Account Based Marketing Brings Client Value Back to Center Stage

Auteur: Reinier Willems RM, bestuurslid NIMA B2B

Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a strategic marketing approach aimed at engaging key customers and prospects in a highly personalized manner with one overriding focus: customer value.

Also known as ‘key account marketing’, this approach is being put into practice by an increasing number of companies to reach and engage with large strategic customers and prospects. As a recent study by the Gartner Group showed, the large customer segment represents over half the revenue and profitability of many companies.

But strategic customers in many cases are also customers with complex decision making units.

Relevance is King

With more and more marketers producing more and more content to feed their marketing automation tools, the people on the receiving end are forced to ignore more and more content in order to get their day jobs done. Only the most relevant content will be able to cut through this data-smog. For business buyers this relevance is driven by personal and professional value.

Although the focus of ABM lies mostly with outbound marketing (and can co-exist very well next to your more generic inbound marketing activities) it is by no means an ‘interruption marketing’ approach. The messaging of an ABM engagement strategy is specifically not centered on:

  • your own company
  • your own products and services
  • high volumes of generic market information

Instead, it’s fully focused on the value that matters most to your target company, and to the decision makers and influencers that guide it.

Value is in the eyes of the beholder

To understand what your corporate customers value most, an essential start of the ABM engagement approach is a thorough customer/prospect analysis, typically on 3 levels:

  1. the market of your target company, their customers and position in the value chain
  2. their company structure, key developments, strategic initiatives
  3. the DMU, key decision makers and influencers, often with an international scope

From this analysis you can distill the value themes that are most relevant for each account and identify the most important decision makers. It’s a great opportunity for marketing to work with sales and product management to translate these themes into a tailored and highly relevant value offering.

Based upon the identified value themes and insight into the (broad) DMU you can design a tailored communications and engagement plan that covers all ‘touchpoints’ with the account including: outbound messaging, social selling approaches, sales meetings, events, webcasts etc.

Such an engagement plan will have a fairly long time horizon — 9 to 12 months is not uncommon.

Another characteristic of Account Based Marketing is that it is a full-funnel approach. It doesn’t stop after marketing has landed an appointment for sales.

In fact, it can be argued that after signing the contract the real work begins by:

  • Making sure the new client experiences a consistent commercial approach (most of us have experienced buying something from a dynamic and responsive salesperson, then finding ourselves dealing with a total different organization after the contract is signed)
  • Onboarding the relationship effectively to create a solid foundation for the future
  • Expanding the relationship through cross-selling or even co-creating new services

Show Them The Money

Part of the marketing communication to existing clients can include the development of value overviews: detailing the tangible value you have delivered to your customer. Although not always an urgent activity,  this is where you influence something very important: your client’s perception of value for money. When doing this effectively, you will be able to open up new cross-selling opportunities, or influence future tender requirements.

A value based marketing and communication approach therefore demands a concerted effort, not only with Sales, but also with the colleagues of Account Management.

The good thing though is that an effective ABM engagement approach will deliver a measurable contribution to the bottom line with the accounts that have been selected for this approach.

In many markets where commoditization is a real challenge, the only way to stand out is not by applying generic messaging, but to create a focused, personalized engagement and communication program around the themes that are most valuable to the people you want to reach.