The Marketing Strategist:

Coming Home to Europe: Three Lessons on Becoming an ABM Marketer

October 10, 2013

Europe was once a hotbed of Account Based Marketing innovation. European ABMers are pushing the envelope again. They are leveraging assets to personalize without enlisting an army of writers. They are applying the ABM model to new targets. They are creating pilot programs, scaling them up, and rolling them out. Europe is back. The term “Account Based Marketing” first emerged in Europe ten years ago when ITSMA co-created the ABM process with several European members. Last month, I worked with 22 marketers from six countries to kick off the ABM certification program, which requires that each participant develop or refine an ABM program at his or her own company. The resurgence in ABM owes to the difficulty of the European business environment. Europe’s economies have not recovered as quickly as in the US. Companies are putting more effort into strengthening relationships—and they are turning to the principles of ABM to accomplish this goal. Three lessons of ABM emerged in the session:

1. Personalize—the easy way. Personalized content is a hallmark of ABM, but it is labor intensive. The solution is to leverage existing assets. What works in one account may work in another with some thoughtful changes. It’s still work—just not as much. By the time account based marketers have finished profiling the target account and the market, they are not only able to pick the content, campaigns, and events most likely to spark a client epiphany, but also customize them in a way that speaks directly to the client’s role. The next step is to develop a process to leverage personalization across multiple accounts.

2. One-to-few. If you do develop ways to leverage personalization across multiple accounts, you may want to consider using ABM on a “one-to-few” basis, with the focus on an industry vertical rather than a single key account. This approach is less resource-intensive—scarce marketing resources are spread across several customers rather than just one—and the customers, if properly chosen, share the same imperatives and industry dynamics.

But be careful about making your first ABM foray a “one-to-few” campaign. Pilots have two purposes: to learn by doing and to create a successful example others will want to emulate. Both are served by starting with a single “lighthouse” account that, upon its successful conclusion, becomes a shining beacon seen far and wide. Focusing on one high-value account allows marketers to:

    • Pick a collegial internal account team open to finding new and better ways to operate
    • Find a target with whom the ABM approach will resonate
    • Dedicate themselves to the client, maximizing the chances of success

For all these reasons, it’s best to pilot with one key account rather than try to skimp on resources by attacking an industry vertical or grouping a handful of similar clients. That can come later—after the ABM approach has gained credibility within the organization.

3. Apply ABM ideas to non-customer stakeholders. More companies are giving the ABM treatment to groups that aren’t traditionally thought of as customers. An idea that emerged in the European session was the idea of applying the ABM methodology to strategic partners, who help penetrate other customers and may also be customers in their own right. A typical pairing is a product company and a systems integrator or professional services firm. The partner can be thought of as a customer—with its own imperatives, roles, and industry dynamics—as well as an extension of the marketing and sales campaign.

  The next ABM program kicks off December 12 and 13 in Cambridge, MA. Learn more about ITSMA’s ABM Certification Program.

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