Matt Senatore is service director for Account-Based Marketing at global B2B research and advisory firm SiriusDecisions. I spoke with him at the SiriusDecisions 2017 Summit last month.
1. ABM is a mind-set, not a tactic
“The principles of ABM have been around for a very long time: I’d say forever.” The challenge lies in applying those principles to hundreds — even thousands — of accounts. Implementation at scale requires a shift in mind-set. “It’s not a tactic,” says Senatore. “It’s not a campaign, a technology. It’s a different approach.”
Traditional B2B marketing relief on one-size-fits-all messages. Brands in those days? “We were taking selfies,” says Senatore, “and pushing them out. It was all internally framed. The account-based approach flips that script.” Brands need to know what needs their key accounts have: “You can’t push [a message] out if it’s not right for them.”
At the same time: “Accounts aren’t buying what I’m selling. People are. I need to talk to them in a personalized way if I’m going to be effective.”
2. ABM isn’t for everyone
Senatore emphasizes that ABM is not a panacea for all B2B marketing and sales. “ABM is not the right or only approach for all companies,” he says. “We see it as complementary. Brands still need to be filling the top of the funnel. ABM complements the rest of your demand gen.”
What’s more, even in B2B, there are highly transactional businesses — including B2B eCommerce — where ABM might not make sense. For a brand selling a fairly simple, predictable product, in large quantities, to a large, established market, ABM might not be relevant.
3. Don’t think of it as heavy v. lite ABM
Senatore doesn’t like the “ABM heavy” v. “ABM lite” distinction. “We talk about the different ways you can operationalize or deploy it,” he says. Brands would be advised to start with their top strategic accounts, where Marketing can expect to play a critical role. Nurturing these accounts is resource intensive: This is the equivalent of “ABM heavy.”
Beyond the treatment of top accounts, Senatore prefers the expression “ABM at scale.” It’s possible to segment large numbers of accounts into clusters with common characteristics and issues, and to drive scale in a “mass customized way, driving at least some relevance.”
4. There will be heavy lifting
However a brand deploys ABM, some heavy lifting will be needed to identify key accounts and prioritize them. “This is not a ready, fire, aim philosophy,” says Senatore. “It can still be quick and agile, but there needs to be a bit of vigor upfront.”
Senatore reaches for an old adage: “Measure twice, cut once.”
5. Get ready for ABM 2.0
Guess what the key factor in the new ABM is? Of course: AI. “AI is absolutely critical to ABM 2.0,” says Senatore. “There are a lot of point solutions right now for ABM. They’re either going to expand into suites, or partner with other [vendors].”
ABM 2.0 needs to harness the full power of AI and predictive analytics to realize the objective of meeting the distinctive needs of purchasers, at the right moment, and at scale. ABM solutions providers will need the “appropriate processes and skills that will support these technologies.”
6. It’s not just marketing
“Words of wisdom: It’s not marketing only. It’s organizational. Someone needs to own it, but it’s all-inclusive.” To speak of account based “marketing” is a misnomer. The ABM approach needs to inform a business end-to-end, obviously including sales.
Senatore’s message to B2B businesses yet to develop an ABM strategy? “Start small, but start. Don’t fall too far behind.”