Tips for Beginners: Account-Based Marketing

The idea of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is not a new one. If you’ve been around a while, you’ve probably been exposed to Enterprise Selling Process (ESP) originally from a company called OnTarget in the 1990’s. When you add a CRM system and a Marketing Automation Platform, you’ve got everything you need to get started with account-based marketing. 

What qualifies as account-based marketing? Well, it’s probably a numbers game. If you have accounts that are big enough that you currently treat them as a market of one, or you have a team dedicated to that account, there’s most likely justification to consider an account-based marketing approach.

The reason ABM has reached peak popularity is that technology and resources have allowed us to scale in new ways.

—Craig Rosenberg, TOPO

Christopher Golec, CEO of Demandbase discusses Account Based Marketing with Jeffrey L. Cohen, Director of Content Strategy for Oracle Marketing Cloud.

ITSMA also has a reasonable claim to having coined the phrase Account-Based Marketing, and they have a solid definition:

Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a structured approach to developing and implementing highly customized sales and marketing campaigns for single accounts, prospects, or partnerships. By treating each client as a market of one, you can broaden and deepen your relationships with individuals at key accounts as well as increase awareness and demand for your services and solutions. This ultimately leads to more strategic sales and greater revenue generation.”

Craig Rosenberg of analyst from TOPO agrees that ABM is actually old school.

As long as there have been companies and people trying to sell them,” Rosenberg said, “there have been account-based marketing campaigns. The reason it has reached peak popularity over the last year or so, however, is that technology and fresh resources have allowed us to scale in entirely new ways.”

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The reason ABM has reached peak popularity is that technology and resources have allowed us to scale in new ways.

—Craig Rosenberg, TOPO

How does Marketing Automation Help?

In days past, Account-Based Marketing would have been a more expensive and time consuming process. However, the payoff was clearly there when you look at the revenue associated with your major accounts.

When you add functionality like:

  • Personalisation
  • Dynamic Content
  • CRM Integration
  • Deep Segmentation Capability

You have everything you need to deliver a personal one-on-one experience to a large group, not from just one company or account, but to many.

One of the key requirements for Account-Based Marketing will be the need to personalise your communications. That means ensuring that communications to customers come “from” the Key Account Manager or, it may be more complex than that.

Eloqua provides rich and deep integration with Oracle Sales Cloud, Salesforce CRM, NetSuite and Microsoft Dynamics. With account relationships captured at the Account level within the CRM, personalised communications can be sent from any member of your team.

Or, you can personalise communications from the CRM Contact owner. 

What about Custom Data?

A common construct with most CRM platforms, is the idea of “Custom Data Objects”. This usually plays out in the way of data sourced from a third party system. It could be an ERP system or some other financial system or even a system that captures product detail.

From a segmentation point of view, you may want to develop trigger-based campaigns designed to engage customers at very specific stages.

For example…

If your company provides services or products that are delivered across a contracted period, the expiry date of that contract will be critical. A trigger-based campaign will continually look for contacts that meet a specific criteria, it could be something like this:

  • Contract expires within 90 days
  • Customer has XYZ product or service
  • Contact is the “Key Contact”
  • Account is a “Top 500” account

When a Contact meets all of the above criteria, a specific and personalised communication can be sent from your Key Account Manager to the customer Key Contact.

The Key Account Manager will have access to this communication from within the CRM and the sending of that one email can also trigger a task within the CRM drawing the attention of the Key Account Manager.

Tips to start your Account-Based Marketing Campaigns

The key thing you need to have clarity around for Account-Based Marketing will be data. You will need to ensure your CRM data model reinforces an account based construct.

Some of the common barriers we see are as follows:

  • The CRM data model does not have the customer at the center. This is clearly the case when you have a single contact duplicated in the CRM. For example, one contact is associated to multiple accounts with the same email address.
  • Accounts are duplicated. Most CRM systems provide for “parent” and “child” account constructs. (SIDE NOTE: When I worked at Siebel in a previous life, it got to the stage that account creation in the CRM was removed from users and assigned to a global account creation team. Only then was there clarity around accounts.)
  • The CRM does not reflect “ownership” by sales people. It’s generally the case with major accounts that multiple sales people and other team members own various types of relationships. The CRM can easily manage this, however it’s often generally poorly implemented.