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Account-Based Marketing: Four Operational Considerations

April 08, 2013 | By Megan Heuer

Account-based marketing (ABM) requires that marketers deliver results against specific kinds of goals in a more defined universe. That means the infrastructure and process that’s in place for traditional, broad-based demand won’t work without modification. On the bright side, traditional models can serve as a starting point, and with some adjustments, both models can live in harmony. Here are four operational areas impacted by a shift to ABM.

Account-based marketing (ABM) requires that marketers deliver results against specific kinds of goals in a more defined universe. That means the infrastructure and process that’s in place for traditional, broad-based demand won’t work without modification. On the bright side, traditional models can serve as a starting point, and with some adjustments, both models can live in harmony. Here are four operational areas impacted by a shift to ABM:

  • Data and insights. Data and insights are the building blocks of ABM success. If you are unwilling to invest in this area, don’t bother with ABM. You won’t do it well. The level of detail and analysis required for effective ABM is not the same as what’s needed for broad-based marketing. Determine where the data you need lives now, how good it is and what else you need. If you do nothing else, establish strong practices for matching contacts to existing records to ensure the right next steps are taken for individuals linked to accounts and opportunities within them.
  • Planning. Marketing functions that are accustomed to planning around segments with broad-based objectives must change their planning model to support ABM. This demands tight alignment with the sales account planning process, the campaign planning process and various versions of ABM plans (based on account type). Effective ABM planning aligns to specific account goals while minimizing redundant execution. Successful account-based marketers are often trained in the sales planning methodology; they understand what’s required of sales and look for appropriate ways to contribute. They also work within the sales planning process to ensure the marketing component is in alignment. Knowledge of the types and timing of tactics planned to achieve other marketing objectives can help resource-constrained ABM teams.
  • Demand management. ABM requires marketing and sales to re-evaluate the rules for processing demand. With marketing focused on developing demand within a defined set of accounts, where sales often has established relationships, new terms must be set in the case of a partial or complete shift to a defined-universe model. Lead level, service-level agreements around followup expectations and lead routing are likely to require a reset.
  • Reporting and measurement. It’s more challenging to track marketing’s contribution in ABM, since marketing sources less demand due to greater, and earlier, direct sales involvement. Influence tracking is key. Create a detailed view of marketing activity present within accounts, the timing of that activity within the buyer’s journey and the customer lifecycle, and how it connects to revenue and relationship outcomes. Without specifics around the nature and degree of marketing influence, any evidence is anecdotal and less persuasive. Influence measurement must support a long-term view, since ABM opportunities may take a year or more to close.

Megan Heuer

Megan Heuer is Vice President of Research at SiriusDecisions. With more than 20 years of industry and professional services experience, she has worked both in – and for – organizations to build a wide variety of collaborative sales and marketing deliverables that drive systematic, predictable growth. Follow Megan on Twitter @megheuer.