Selecting accounts and delivering ads, sorry to say but that’s not Account-Based Marketing.
This isn't a trivial exercise in semantics or a small slice of the market. The ABM Consortium research from last December points to this being about 70% of all self-described ABM programs.
This blog entry is a deeper dive into a Salesforce blog article I wrote with 3 CEOs in this space – “Are you a List-Based Marketer or Account-Based Marketer?” After analyzing several hundred ABM programs we came to a common conclusion... if you're not planning and developing your program at the account level, you're most likely doing List-Based Marketing.
Why is that? Tying together a few interesting pieces, first, a blog entry I wrote on ZenIQ – “ABM Maturity Model”. Here, I dug down into the stages of B2B marketing over the last couple of decades.
- The interesting point is that List-Based Marketing was once a common outbound marketing strategy. Here, B2B marketers supported sales focused accounts with tactics like telemarketing, direct mail, content syndication or email. Constraining exposure based upon a list of accounts, this proved to provide an efficiency measure compared to more broad or contextually constrained outbound activities.
- Familiar to most of us, we next saw a Leads-Based Marketing generation, brought about by the onset of Marketing Automation. Here, the context of account targets was loosened and the strategy became the use of technology to sort the “wheat from chaff”, finding those who appear to self-identify a deep interest.
- As ABM came into sight, the promise was to shift the marketing outcomes from lead volume to quality of engagement and revenue velocity for target accounts. This also sought to reset the relationship with sales organizations who had not always found the quality of company or contact coming from Marketing Automation to be a good fit with their experience at closing deals.
Shifting the emphasis from a broad context of self-identified lead interest to target account pursuit, marketers eagerly grabbed target account lists and started advertising. Missing for many, presumably the 70% or so mentioned above, was the context of understanding that a lot of marketing and sales activities already existing with these accounts and some of those activities are even account focused. Maybe the activities had nothing to do with any flavor of display advertising but nonetheless impacted the same list just uploaded for advertising.
What was missing? Context. Planning. Communication.
The marketing was missing. ABM is not display advertising. Well, it may include display advertising but first and foremost ABM is the coordinated pursuit of select target accounts with the objective of quality engagement designed to create revenue velocity through their decision process. Notice that I didn’t mention “list” once.
Now the point of this blog entry, if you’re not planning at the account level a strategy to pull each account through stages of engagement you’re not doing ABM. What does this involve? A crystal clear understanding of the issue / solution for each account, understanding of their stage of engagement and a sales-agreed view as to what is needed to progress the account from one stage to the next.
Finally, why is this important? Without the plan to move accounts through stages of engagement, coordinating the myriad of existing account-centric sales and marketing activities, you will never recognize the promised efficacy - revenue velocity through the purchase process. Leads? Maybe, but that's a List-Based approach.
Ending where I started...