Laying the correct foundations to optimise an Account Based Marketing (ABM) Strategy
To optimise any Account Based Marketing (ABM) strategy, you MUST already have good visibility / insight into the key buying patterns of your primary target market(s)
I have throughout the whole of my 30+ years in the UK IT Industry followed the logic behind what is now being labelled Account Based Marketing (ABM) and I do see growing advantages in ‘inverting the funnel’ (many example diagrams of which can be found easily if you search online).
I am of course, referring to ‘the funnel’ that we all use in lead generation, following the path or journey from 'funnel entry', converting qualified leads into prospects and then to new business clients.
'Marketing Automation' gives us the vehicle to streamline and automate many processes to then mobilise an ABM strategy and there are many articles from journalists and events attracting us to find out more about ABM and to engage with the various ABM solutions vendors, to suit different needs and budgets.
But I am concerned that they are all missing a key element to our ‘bread and butter’ of everyday Marketing in their communications promoting ABM.
I believe that ABM thought leaders and technology vendors alike are making the assumption that B2B organisations are already operating a continuous process of primary target segmentation (as part of past and present lead generation activities) before embarking upon new investment in ABM strategy and technology.
I believe it is worth me highlighting and stressing the importance of and the need for accurate target segmentation as the key foundation to optimising any ABM strategy.
Case in Point
A few years ago, a well-established, leading global software author commissioned me to promote and generate qualified sales leads for one of their supply chain tools into the UK Aerospace & Defence sector (for their dedicated A&D Sales team). At the time, there were 450 x companies of the ‘right size by £’s turnover’ in the A&D sector, that made up the primary target market.
I sourced the target list from my data supplier (who gets their data from UK Companies House), gave the target list to my client before starting the project for their validation (against ‘active’ data held in their own CRM system) and their subsequent return of the data (with clients and prospects removed) for me to then commence the campaign.
By the end of the campaign, leads had been generated and delivered to my client, but I had also highlighted 200 x organisations in this key/primary target list, that had their IT decision policies made ‘outside’ their UK Sales territory – meaning that a substantial percentage of the target list was a waste of time for their UK Sales & Marketing team to continue to pursue (but gave them the opportunity to pass the intelligence to overseas offices to run with).
If they had been a smaller solutions author, they may also have wanted to avoid future dealings with the client base of leading Tier 1 competitor in the same sector, which would have reduced the volume of more viable primary targets by another 60 organisations.
On the flip side – it was an opportunity for them to nearly double their focus on the ‘UK decision policy’ key accounts that really mattered to the UK Sales team, with the same resources at their disposal, saving them valuable time in the future, enabling them to further personalise all their content and increasing the probability that they would win more new UK business from a smaller, more refined target market.
If a leading software author with strong market share had not had this deeper level of visibility and segmentation in place before someone like myself gets involved, how many other organisations have similar challenges and probable lack of clarity? And how many are oblivious to the solid foundations that need to be made? These key buying patterns are exacerbated further by (for example): -
1. Solution or product lifespan that is 10+ years,
2. One may operate in a market cluttered with possibly hundreds of competitors and,
3. A solution or product is mature or far worse, in decline.
Beyond the above example, there are other buying trends (or behavioural patterns) that one should consider : -
1. Targeted companies that have no names policies, and
2. An increasing trend (thanks largely to GDPR), where prospective suppliers (currently led by the Retail and Professional Services sectors) are asked to write in either to the Purchasing Manager or the relevant key job title. This means that for some primary targets in most ABM strategies, Marketing Automation will NOT work at all in generating any ‘interest to buy’. And therefore, a 'bolt-on' direct mail strategy must be introduced for what could be a growing proportion of our primary target market(s).
The moral of this story is – you MUST know as much as you can about key buying patterns of your target markets and segment those market(s) BEFORE you embark on any ABM strategy, otherwise one may NEVER have a true and realistic 360◦ view of the market(s) that one professes to be a specialist in.
If this article has highlighted a potential challenge, resolve the challenge while you may be in design of (or thinking about embarking on) an ABM strategy. For those already ‘under way’, it is never too late to act now to make improvements.
Wouldn’t you like to know which parts of your target market(s) may be a waste of time and therefore warping performance, analysis and reporting of success-driven statistics?
Some of us could have an ABM strategy of a fixed number of targeted organisations already in place and may have put other targets to one side for the time being.
Just think, if we have more detailed awareness of key buying patterns of all our targets, how much more we can greatly improve the quality of the overall target data in a single ABM initiative.
My background is very much B2B related, so I can only draw conclusions and offer guidance on ABM and all other Sales & Marketing topics in the B2B world. I am sure that there is some overlap into the footprint of B2C - but wish to make the distinction between the two and where my knowledge is based.