Mythbusting ABM: Five ways to tell the real deal from the pretenders

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Marketers are no strangers to trends promising to be the next big thing in the industry. Inbound, content, video, social media and so many others have become buzz words for marketing in the last decade; some of them have even worked.

These days, it’s ABM, account-based marketing. No doubt not a day goes by when you don’t get an unsolicited email from an ABM software provider trying to convince you they can help you in one way or another. As with any new trend, there are those doing it right and those trying to piggyback on the idea without understanding it.

For marketers, as with any one else, when something is new, it can be hard to see through the smoke and mirrors and tell the difference between the real thing and an opportunist. Fortunately, there are some warning signs. Here are the top five signs I’d look out for:

Warning Sign No. 1: They measure success by how many leads you get
So much is wrong with this picture. First of all, ABM is not about getting leads, it’s about creating an interest and demand in a targeted account and closing more business from it. Ultimately ABM is about generating revenue. The specific goals can vary from account to account – is it a new account or are you trying to grow the account, for instance? It’s important to start by figuring out what you want to accomplish with ABM instead of saying “We’re doing ABM, and let’s see what happens.” Specific goals should be business-related – increasing account size, pipeline velocity or closure rates, for example. Lead generation is not one of them.

Warning Sign No. 2: They say you need ABM to build buzz and brand awareness
There are plenty of great marketing strategies for building awareness of an organization and get people talking about you. Account-based marketing is not one of them. Brand awareness is important for getting potential customers interested enough to do some of their own research about you. I’m not a big proponent of the sales funnel idea because everyone knows the buying process hardly follows a straight line, but building awareness is very much a top-of-funnel activity.

Warning Sign No. 3: They want to start with your top 2,000 accounts
ABM can be done at scale, but it is not designed for this kind of shotgun approach. Even the biggest companies in the world don’t have 2,000 key accounts that would be ripe for ABM. Targeting a large group like that would fall into a sector-based marketing category. ABM is more about targeting a smaller group of key accounts. The actual number can vary greatly, but it’s much more likely to be five, 10 or maybe 50.

Warning Sign No. 4: They want to start with your top 20 accounts and use generic materials
At least this ABM vendor understands the idea of prioritizing. Unfortunately, the suggestion that you repurpose existing materials designed for a broad audience is wrong. The more relevant the material the more effective it is. The premise of ABM is to think of each prospective account as its own market, and you wouldn’t use the same materials to target different markets, would you? Generic marketing material is often a reason the sales team doesn’t want marketing to touch their most important accounts. With ABM, you should personalize materials to audience within the account be it one or many, or at least their industry or role. It’s not that you need to create everything from scratch for every prospect – in fact, ABM solutions can help you scale personalization – but you need to make the customer feel special. That is a basic rule of sales, and ABM is a matter of tightly aligning sales and marketing efforts.

Warning Sign No. 5: They only talk about marketing KPIs and ignore sales
As I said, ABM requires a close alignment of sales and marketing departments to be done effectively. If an ABM vendor is only talking about how the marketing department will benefit, it’s a sign they don’t understand what they’re selling. ABM is a natural fit for B2B organizations with especially long and complicated sales processes. Marketing’s job is to get your company on the customer’s radar and nurture them toward a purchase. ABM connects marketing and sales efforts to get the deal closed.

Despite all the talk about ABM, there remains a lot of confusion about what it is and how it works. At its core, ABM gives its practitioners an advantage by aligning sales and marketing to pursue revenue. As with any new concept, it takes some time to educate people about the concept. Sometimes that means teaching other vendors too.

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