The Marketing Strategist:

Five Myths About Account Based Marketing

February 19, 2013

In ITSMA’s Budget and Trends Survey, 2013, marketers indicate that they plan on doubling the amount that they spend on Account Based Marketing Programs in 2013. As ITSMA’s VP and ABM Practice Lead, I wasn’t really surprised by this data. We’ve seen an uptick in interest in our ABM approach, and we recently kicked off an Account Based Marketing (ABM) certification course to help marketers bring ABM in house. What does surprise me, though, is some of the myths about ABM that still persist, even among the more experienced marketers with whom I work to develop key account marketing strategies. I’d like to bust those myths once and for all! Myth 1: Account Based Marketing is just another “marketing thing.” No. Don’t think of ABM as a marketing tactic or vehicle. It’s much more of a strategy or an approach. And unlike many other “field” programs, ABM is tightly integrated with selling strategies into key accounts. What makes ABM different from other marketing “stuff” is that doesn’t fall solely in the realm of marketing. In fact, ABM must be executed hand-in-hand with sales—and must be thought of as a key sales enabler. In addition, it’s not a marketing tactic; rather, it is a strategy that must have executive sales and marketing support to be successful. The best ABM marketers are those who have years of experience not just delivering marketing vehicles, but in planning and devising programs that meet strategic goals. Myth 2: Account Based Marketing is a stand-alone marketing program, mutually exclusive from other marketing programs. Account Based Marketing is a customer-driven marketing methodology that uses any and all marketing and sales tactics to give clients what they want and need. In truth, Account Based Marketing campaigns leverage the investments that you have already made in your other marketing programs. It wouldn’t make sense to start completely from scratch! The difference is that rather than taking all your marketing material to the client and burying them in what you do, you first have to know what the client wants—the client’s pain points, opportunities, etc.—and then you modify the content you have and target it so it addresses the issues your client wants to solve. Myth 3: Account Based Marketing just another form of account planning, and thus is a duplication of the sales teams’ efforts. Account Based Marketing does not replace account planning. Rather, it builds on good account planning to create actionable marketing and sales strategies. No matter what selling methodology you use—TAS, Holden, Challenger, or Power-Based—ITSMA’s ABM approach integrates into those selling and planning processes. It does not, however, replace them. Myth 4: Customer intelligence, while nice to have, is not required for Account based Marketing This is just plain wrong. Good ABM practices mandate that we have an in-depth understanding of the markets our client “plays” in, the dynamics of those markets, and the impact of these issues on our account. Customer intelligence is what makes ABM “account based” and becomes the basis for all of the work moving forward. Otherwise, we call it “spray and pray” marketing. Myth 5: Account Based Marketing should be used in every large account. As tempting as it sounds, and as good as that could be for ITSMA’s ABM practice, we don’t advocate ABM for every large account. That’s because ABM is an investment, and thus is best for those accounts that can provide a suitable ROI. The first thing we do is work with a client to categorize their accounts into tiers. Once a company has tiered their accounts and has a Key Account Program focusing on the top-tier of strategic accounts, ABM is implemented in these accounts. Then, when this has proven to be successful and the client has worked out all the kinks, they may be ready to scale your program and the next tier of accounts can be brought into the program. Learn more about Account Based Marketing or listen to ITSMA’s 2013 State of the Marketing Profession Address.

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