Pushing product: it’s what B2B companies have been doing for years. Even if we say we’re putting the customer front and center, usually we’re not really walking the talk. We have all these meetings and mandates about what the company wants to accomplish and rally our teams to create strategies and execute tactics to achieve them. But in most of these conversations, the customer becomes the equivalent of a wanted poster. We target them based on what we want to achieve rather than making them the hub from which we pivot.

How many marketing meetings have you been in that start with some version of one of the below?

  • We need a campaign for Q2 to generate #X leads/demands for product A.
  • Our customers have shown high engagement with these content assets; what can we create to continue the story or fill in the gaps to help them solve this problem?

My bet is that the first bullet is a lot more prevalent than the second.

While the idea behind Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is not necessarily new, its relatively new name and acronym is picking up a ton of steam in B2B organizations. One of the best things about ABM is the first part: the “Account.” By its very nature, ABM makes the account and customer the North Star that guides all decisions.

If you’re doing ABM well, everything rolls up under the Ideal Customer Profile that represents your best accounts. This includes personas, messaging, stories, content marketing programs, sales enablement programs, and more.

ABM makes your company focus on the entirety of the buying or change management process. It takes campaigns out of the equation and focuses marketing, sales, and service attention on helping our target list of accounts get the job done—from start to finish.

As we erect the operational framework and processes to support ABM, several interesting things start to happen:

Increased Relevance

Relevance in the eyes of our buyers increases because we’ve done the groundwork to understand our targeted accounts. We’ve taken the time to map out who’s involved, build personas, create content specific to the situational needs of those roles—as well as the account as a whole. Marketing, sales, and service teams are pooling insights to develop a well-rounded view of the accounts and their needs.

Marketing and Sales Alignment

Because both sides are focused on the same goals, working together becomes a natural extension of ABM program strategy and execution. Marketing no longer needs to toss leads over the wall to an uninterested sales team. We’re in the same boat. Every contact added to a targeted account matters as a stepping stone toward helping them buy. Both skill sets must be employed harmoniously to make this happen.

Simplified Content Decisions 

Will the content you’re developing serve your target list of accounts? If the answer is no, the content is not produced. It’s that simple. This means that creating content that will go unused is no longer an issue—or a sunk cost. Every content asset you produce will have a purpose in relation to your targeted account list and their stage in solving the problem. It will all be useful and used.

Easy-to-Identify Patterns of Behavior

When you’re not focused on marketing to the total addressable market – just the market that’s ideal for your company—you’re marketing to fewer leads. With a focus on accounts, it’s easier to look at the group dynamic of the contacts within that account rather than one lone lead at a time. When you look at activity and engagement it becomes more apparent when it’s just the right time to take specific actions with specific contacts within the account based on their engagement and behavior.

Collaborative Communication

ABM creates collaboration. We have to talk to each other to work accounts seamlessly. Rather than marketing taking the first part of the process and sales bringing up the rear, we’re all in the pool together. With insights to what each role on the ABM team is doing and the overall ABM strategy, it’s easier to work together. Expectations are set, and working together is the only way to achieve them. Let’s face it; if we don’t communicate across roles, ABM has little chance of succeeding. If each role on the ABM team acts independently, it’s likely your accounts will have a fragmented and confusing experience. And that won’t bode well for either of you.

Simplified Measurement

Finally, the quantity over quality issue can be put to rest! Marketing is no longer about lead volume. Rather, the job is to expand influence within targeted accounts by increasing the number of contacts you’re able to engage. It’s not just a marketing job, but a team job. Metrics can now be focused on pipeline, momentum, and opportunities won.

Yes, you can still measure increases to website traffic, but the focus will now be on activity by target accounts, not just any viewer of your website. (See the Simplified Content Decisions section above.)

Final Thoughts

ABM, done well, can transform B2B companies from being product pushers to account champions. Your focus on knowing and understanding your target accounts will result in more relevant content that resonates. Marketing, sales, and service will align naturally and collaborate more effectively. And because no one will lose sight of an account, measurement will be simplified and based on the impact to the company’s objectives overall—not the achievements of siloed teams. ABM definitely goes beyond marketing.

But best of all, your customers will become the true North Star you’ve always known they should be.

What are you waiting for?

Ardath Albee

About Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions. She’s written two books, the latest is Digital Relevance: Developing Content and Strategies That Drive Results. Ardath helps B2B companies with complex sales use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Follow her on Twitter at @ardath421.