Dodgeball has its five Ds – dodge, dip, duck, dive, and, uh, dodge. Since such mnemonics can be so helpful, and since there are so many varied discussions and interpretations around the topic, I thought it might be useful to break account-based marketing (ABM) down into a similar set of fundamentals. Although, admittedly, this breakdown will be little less “dodgy.”
In Aberdeen’s report, Account-Based Marketing Fact and Fiction: What Actually Works?, I derived the five fundamental elements of ABM, denoting each with a “D.” Now, doing my due diligence, I’ve decided to drill down an added level.
Below, you will find the “Five Ds of ABM,” along with common practices associated with each. Consider them a rallying point and a conversation starter for ABM practitioners interested in what’s presently being done, and what should be done moving forward.
1. Define Accounts
You define accounts by creating profiles of ideal customers based on organizations that have purchased before or are most likely to purchase in the future.
In the simplest form of ABM, defining accounts boils down to, “Name an account, and we’ll market to them.” This named account practice, however, misses a vital step of effective ABM – the account selection strategy. ABM isn’t about randomly naming accounts; it’s about identifying and pursuing the most relevant, viable, and valuable accounts. By defining ideal customer profiles, marketers can answer the question, “What accounts should we pursue, and which accounts should we actually avoid?”
Just because an account might be willing to buy from you at some point doesn’t mean they’re worth going after. Effective ABM practitioners draw the line with their account definitions.
2. Derive Focused Insights
You derive focused insights by understanding the relevant needs and problems that your defined accounts seek to address.
In other words, this means mapping products, offerings, and value propositions to specific accounts not necessarily based on past purchasing behavior, but instead, on emerging needs and expectations. ABM aims to build a personalized, compelling, and relevant experience for buyers. You can’t simply assume you know your buyers, or that past purchases are indicative of future opportunities.
Continuous, account by account, data aggregation and analysis is critical for keeping ABM efforts on point.
3. Divide, Contextualize, and Conquer
I know there are two Cs here, but the operative “D” is “divide.” You divide (contextualize and conquer) by segmenting similar accounts and then devising similar, yet personalized, marketing campaigns or marketing/sales workflows for each segment.
The big benefit of an ABM approach lies in rallying resources around the most valuable or profitable accounts. However, grouping all named accounts together means you’re doing the same-old, broad-based marketing but just to a narrower pool.
For this reason, it’s vital to segment your named accounts so that marketing campaigns and initiatives work as specialized, diagnostic communications. Messages such as, “For professionals in your position, it’s common for [X] to be a substantial issue. Research has shown that [Y] is particularly helpful in addressing this need,” can be customized for each segment, specifically addressing needs and interests particular to those accounts.
Marketers who make the most of ABM double down on such relevant delineations.
4. Drive Account Growth
Generally, this means establishing or solidifying a business relationship with one department or division of an account, and then expanding that relationship to other sectors of the account.
Often called, “land and expand,” the execution of this approach generally falls to sales, and thus might be overlooked in many ABM implementations. As Aberdeen research on ABM has shown, however, marketing and sales must be in complete alignment with each other in order for ABM to be successful. This means that marketing is not only responsible for getting sales in the door at accounts, but is also responsible for ensuring that sales enters in a way that leads to more doors opening.
This also means sales can’t be out of step with any offerings, marketing messages, or campaign themes, as inconsistency can stop expansive momentum in its tracks.
In other words, in an effective ABM strategy, accounts aren’t just won; they’re grown through the coordinated efforts of marketing and sales.
5. Distill Repeatable or Refreshable Action Items
Success comes when you measure and report on the effectiveness of your efforts within specific accounts in order to optimize results.
ABM is often associated with the use of analytics, reporting, or data-driven review, but I’m talking about putting these insights into practice. Effective ABM strategies depend on testing repeatable tactics, so you aren’t always reinventing the wheel (or continually doing something that doesn’t work).
Metrics around time-to-close or velocity of the buyer’s journey can give an indication of how smooth or bumpy the buying process is at given accounts. KPIs around content consumption, marketing and sales touches, and win/loss rates indicate if specific ABM initiatives are working. Finally, metrics such as wallet-share, annual spend, or customer renewal rate demonstrate the return on your ABM investment.
As I said, in the end, it’s not about measuring. It’s about learning something from your measurements and doing something about it if they show you are missing the mark. When that happens, taking predefined actions – changing your content; reducing/increasing campaign touches; expanding marketing/advertising channels; etc. – can quickly turn the tide.
For more insights on ABM, read Aberdeen’s full, free report: Account-Based Marketing Fact and Fiction: What Actually Works?