What The Top 4% of Account-Based Marketers Have in Common

I just received the latest issue of ABM in Action (October 2016), a monthly eMagazine dedicated to Account-Based Marketing from the publishers of Demand Gen Report, and I had to comment on the lead article. Author Olivia LaBarre wrote on how Forrester Research Shows Gap Between ABM Implementation and Success in her analysis of a recent report from Forrester analyst Laura Ramos, Retro Yet Revolutionary: Demystifying Account-Based Marketing.

According to the report, “four out of five B2B marketers who implemented an ABM strategy said that they are still not seeing its effectiveness,” to which LaBarre comments that “… growing interest in ABM isn’t necessarily translating to successful implementation.” Ramos and Forrester speculated on a few reasons for the disconnect, positing that ABM is “suffering from an identity crisis” and in many cases has “become no more than just another label for selling products.” Specifically, “… ABM lacks specificity and is applied inconsistently to many different approaches.”

The bottom line, according to the study, is that “43% of the marketers surveyed saw ABM as a sales enablement approach, noting that it’s most effective for converting leads to deals. Only 4% said ABM is an effective way to create brand awareness or interest.”

I can’t say that I am all that surprised by these findings. As Carlos Hidalgo wrote in these pages a few months back, “…it seems that each and every year there is a new trend (not that ABM is all that new) or ‘shiny object’ that overtakes B2B marketing … It is no wonder that many marketing departments still struggle with demonstrating their value year after year. It is near impossible to demonstrate value when the approach to marketing changes continually…”

So what do those top 4% of Account-Based Marketers have in common? Look at the case studies in this same issue. Content/business process management software provider Alfresco leverages account-based marketing to focus outbound marketing dollars on a core group of named and target accounts, but still plan for handling and nurturing leads coming in from other accounts as well. Cash-to-quote solution provider Apttus has reaped benefits from account-based targeting of Salesforce.com customers but still maintains a “…really balanced marketing mix … investing in growing the Apttus brand,” and “…still doing broader demand generation.”

Subscription billing and recurring payment provider Vindicia is building personas and planning for buying committees, stating that “…it’s not enough to blast the same messaging to every stakeholder … It’s important to be relevant and contextual to individual needs.” Commercial printing and mailing company PFL is leveraging strong multi-channel and multi-format programs to engage buyers with strategically created content in the mediums that resonate with them.

The moral of the story? Don’t short-circuit the fundamentals of demand generation strategy when you embrace ABM. Sometimes I wonder if there are marketers that are jumping on the ABM bandwagon in order to somehow justify a return to the ad-hoc tactics and one-off campaigns we all ran in the ‘good old days’ before we were actually expected to tie our marketing efforts to revenue. The C-Suite needs to be very careful when their marketing teams approach them with plans to ‘switch’ to an account-based marketing approach, as the companies that seem to be having the most success with ABM are the ones that have incorporated it into a well-defined demand generation strategy.

Targeted direct mail campaigns and ‘invite-only’ live events are not a strategy by themselves. There may be some quick wins — but for sustainable, perpetual demand generation there is no substitute for a buyer-focused approach centered on people, process, content, technology and data. When you have that foundation in place first, and then incorporate ABM into your strategy, you can be one of the 4%.

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