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The Marketing Strategist:

The Challenge of Scaling ABM Programs

September 24, 2015

If you read just about anything we publish here at ITSMA, chances are you’re well aware of how strongly we feel about the importance of account based marketing (ABM), an approach that treats key accounts as markets of one. Why? Simple: it is one of the most effective tools in the B2B marketing arsenal.[1] And if you haven’t already committed the key proof point to memory, here it is again: 84% of marketers who track return on investment (ROI) say ABM delivers higher ROI—often significantly higher—than any other marketing initiative.

Dogs representing scale

It’s no surprise that companies with successful forays into ABM are eager to scale their programs once they’ve demonstrated the potential. All too often, this is when promising ABM programs become victims of their own success. Sadly, we’ve seen this happen at close range.

Here’s the typical story in a nutshell. Pilot or early-stage programs are driven by dedicated, capable marketing staff handpicked to prove ABM’s value to an often-skeptical internal audience. Once they rack up some initial successes, interest in ABM snowballs. Soon there are more and more requests to add accounts and pressure to expand the ABM program. Then there’s an official decision to expand the program, but with only limited increases in budget and staff to do so. Demand for ABM outstrips the means to support it. Under-resourced ABM teams are stretched to their limits and can’t deliver the same quality of in-depth engagement that those initial ABM accounts had. Marketers burn out, results lag, sales people lose interest, and ABM fails to live up to its early promise. Programs lose credibility or even get shut down altogether.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The many enduring ABM programs out there testify to that. Successfully scaling ABM depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is recognizing that doing so is a risky endeavor. Getting it right is a combination of making judicious decisions about which accounts to include and why, allocating scarce resources carefully, reusing assets, and, as we’ve been digging into in depth this month, leveraging the technology tools that can help to make ABM programs more efficient and effective.

And we’re not talking about the handful of technology providers who call their IP-lookup tools ABM. While those are powerful technologies that can deliver insight as well as targeted awareness, they address only a very small part of true ABM. As we examine in detail in Marketing Technology for ABM, despite all the hype, there are few marketing technologies specifically designed to address the unique requirements of ABM but a great many that can help. Leveraging the marketing technology infrastructure you probably already have in place can streamline and improve the all-important communication between marketing and sales, collect account and stakeholder insights, execute tailored campaigns, and track results. No technology can yet substitute the creativity and critical thinking that are essential for effective ABM, but it can make many of the other key activities much easier to execute.

For more information on how marketing technology can support ABM, read Marketing Technology for ABM.

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[1] We also admit to being a bit biased. After all, our own Bev Burgess first coined the phrase way back in the early 2000s.

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