David Line | November 08th, 2020

[Part 2 of 2 - read Part 1 here]

In account-based marketing (ABM), no two approaches will be the same. That makes it hard work. But the return on the investment needed is worthwhile, as many surveys attest (though part of the appeal of ABM is that marketing ROI is more easily measured, which skews this conclusion a little).

Sadly, as participants in a recent panel on ABM explained, there’s no shortcut in the research stages of devising an ABM programme. As Wee Seong Yeo, Head of Account Based Marketing APAC at Red Hat, commented, “Unfortunately no one has a silver bullet for account-centric intelligence.” It takes time and effort to accrue.

With that in mind, those keen to get their ABM strategies up and running need to ensure they include the following:

  1. Get buy-in across the business
    Successful ABM requires a co-ordinated effort. While the marketing team should never “go it alone” in any campaign, targeting key accounts needs an extra special team drive, with sponsors at the highest levels co-ordinating functional stakeholders into client-centric teams (and deciding on KPIs). This is especially important if the bid is to grow “share of wallet” with existing clients across siloed business units.

  2. Carefully identify your targets
    Building from the co-ordinated approach, with direction from the sales leads and relationship managers, you should identify key accounts liable to benefit from ABM only with careful deliberation. They could be brand new; more often, they will be existing clients that are deemed most likely to increase their spending with you, given the right prodding.

  3. Research, research, research
    The next, intensive, phase should be to build a holistic understanding of the targets: their history and buyer journeys with you; their current and future needs; their status within their industries; and the issues liable to confront them in the near future. Relationship mapping will be crucial, even in many cases down to the individual stakeholders with the most decision-making authority. We’re not saying you need to hire a PI to tail them to find out the type of coffee they drink, but then again…

  4. Distil findings into content
    The success of ABM depends to a great degree on distilling the research findings into content you know is going to appeal to the small audience you’re targeting. As in the Japan example in Part 1, it might not mean preparing bespoke content for each and every target (though it might sometimes need this). But you do need a good understanding of the specific problems facing each decision-maker, and what solutions are likely to pique their interest. And, of course, which channels are likely to appeal.

  5. Measure and adjust
    ABM campaigns must be conceived as long-term, during which tactics are subject to change based on assessment of results on an ongoing basis, and depending on the data tools you have at your disposal and the KPIs identified at the start. Think yearly, rather than quarterly. Even if part of the aim is to speed up the sales cycle, a fire-and-forget initiative is unlikely to stick, even if it works once. Once you commit to ABM, you’re in it for the long-haul.

Another participant on the ABM panel, Ross Ballantyne, Head of Marketing APAC for Corporate Solutions at JLL, explained the steps his firm was taking to grow key accounts – including orchestrating workshops with client participation to ensure that in the research phase, “We go from ‘we think we kind of know’, to ‘we understand them completely’.”

Taking such an approach means the level of investment required is considerable, but the payoff will justify it, financially and professionally.

As Ballantyne observed, “Being able to show the impact of marketing on business outcomes – in terms of securing more budget and better client relations – can demonstrate ROI. ‘Clicks’ and ‘Likes’ are OK, but once you can demonstrate marketing influence on the pipeline, opportunities discovered and influenced, and ultimately business won – that’s why I get out of bed in the morning. As we strive to being a truly client-centric organisation, an ABM approach is an integral part of the business strategy to deliver these outcomes.”

This is why, if you’re a B2B marketer, ABM needs to be part of your arsenal.

Missed part 1? Read it here.

‘Likes’ are OK, but once you can demonstrate marketing influence on the pipeline, opportunities discovered and influenced, and ultimately business won – that’s why I get out of bed in the morning.

Ross Ballantyne, Head of Marketing APAC for Corporate Solutions at JLL

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