5 Reasons Why Account-Based Marketing is Here to Stay

For as long as I’ve been a Marketer, Marketing Automation has been my trusty sidekick. Now, Account-based Marketing (ABM) is the new kid on the block and everyone in the neighborhood is taking notice.

Jon Miller, the co-founder of Marketo, grew the Marketing Automation community from glorified email marketing to professional Marketers who deserved a spot at the Revenue table. Now, he’s setting his sights at Account Based Marketing and maybe it’s just me, but Engagio seems to have a lot of the same ingredients as Marketo.

So, the question is: ABM – is it a hot new technology trend that will fizzle out? Or, does it have the legs to become a table-stakes part of any legitimate MarTech stack?

Here are 5 reasons why I think ABM is here to stay:

#1: The Whale Factor

As long as companies make a large amount of their revenue from a very small percentage of customers, ABE will be perfectly positioned. Why?

  1. Enterprise deals represent a huge percentage of the average company’s revenue
    Large deals (aka commission cheques) are what gets Sales people out of bed in the morning
  2. I’ll never forget talking to the top Sales guy at a software company where I was leading demand generation. I was asking him why despite bringing him huge volumes of seemingly quality leads he never followed up.

After a few beers, he let me in on the fact that he could close hundreds of these small deals from the Marketing leads, or bring in one big whale and be a hero. Then it all made sense to me. He was focusing his efforts on the few big accounts that he felt he had the best shot at, and everything else was just a distraction to that.

#2: Many Companies Serve a Niche Audience

When you have a niche audience, even when you do targeted content marketing, you still get a lot of noise coming in from prospects that are really not ‘marketable’.

I worked at another company where we were selling price intelligence to retailers. We literally could only sell to large retailers in North America. Our product wouldn’t be of use to anyone else.

Despite my CEO insisting that we need to do more ‘Outbound’ to targeted accounts, I was drinking the Marketing Automation Kool-Aid and stuck to my guns that Marketing Automation and an inbound strategy was the best option.

We did a ton of excellent inbound marketing and created some really great content, and good qualified leads did come in. But, like at most companies, we didn’t have time to wait. We needed deals and we needed them yesterday.

I think Account-Based Marketing would have been the perfect tag-team 1-2 punch for this scenario. Marketing Automation can handle the inbound, and ABM can do the outbound. Together, they will work faster and more efficiently to drive deals. Engagio calls this ‘allbound.”

#3: The People, Investors & the Hype

Like anything, the people make all the difference.

Look at the people leading the ABM hype. Jon Miller is in the driver’s seat. For anyone doesn’t know Jon, he is what happens when you mix Don Draper and Albert Einstein into one person. Incredibly good at marketing and also, analytical and smart. It’s not just pretty pictures and taglines, there will be ties to revenue and messaging that the C-level can get behind.

Furthermore, if you look at a company like Engagio’s investors, this is the same group that fueled the Marketo rocketship. It’s like the second half of a football game, and they’re walking in with a 40-point lead.

#4: Marketing & Sales Alignment is a Familiar Struggle

As someone who helps organizations establish their end-to-end lead management process and has fixed countless broken lead scoring models, I’ve seen first-hand that Marketing and Sales are rarely the “two best friends that anyone can have”.

A technology solution that can help bridge this sales and marketing gap will be welcomed in most organizations. It’s one of those investments that you can feel good about – and show that each side is looking for solutions to make things better.

ABM is at the intersection of Marketing and Sales, a sore spot for most companies, and one that is ripe for improvement.

#5: Marketing Automation Users are Increasingly Mature

As Marketing Automation evolves, so do their users. Although there are still a huge amount of companies that have yet to adopt Marketing Automation, the ones that have are relatively sophisticated.

As we see with many of our clients, they have the systems, teams and processes in place to make a Marketing Automation system successful. They are looking for that next silver bullet to help them increase revenues, meet their goals and get an edge on their competition.

ABM is a nice and logical next step for Marketers looking to enhance their Marketing Tech Stack. It is complimentary and fills gaps that Marketing Automation does not currently address.

