By Mike Boogaard, MD & Client Success
Last Thursday saw ALIAS co-sponsor B2B Marketing’s first Account-Based Everything conference.
Great topic. Great event. By all accounts one of B2B Marketing’s most successful events to date – not surprising given the popularity of account-based marketing at the moment (best bits here).
Here are the 3 things that stood out the most for me on the day about the state of ABM in the UK:
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step
In one of the sessions, the attendees were presented with 6 tables, each dedicated to a different stage of ABM maturity. For example, table 1 represented ABM Aware, table 5 was dedicated to Advanced ABM and table 6 stood for Beyond ABM. Attendees were asked to sit at the table they believed best reflected their organisation’s maturity level. As the moderator of the Advanced ABM table, I was surprised to see that only 2 of my 8 chairs were filled, table 6 was empty and people were fighting for space on tables 1 to 3.
The fact most organisations are just starting out on their ABM journey is very exciting. More exciting still was that all the participants on tables 1 to 3 were committed to taking the first steps. The reality is ABM can really deliver because of its core principles; marketing and sales working together, focused investment of time and money on carefully selected accounts, tailored content and targeted distribution that appeals to and reaches a specific audience. Exciting times for these organisations.
Honest disagreement is a sign of progress
There is still a significant level of disagreement on what constitutes and doesn’t constitute Account-Based Marketing. This was more than apparent from the different sessions I attended.
At a strategic level, some argued that ABM is an alternative to traditional B2B marketing, whilst others argued that it is an additional form of marketing that complements the existing practice. On an efficacy level, some argued it works best (given the time investment required) for retention and upsell marketing, whilst others believed ABM works just as efficiently for acquisition. On a focus level, some concluded that true ABM involves engaging only a small number of accounts (1-10) whilst others argued that it could be applied to 1000s of accounts.
I believe this confusion exists because Account-Based Marketing can be both an ‘approach’ and a ‘strategy’. As an approach, the principles of ABM can be applied to all forms of marketing (content, event, PR, social, etc.). As a strategy, ABM should be focused on accounts that have a high propensity to convert, whether existing (upsell or renew) or net new accounts (acquisition) or indeed whether the target is one or one hundred accounts.
Become what people are interested in
Once organisations on their ABM journey have collaborated with sales and marketing, identified their target accounts and conducted the necessary research into those accounts, it’s time to start the conversation.
But…these conversations should look significantly different from the B2B marketing engagements of the past.
In ABM, organisations are no longer talking to broad audiences but instead focusing on micro-audiences. The content can no longer be high concept and instead needs to shift to on-the-ground perspectives. The objective is no longer to provide information but to guide the conversation. It is no longer about brand first, but vision first (see tabe below).
Yet, apart from ALIAS’ very own Julie Wisdom (in her session on The Art of Persuasion), no one touched on the significance of the actual substance of the ABM strategy: the content.
Surely, even if you have every other duck in a row, if your final delivery isn’t right it will all be for nowt. In short, an organisations content will need to change and “stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.” ~ Craig Davis, former Chief Creative Officer at J. Walter Thompson.
– For more information on how to achieve content purpose-built for ABM, take a look at this practical guide to creative purpose-built for ABM –
I am sure there was much more to learn that day, but let’s not boil the ocean.
Of course, there is still a lot to learn about ABM. But then we are never too old…
Well done B2B Marketing.