Four Paths to the ABM Summit

“I’ve bought into account-based marketing, now what?”

I actually got this question from two different executives in two different meetings last week.

Both told me that they had been going to ABM conferences and had even purchased some ABM technology. Both also told me that while they understood the concept and benefits of account-based marketing—and had great belief in the power of their new technology—they still didn’t know how all the pieces came together, how to prioritize their efforts, or how to truly measure the effectiveness of their upcoming account-based marketing engagement.

I told them that I usually see marketers try to reach the ABM summit by one of four routes.

Route 1: Base Camp Bound. These marketers can’t be prepared enough. They download every ABM white paper. They go to every ABM conference. They listen to every ABM webinar. They have spoken with many account-based marketing vendors and have even bought some of the technology. But they are not quite ready to leave Base Camp. They feel that there are some risks that they still haven’t accounted for. Not every process is in place. They have had discussions with the rest of the expedition team (sales, product marketing, executive management, etc.) and the timing isn’t right. Weather conditions keep changing. They don’t have enough equipment. Some of the team still needs training. Others are not in top health and condition. Paralysis by analysis. It will be another six to 12 months before they may be ready to leave Base Camp.

Route 2: Full Sprint. These well-intentioned marketers believe completely in the words of Alexis Grant, “Stop talking about your mountains…and start climbing.” Unfortunately, in their effort to make their mad dash up the mountain, they typically forego key items such as strategy, insights, and change management in an effort to make their backpacks lighter. They have just purchased some “bright and shiny”ABM-related technology and they are excited to test it out. They take some shortcuts for the sake of execution. They get some great advice and tactical help from their particular vendor but of course that technology is only one part of the overall journey. As you can imagine, most of the marketers get off to a great start from Base Camp but they typically run out of steam close to Camp 1. Some make it to Camp 2. They can show progress and some success—but they fall far short of the Summit. Fortunately, they typically can show enough results that they want to make more of an investment and try to get further up the mountain.

Route 3: Adventuresome Spirit. These marketers have done their homework, purchased some technology, but are typically a smaller band of an expedition team that is willing to try out account-based marketing on a pilot basis. Everything is scaled back—target accounts, resources, budget, etc. These folks are out exploring to see if they can get traction with their handful of target accounts. The journey for this team is often long and painful. Detours, slippery slopes, and changing conditions give this team the chance to learn a lot. They don’t know what lies around the next turn. Sometimes this team will surprise you by making it to the Summit. Other times frustration sets in and they stop and turn around. Change management and clear and consistent communications are the keys to success with this team. Because the journey requires a lot of self-exploration and learning and adapting along the way, the effort takes a little or a lot longer than most expect. But the teams that make it to the summit with their pilot programs come back stronger and more knowledgeable and operate more effectively and efficiently with their full ABM roll outs.

Route 4: Pay for Efficiency. These marketers are usually in organizations with large budgets that are willing to pay for seasoned guides (Sherpas) to take them to the summit. They want to get the experience and ROI without running to the risks or detours. The Sherpas will tell them what equipment to get, what paths to take, what pace to use, when to use oxygen, etc. The Sherpas will also lay out expectations for this expedition team. There are few surprises. This team is ensured that it will make it to the summit in a timely manner. Many who are climbing a large mountain or implementing ABM for the first time choose this route to ensure success and training. Best practices are applied to ensure effectiveness and efficiency.

“The Sherpas play a very important role in most mountaineering expeditions, and, in fact, many of them lead along the ridges and up to the summit.” Sir Edmund Hillary

One of those executives mentioned earlier realized that his team was heading down Route 1 and has now changes things so that they are heading down Route 4. The other executive wants his team to head down Route 3 but wants to make sure that his team succeeds so he is going to have a Sherpa join them on their ABM pilot journey.

Whether you are implementing account-based marketing or climbing a large mountain, there are certainly many routes available to you to reach the summit. Whichever route you chose, please remember the three rules of mountaineering:

1. It’s always further than it looks

2. It’s always taller than it looks

3. It’s always harder than it looks

If you are considering account-based marketing, please reach out to me via LinkedIn to learn more about Markistry’s workshop, gap analysis (blueprint), and pilot program engagements to help prepare you for your journey to the ABM summit.

“Climb mountains not so that the world can see you but so you can see the world. David Mccullough Jr.

Photo courtesy of Tom Claytor –