Introduction to Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

In this episode of TABS (Talking About Business Strategy), I talk with Steve Robinson from Brilliant Metrics.

We discuss Account-Based Marketing (ABM). What is account-based marketing? What are the benefits? And how to get started.

Show Notes:

What is Account-Based Marketing?

Steve said that ITSMA was one of the original organizations to define ABM, and they described it as “treating each account as if it’s its own market.”

However, Steve has his own definition, which he says is that ABM is “flipping the funnel.” Normal marketing targets a broad audience and has people self-select to enter your funnel. Whereas Account-Based Marketing flips it around, and puts the qualification step first. You pick who is at the bottom of your funnel, and then market to them directly.

He also notes that Account-Based Marketing isn’t really marketing. It’s truly sales and marketing working together.

What are the benefits of doing ABM?

Steve said that the key benefit of ABM is efficiency.

Standard lead and demand generation is trying to “boil the ocean.” You have a lot of effort going into traditional marketing strategies, such as content creation, SEO, and broad marketing campaigns. Sometimes, despite this effort, you cannot attract the quality of account that your business needs. That could mean poor leads and low-profit customers if that is the case. From the sales side, this can create a lot of noise in the pipeline.

With ABM, you are personally targeting what you want. This means you will only get the accounts you desire. Steve says this can be a very powerful change, as your effort is dedicated to the RIGHT accounts for your business.

The other benefit Steve mentioned is sales and marketing alignment. To do ABM well, your sales and marketing teams must cooperate heavily, or “go into battle together.” This can help redefine your sales and marketing strategy in a positive way.

How do you align sales and marketing teams?

Steve says that for ABM to be successful, your sales and marketing teams need to be highly collaborative. Adversarial positioning and finger-pointing won’t work.

Often, the strategy starts with the sales team’s target account list. The challenge is prioritizing that account list and picking the accounts with the best opportunities. There should be some objective ways of targeting and selecting for the ABM campaigns.

Marketing should also be involved in understanding the criteria of how accounts are being chosen. This will help them run the ABM strategy.

Then Steve says it comes down to collaboration. His firm creates “plays” that the teams will run; sales does this, and marketing does that. The partnership in running the plays of the strategy needs to be carried through from the initial account selection to the close of the deal.

Is ABM a technology-enabled strategy?

Steve said if you do a Google search on Account-Based Marketing, most of the content is published by sales/marketing software companies. Despite it being great content, they will pitch ABM as a technology-first strategy. But Steve disagrees.

He says it’s a people-first strategy. It’s all about who you target.

Steve says you can start simple. There is no need for fancy software or automation, even using spreadsheets to track the initial pilot campaigns. A CRM and a little organization can take you far.

He noted that technology is useful when you are ready to take it to the next level after you’ve worked out some initial ABM strategies.

Who should be doing ABM?

Steve cautioned that ABM It’s not for everyone. He gave two reasons you might not be the right fit:

  1. Separate Sales and Marketing KPIs – He said it becomes problematic when marketing and sales have separate KPIs. If marketing is focused on the quality and quantity of leads, instead of revenue, then ABM won’t be easy.
  2. Revenue per Sale – ABM works best for larger deal sizes. There needs to be enough revenue per sale for the ROI for resources, creating content, and time commitment for salespeople to run the plays. Steve says this is usually a 5-figure deal size minimum for a light ABM strategy and a 6-7 figure for a more strategic ABM.

How to get started with ABM

Steve says to start small. Run pilot programs of ABM so you can get your feet wet with the strategy. Pick people on the sales side who are ready to try something new, have time to dedicate to the plays, and have a growth mindset.

In the pilot, you are not necessarily looking at success in dollars. Focus on creating the strategy and making the cultural change and transformation. You can then iterate, grow and template your ABM strategy as you learn.

Steve’s LinkedIn

Brilliant Metrics Website

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