What can you take away from 25 years in Agency life?
Judging by our most recent Let's talk ABM interview, a lot!
Since its inception some 25 years ago, the Founder and CEO of strategicabm, Alex Embling, has evolved and transformed the Agency to focus on pure-play Account-based Marketing.
And in that time, we have established ourselves as one of the foremost ABM consultancies, helping clients to win, grow and retain their most important accounts.
But, our Agency isn't the only thing that has evolved over the past two decades.
What started as a new and exciting methodology in the world of B2B has since become one of the hottest topics in the industry: Account-based Marketing.
In a recent special episode of Let's talk ABM, we sat down with Alex to uncover some of his key learnings from the past 20 years, and discuss what the future holds for ABM, including:
- The challenges for immature and mature ABM programs
- Why trust is the key factor of any successful ABM program
- Value Proposition and Account Experience – what are they?
- Why ABM is the right ‘play’ in an economic recession
- When to use an ABM Agency (and when not to)
So, without further ado, let's dive in to discover the world of ABM from an expert.
7 lessons from Agency ABM
1. Start small and scale
Technology is not a magic bullet.
Yes, it’s had a big impact on Account-based Marketing. It has changed the way programs are run, by giving marketers access to insights and data that help shape strategy and improve optimization.
But, there’s one mistake companies often make – they start with technology, and build out from there.
There is no shortcut to success. ABM takes time, and while it may seem like technology speeds up the process, you need the right strategy in place first.
Start small and think about what you need to measure. What does success look like? How do we measure that? Answer those questions and work backward to determine what technology you need to help get you there.
Develop a robust strategy and clearly define how you will track progress.
Remember, this will change over time. A 12-month sales cycle has many phases, and your measure of success will be different at each stage.
With this in place and alignment between teams, you can start an ABM program with a minimal tech stack, and then look to scale.
“Technology doesn’t solve strategic issues. It only scales bad decisions.” – Alex Embling, CEO at strategicabm
2. Build trust
People don’t buy from people they don’t trust.
To be successful and generate revenue, you need to build trust with your target accounts. Without that, you can’t get close to Decision-making Units (DMUs) and close deals.
Enter the three Rs: Reputation, Relationships, and Revenue.
Driving these is the primary aim of ABM. They act as a reporting model that will help you track progress and, ultimately, measure the success of your ABM efforts.
And while revenue is the goal of any business, this only comes once you have worked to increase your reputation and fostered relationships within accounts.
These work together to build trust – but not overnight!
“To start stimulating those commercial conversations, you need to build trust within accounts, and with the key stakeholders. And that just takes time.” – Alex Embling, CEO at strategicabm
3. Communicate the value of ABM
Remember, ABM is all about treating an account as a market of one.
Its value lies in personalization – and to achieve this requires a deep understanding of your target account.
When you know what makes a business tick, you start to see how you can make your brand proposition relevant to them. Learn their pain points, what drives their decision-making, and where they want to position themselves in the future.
By gathering insights and in-depth knowledge about the buyers, you create a picture of an account as a single market.
And that’s an ABM value proposition; the core messaging that will drive the creative.
It’s a way of communicating the existing brand proposition to a very specific audience that fits their context.
“Our job is to understand the context of the clients and the stakeholders and make their brand proposition relevant to a very specific set of people within a specific account.” – Alex Embling, CEO at strategicabm
4. Create a unique experience
Your ABM value proposition / core messaging is ready – it’s time to get started!
Not so fast.
How will this play out? What does ABM look like in practice?
You need to create an Account Experience.
It’s the journey a buyer takes, from start to finish. Every touchpoint and piece of content forms part of this – with the aim of drawing an account through the sales funnel, to eventually close a deal.
A good Account Experience is one that you would want to experience yourself.
What would excite you as a buyer, and how can you create that experience?
Start by defining your goal for an account. It could be that you’re looking to grow an existing relationship, or to win a new logo.
Whatever your aim, it will shape the Account Experience.
Then, using insights, create a journey that will captivate. This can take the shape of detailed industry reports, unique digital experiences, or peer-to-peer engagement with subject matter experts.
