ABM Best-Practices Tapped As Key To Boosting Channel Marketing Programs

Terry Moffatt

There’s a good chance that ABM specialists will be soon be getting a meeting request from their colleagues in channel marketing.

In a presentation made during the ChannelWeek online event, hosted by Channel Marketer Report, experts from Forrester — Steven Casey, Principal Analyst, and Jay McBain, Principal Analyst for Channels, Partnerships & Alliances — made the case that channel leaders need to adapt account-based marketing best practices to find and align the most appropriate partners with targeted opportunities.

Their presentation, Get Ahead of the Mass Migration of B2B Sales to Business Units with Partner-Based Marketing Programs, was based on a Forrester report published this Spring, Partner-Based Marketing Accelerates Elusive Shadow Channel Engagement.

The need for partner-based marketing can be attributed to two significant trends, Casey and McBain explained. First, today’s empowered B2B customers demand a new level of specialization and sophistication from third-party firms that assist them. Second,

the emergence of nontraditional partnerships and alliances that serve business buyers have made it much more difficult for channel leaders to find and recruit the right partners.

Channel leaders now need to determine which existing and potential partners are best equipped to effectively engage with these new business buyers and meet their dramatically different needs. Misalignment between partners and customers can have significant consequences, McBain and Casey agreed, including “increasing costs, limiting revenue growth and ceding new markets to competitors.”

Modeling ABM Best Practices

To meet these challenges, Casey believes that companies “need to adopt a partner-centric approach, one that’s modeled on the best practices of ABM.

“So much of what happens in ABM is really an analytics-driven, data-driven process for identifying an ideal account,” Casey continued. “Then, it’s about using analytics and different listening technologies to pick up signals to determine when you should target them.

When applied to channel marketing, ABM practices reduce “the influence of intuition, gut feelings or even relationship-based biases” that negatively impact marketing programs.

Following an ABM roadmap to boost the success of partner-based marketing programs may require more planning and attention to detail, McBain commented. He emphasized that marketers need to set a strategy first, followed by a detailed analysis of which current or new partners should be included in the plan. Creating an ideal partner profile is key, he said, to determine which partners will the most capable of meeting business unit buyers.

“You may find out,” he continued, “that you don’t have the right partner capabilities and capacity in each of the different spaces you want to address,” making it necessary to find and recruit new partners.

ABM Experience Matters

Since the concept of people-based marketing (PBM) is likely to be unfamiliar to most channel professionals, Casey and McBain suggest that new practitioners leverage their company’s existing ABM skills and investment.

“Chances are your colleagues will already have experience with ABM,” said Casey, “so you can reach out to them to learn from that experience to accelerate your own success with partner-based marketing.”

Casey continued by highlighting that many colleagues in marketing have already tackled a lot of the issues that PBM will face. This includes questions such as, “how do I integrate third party data sources? How do I break down data silos? How do I build awareness at the organization’s I’m targeting? And then how do I create the kind of omnichannel personalized experiences that all buyers expect today?

Casey recommend that channel marketers pilot ABM-informed PBM programs first.

“Before rolling out any sort of comprehensive campaign, where you’re trying to find and recruit every partner in every hyper specialized market, you may want to just start with a pilot program in one market,” said Casey. “Look for partners that can support a single product or a specialty versus every product in your particular portfolio. Or, maybe target one division of a larger company — for example — where you’ll have the richest data that you can mine.”