You still haven’t piloted ABM? Do you need a business case?

Posted by Maeve McDonald on August 3, 2017

Last year saw the “tipping point” for Account Based Marketing – it was everywhere; you couldn’t move for someone telling you why it was the best thing.

And deservedly so. In an accelerated world of globalisation and volatility, disruption and discontinuity, traditional marketing is seeing diminishing returns. ABM isn’t the only answer or the magic bullet, but it does tick a lot of boxes and is a potent weapon to have in a business arsenal.

So, if you’ve not yet trialled it – what’s stopping you? Chances are, given that ABM should best be viewed as an investment and never as a “tactical quick fix”, you need to be able to build a business case that can be taken to the board. This blog aims to help you build that case.

Why undertake an ABM programme?

First of all – and very quickly – I’m going to nail something which is not a good reason to undertake ABM. ABM is definitively not “the new thing in marketing”, or a fad that may be gone in a year’s time. Rather, it has been slowly gaining momentum over the last quarter of a century. 1993 saw the publication of Peppers and Rogers’ influential book ‘The One to One Future’, a key text in the development of ABM thinking. It was in 2003 that ITSMA ‘named’ and defined ABM, and – as I said – it seems to me and others that 2016 finally saw the tipping point in its maturity and ubiquity.

A Practitioner’s Guide to Account-Based Marketing: Accelerating Growth in Strategic Accounts’ is a new book hot off the press, written by acclaimed marketer and ABM expert Bev Burgess. I mention it partly as it’s a good read, but mainly as I personally agree with what she defines as the core four reasons to undertake ABM:

  • Deeper account penetration
  • Changing perception of an account
  • Developing new accounts
  • Landing very large new accounts

A statistic from Sirius Decisions is very telling here: 84% believe ABM provides significant benefits for retaining and expanding current clients.

The last pillar in the list above – “landing very large new accounts” – is the most frequently cited reason for investing in ABM. While this is an important driver and an easy one to “sell” to people, it’s definitely not the only one. If landing some huge key accounts is the only consideration, marketers may still find their budget better spent elsewhere.

What are the benefits of ABM?

Delivering increased ROI versus traditional lead-generation activities – 97% of marketers said ABM yielded higher ROI than any other activity (Altera Group).

Accelerating sales pipeline in terms of both volume (number of meaningful engagements) and velocity (time to sale). Marketing Profs point to 208% more revenue generated with ABM.

Engender better Sales and Marketing alignment. Marketo research says 67% of companies are better at closing deals when sales and marketing are lined up. Since McDonald Butler Associates started twelve years our tagline and core mission statement has been “Uniting Sales & Marketing” so I’m amused and flattered that the rest of the marketing community is catching up.

ABM is not a ‘magic bullet’ and shouldn’t be used as the means to the end of aligning sales and marketing. Rather, the constituent parts of ABM (Account Research, Strategic Planning, Messaging, GTM plan, Execution and Measurement) are activities that – I have long argued – when run with a collaborative approach, result in better outcomes.

One tailored message to the customer: ABM ensures that all account team members across Lines of Business are in agreement and alignment on priorities and message, breaking down silos. You create, in effect, a value proposition for each account.

Trusted partners, not suppliers: ABM over time is very likely to help transition the customer perception of your company from a vendor to that of a trusted partner – in other words you’ll have a status that is earned, not assumed. You’ll get a ‘seat at the table’ earlier in the conversation – and be invited into the meetings where problems are discussed, rather than just being put on a RFP list.

Increase in customer satisfaction and experience: The tailored, personalised approach, fashioned around the in-depth analysis you have undertaken, means the client feels better understood.

Engagement and upsell. ABM is expected to result in the client having a broaderawareness of your offerings, strategy and solutions, and is more likely to position and sell you across their organisation.

Why now? Why not?

In her book, Bev Burgess nails something that’s absolutely critical to ABM and does so in such an elegant way that I’m happy to quote her rather than paraphrase:

Suppliers have to do their homework on the business to be able to create a bespoke value proposition that stands out as relevant and which will deliver the right business outcomes.”

Three golden nuggets in there, and worth re-inforcing:

  • Create a bespoke VP
  • Stand out as relevant
  • Deliver the right business outcomes

Tell that to your board.