Wildcard: Sales Adoption.

So far, we’ve been painting rainbows and unicorns. But, there is an x-factor here. Sales people.

Marketo touted Marketo Sales Insight as the game-changer for Sales & Marketing. It was supposed to solve all of those problems. It hasn’t.

Most Sales people either don’t understand it, or don’t want to use it. There are exceptions, but overall I would say it was harder than anticipated to get Sales to adopt MSI.

In order for ABM to succeed, it will need to gain user adoption where MSI was unable to. Marketing Automation could be successful with minimal Sales adoption, but ABM is a different beast. This may be the biggest challenge facing ABM and the organizations trying to implement it.

Final Say: I’d put money on it.

For any company selling to the Enterprise, I think ABM will be an essential part of the MarTech stack. Despite Sales adoption being a critical component for success, ABM has the people, the backers, and the hype to make their mark on the industry. Sales people will always be focused on select large accounts and deals, and the time is right for a new shiny object to capture the hearts and pocketbooks of Marketers everywhere.

Pierce Ujjainwalla

4 Responses to “5 Reasons Why Account-Based Marketing is Here to Stay”

January 05, 2017 at 2:47 pm, Megan said:

We’ve tried ABM campaigns twice and our sales reps are on board at the start of the campaign (they even pick what accounts to put in the campaign), then they decide we’re contacting people too often and they stop all outreach to their contacts in those accounts. This results in lower connect rates and opportunity rates with these ABM accounts than any other accounts they’re working. Any advice for overcoming this challenge and keeping the sales buy-in throughout the duration of the campaign?

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January 27, 2017 at 3:10 am, Pierce Ujjainwalla said:

Thanks for your comment Megan. I’ve seen that many times in both ABM and non-ABM campaigns. What typically happens is Sales receives one email from a customer and then there is a major panic that it applies to everyone. I think like anything else, you monitor your unsubscribe rates and make sure Sales is kept in the loop. Best thing to do is to listen to your customers, so if they are telling you its too much to dial it back. It’s a tricky balance, but best thing is to keep your Sales team in the loop with the benefits these campaigns brings and try and succeed together.

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January 06, 2017 at 2:01 pm, Dave Vranicar said:

This is a good article, Pierce. I agree with everything you say. And I would add, as someone who has spent two decades in B2B complex sales, that account-based marketing is one of the most exciting new developments I’ve ever seen for B2B salespeople.

I think it’s time to stop selling ABM exclusively to marketers and start focusing more on sales leaders. In B2B organizations, Sales typically has more clout than Marketing. They also have the attention of their CEO and board. Marketing often does not.

One big problem with ABM is its name, which focuses too much attention on marketing. When sales leaders hear “account-based marketing,” you then have to explain why they should be interested. Sometimes it can be an uphill fight.

Jon Miller has tried to overcome this problem by renaming it “account-based everything.” I agree with his direction. But “account-based everything” doesn’t grab the attention of salespeople. I think it’s too vague and general. We’re not suggesting, after all, that companies should do “account-based Finance” or “account-based Supply Chain.”

Unfortunately, the industry seems to have agreed on the name “ABM.” That’s likely to stick. That’s the term that’s surging in search volume.

But when you’re trying to appeal to salespeople in your company, I suggest you call it something like “focused account engagement.” That sounds like it’s worth their time and attention. For internal discussions, find a name that has equal appeal for both Sales and Marketing.

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January 27, 2017 at 3:13 am, Pierce Ujjainwalla said:

Hey Dave,

Great comment. You’re right. ABM for whatever reason has stuck in my mind, but I agree that ABM, unlike Marketing Automation, involves much more than just Marketing. That is one of the components that makes it so intriguing for me, is that it touches so many parts of the organization. I think Jon is doing a good job pushing ABE, however the acronym just doesn’t sound as strong to me. It will be interesting to hear where it goes, but I do agree it would be good to have a stronger Sales/SDR focus in the name, whatever it lands on.

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