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I’m Really Confused About Account Based Marketing

by David Brock on November 16th, 2016

Account Based Marketing/Selling—“Account Based Everything” is all the rage right now.  Some very smart colleagues, including Craig Rosenberg and Matt Heinz are real leaders in helping organizations develop and implement their Account Based Marketing Strategies.

But despite all that I read, I’m really confused.  Perhaps you can set me straight.

  1. Target the right accounts.  I understand that we want to identify and target the right accounts. These seem to be the accounts that have the problems that we are expert at solving with our products and solutions.
  2. Target the right people within the accounts (personas).  I’ve learned that we have to identify the people in our accounts that have these problems or are most concerned about these problems.  For example, if I sell financial systems, I’d obviously target CFO’s, controllers, treasurers.  I’d probably not have the CMO or VP of Manufacturing as a target persona.
  3. Understand their strategies and priorities as a company, within their organization, and their personal drivers.  We need to tailor or personalize our communications–marketing/selling–to be specific and relevant to what their companies are trying to achieve, what their function is trying to achieve, and what they (or similar personas) are trying to achieve.  For example, I probably wouldn’t try going to a food processing company and talk about how my semiconductor wafer processing system would be helpful to them (even though food processing companies may be making wafers of a different type—sorry, it’s that perverse humor that I can’t restrain).
  4. Tune everything we do in our marketing programs and sales approaches to 1,2, and 3, being as specific and focused as we can to the account.  As an example, I’d have slightly different messaging, communications, and engagement strategies to two different food processing companies.

I know there is a lot more to it, but at a high level that’s my understanding of Account Based Marketing/Selling.

Now here’s where I’m confused, Isn’t this what we should be seeking to do with 100% of our communications and engagement strategies and everyone we are reaching out to?

Aren’t we supposed to be tailoring everything we do, as much as we possibly can to the needs, priorities, business drivers, concerns of the people we are trying to reach?

See, I think I get account marketing/selling–it’s really about personalization and relevance, all the time.

Perhaps, I’m really confused about all our other marketing efforts.  I thought that personalization and relevance is what modern marketing is all about.  We certainly have the tools and capabilities to slice and dice our lists in innumerable ways, by industry, company size, location, business drivers, persona, past engagement, business maturity, recent changes, and on and on and on.  While we may not know specific strategies and priorities, through these tools, complemented by analytics, we can make some very informed guesses to more closely tailor what we communicate and how we engage these people.

It may not be quite as personalized and tailored as an account based approach (e.g. “We saw your market cap plunge by 17.25% on November 10, we can help you…..”), but the tools and technologies enable us to get reasonably close, (e.g. CFO’s in food service are saying these are the most critical issues…. obviously sending these to CFO’s in food service companies and not semiconductor companies).

But the implication in the excitement around Account Based Marketing/Selling, is that our other marketing programs aren’t doing this.  Our other marketing programs aren’t segmenting and tailoring their messages, they aren’t focused on relevance.

Now the light bulb is going off in my head.  Perhaps this explains the dozens of meaningless, irrelevant, unfocused messages that fill my Inbox everyday.  Perhaps, that explains 95% of the phone calls that I now ignore.

It turns out  Account Based Marketing/Selling is a movement to do what Marketing has the capability of doing already, but simply isn’t.

Maybe all our sales and marketing would be much more effective if we simply apply Account Based Marketing/Selling principles to everything we do.

Yeah, I know I’m overstating it a little, but not by much.

Am I missing something?

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  1. Unfortunately Dave I think you nailed it. Most marketing efforts aren’t nearly as precise and targeted as they should be.

    But ABM is more than marketing. My biggest beef with the name in fact is that it has “marketing” in it. I think account-based “everything” is too broad, so I prefer the term Trish Bertuzzi coined – Account-Based Revenue.

    Both sales & marketing teams need to tighten their messaging, but I see account-based revenue as a company-wide, coordinated approach to accounts (not leads) in which you’re not only speaking to each internal decision-maker and buying committee member uniquely, but also working to coordinate consensus-building within that group.

    The Challenger Customer, in that way, could be the best reading for sales & marketing leaders who want to understand what “account-based” is really about, and how to migrate into it for better results in 2017.

    • Matt: We’re in absolute agreement about the power of well designed account based marketing/selling/revenue programs. In reality, this post was really about the horrible marketing that too many organizations inflict on their customers.

      We all know what effective marketing looks like. We have the tools to enable us to do high impact marketing. Why is it that so many “professional” marketers don’t execute it? What is it that causes them not to do the things they know produces results and engages customers/prospects in impactful ways.

      We learn a lot from account based marketing/sales/revenue programs, we see the impact of well executed programs. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see more marketing “professionals” do this as standard marketing practice.

  2. Dave,

    You ask at the end of your article if you’ve missed anything. Nope, you nailed it! I see ABM as table stakes for solid customer engagement. When I started reading and hearing about it my reaction was “this is fundamental stuff that many have been doing for years; it’s not new”.

    BUT, it seems the reality is that many (if not most!) don’t practice it. Hence the junk that fills our inboxes every day. So, although fundamental, I’m glad to see it getting much needed emphasis.

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