As I wandered the aisles of MarTech 2016, I was besieged by vendors selling Account-Based Marketing (henceforward to be referred to as “ABM”) solutions. My favorite was Leadspace, which had a cool ABM Workbook. The invite to their booth included the promise, “We won’t even pitch you.” I thought it said “pinch” which I thought was cheeky, but I guess their way makes more sense.
I’m an Inbound girl at heart, and my impression of ABM seemed very stalker-like. You peer deeply into the people who work at a target company and you stalk them until they agree to a meeting or block your phone number and mark you as spam.
OK. I needed to get over my preconception since ABM is a popular, effective strategy! So I sought out expert Christine Keefer, whose Slack profile proudly reads, “ABM is all the rage now but I have been doing this for the last 15 years.” Again, cheeky, right? Here’s what I learned:
Suzy: So what is account-based marketing?
Keefer: ABM is an intelligent use of your company database of potential customer leads, add in appropriate tools to help you find other high-value potential customer leads, and systematically set up programs to reach out to try and make a connection while partnering closely with sales.
Suzy: Who should use it?
Keefer: ABM is the best way to find success in selling large scale solutions to enterprise customers because there could be as many as 10 influencers involved in the decision-making process.
Suzy: What are the steps one would take to engage in an ABM campaign or program?
Keefer: First, find the kindred spirits on your sales team.
I was a Field Marketing Manager for Adobe for many years, and as we acquired a new product line, I worked with my best sales partners to do a thoughtful review of our potential leads within our very large customer base. The first thing we did was evaluate which companies were not good fits, which were good prospects for the short term, and which were good prospects but longer term.
Second, once you’ve got your initial target list, segment it.
This is where many ABM projects start, but time is wasted on inappropriate targets. You look at the data you already have and segment on many attributes — common ones are the company’s industry, their propensity towards your kind of solution, and the roles of individuals you would be dealing with.
Third, think about your most compelling “starter.”
(Suzy note: yay, we’re going to talk content marketing now!)
Once you’ve identified meaningful segments that have needs you can address, think about what you can offer them to start the conversation. If they are customer contacts you already have, you can email or call them to offer them something that might be of value (a new whitepaper, a webinar, etc.).
One of the best starter conversations my team ever did was to send our top prospects the best-selling book, Good to Great by Jim Collins, along with an invite from a salesperson to a roundtable to meet with sales and a chance to meet the author. Even executives that did not attend felt compelled to reach out to their salespeople to thank them. This jumpstarted relationships with executives at key accounts our salespeople had not previously been able to get into. Notice there was nothing to do with selling product.
Suzy: What are some tools or vendors you’ve found to be very useful?
Keefer: Discover.org can be very helpful in identifying key individuals that you might want to include in marketing activities. Bombora and PureB2B have tools and systems I’ve found useful. I have also recently come across Kapost and PFL and think they would be a great fit for seamlessly enabling your sales team to deliver the right content to a potential customer at the right time.
Suzy: I’ve had a great experience with TechTarget, who combines event/content marketing with a brilliant ABM dashboard follow up.
Keefer: I have heard good things about them as well.
Our coffee finished, our thoughts exchanged, we went our way. I have decided that ABM is the Yang to Inbound’s Yin, and an appropriate and effective way to connect your company’s unique value to its best possible customers.