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3 Keys to ABM Success

In the first of two reports from ITSMA, Joe Stanganelli reports some basic tips for making ABM work right.

Account Based Marketing is all the rage right now for the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (“ITSMA”).  The organization has an ABM practice, an ABM Council for its members, and heaps of collateral materials, studies, reports, special events related to ABM. 

And for good reason.  ABM, done well, is successful.  ITSMA’s 2016 Account-Based Marketing Survey indicates that the ROI from ABM is higher than other marketing initiatives 84 percent of the time (with only 4 percent of respondents reporting worse results with ABM).  Nearly a third of those respondents who reported improved ROI with ABM indicated that their ABM initiatives led to “significantly” higher ROI, compared with all of their other marketing approaches. (ITSMA first codified the ABM concept some years ago.)

ABM was also perhaps the hottest topic at ITSMA’s annual Marketing Vision conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, this month. Here are the top takeaways that are necessary to making ABM initiatives in your organization successful.

1. Get Your CMO and Your Top Sales Exec to Publicly Shake Hands on ABM

At its core, ABM is a joint effort between sales and marketing.  

“Remember: ABM will fail without a tight partnership between marketing and sales,” said Jeff Sands, Vice President and ABM Practice Co-Lead at ITSMA.  “Right at the beginning of any attempt to implement ABM, we need to get your senior-most marketing and your senior-most sales executive up there together saying ‘We support this.’ …  Once they do that, that filters down and clears the path for the account team.  It gives the account team permission to start thinking strategically because it’s coming from the top.”

2. Make Your ABM Efforts about the Customer—Not You

“ABM will  never succeed if the mentality in the company is inside out.  I can’t tell you how many times we look at websites, we look at collateral material, … and the opening salvo is ‘We are,’ ‘We do,’ ‘We can,'” said Sands.  “That’s not what customers want to hear.”

This is arguably true of all successful marketing efforts, but ABM by definition takes the notion of “customer-centric” to the extreme—and, according to Sands, that applies to more than just the messaging.

“We need to combine that with insight.  What do we know about that industry?  What do we know about that client?  What have we done with similar kinds of customers?” said Sands.  “Everything is gonna be centered around the client – not about you.  You come into the picture later on.”

3. Trickle it Down: Start at the Top, Then Go “Lite”

Niche as it is, ABM is naturally well adapted for improving customer relations and experience for any and all of your top accounts.  Moreover, the success it will enjoy there will allow it to easily trickle down to other accounts.

Mani Dasgupta, CMO of Capgemini‘s North American division, related how her organization did just this: “What’s happened over time is that people started getting interested, and they wanted to leverage all the good things that were happening in those [top] accounts, [but] with … limited resources,” said Dasgupta.  “So what we came up with was an ABM Lite approach for some of them.  …  We found it extremely impactful in terms of numbers; that’s the single highest impact on marketing … on the pipeline so far, so it’s very effective.”

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