Are You Really Ready to Set Sail and Navigate the Waters?

Let’s say your company is a ship that has been battling some rough seas lately—revenue projections are not being met, wallet share is shrinking—or you have been growing but not at the levels you need. You are looking for smoother water where you can be more productive. Suddenly an enchanting song calls out to you in the wind from a siren. You can’t resist it. You head straight for it. Before you know it, you are stuck on a sandbar or worse yet, you have wrecked on some unforeseen rocks.

This is how some companies approach Account-Based Marketing (ABM). They can’t resist the siren.

ABM can be an extremely profitable voyage or it can be a costly shipwreck, it all depends on the level of planning, preparation, and focus.

Questions at Every Turn…

Beyond account selection criteria, here are eight considerations to be addressed:

1. Magnitude: How big is this voyage? How many accounts are involved? Are you looking to start out with a small excursion (pilot) or are you “all in” and planning for a long journey with a bigger payoff. Make sure you have your campaigns mapped out in detail to account for messaging, timing, etc. Keep in mind that a lot of your messaging should be targeted and customized for the account so you will need to build in separate time and money for content development and campaign execution.

2. Budget/Funding: With ABM, you are going to be out at sea for a while no matter what. It will be a while before the wave of ROI comes rolling in. It is very important to determine what Marketing is willing to fund and what Sales will underwrite. Be sure to account for worst case scenario if this is your first time out. Account for outsourced resources and materials to support your campaigns.

3. Crew: Will you be setting sail with a team of specialists or will you be departing with the regular crew? Again, this ABM is a long-term commitment and engagement, are the resources willing to work together so intensely for so long? If you are using the regular crew, what fraction of time can they devote to the effort while still doing their day jobs?

4. Direction: Make sure that the strategy is charted out. There are a few different directions you can go with Account-Based Marketing. Do you want to cross sell and up sell existing accounts or are you more focused on generating new business? Perhaps you really want to do a percentage of both. Are you going to start with IP-targeted ads? Are you including email? Will social media, events, advocacy marketing be part of the mix? The direction you choose may have an impact on your crew selection as well.

5. Alignment: I can’t emphasize this enough, ABM is a longer-term commitment. It requires some level of culture change. Is everyone rowing in the same direction? Please do not underestimate that amount of change management that may need to be implemented. Everyone has to agree to the account selection criteria. Sales cannot trivialize ABM as just a tactic that is part of a larger selling scheme. Marketing cannot be looking at generating leads and be focused on lead volume. But it is not just Sales and Marketing who are involved. Executive Management has to be on board. Everyone has to be in it for the long haul to be effective and see the results.

6. Communications: Process has to be in place for clear and consistent communications. How often do the conference calls take place? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly? Who is in charge of the agenda? Who should be in the meetings and receive the reports? Lack of process here is where ships often lose the wind in their sails.

7. Technology: Every crew loves to have the latest and greatest technology on its voyage. ABM has many stages to it. Which technologies are best for account selection, contact data, account interactions, measurement, and more? Are you familiar with Kwanzoo, Terminus, Triblio, and Vendemore to name a few? Do you really know the differences with these platforms?

8. Measurement: Metrics and expectations for ABM are a bit different from other forms of marketing such as demand generation. All parties—Sales, Marketing, Executive Management, and others—have to express their short- and long-term goals and come to agreement. What metrics should be thrown overboard? When expectations are not set and clearly agreed upon up front, someone usually ends up dramatically rocking the boat later on.

There are a lot of other considerations for ABM but you get the point.

Who Should Steer Your Ship Through ABM Waters?

Recently I read in the 2015 “High Performance ABM Capabilities Benchmark Study Report” published by Demand Metric Research Corporation and The ABM Marketing Consortium, that the organizations realizing the greatest revenue impact from ABM – by virtue of having some degree of certainty around measuring that impact – are the users who have been practicing ABM the longest. In fact, users in the study with “low ABM maturity” reported negative or uncertain results on revenue produced. While I commend the new practitioners for embracing ABM, I see several years ahead of them before they really are in a position to measure and see ROI.

It might make a lot more sense for companies looking at ABM to have a more seasoned sea captain (ABM consultant) steer the ship through the channels the first time while the crew watches and learns. These seasoned captains have been through these waters before and will follow notated maps, markers, and lighthouses—not sirens—to ensure that the ship makes it safely back to port—stowing away plenty of ROI as well. These captains can also come in handy in helping you select technology and tie it back to your people, processes, data, and content. This integrated approach will save you one or two years of time and a lot of money as you begin your voyage into ABM.

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