ABM for Anyone Who Has Missed the Hottest Topic in B2B Marketing

ABM for anyone

For those of you who like a buzzword, try “smarketing”. To my mind, it’s a dreadful expression (and worthy of bonus points in Bu!1sh1t Bingo) but I do like what it represents – the greater alignment of sales activities and marketing activities.
This closer alignment of sales and marketing has opened the path towards Account Based Marketing (ABM), a particularly hot topic right now. ABM combines traditional best practice sales methodologies with the latest marketing technologies. It’s a real gamechanger for sales teams who want to open up target accounts and win bigger deals.
And that’s it in a nutshell – little more to be said. Unless perhaps to ask…. ”does it work”?

It works really nicely

In a recent campaign, our analysis of a target account revealed that they had a need that our client could fulfil – they had a support contact renewal date of April 2018. We dug a little deeper to understand the influencers that would be involved in the renewal process and identified that one of the key members of the management team had played cricket to a reasonable standard – in fact he had one year in top flight cricket (1987). So, we sent him a copy of the Wisden Cricketing Almanac for the year, and on the page that showed his team photo, we inserted a note with a highly targeted message and a request for an appointment. He was bowled over by our approach!

What’s the Marketing Technology angle?

The Wisden approach, just like our own football (did you get a Cremarc football?), is a deliberately low-tech approach to delivering highly personalised messages. But ABM has some clever technology supporting it – marketing automation for the more modest ABM campaigns and “advertising automation platforms” for global enterprise-class campaigns.

ABM and Marketing Automation

It might sound like a bit of an own goal, but when they first hit the market, Marketing Automation tools used an individual’s email address as the core data item. So, it could tell you pretty much everything you needed to know that was associated with an individual email address….but the Account field was a real blind spot. I remember being asked a question that highlights the impact of this “account” limitation: “ we’ve got a customer coming in next week for a review. Can the MA tool give me a summary of email engagement and website visits of everyone in our database who is from that company”? Today, the answer would be yes, but until relatively recently, it would have been a painful manual process.
So, the ability of Marketing Automation to analyse activity at the account level is a big step forward and a real enabler of ABM.

ABM and Advertising Automation

To be honest, I’m not sure that “advertising automation” is really a thing (yet), so let me explain.
There is a technology set that includes vendors like Engagio, Demandbase, Terminus and others. They are calling their software an ABM Platform which, in my view, may simply be a case of a software vendor trying to “own” a hot marketing space. These platforms deliver useful targeting and personalisation capabilities. They reach out into the re-targeting space and at the same time integrate tightly into your CRM and Marketing Automation platforms – which is a useful combination if you want to push out account-based adverts. As you can imagine, scale is a really important consideration with these solutions – they work best when you have a large number of target accounts and a big sales team.

Crawl, Walk, Run

If your sales teams are (or ought to be) targeting key accounts, then ABM adds something new to the marketing kit-bag that can make a big difference.
With a clearly defined list of target accounts and accurate influencer maps, marketing can now deliver highly personalised messaging into the accounts.
Message delivery can either use innovative direct-mail pieces or by using email, social, re-targeting and other digital technologies that are fully trackable. The net effect is to ensure that when it’s time for sales to make their first contact with the account, marketing has provided the digital footprint needed to make that first call really count.
Where should you start? I’d recommend starting with a subset of your target accounts – a small number of target accounts that have a business challenge in common. You can then run a campaign to this cluster of accounts to road-test your ABM processes. Once you are happy with the process, then ramp it up and layer in the technology supports that are necessary when you want to do ABM at scale.