Econsultancy needs your help! We're undertaking a study into the best practices and pain-points of the account-based approach to customer acquistion and retention, and we'd like your input.

Are you familiar with account based marketing (ABM)? Do you have experience to share or questions you'd like answered? Please click here to let us know if you're open to a short interview with one of our researchers.

Our aim is to line up perspectives from within the still-nascent ABM industry - along with the view from outside - for a report that will look at account-based strategy holistically.

That means sourcing a variety of stakeholders - from industry leaders who have adopted an account-based approach, to ABM professionals' with a take on the future of their field and those B2B marketers who aren't yet sure if it's the right way to go.

Please click here if you are available for a short interview by phone or email.

For those unfamiliar with Account Based Marketing, read on for a brief explanation:

An overview of ABM

"How do you know when two marketers are talking about Account-based Marketing?" goes the new joke. "Their lips are moving"

Terrible jokes aside, "account based marketing" is sometimes criticized for being a new buzz term for an old approach; the idea of crafting individualized marketing strategies for specific accounts is as old as a handshake.

Enterprise-level organizations have long recognized the value in treating accounts as individual markets, paying managers handsomely to know the players and politics at key customers since the middle of the last century.

As markets commoditize and the distinctions between products shrink in the minds of consumers, ABM has grown in importance as a method of outbound targeting.

Increasing commoditization means B2B organizations have begun leaning on a specialized approach to gain, and retain, key accounts that may otherwise be lost to more competitive pricing.

The Northrop Grumman case

During Northrop Grumman's 2003 push to secure the state of Virginia's $2 billion IT infrastructure contarct, the well-known munitions producer had to advertise its expertise in a sector most supposed was outside its wheelhouse.

Northrop Grumman enjoyed a reputation as a capable ships and munitions manufacturer, but even in Virginia (where NG is headquartered) few were aware of the company's experience in IT.

NG's leadership recognized this as an obstacle that had to be overcome if they were going to convince VITA (Virginia Information Technologies Agency) that Northrop Grumman was the best firm for a 10-year long job that aimed to support economic development across Virginia.

To remedy its reputation problem, Northrop Grumman adopted what ITSMA calls the "Understanding the Customer, Collaboration with Sales" approach. The first step was to spend significant time connecting with important players in VITA's initiative so that NG would better understand VITA's concerns.

Once done, NG understood that its target account wanted top-notch IT expertise, obviously, but that a presence in Virginia was also very important and would likely determine which firm would ultimately win the contract.

With that information, NG launched a marketing campaign that brought in its best IT experts for speaking opportunities, ran advertisiments across Virginia highlighting Northrop Grumman's long history in the state, and had its own executives speak at local community events and universities as part of a grassroots good-will initiative.

Northrop Grumman's focused marketing effort worked - the defense contractor won an enviable contract for work not known to be its specialty. Other companies, particularly in IT where cusotmer base is small and the product is highly commoditized, report similar success stories with ABM techniques.

Technology changes the game

While most marketers can believe in the effectiveness of a specialized approach to account marketing, the cost of providing that attention was too high to implement at scale until recently.

Companies like Demandbase, Engagio, and Terminus have seized on predictive analytics and the ability to assemble and select from databases of thousands of potential leads to help organizations overcome this problem.

These companies operate by drawing on large pools of B2B professionals in an automated process that identifies leads according to segmentation and marketing specifications.

ABM at scale presents new problems

As with any innovation, the new scalability of ABM comes with its own problems.

For instance, ABM has been known to fall flat when it excludes existing customers from special deals designed for newly qualified leads.

Other tentative users of ABM have worried that targeted outbound techniques might be "creepy."

Econsultancy's research will delve into these and other issues around deciding to adopt an account-based strategy, implementing it, and gauging its success. An understanding of classical ABM and tech-driven ABM is critical for marketers on the cusp of adopting this strategy, as is an understanding of others' experiences for well-versed ABM practitioners.

The report will draw on expert testimony, case studies, and a survey of several hundred B2B marketers to lay out benefits, drawbacks, and the future of ABM.

If you have an opinion you'd like to share, please click here. We will share a free copy of the resulting report to all those who are interviewed.

Arliss Coates

Published 8 June, 2017 by Arliss Coates @ Econsultancy

Arliss is a Research Analyst at Econsultancy.

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Comments (1)

Helena Ricks

Helena Ricks, Marketer at B2BSProut

Account based marketing is new generation for Marketing based on Demand Generation and Lead Generation. ABM is need for todays B2B Companies and large number of IT, Services and consulting companies seeing the superb benefit from account-based marketing.

3 months ago

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