Are you really doing ABM? Or is it just good B2B Marketing?
It’s a debate that’s been ongoing in the B2B world for some time now. What makes ABM different from other Marketing strategies? What makes it so ‘special’?
It all comes down to knowing your accounts inside out. It’s an account-centric mindset, and it’s all about playing the long-game.
But what does the long-game look like for Enterprise accounts?
In a recent episode of Let’s talk ABM, I had the pleasure of speaking with Richa Pande, Global Head of ABM Campaigns at HP, about the ins and outs of building an Enterprise ABM strategy.
In the interview (full recording here) we discussed:
- Why ABM is not a panacea for all B2B troubles
- Why ABM leaders need to look beyond revenue
- How not all ABM programs are what they seem
- Advice on how to succeed at Account-based Marketing
So let’s dive into some of Richa’s top tips:
8 tips for building an Enterprise ABM strategy
1. Champion ABM
The opportunity cost of doing something is always high.
There will always be risk, uncertainty, and investment involved in any kind of new initiative. It’s unavoidable.
But just because something comes with risk, that does not mean it’s not worth exploring.
The key is to not paint yourselves into a corner.
When you first start ABM, you won’t come away with hard numbers immediately. You won’t be able to see the attribution metrics, the results, until much further down the line.
But that’s not to say your program isn’t successful. You just have to be prepared to play the long game.
Once you’ve decided to invest in ABM, the key is to then get behind the program fully, capture internal buy-in, and champion the cause.
It’s not all about the revenue – although, of course, this is a big factor. It’s also about the intangibles – the relationship-building, the alignment, building brand awareness and improving your reputation.
“Measuring everything on revenue, in my opinion, does a disservice to Marketing, but also to the organization, because then when the relationship with revenue is not clear, it starts cutting into your budget and ultimately, in the long game, it's a lose-lose proposition.” - Richa Pande, Global Head of ABM Campaigns at HP
2. Create strategic alignment
Sometimes, selling internally is harder than selling externally to the customer.
And that rings particularly true when it comes to ABM. After all, it’s a big investment, and you have to be prepared to put in a lot of time, effort and money to lift your program off the ground.
ABM is all about the prep work. Before you can even start thinking about launching and building your campaigns, you need to solidify one single point of view on how to do ABM and how to measure your success.
Without that strategic alignment, you’ll hit major obstacles further down the road.
Maybe your target accounts won’t fully engage with your campaigns because the messaging is disjointed. Or maybe you’ll misunderstand your strategy and thus fall short of your goals.
There are countless different traps you may fall into if you don’t have that initial foundation to build upon.
Prep work is non-negotiable, and so is securing that strategic alignment internally.
“My recommendation to anyone who's about to embark on the ABM journey is put in that prep work. It's very tedious. It's the non-glamorous, non-sexy part of ABM. Put in that work before you put your name against leading an ABM initiative.” - Richa Pande, Global Head of ABM Campaigns at HP
3. Identify program fit
What makes ABM different from Demand Generation, Programmatic or traditional ‘spray and pray’ marketing tactics?
It all comes down to an account-centric mindset.
An account-led approach is fuelled by insights, data and a deep understanding of that account. You know who to engage, how to engage them, and how to activate an account with personalized, relevant messaging.
And all of this comes back to selecting the right program for your target accounts.
This will depend on intent data, budget, and your existing customers’ needs. Not every program will be a good fit for your target accounts, so it’s critical that you assess which programs you want to invest in – whether it’s One-to-one, One-to-few or One-to-many.
“The litmus test for deciding what is truly ABM or not is very simple. Is your approach Account-led, or is it Pursuit-led? If it is Account-led, you will behave differently. You will do deep research on the account that will determine what kind of a customized value proposition you put together.” - Richa Pande, Global Head of ABM Campaigns at HP
4. Align with business objectives
Your ABM objectives have to be determined by your business objectives.
Whether that’s customer or logo acquisition, or customer expansion, or something else entirely – aligning your program around that will be key to your success.
