Account-Based Marketing

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One of the most intriguing trends in b-to-b marketing today is the rise of account-based marketing (ABM), perhaps the ultimate expression of the trend toward smaller and more precisely targeted campaigns.

ABM is an approach that treats an individual account as a market in its own right. Done right, it ensures that marketing and sales are fully focused on a target client's most important business issues, and that they work collaboratively to create value propositions that specifically address those issues. Far beyond the basics of personalized messaging and segmented offers, true ABM has the potential to deepen relationships with existing clients and build profitability by shortening the sales cycle and increasing win rates and sole-sourced deals.

In order to create a successful ABM pilot, marketers must take the following six steps:

1) Select the target account. Identifying potential accounts to pursue with ABM is not simply a matter of picking the largest or most profitable customers and prospects. Marketers should use an account prioritization tool to objectively rank potential targets.

2) Analyze the target account. Using primary and secondary research, marketers must get beyond the basics and truly understand the target's business operations, priorities and success factors.

3) Map value. Next, marketers must identify the value their company can bring to the target account. The key is to work backward from what the client needs to achieve, rather than starting with an agenda of specific products or services to promote.

4) Develop the tactical plan. Marketers must build an integrated plan for the target account just as they would for a broader market segment, with a mix of activities geared to diverse influencers, decision-makers and organizational dynamics.

5) Execute. All the usual project management disciplines apply here, but it is very important to ensure alignment between sales and marketing to avoid potential turf battles over who owns the account.

6) Measure. The ultimate goal of ABM is to move client perception in a positive direction over the long term. Marketers must devise a way to track perception along with more familiar metrics, such as revenues, leads and conversion rates.

Generalist approaches to marketing are no longer enough in today's competitive market. By harnessing the power of ABM, marketing will not only create deep and trusted relationships with key clients, but also deliver substantial and measurable results.

Jeff Sands is member engagement director at the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA). He can be reached at

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