What if ABM was just the ABC’s of selling…

What if ABM was just the ABC’s of selling… 640 424 Boldandsharp

ABM platforms are said to go mainstream. Before you decide to join the bandwagon, let’s try to understand what’s behind the acronym and the technology that is supposed to serve the approach. This article is neither a plea for ABM nor an ABM platforms quick and dirty evaluation. It is intended to guide you through the information you need to collect and steps you need to take before taking the leap.

ABM stands for Account Based Marketing. So, it is account focused.😳 Nothing against it except that ABM is introduced as the ultimate solution to embrace the new digital age where sales and marketing roles have changed: sales are no longer the main source of information for your customers. Marketing role is no longer to influence whatever portion of the customer journey they may claim to influence.

Here we go again: the world has changed; we have entered the era of the challenger and over-informed customer. We need to adapt… Wait a minute. However, the world has not changed to a point where marketers suddenly realized that emails and websites were not enough to attract and engage customers. The world has not changed to a point where customers decided overnight to regroup to make complex decisions and purchases😡. And no established B2B vendor has been waiting for ABM to be told that the good old funnel approach has limitations when trying to sell bigger and faster.

Buyers’ hyperawareness and information overload may have increased but the answer is not in ABM. The answer is rather in the way you sell and how your teams – not only sales- raise up to the challenge. Ask sales veterans from IBM or EMC² what a quarterly account review looked like 20 years ago and what it took back then to align several divisions and triangulate information collected from the field to better serve their most valuable customers: they will probably laugh in your face if you present ABM as new way of selling.🤣? The good joke.

On that note, well thought sales strategies have always combined inbound and outbound in hyper segmented territories. Successful B2B companies have never believed sending a wide marketing net was the ultimate weapon and failed to prioritize their accounts based on scrupulous data gathering. The reversed pyramid concept opposing outbound and inbound that so called sales consultants 🤡 introduce as a key component of ABM is a nice theory. Nothing new to any experienced sales executive.🥱

While we are on the topic on debunking the ABM myth, ABM is not for your top 20% accounts only: that is Tier 1 accounts targeting or strategic accounts selling. You might start ABM with SDR only. Your SMB division may opt for ABM too. ABM, when focusing on accounts, is a mindset and a process. It requires the will and skill to balance your efforts between traditional pipeline building and making informed bets. The critical component is not technology but rather how you split the load and accountability between sales, marketing and lead generation 🏋️ … and refresh the list on a quarterly basis.

In that respect, ABM name is deceitful and requires more than marketing or sales and marketing: it takes a village or at least multiple stakeholders depending on what type of business you are in and how you use the approach to serve your most valuable accounts. Those accounts may range from new accounts you want to crack to existing accounts you want to upsell and cross-sell or customers you want to retain. So, ABM is not just for growth 🤑 strategy. Defense may apply depending on the signals received, which may trigger a fall-back approach or a fragmentation sales strategy. That is where customer success, professional services or even support should help. That is where customer success, professional services or even support should help. So ABM is way beyond marketing.

So much for the concept. Let’s talk about technology. There are huge gaps in the offerings of ABM platform vendors. There is also a real hype around the replacement of marketing automation platforms (MAP) with ABM platforms. Our opinion: ABM is just the continuation of the war by other means. In other words, ABM is to MAP what MAP used to be to CRM that missed B2B marketing features or what email automation was to incomplete MAP platforms.

Let’s review some features that support ABM platforms assessment: native engagement channels, deep analytic for targeting including intent; orchestration and reporting.

Let’s keep it simple: Orchestration encompasses buyer journey design, sales and marketing activities, engagement generation, visibility on multichannel engagement and segmented audience creation. Does it ring a bell? Well, yes: You may have all the features and functions you need in your MAP or even in your CRM, either leaders or visionaries in whatever quadrant you may rely on.🤥

Reporting metrics that matter include pipeline generation, revenue growth, portfolio penetration, satisfaction, and net promoter score. We would add the cost of of sale or serve and total lifetime value which provides a better insight on what you spend versus what you get. Advanced metrics may be available by sales stage for revenue attribution and channel influence identification according to various formulas. Honestly, you may be one report or dashboard away from what you need in your MAP or CRM.🥳

Truly enough, the most advanced ABM platforms boast features to better target accounts and personas. IP addresses are leveraged to (re)target your buyers on social networks and LinkedIn. Nice! This is worth considering if you believe that reaching your buyers while they want to stay anonymous, silently searching for information, does not have a negative impact of their final decision. Website and landing page personalization are also embedded, as well as ads creation across devices, cool DMPs for programmatic and performance marketing. Interesting for sure but not outstanding. MAPs and CRMs are catching up, except laggers or for those stuck in the automation😮💨 era.

So what makes ABM so sexy? The all-in-one cockpit concept for account-based targeting, starting with account selection. You may say, c’mon, my CRM already includes properties and categories that are automatically updated based on content consumption, website visit, new and events and so on. Lucky you. What matters here, as often is the data, 🔢as it is sourced, checked, monitored and distributed to teams for actions and decisions. Precisely the Data on why, how and when to engage with a customer. Then, decide, orchestrate, and monitor progresses. Is this unique to ABM and a solid barrier to entry that will prevent CRM and MAP vendors to quickly bridge the gap? Not sure.

Don’t get us wrong: Your MAP platform may have limitations and fail to scale beyond automation. This is a valid reason to investigate smarter, richer, multichannel native ABM platforms. Setting your heart on the newcomer that has it all and provides more automation, more to the point and personalized content, more everything, may be worth the investment. But if you become enamored 🥰 with a new UX that brings the data you need into your CRM, you might as well investigate a dedicated behavioral and intent data standalone product.

The decision comes down your business goals, timing, budget, and a solid assessment of your current technology stack. The first step remains is to define your business objectives: receiving alerts when you current customers scroll your competitors web pages may not be worth the investment. You may as well revisit the conversations you have with you existing customers and the way you assess their promoter score 👩🏻‍❤️‍👨🏽. If your point is to increase your leads conversion rate or you cross sell revenue by detecting the right signals, the first step may be to investigate what customization or smart add-on is required for your MAP to do the job. If your problem is to sell more in your most valuable accounts, a couple of workshops 🪛🔨 with your teams should bring back the verticals, size, technology, personas, and the content you need to sell more on your key accounts.

Before chasing the latest shiny new object and succumbing to the charm of the all-in-one pitch, take time to define your objectives, evaluate options and assess your current CRM and MAP stack capabilities and roadmaps. Is your goal to focus on the top 100 customers that are likely to generate 80% of your revenue? Go back to the ABC of account targeting, namely around cross teams’ collaboration, orchestration, and tailoring. Is the relevance of your marketing content your main problem? Revisit the ABC of customer journey and personas, and create beautiful content: a business process management tool embedded in your CRM may generate faster return.

If you CRM and MAP don’t scale, if your sales and marketing stacks looks like a fragmented mosaic of solutions badly stitched together that hamper productivity and drives up costs, if you launch a new product that addresses new stakeholders, if new business is you north star, then some ABM suites are really worth it. 🎖️👌They will not only complement your current MAP, but they may also replace it. And you can be sure the ABM reality will live up the hype.

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