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Account Based Marketing – the next big thing?

Over the last couple of years Account Based Marketing (ABM) has become an increasingly important activity amongst B2B marketing and sales professionals with over 70 per cent of marketers ramping up ABM programs. It’s not surprising when 85 per cent of marketers who measure ROI describe ABM as delivering higher returns than any other marketing approach. Bearing this in mind can you afford to not look at ABM as a key function for your organisation?

In it’s simplest form, ABM is the identification of a select few customers/accounts/ key decision makers that a company wishes to convert into clients. This may sound simple but, in practice, it presents myriad challenges.

For instance, a starting point for many companies is to look at their own client base and identify similar companies based on simple demographics such as business size, turnover, products/services provided etc. However, having worked with a variety of clients who wish to profile their existing client base, it always strikes me how these simple demographics are often mis-understood or skewed. I very rarely find clients that have an accurate picture of their current client base, so, how can they expect to then identify potential prospects using inaccurate basic demographic criteria?

Once you have a better, accurate understanding of your current client base it becomes easier to identify similar companies based on identified demographics. However, even then it is not enough. There are additional criteria that need to be considered such as: what is the management and c-level executive weighting within a company, what core designation competencies does a company have i.e. are they predominantly sales/marketing focused from a staff perspective, or are they focused on IT or HR & Training competencies?

A company might unearth that the key identifier for prospective clients is the lack of a C-Level IT executive. It’s even necessary to consider the geographic footprint of a company, such as if it is a single site organisation or if they have multiple sites, how many is enough to qualify them as a prospective company. By looking at deeper demographics within prospective companies it unearths needs that can often get ignored by focussing rather on what a company does, as opposed to deeper demographics that often are more important from an ABM perspective.

Once the initial understanding of the current client base has been identified, and relevant demographic criteria have been identified, the next step is to apply these criteria to prospects. Having access to a comprehensive database of businesses with the relevant demographic criteria is a challenge but there are companies that offer this (such as AfriSeek) and by utilising these sources you can often save significant time and money, as well as access a much wider pool of prospects than if you attempt to research these companies yourself.

Indeed, identifying the prospective companies is only half the challenge. You also need to identify the relevant decision makers within your prospective companies, and in the vast majority of cases, there will be multiple stakeholders and decision makers that will need to be identified. You then have the final hurdle of rolling out your ABM programme. This may be through targeted ads on social media, or contacting these people, introducing your offering, identifying if there is a need, and if so, meeting to present a proposal and then closing a sale.

I had one client who utilised quite a unique out-the-box approach to get in front of their identified decision makers for a key account that was identified. They looked at a handful of potential key decision makers in an organisation, researched their social media profiles and ended up joining the same golf club, and eventually became a playing partner to their key account decision maker, and ended up closing their biggest single transaction while also making a golfing friend!

ABM, if done right and if taking into account the deeper insights discussed above, can reap significantly higher ROI and save both time and money for an organisation, when compared to traditional spray and pray sales and marketing initiatives that are often poorly targeted, waste money and utilise ineffective channels to generate interest. Who knows, you may even end up being able to hit the fairways to close new deals but the question is whether you’ll let your prospect win to close the sale?

Article by Toby Hone

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