After the first several years of this popular thing called ABM, one truth remains consistent: ABM practitioners and marketing leaders remain confused and all too many have grabbed a seat by the sidelines to watch the circus of hype and hyperbole go by.
What piques my interest here is that we’ve just witnessed the most recent and largest swing of the hype pendulum for B2B marketers, yet research shows a mere 19% of marketers are confident they can do ABM successfully. With an oversupply of presentations and content, you’d think everybody should be well on their path to success, right?
It appears the advice and best practice, to this point, hasn’t turned the needle for either adoption or confidence. Addressing the 81% of marketing leaders that lack confidence in their ability to execute a successful ABM program, let’s assuage those concerns by busting some myths that caused bad advice and bad habits. More importantly, let’s point to clear advice that can help direct your path forward.
The Myths We’ve Come To Know As Tribal Truth
Let’s start by slaying a few sacred misconceptions.
Here’s some fact-based, clear advice on how you should reset your ABM perspective. I’d love to hear yours!
- A platform is NOT a strategy — Platform vendors market and sell what they make. This isn’t to say that what they’ve created or told you is wrong, mostly it’s just incomplete … after all, “If all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.” ABM is not a “nail,” it’s a strategy that can be enabled by technologies. Start by getting your ABM strategy right from the onset.
- Data is a four-letter word, but one you should use each day — No marketer has ever said that their marketing data rocks. But they should! Invest in harvesting this data in an account form, then amplify its value by matching it up with awesome data that exists outside of your view, like intent data or predictive analytics.
- Accounts don’t make purchase decisions, people do — SiriusDecisions was sage in highlighting this fact in their Demand Unit Waterfall. Here, the account is pushed aside as a given and focus is now placed on buyers within those accounts. This buyer emphasis shifts strategic and tactical decisions to focus on a much more targeted and addressable marketing mix and data strategies that constantly home in on the right buyer roles. Those that fit the sales mindset as being of value in the context of purchase decisions. This is an area where AI and Machine Learning can upgrade sales and marketing anecdote with fact-driven, people-level targeting.
- ABM success is NOT measured by the quantity of engagement — All engagement is simply not created equal. Account engagement is noise, buyer engagement within each account is the actionable signal. That is, who you source and engage as a marketer is the objective. Engagement outside of these buyer personas isn’t worthless but it’s literally impossible to qualify an account (MQA) unless you can definitively state that you’ve sourced and influenced the right people.
- Engagement within a platform is a near useless statistic — Metrics matter, and the right metrics exist across platforms and teams. The value of your ABM program cannot be defined by response or even actions within a single platform, even if that platform spans a few channels. You need to equally value activities and conversions from target accounts even if they occur through your marketing automation system, CRM or SDR email program.
- Scale is NOT a substitute for intimacy — Scaling ABM has everything to do with scaling insight, nothing to do with finding more cookies and little to do with adding more contacts to a campaign. That is, knowing the needs of your target account buyers, with certainty, and then addressing those needs and reinforcing your prowess and value in solving those issues is the key factor in determining success or failure.
- Personalization is vastly different than customization — Personalization is dynamic and needs-based. It adapts individually to target account actions and inactions. It identifies and acts upon topics of interest and perhaps even selects and triggers messages across channels. Customization assumes that a sales or marketing person has ESP … that they can define and hardwire a content element to an audience. While we all must do this upfront, when the account knows nothing about an offering, personalization is the only way to identify and act upon the needs of your audience. It is the only way to provide value to them, on their terms, as well as provide markedly great value to your ABM program.
- Targeting is the lifeblood of your ABM program — The ability to recognize target account buyers and to purposefully deliver the right content across channels is the single greatest driver of needs-based personalization and revenue impact. It’s the centerpiece of real orchestration, tying together target account insights, content selection and execution at the “moment of truth — the split second where you have the ability to prove to a buyer that you’re valuable to their decision process or not.
When I first formed the ABM Consortium, our main purpose was to make sense of this newfangled thing called account-based marketing. Our approach was to focus on marketers, so we created a Capabilities Framework designed to help break them apart from the common misconception that they simply needed to select some accounts and deliver some messages.
Over the coming months, we’ll explore these disruptive points, slay a few sacred misconceptions and have some fun. Come along, share your thoughts and experiences!