Why? Because it will determine everything about your program. It will determine how you measure success, your KPIs, the accounts you target and the messaging you use.
If expansion is your goal, then performance indicators like relationships with your decision-makers will play an important role in measuring your success.
But if acquisition is more important to your business, then revenue and reputation will likely be a more accurate indication of performance.
“I would say what you choose to do, has to be determined very much on your business objectives and the business climate you find them.” - Richa Pande, Global Head of ABM Campaigns at HP
5. Map the anatomy of a sale
ABM deals are often long, complex and technical.
That’s why mapping out the process and knowing who your stakeholders are, who your decision-makers are, and who needs to be bought into the process within your organization is critical.
From the moment you have engaged an account, what does your process look like? What are the next steps, and who is involved in those steps?
ABM is a lot of work, so knowing how you can distribute that work and tap into the knowledge and expertise you have within the organization will be a game-changer.
“By being inclusive, you can tap into their power, into their expertise, into their networks, into their experience. And when you don't do that, inadvertently you're creating internal friction.” - Richa Pande, Global Head of ABM Campaigns at HP
6. Blur department lines
ABM is not a one-person-band. It takes the expertise, experience, and skill sets of many departments and roles to really succeed.
It requires all groups to dip into the ‘white space’ between departments.
Your departments don’t line up as seamlessly as you may think. There is no clear definition of where Marketing ends and Sales begins – there are gaps, and overlaps, and blindspots that are being missed.
The true X factor happens when you dip into those spaces. When you blur department lines and keep every role invested in the entire ABM journey – not just the part that they think they should be involved in.
That’s how you’ll ensure that everyone stays on the same page, shares invaluable insight, and knows where they come into the program – by dipping into those white spaces and being prepared to go beyond what your job description typically involves.
“Where Marketing may think they stop and where Client Engagement or Application Engineering may start, there is that white space. The best opportunities, learnings, and magic, quite frankly, the X factor, happens when you dip into those white spaces.” - Richa Pande, Global Head of ABM Campaigns at HP
7. Pinpoint North Star metrics
When you show 20 metrics to an Executive, you've already lost.
When it comes to metrics, less is undoubtedly more.
You don’t need a plethora of metrics to prove success – you just need to know which are the ones that matter most.
These are your North Star metrics – the ones your entire program will be geared towards.
These should do more than just measure success. They should tell a story of how your accounts are engaging, how your program is performing, and how you can improve.
Once you’ve decided on what these North Star metrics look like for your organization, everything should come back to it – from the accounts you target, to the messaging you create, to the budget you provide.
“We all know better that, with data, the power is not in the numbers, the power's in the storytelling and the insights around the numbers. And then, when you show 20 metrics to an Executive, you've lost already, even before you opened your mouth, you've lost the game.” - Richa Pande, Global Head of ABM Campaigns at HP
8. Make intangibles tangible
When measuring the performance of your ABM program, there will always be intangible elements to your success.
There are no numbers that can showcase the relationships you're building, or the awareness you're generating for your brand.
And that rings particularly true when you start to consider the world of Dark Social (which you can learn more about here).
But that’s not to say that there is no way of measuring these intangibles and making them more… well… tangible!
This is where the ‘Three Rs’ come into play: Reputation, Relationships, and Revenue.
Now, of course, the one that every organization cares about is the Revenue. It’s what keeps the wheels of your business turning, and it’s what puts money in your pockets.
But without Reputation and Relationships, your Revenue would simply dry up.
By incorporating the ‘Three Rs’ framework into your metrics, you’ll be able to keep tabs on the more intangible elements of your performance, whilst also satisfying the itch of more tangible success indicators, like Revenue.
Essentially, it’s a win-win!
“I've always found the 'Reputation, Relationship, and Revenue' is a very comprehensive way of telling the story. It scratches the itch on Revenue, but then it also does a very good job of capturing the intangibles.” - Richa Pande, Global Head of ABM Campaigns at HP
Keen to find out more about the world of ABM? Check out our Let’s talk ABM podcast series where we pick the brains of some of the industry’s top ABM experts.