ABM: Back to basics
The current business environment underlines the importance of targeting the right accounts at the right time, and in the right way.
“When people start ABM initiatives, the question they often skip is, which accounts should I be after? In the end, ABM only works if you know which accounts are likely to buy, and what you can sell them.”
A simple message delivered by Gil Canare, former Senior Research Director at SiriusDecisions, now a B2B marketing tech practitioner again. But what’s easily understood is not always so easily implemented — even in a business environment where getting the basics right is critical.
Can these accounts buy? “Especially now,” he went on, “there are a lot of external factors, like are these accounts even in a position to buy? Are they retrenching? Are they expanding?” Companies struggling with their ABM strategy might not have figured out where best to direct their efforts.
Canare was speaking on an episode of MarTech Live back in November. It’s not only a question of targeting the right accounts, but targeting them at the right moment: they may have been in market for something like your product, but already have bought it from a competitor, or they might be putting the need on the back-burner until Q1 next year. How should you go about identifying in-market accounts?
Three things to consider. “I break that problem down into three parts,” said Canare. “The first part, which in this kind of market is really important, is capability to buy. Could they really buy? You have to look at it dispassionately; look at the firmographics, look their financials. Once you’ve figured out that, the next step is: are they looking? That’s where intent comes in. And the last part is, are they likely to buy from you, which is propensity.”
Another simple but important rule for marketers: find out what the sales team thinks. If marketing is not talking to sales? “That’s a giant red flag,” said Canare. The capability research discussed above can be done through third-party sources, but also through talking to your sales people, Canare explained. “That capability question is paramount right now.”
Digital engagement. When it comes to how to engage with accounts, Canare recommends taking a look at what has changed between a year ago and now. “One of the channels that has been shut off, largely, is that informal, always-on sales channel. When I was at SiriusDecisions, a lot of time was spent just hanging out in clients’ offices, and having these really serendipitous conversations that frankly the sales teams are not having right now.”
Sales teams are exploring ways to re-create that kind of spontaneous engagement. But if sales conversations are more like digital conversations now, that creates an imperative for the digital customer journey to not just be a series of discrete points in time, but to be connected to these sales conversations. “There can’t be two parallel streams any more, where you have a set of sales conversations supported by digital: now it’s all digital.”
Why we care. B2B marketing and sales teams likely have an ABM strategy in place, but as we enter year two of the pandemic, it’s critical to confirm that the basics are in place.