The essential strategies you need to successfully win major B2B customers
Although the phrase has been around for over a decade and arguably being deployed by smart marketers ever since B2B sales teams have focused on target/key accounts, in recent years account-based marketing (ABM) has become hotter than ever.
As far back as 1993, Peppers and Rogers proposed marketing would take an increased role in developing intelligence on key accounts: “When two marketers are competing for the same customer’s business, all other things being equal, the marketer with the greatest scope of information about that particular customer… will be the more efficient competitor.”
In short, ABM is a strategic approach that coordinates personalised sales and marketing efforts, to target specific accounts for new business and create deeper and broader relationships with existing customers.
It’s clear to see from Google Trends, the term account-based marketing, was being searched since the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) first coined the phrase, just over 10 years ago.
Since then, it’s more than trebled in popularity or become ten times more popular in the past two years, than its average popularity over time. This is due to several key drivers, which we discuss later.
Bev Burgess, European MD of ITSMA, is famed for coining the phrase account-based marketing and co-creating the approach with organisations like Fujitsu, BT, HP, and Accenture.
Organisations seeing the greatest current benefit from ABM are typically IT, Services and Consulting companies. Due to their complex propositions, long sales cycles and large clients, these organizations are ideal candidates for ABM. It is spreading into other sectors and a benefit can be seen to be an increased return on time (ROT).
If we also take a look at its popularity in the news, compared to other popular marketing topics, we see ABM is 40% more popular than CRM and almost twice as popular as marketing automation.
Why the recent popularity? The business world has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, especially sales and marketing tactics, strategies and technologies.
The Evolution of ABM
Historically, ABM was arguably a strategy only used by the largest of marketing teams. After all, who else would have the resources to focus large marketing efforts on a few accounts. However, due to advances in technologies and services, ABM can now scale. Enabled by the latest advances in mass-personalisation, retargeting and programmatic account-based advertising, to name a few, it’s now possible to treat an individual company as a market of one — targeted with personalised messages to suit their individual needs.
ABM, in its newest form, finds the right balance between inbound and outbound marketing, online and offline — to create an integrated campaign approach. All focused on the buying committee in the complex B2B buyer and the customer journey.
The benefits of ABM
There are many benefits claimed with the use of ABM. Some examples are:
- Better use of marketing resources by focusing on a smaller number of accounts
- More personalized, efficient marketing strategy; creating stronger engagement with prospects
- Optimising upsell and cross-sell with customers
- The ability to close bigger deals within targeted accounts
- Creating a more targeted approach to nurturing
- The ability to increase pipeline velocity, or to close deals faster
- Utilising data for intelligence and smarter targeting
- Aligning your marketing, sales and services teams to focus on the most lucrative clients and prospects
In partnership with SmartInsights, OGaraCo has created ‘The definitive guide to account-based marketing and sales alignment’. In this briefing, we look beyond the hype to uncover a universal definition as well as who should be using it, when and how — from development to deployment — including case studies and best practice for planning and execution. We take a balanced and unbiased approach to examining all the evidence and set a clear framework for you to implement ABM, if it’s relevant to your business. Expert members can download our guide to account based marketing today.
 Peppers and Rogers; The One-to-One Future (1993); Page 140
 OGaraCo definition of ABM, 2016, www.ogaraco.com
(This article first appeared on smartinsights.com on 17 January 2017)
Marketing automation vendors are not one-size-fits-all. It is important that you choose the right vendor for your specific business requirements as B2B companies have more complex and longer buyer journeys and more people involved in the buying process. Your marketing automation platform selection should focus on finding the best fit with your business plans, resources and company culture. There are several ways to navigate the selection process, including a formal RFP (request for proposal) for shortlisting vendors to running in-depth demonstrations. Here are six steps that will help you in this process.
1. Define your business goals: In order to know what a marketing automation vendor should be able to deliver in terms of features and service, it is important to clearly define the business challenges or opportunities that you are facing. Describe the gap between the current situation and the desired state. This will be a great starting point for a list of requirements that summarise your needs, but also allows you to get internal feedback and build support from within your company.
2. Avoid shiny object syndrome: Looking at all the features of potential marketing automation platforms, it can be easy to get distracted and go for the vendor with that one beautiful feature. To avoid shiny object syndrome, summarise your wants and needs to determine what they will be assessed on. Try to split it into categories:
• Essential (deal-breakers)
• Key features (things that the solution should do)
• Desirables (nice to have but could do without)
3. Restrict your choices: After learning about the possibilities and making your first list of requirements, try to restrict your choices of vendors quickly. There are 161 marketing automation & campaign/lead management vendors as part of the total 3,874 marketing technology solutions in Scott Brinker’s infamous Marketing Technology Landscape super-graphic. Each and every extra vendor you research will take extra time to analyse, consider, meet and makes the selection more challenging. You can’t easily assess all the features from hundreds of vendors. You have to move to a shortlist. Ideally, you would focus on 4 to 6 vendors in your RFP.
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4. Professionally manage your own team and the vendor: The vendors might be used to pitching in every type of situation, but a professional attitude can greatly improve the whole selection process. Include a realistic timeframe in your RFP, where you outline the steps in the process and how you expect the interactions to take place. Do your own homework and ask them to present the requirements that you are most interested in. Use the same requirements across all vendors so you can make a fair comparison.
5. Challenge vendors with a scenario: After you receive the RFPs back, and you’ve spoken to the vendors to get an introduction, it’s time to shortlist 2-3 vendors for an in-depth demonstration. You really want to get insight into the features and benefits of the product and how they match your requirements. Create a scenario, or test case, and ask them how they would handle it. You can even ask them to run an example campaign. This moves decision-making beyond a checklist and gives you a real tangible visualisation.
6. Services are as important as the product: The implementation, set-up and training are as important as the features and should be a key area of the selection process. Speak to similar companies that used the vendor’s product and services, with similar challenges, in the same industry as you. Ask the vendor to provide a high-level implementation plan and make sure you have the internal resources (people, time and budget) to smoothly move forward into implementation.
As B2B customers have longer and more complex buying processes with more people involved in the decision-making, it is essential that you have a clear strategy and plan in place. To choose the correct marketing automation platform you must first map out your business specific buyer journey, lead definitions, scoring and the service level agreements between marketing and sales.
(This article first appeared on SmartInsights.com, 24 August 2016)