Outline how best to approach each phase – and get creative!
Tap into all the resources at your disposal to truly delight and excite.
“If you've got an account with little or no penetration, then your yardstick for success will be different in that scenario versus a stable relationship where you're looking to grow and expand.” – Alex Embling, CEO at strategicabm
5. Know when ABM is the right fit (and when it isn't)
ABM is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
One of the biggest lessons is to know when it’s the right path to take.
If you’re a startup without a stress-tested product proposition, it’s likely that ABM isn’t for you yet.
It requires a clear understanding of your relevance to your target market. You need to know where your product fits, and identify which accounts will offer maximum ROI.
This often means you’ll be targeting deals with longer sales cycles and larger Decision-making Units. If that’s the case, ABM is the right fit.
By focusing your energy on the accounts that best fit your product proposition, you can extract maximum value from the resources you put in.
The current economic climate is a good example of Account-based Marketing’s strength.
Budgets are tight, and companies are trying to do more with less. By honing in on their most commercially viable accounts, businesses can direct time and money where it can have the biggest impact.
ABM is the perfect tool.
With a tailored approach, you can grow your reputation within those accounts, build relationships with individuals, and communicate your value in a way that’s relevant.
That’s the power of ABM.
“If you've got more established brands that have won SME, done really well in mid-market, and are now trying to win those bigger, high-ticket deals, then ABM is absolutely the right strategy for that. And you can focus your resources more efficiently.” – Alex Embling, CEO at strategicabm
6. Make ABM and DBM work together
ABM vs. DBM. What’s the difference?
The truth is, there’s a very fine line between Account-based Marketing and Deal-based Marketing.
Sometimes that line is blurred, but each has its strengths – and they can work together to achieve the results you’re looking for.
The biggest difference exists in their purpose.
DBM is finite. It’s about winning a specific deal and ensuring the tools are in place to do so.
ABM, on the other hand, can run for years. It becomes embedded into a business as a way to win multiple deals from target accounts over many cycles.
It’s your knowledge of an account – your insights – and the relationships you’ve established that set ABM apart.
What’s important to remember is that these two approaches can complement each other.
ABM can stimulate demand and drive commercial conversations, while DBM can step in and close the specific deals that have been driven toward them.
Find synergy between the two and you will maximize success.
“There are plenty of examples where ABM has a role in supporting those DBM-type scenarios, making sure that they've got the right content, ongoing insights, and stakeholder research. Then make sure that pitches are highly tailored and land with impact.” – Alex Embling, CEO at strategicabm
7. Partner with ABM experts
Once you decide that ABM is the right path, you need to know where to start.
Should you do ABM in-house, or do you need to partner with a specialist Agency?
This depends on two things: knowledge and resource.
Partnering with an ABM Agency means filling a gap in one or the other – or both.
It’s the job of an Agency to stay ahead of the market and always be aware of what ‘good’ looks like. They will work to understand the client and identify whether there’s a knowledge gap to be filled.
On the other hand, it may be a case of using the expertise that exists within an agency to accelerate your ABM program.
The best agencies will work to find out how they add value and, using knowledge and resource, design their services to suit client needs.
Partnering with ABM experts helps to get the best out of your program, but it’s always dependent on the existing knowledge and resource you have at your disposal.
If gaps exist, an Agency can help.
They can either partner with you throughout the journey, or act as a booster to get you started – handing over the reins once you have the necessary knowledge and tools.
“The best agencies don't sell. They understand where they can add value most, and overlay their statement of work against that value add.” – Alex Embling, CEO at strategicabm
Ready for ABM success?
Remember to match ABM with careful planning, alignment between teams, and an understanding of the dos and don’ts. You will see the value when you focus on building your reputation and relationships with accounts.
Finally, remain ready to adapt and evolve while filling knowledge and resource gaps where necessary.
Do these things, and you’re primed for ABM success!
Want more Account-based insights? Check out our Let’s talk ABM podcast, where we hear from the movers and shakers of the ABM world.