ABM Landscape Review

It’s been several months since I wrote ABM: Assessing Your Readiness, in which I covered 5 key steps to assessing readiness for a successful implementation of an account-based strategy.  There is no doubt that, in 2016, we saw a massive increase in buzz around this topic, but since December, that buzz has reached an almost fever pitch.

Leaders and practitioners from almost every business department (marketing, sales, IT, even finance) are immersing themselves in discussions around implementing account-based strategies and the potential impact on their revenue.

Since December, I’ve been to two conferences that had exclusive ABM content tracks (I am at a third this week); I’ve seen the emergence of a plethora of ABM tools; alliances are being formed (more on this later); and I have assisted several companies begin the arduous process of adopting this game-changing approach.

Buzz aside, the fundamental steps of launching account-based strategies and the steps to achieving success remain fairly constant. In the next couple of articles, we are going to take a deeper dive into these steps, providing details and some real-world examples of what we’ve seen work.

As a review, here are the original 5 steps:

  1. Culture
  2. Process
  3. Data Cleanliness
  4. Data Integrity
  5. Content

In practice, these areas have evolved a bit. We’ve now combined Data Cleanliness and Data Integrity into one step – Data, and we’ve added “Metrics” – a step where teams determine how best to measure the results of their ABM efforts, ensuring that the systems and processes that deliver that data are in place.

We’ll start with “Culture” and how best to anticipate and drive that cultural change in your organization so that you can implement a successful account-based strategy. Whew! That’s a mouthful.

This step is, by far, the most critical to achieving success. Moving to an account-based approach truly takes a concerted effort. Here are some things for teams to consider:

Marketing – the shift from the targeting of “single leads” to the targeting of “buying committees” will require a change in several process areas, including scoring, modifications to lifecycle, and the addition of a process to group records and manage them. Another significant change for this team will be the shift in content strategy to one that leverages buying committee role information and delivers highly customized content, in a wide variety of channels.  For many, this includes the return of tactics such as direct and dimensional mailers, as well as an expansion of customized website content.


Sales
– many Sales teams today are already practicing some form of account-based selling, but they will continue to see more changes to the systems and processes they employ. For example, coordinated Sales plays that involve all members of the organization, including executives and typically “non-customer facing” team members, are a crucial part of a good strategy. These teams require clear communication and consistent use of a centralized tool to effectively manage the ABM process. Vendors like Salesforce, Engagio, Marketo and others are competing to play a vital role in this market.


Executive
– the participation of executives in the targeting selling of accounts will increase as ABM use progresses. Execs will reach out to their counterparts at prospective client organizations and, in some cases, provide their points-of-view via blog posts that can be repurposed as highly targeted content.


Information Technology
– organizations that are selling a technically-based product (who isn’t these days?) will often lean on members of the IT team to provide technical content that helps their counterparts at prospective client organizations while vetting the technical details of a proposed solution.

Transition Advice

As stated previously, a move to an account-based strategy will impact the entire organization. This is my advice:

  1. Take the time to design a strategy with clear timelines for implementation.  Once this is complete, hold an “all-hands” meeting and announce the why, when and how the company will implement the strategy. This has the effect of empowering the entire team and can lead to a smoother and more successful transition.  In some cases, this will result in team members “rising” to the occasion, showcasing their leadership and helping drive success.
  2. Consider running a POC or pilot program prior to fully changing your strategy. This may be needed to get better internal alignment, but it can also be a great way to test approaches on target account selection, processes and metrics.
  3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Identify liaisons for each team that can meet on a frequent basis during the transition and share challenges and successes.  Ensuring consistent communication between the teams is critical.
  4. Prepare for the impact.  Understand that the transition to any new strategy will impact sales revenue.  This may be a negative impact, and if so, it is better to discuss with the team beforehand, so that they expect it, rather than try to “recover” after the fact. Taking the time to run scenarios (or run a POC/Pilot – mentioned above) to determine the potential impact to revenue can also provide more information for planning the implementation timeline.

As with any transition, proper planning, communication and thorough execution are the keys to success.  And while account-based strategies are nothing new, so to speak, the tools and systems that support them are. In the coming weeks we will be looking at the other 4 steps to successfully implementing account-based strategies.  In the meantime, please share your thoughts and comments on our recommendations or on your own ABM successes.

Marketo Summit

For those of you who will be attending the Marketo Summit this month, I would love to connect with you there and hear about the ABM tactics and strategies that are working for you. You will find me floating between the Digital Pi booth (G-631) and at Marketo’s ABM booth. In the meantime, we’ve put together this guide, which highlights some of the exciting things we will be offering at the event.  Hope to see you there!