How would you implement an Account Based Marketing (ABM) program for B2B Marketing ? What are the key program phases and how does this differ from more conventional B2B programs? Here I depict my experience based ont the TSMA methodology, the IT Service Marketing Association.
An ABM program must first define its operational framework:
- the program objectives (e.g.: penetrate complex accounts? maintain profitable accounts? increase the share-of-wallet?)
- select the suitable targets
- measures program effectiveness and achievements
- governance, ie how the program is organized and measured.
The goal selection phase has hidden pitfalls deriving from the strong collaboration with sales. For example, the attractiveness of a target is often defined only as the market attractiveness (revenue, addressable market and growth) of the account per se. Ofter, though, it is very important also to consider the openness of the account team to to implement the new methodology in partnership with marketing.
Beyond the governance, we enter the key action of the ABM, the analysis of the target accounts. Since the account tactics must be very specific, the analysis entangles the full profiling of the customer, gathering all data for understand context and strategy: industry, business targets, served markets and segments, key financial indicators with trends, transformation and operational initiatives, relevant competitors and product and services..
The analysis must also consider our sales objectives, the customer organization, the mapping of key decision makers, and our relation with each of them (account coverage by both marketing and sales). We should also add our historic data, our current funnel of opportunities, our white-space o solution considering which product/services are already used in which customer business units and where we have opportunities to growth our share-of-wallet. All these key data are normally supplied by marketing to sales, thanks to MIS databases.
It is not easy to define in advance what data to look for and what to insist: in general, experience shows that a balanced approach is best: the goal is not to overdo it, but rather to summarize the data necessary to discuss the current status of the account and the more possibilities. An equally important aspect is the synthesis of communication, the ability to transfer this information in clear formats, often graphic and coincise, rather than exhaustive- This enhances the workshops to identify opportunities and clear actions. Infact, it may not be necessary to bring all the precise market share for the client, sometimes it is far more useful a short graphical representation of the covered areas by our company vs. the competition (whitespace) just to brainstorm easily during the account review workshop.
The next step is the planning and definition of the possible account initiatives or marketing tactics to achieve the sales goals. Normally this is done in a sale-marketing joint workshop where both sales and marketing define the respective roles pulling together the different skills in order to define the effective actions. Normally the workshop consists of a short presentation by the various analysis stakeholders where each components helps to brainstorm which key initiative can be done for new offers, targeting specific organization levels. The first step is to map the client’s needs (projects, competitions or strategies) with the key value propositions that our company can offer in terms of products, solutions or services and the prioritizing the most important ones. Afterwards, we assign a key decision makers and define how to reach him with the right value proposition, be it a new service concept, a solution, an architecture or a new business case tailored for that decision maker role.
We must define exactly each tactics, by identifying: the initiative objectives, the used marketing campaigns & tools and the needed resources (people, skills, budgets, suppliers) for each program. Again, the peculiarity of this approach relies on the synergy between marketing and sales: normally tactics are based on delivering special events and campaigns leveraging marketing formats, but these are specialized to address a specific account stakeholder, its buying behavior and its needs. Likewise, sometimes the programs can benefit from specific presale or consulting skills to define architectures, business cases of ad hoc solutions for that account.
Experience shows that the quality of these account brainstorm sessions and their structure is critical for the ABM program success: this is the time when we share your ideas and creates the agreement in the team for their execution, distributing tasks and resources. Sharing is even more important when multiple interfaces are daily managing the customers such as sales specialists, delivery, post-sales servicesm each of which can have a vision about the account issues and the stakeholder needs.
Published by Carlo Arioli