When Account Based Marketing (ABM) first hit the B2B marketing sector, it was seen very much as the next big thing. Unlike many other trends, this one did seem to be here to stay.
Unbelievably, the terminology first came to life back in 2004 and it was more a case of putting a name to a practice that was already being carried out by some businesses. In 2016, it became big and a survey conducted in 2017 showed that ‘the ABM adoption rate amongst B2B companies has grown from 49% in 2016 to a massive 81% in 2017.’
So why the massive jump? This was because marketers could see that ABM could achieve great things. 85% of those who measured ROI immediately saw that this method delivered higher returns than any other, but only if it was carried out correctly.
But where are we now in 2019? Is ABM working as well as it should, and what is next for ABM?
How is ABM being used in B2B Tech?
Because of its popularity, many B2B tech companies are still attempting to use ABM as a marketing strategy. However, this does not mean that everyone is getting it right and the method can still put off many people when it comes to executing it correctly. Take content for example; it is much easier to create generic blanket material that has a general appeal. At the same time, it is also easier to promote this broadly across several channels, including social media. This is more akin to fishing in a big pool and waiting to see what you catch, rather than putting a hook out for individual fish, with a ‘worm’ that they are sure to like.
Theoretically, it should not be that difficult. If we look at how ABM should be executed correctly, it is just a matter of following five steps. With a high ROI as the goal, even if it does take more time and effort to execute, it should not be that big an issue.
These are the five steps for standard ABM:
- Identify target
- Analyse accounts and pick out the key players
- Create content that is absolutely tailored to match
- Promote via select channels
- Launch campaign, check out the results and optimise
The problem is that ABM has not evolved in the right direction for the majority of B2B tech companies. Most of it is being considered in the same old way, discussions have not moved on and fresh opinions are lacking. Learning with regard to ABM needs to be far more detailed, solutions to problems should be put forward and users educated as to how they can identify different problems or success points.
Why is it failing?
Instead of doing it the right way, within the B2B tech sector, ABM is being used as a lead generation and simple communication tool. Generic content is being delivered under a banner of personalization by both vendors [lazy marketing] and marketing agencies [revenue grabbing].
But there is change in the air; users are gradually shifting their view of ABM and budgets and attempting to create some sort of balance that is a mix between one-to-many [too generic] and one-to-one [too costly/resource rich]. The result? Most are left struggling to deliver one-to-few well.
How can it become scalable?
For some time, the B2B tech industry has known that they should be obtaining a much higher ROI from ABM but the reality is that most have been unable to implement ABM activity in a way that delivers sufficient value. Let’s look at why it is not working:
- One-to-many ABM is too high cost and resource investment heavy and, in reality, delivers generic marketing.
- One-to-one ABM is high cost and people always try to expand or push the scale to be one-to-many.
So perhaps one-to-few is the answer, but how is this achieved?
The main issue here is that for ABM to become scalable, marketing and sales leads need to realise that they do not necessarily need to have a vast amount of the key ABM elements in place in order for it to work well. This can automatically create a barrier due to the perceived time taken to develop, produce and run the project.
These common misnomers currently exist within the industry when it comes to scalable ABM:
- Vast amounts of data and insight are required to understand the account and talk to the decision maker.
- Many assets need to be developed to support engagement with the account and any opportunities identified by the key account leaders.
- It will be an overwhelming task to develop and deliver a level of ongoing content-heavy or campaign-designed communication assets to engage accounts.
It is time to deliver “Agile ABM”
The answer to making ABM far more scalable is simply to be more “agile”, and Agile ABM has three simple principles, different from those of standard ABM:
- It is 100% sales focused and owned. From day one, the sales department identifies the requirement and development of the approach as well as how to position and align it with the sales cycle. Then it is taken over by marketing.
- Content is kept simple – there is no need to create lots of it. Instead, the focus should be on critical positioning and key messages, creating a conversation to engage the account and testing them directly and quickly. You can then move on to build intelligence, thus justifying more communications, content, assets.
- Focus is on the key decision maker, their line of business and talks about their challenges and the themes that interest them most [not what you want to sell directly]. Look at what is possible and how technology enables this and then about how the technology supports the business.
Do it this way and ABM can start quickly, position with an account and have engagement and results within just three months.
Contact us to find out more about our Account Based Strategy services.