On a recent holiday to Naxos I read Account-Based Marketing for Dummies by Sangram Vajre.
Vajre is best known for his work as Head of Marketing at Pardot, which was acquired by ExactTarget and then Salesforce.com and more recently as Co-Founder and CMO of Terminus Software, a leading account-based marketing (ABM) software.
Account-Based Marketing for Dummies as its name suggests explains the basic concepts, approaches and strategies to deploy ABM at your organisation. For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of ABM, it is where businesses focus on attracting a small number of high value accounts, whereas traditional marketing seeks to attract a high number of lower value accounts. It’s for this reason that ABM is often described as fishing with a spear, while traditional marketing uses a net.
Back to the book. Vajre has deep experience of partnering with teams that sell into the enterprise and knows how large organisations make purchases today, so I’m pleased he has taken the time to share his thoughts. As an aside it’s interesting to note how Vajre is creating a new category of marketing, of which the book is just one play. He’s in good company too - Salesforce.com and HubSpot created narratives that build and won categories, while recent examples of companies following this approach include Engagio, Influitive and Gainsight.
The book is an insightful read and five lessons about the emerging world of ABM stood out.
1. Invest to operationalise ABM efforts
Many businesses will likely to be taking their first steps (or at least some) towards ABM, but most lack the people, processes and platforms in place to launch this successfully at scale. Vajre makes a compelling case that to run an effective ABM program organisations must invest in software which makes it easy to systematically target best-fit accounts. Software is key to turning ABM aspirations into reality.
2. ABM helps businesses target enterprise clients
If a business's clients are part of the Fortune 1,000 or if they sell to just a few large, companies and know them by name, then ABM is a highly effective approach. However, the highly targeted nature of ABM is a double edged sword. On the one hand they’re creating highly targeted and relevant content (so targeted it’s only relevant to one company), but they run the risk of putting all their eggs in just a few baskets.
3. Growing importance of the post-sale customer
As an employee of a software as a service (SaaS) business, I’m pleased Vajre has drawn attention to the value of the post-sale customer. In the future more businesses will leverage cloud-based technology to run a subscription based business model and will reach profitability overtime. A customer success team that does its job well will generate more revenue via up and cross selling than from the initial sale. This forces companies to be and remain customer-centric, and focus on their customer’s long-term success.
4. Rise of customer advocacy
In a similar vein to the post-sale customer, businesses must invest to identify and nurture customers into advocates. In theory the benefits from customer advocacy are significant. When nurtured correctly, advocates are retained longer and refer customers, both of which have a positive impact on the bottom line. In practice, customer advocacy is less predictable or recurring than many marketing activities, but that does not diminish its importance or value. Advocates are a tremendous asset that can and should be leveraged.
5. ABM is not new, but the software is
The phrase “account-based marketing” was coined in 2004 by ITSMA, however companies have targeted specific accounts for a long time. Indeed, identifying and targeting key accounts has always been a best practice for B2B marketing, sales and sales enablement teams. ABM is a concept that many have talked about for years, but only now is software becoming available to help power scalable ABM programs.
Account-Based Marketing for Dummies is a good read, but to me, some of the advice is modern marketing in action, rather than ABM. Specifically, marketing teams focussing on revenue generation, sales and marketing alignment, using personas to identify best-fit customers or the growing importance of customer advocacy are marketing best practices. These feature in the playbooks of successful marketing teams the world over.
That being said, ABM is an effective approach to marketing, particularly if you’re selling into a small number of high value accounts and you know who the companies are. Focussing on specific accounts is the right play for some organisations, but by no means all.
If you want to deepen your understanding of ABM and learn actionable tips you can implement today, then read Account-Based Marketing for Dummies. Vajre has shared many ideas and strategies to help you launch ABM at your business. The book is full of everything you need to understand this new and emerging discipline, and he makes a strong case. The challenge for you is to understand when, where and if ABM is the right approach for your business.