ABM Insight Report – Featured Chapter: How to Select the Right Accounts for your ABM Program

ABM has moved from something you do from your biggest accounts, and those with the best potential, to something much wider, enabled by technology tools like the Agent3 platform.

So you love Account Based Marketing. Or at least you like it. OK then, you think ‘this might be interesting’ and you’re exploring the ABM world. But how do you set about selecting an account that’s ready for the ABM treatment? You could, of course, just go the obvious route and allocate it to your biggest customers. And that blunt approach won’t necessarily be a bad thing as, for many companies, or so the conventional wisdom goes, 20 per cent of customers account for 80 per cent of sales. But as well as your largest incumbent customers there are other characteristics of companies that might be a good fit for the ABM model. Here are a few scenarios:

  1. Accounts are under threat, for example because a rival is advancing on your turf
  2. There is clear evidence of new purchasing initiatives in your domain, for example where a company might be investing heavily in Flash-based data center storage arrays or business intelligence software
  3. There is high growth in a particular area of the customer’s business such as online selling or consulting services
  4. The company is hiring for new roles such as business development managers
  5. The account is moving into a new addressable market opportunity such as driverless cars or a new geography such as China
  6. The company running the ABM program is seeking to branch into new areas or attract ‘new logos’
  7. Accounts are complex and need individuals and their relationships to be carefully mapped

“Customers used to just pick out existing large, strategic accounts,”  says Peter Lundie of ABM insights provider Agent3. “That’s changing because people are now realizing it’s not just about that but high-growth accounts or even customer acquisition. Strategic defense or where share-of-wallet can be grown are areas that are not as big as they should be. People are saying ‘our large accounts are well served anyway, so let’s move to where we can grow, where we have some sort of relationship’ and I definitely see ‘we want to get into a new market’ a lot.”

For Amy Craven, Account Based Marketing program lead at enterprise software giant SAP, identifying companies and people willing to collaborate is critical. “The account selection process focuses on creating a holistic plan, pulling together a story and bringing in people on the edge of the fray,” she says. “The key always is alignment with services, support and not just sales… a sponsor willing to work with us. We’re always trying to elevate the relationship to co-innovation.”
Bev Burgess of services marketing group ITSMA is one of the pioneers of ABM, having helped classify it and mold it to its current shape from 2003.

“Very early on with ABM it was about positioning the brand in a global account and it’s developed beyond that to helping people identify opportunities to grow revenues and identify relationships. It’s moved from something you do from your biggest accounts, and those with the best potential, to something much wider, enabled by technology tools like the Agent3 platform.”

Burgess welcomes the new tech’s assistance in fostering ‘ABM Lite’ where the ABM methodology can be applied to more accounts, specifically those that don’t need more expensive and resource-intensive, one-person-to-one-account shadowing.

“Strategic ABM and ABM Lite are pretty proven now,” she says. “We know they work, it’s just a case of how many accounts can you afford to use ABM for. Being programmatic and how you do ABM at scale are on a learning curve.”

One company that’s more advanced than most on that curve is Juniper Networks.

“We initially applied it against six mega accounts as it’s very difficult to market to them from the outside, and they’re key,” says Paul Gainham, the intelligent communications company’s head of EMEA marketing.

Juniper harnesses ABM as part of its “customer-surround” strategy that provides a tag-team of sales, channel, technology consultants and services experts to focus on an account and to drive what Gainham calls “hyper-targeted” marketing initiatives. “We’re seeing much greater traction than if we had marketed to them from the outside but that’s a relatively expensive model that’s very targeted and only scales to a small number of accounts,” Gainham says. “We’re looking at how you do that to a ‘one to one’ model – some people call that ABM Lite.”
Click here to download the full ABM Insight Report and learn about more ABM best practices across the following fundamental areas:

  • Targeting the right decision-makers
  • Identifying the right channels of engagement throughout the customer lifecycle
  • Leveraging the power of predictive analytics
  • Aligning sales and marketing
  • Proving the value of ABM
  • Managing change to ensure ABM success
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