lego star destroyerAccount-Based Marketing (ABM) is one of the hottest topics in B2B marketing right now. Why? Because it works. “Over 80% of marketers that measure ROI say that ABM initiatives outperform other marketing investments. Half of those marketers say that the difference is significant.” * . However, taking ABM from theory to practice is another story. Software vendors are rushing into this space and “wowing” marketing leaders with the capabilities and features of these great new platforms. Much like in the early days of marketing automation, “shiny object” syndrome has gripped marketing with little regards to whether these teams can actually deploy a successful ABM program. Don’t forget, the mantra of “people, processes, and technology” remains tried and true.

So, what do a Star Wars obsessed six-year old and many B2B marketers have in common? Neither have ever heard the following: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” —Benjamin Franklin

One of the gifts my son received this Christmas was the LEGO Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer. While he was in the middle of his happy dance, I looked a little closer at this five-pound box. I must admit, the picture of the fully assembled Star Destroyer shooting blaster cannons with the Death Star in background gave me goose-bumps. Well, that feeling of nostalgia quickly turned into something else as I began to read the details on the box. “Ages 9-14 / 1359 Pcs” Then my son screamed with excitement, “Dad, can we play with it now!!!”.

We don’t have time for strategy and planning, we need to execute NOW! I hear that a lot. Much like my son, many marketers do not understand that ABM success and ROI do not come straight out of the box. Few “thought leader” articles address the planning and preparation time required to ensure a successful ABM campaign roll-out. It took my son and I the better part of two days just to organize the Star Destroyer pieces (1359 pcs packaged in 15 different bags) and match them against the three instruction booklets. We took over the entire dining room, carefully laying out the pieces that we would use for each day’s build. Did you know Lego has three shades of grey? I’m color blind, but that’s another rant and story. Well, two weeks and over a thousand times saying “please put that back”, the Star Destroyer is completed and my son is ecstatic. The look on his face, his sense of accomplishment and pride, and the memories of us working together as a team are all the ROI I could have hoped for.

So, if you believe your organization is ready to pilot and/or deploy ABM, ask yourself the following:

  • Is my organization really ready to embrace and execute on ABM?
  • Do I have the right people, expertise, bandwidth to accomplish?
  • Should I augment my team or completely outsource to experts (practitioners not self appointed thought leaders)? It’s OK to ask for help.

Prepare for the program. Create a strategy

  • Define the program. Have an agreed-upon attack plan between Marketing and Sales with some sort of evaluation framework.
  • Identify, select, and prioritize high-value accounts. Analyze customer database based on criteria such as revenue, industry, customer success, geography, etc. Others use predictive analytics to help them with this selection and prioritization process.
  • Map out a content and engagement strategy. What are your messages? How much do you need to personalize and customize the messages? How many personas need to be created? Keep in mind that content is the fuel to drive your ABM program.

Account-based marketing (ABM) has the potential to dramatically improve revenue but it does require different training, preparation, strategy, content, and communication than your previous marketing efforts.

ABM is a team sport, get to know the players.

* ITSMA Survey