In the last post, we talked about the evolution of Account-Based Marketing (ABM), the hottest little 40-year-old trend around. We covered how ITSMA launched the buzz back in 2004, how Don Peppers and Martha Rogers wrote about it in The One to One Future back in 1993 and even covered how the original blue sheet of the Miller Heiman Strategic Selling incorporated it back in 1976. This insight led us to beg the question: If it’s not new, what’s the big deal?

Let’s pull up the most famous of all Miller Heiman sales tools, the blue sheet:

Miller Heiman Blue Sheet

This strategic analysis that was once filled in with paper and pencil captured everything from opportunity to buying influences to key drivers, and most importantly, how to execute a plan to advance your opportunity. Specifically, the blue sheet was built to capture:

  • Opportunity Details
    • Account/prospect information
    • Business opportunity
    • Budgets
    • Purchase time frames
  • Buying Influences
    • Participants
      • Role, perspective, opinion
    • Competitors
      • Strengths, weaknesses, relationships, contracts
  • Key Business Drivers
    • Target results
    • Ideal Customer Profile
  • Potential Actions
    • For all participants
    • For all objectives
    • Against all competitors
  • Best Action Plan

That is a ton of information! And, when you stop and think about the amount of research required to know all of those things, get them right and keep them current, it’s easy to see why this approach was limited to a small set of strategic accounts. Not only that, but having taken a thorough, fact-based approach into what the next best action was, you still had to take that action in a primarily analog way; you had to pick up the phone and schedule a face-to-face meeting.

So, what’s changed to make an ancient practice like ABM all the rage today? It’s simple—SCALE. Advances in database marketing, sales force automation and marketing delivery platforms were revolutionary for scaling the level of interactions and visibility into activity that influenced the buyers in your favor. No longer is a salesperson (or their assistant) head down at a research terminal or on the phone trying to identify key influencers and competitors—and then using that information to decide on the next best action.

Enter big data and predictive analytics. The ability to accumulate and connect the massive amounts of data required to identify and evaluate the actions, interests and behaviors of potential buyers—at the individual and company level—in both known and anonymous environments is the biggest single factor that has led to the advancement of ABM as a leading marketing strategy.

Add to that the ability to use analytics to predict what move is most likely to advance the cause and mix it with the millions of interactions to validate and refine that approach, and you have the best of the MHI blue sheet on steroids. Predictive analytics have truly changed the game with the ability to identify other accounts that exhibit similar interest and intent signals and put them on the radar for Sales and Marketing activities. Which is why leaders in the ABM discipline report improved alignment between Sales and Marketing. Because, what sales person doesn’t want more information to drive Sales and more accounts predisposed to their solution?

Take a sales methodology that’s been around for decades, mix in technology that’s emerged in the last 10 years and you have the recipe for the hottest new trend in marketing today. Who knew?