ABM: Assessing Your Readiness

December 13, 2016 John Muehling

ABM – shiny new toy

We’ve almost become immune to it. You know, the “shiny object” that captures the attention of everyone in the company and sometimes results in the CEO asking if we are “looking into it?” But this time, it’s different. This time, it seems more real – more tenable. I am talking about Account-Based Marketing or ABM (since everything is an acronym these days).

The truth is, ABS (Account-Based Selling – ABM’s brother) has been around for a long time. Sales teams have long used the approach of selling to companies versus individuals – selling to the “committee” instead of the buyer. And, an additional term has also started to emerge – ABE (no, nothing to do with Mr. Lincoln – it’s Account-Based Everything). But, the important thing to grasp, is not which name it’s going by, but the fact that we now have the tools to make an “Account-Based” strategy more easily implemented, and hopefully, more successful.

Inevitably, when a new concept emerges, along with it comes a set of tools, and companies that are developing and selling those tools. From our perspective, the real question we should be asking, before even considering the tools, is – are we ready? In my career, I’ve seen too many times when companies, eager to blaze the trail, purchase the new tool and then, well then it sits on the shelf and collects dust or we fumble around, trying to figure out how to best configure it to work and, most importantly, show an ROI. After all, these tools aren’t free. So, how do we assess our readiness for ABM?

Many of our clients have grappled with this question, some before they purchase their ABM solution, others afterwards. But here are 5 key areas of assessment you should be considering, before you go down the path with the companies touting their solutions for this awesome “new” approach.

The 5 key areas for ABM readiness

CULTURE

Quite simply, is the culture at your company prepared to shift to an Account-Based strategy? Do the stakeholders in the various areas of the business agree on the definition of Account-Based? I personally get excited when I think about the impact this type of strategy can have on a company. For me, it’s a key opportunity to finally get Marketing and Sales working together. The chance for us to reach the Marketing and Sales alignment utopia that has, for so long, eluded us.

Other questions may include the expected impact of an Account-Based strategy on revenue. Will revenue dip during the transition? Are the Senior Execs or BoD ready for that? And, what is the expected timeframe for full implementation. Answering these key questions can help you with planning and budgets, as well as reduce the chances of having your Account-Based project abruptly halted, halfway through implementation.

PROCESS

How well defined is your conversion criteria? Do you have rules around opening opportunities when Leads are converted to Contacts? Are you even planning to continue using the Lead object (for those of you on Salesforce.com)? And for those of using Marketo; do you have a well-defined set of Contact Roles for the Opportunity? Those will be critical to properly attributing revenue and reporting on it.

DATA CLEANLINESS

Now, this one may stop some of you in your tracks. If you have double digit percentages of duplicates in your database, frankly, you are going to have issues rolling out a sound strategy. Do you have 3rd party tools or a process built to prevent duplicates in the future? Don’t overlook the importance of data cleanliness. Now, more than ever, data is the key to revenue. Which brings me to #4.

DATA INTEGRITY

Ok, so your data is clean. But is it also accurate? What type of strategy do you plan to deploy? Will you be using a Named Account, Large Account, Vertically-based Account, Role-based or Lifecycle-based approach? Regardless of your approach, you are going to need to have some data to determine the segments and organize your data. How about buyer personas? Some time ago, while at Dreamforce, a representative from a major analyst firm gave a presentation and stated that only 8% of enterprise companies have buyer personas. 8%!! I almost fell out of my chair! Without personas, how are you marketing to your prospects? How do you know what they want, how they think, how they buy? Some of you will say, “well John, we use segmentation.” Ok, fair enough. You could approach with segmentation, but, in my experience, you are still missing a major opportunity to have a really meaningful conversation with your prospects. And, I’m not talking about the way you want to converse with them, but more the way they need to be heard. It’s the latter that will win the day and drive optimal revenue. But, regardless of whether you use personas or simple segmentation, you will need data; lots of it, fresh and accurate.

CONTENT

Well, if the data didn’t make you pause, this just might. Yes, you are going to need more content! You are going to need to develop a content plan that will help your prospect’s buying committee learn about your solution, learn why you are superior to your competitors and ultimately, learn why your solution will solve their problem. Some questions to ask here are:

Do you have content that is aligned to the buyer roles?

Here’s a hint, our friends in the C-Suite don’t read a lot of white papers. They are typically looking for short form, “quick hit” content. And they may not be looking for content at all. They will, most often, rely on their colleagues internally and externally to share new things with them, solutions to their problems. And the same holds true for many of us in the offices on the “floors below.” Let’s face it, we are all fairly busy these days. If someone is going to interrupt me, it had better be good. So, a friend or colleague, who forwards something to me, or makes a personal introduction, will usually get through. Consider what you are producing and who you are producing it for. Rule for content in the 21st Century: One size does not fit all.

Do you have a multi-channel strategy?

For that to be successful, you need a wide variety of content types. Taking a white paper, for example, and breaking it up into a slide share, an infographic, a series of tweets, a short blog post, a short published post on LinkedIn. The list could go on, but you get the point. Take time to learn what channel your prospects are communicating in, what channel they prefer and have content ready to “talk” to them there.

Want more info on content for ABM?

So, there you have it, some ways to get started with your assessment. The important thing is that it could take some time. And what you uncover during the assessment could delay a real start to the project for weeks, even months. So, plan accordingly; plan for success. It’s not a race to the top. Remember the turtle and the hare?

For more information on Digital Pi’s ABM Assessment and a full analysis of your readiness, hit us up. Once we determine what you need for a proper implementation, we also have a defined approach to helping your organization achieve ABM success!

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