentation, content architectures and the storylines to apply for any given account. Agencies like Momentum ABM specialize in making these a reality.
Putting things in context
Everything old is new again. Sales has been around since the dawn of human kind. Quite frankly so has marketing. In the beginning, they were combined. In the nascent markets of Mesopotamia, if you wanted to bring someone around to your way of thinking, to barter with them for something, you'd position why should they care, what they could receive in return, why it’s better than the alternatives and the reason it is worth what you are asking. "Sales" and "marketing" were all wrapped up in a very human pursuit.
Fast forward to the mid-20th century when the professions of sales and marketing exploded. Dale Carnegie analyzed "The Psychology of Selling (1924*)” and Madison Avenue took one part of marketing (advertising) and turned it into a billion dollar industry. Today Facebook sells $11B worth of advertising through their platform alone.
So ABM is important and it is a part of the entire sales and marketing motion. By all means pick a specialist to help you build, execute and scale your ABM efforts. Yet with whatever you do, make sure you keep it in context with everything else you need to be doing.