Account-based marketing and account-based selling. We’ve all heard of these concepts. They’ve been around for a while. Some of us in the B2B world use them. Some of us don’t (yet). One thing, however, is that we all have slightly varying definitions of ABM and ABS.
So let’s level set.
Account-based marketing is treating a vetted, highly-defined number of accounts as individual markets. It’s an approach that says, “OK, we’re going to go after these 100 accounts, and we’re going to go at them from all angles in a highly customized, personalized way.” Michael Rose of Mojo Media Labs positions ABM on Forbes as targeting “very specific organizations and companies that are the best possible fit for your product or service.” It’s about knowing with certainty your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), their pain points and delivering the right content and messaging to the right people within the target account.
Account-based selling drills down deeper from targeting specific accounts to targeting specific people at those specific accounts. It’s very specific.
If we look at account-based selling through the customer-lifecycle lens of develop-sell-manage, development is where ABM and ABS start to fuse together. Marketing targets an account in its entirety, while business development reps are directly targeting the ideal contacts. In other words, all the right people at company X are seeing the LinkedIn ads Marketing is pushing, and to complement, BDRs are pursuing actual engagement with all those right people. It’s like casting a huge net over a school of fish and you’ve got some spearfishers in the water that know exactly which one they want.
But account-based marketing doesn’t just hook into business development. It’s relevant to sales and management too. Once an account is in the sales phase, marketing still needs to be there, beating the drum. Similarly, account management needs marketing to help power cross-sell and upsell opportunities within the account.
Great. That’s how ABM and ABS work together. We’re done here, right?
Unsurprisingly, no. We’re not done. There are three critical factors that marketing and sales departments need to align on before implementing the account-based approach.
An ICP that Leaves No Room for Interpretation
Most organizations have gone through ideal customer profile exercises, yet if you walk around and ask folks in an office who their ideal customer is, you’ll be surprised at the subtle variances. In order for account-based anything to work, there can be no confusion between marketing and sales around the ideal customer profile. If there is misalignment, marketing and sales are essentially heading in opposite directions (or at least not the same direction). So take the time to define your ideal customer profile. Agree upon it. Reconfirm aforementioned agreement. Post on a big banner in the office, if you like. And perhaps most importantly, revisit it at a regular cadence throughout the year.
In order for account-based selling and account-based marketing to work effectively together, marketing and sales departments have to be saying the same thing. They’ve got to be using the same messaging, the same channels (for the most part), the same branding, the same assets, the same font, the same style… you get the idea. Why such a militant stance on message alignment? Because account-based marketing and account-based selling is a fluid relationship. There’s no more “throwing over the fence” from marketing to sales. The idea is to create a singular, seamless customer experience. It’s marketingsales, not marketing → sales.
What Matters Most: Platform Consistency
How and where all that beautifully-aligned messaging happens is just as important. A successful customer journey — from marketing to development to sales to management — needs to be consistent. Delivering an experience that jumps from, say, email to phone calls to online meetings to in-person meetings back to email, etc. just complicates things. (And that’s not even considering the fact that more stakeholders, from either side of the table, are joining the process at different times.
The fewer “things” (or platforms) marketing and sales teams have to throw at their customer, the more successful the account-based approach will be.
Shameless plug time: Platforms like our Smart Rooms get accounts into a singular, easy-to-use digital workspace. Marketing can create general community rooms that facilitate self-education and fact-finding. (You know, the stuff prospects have to do before they even listen to a BDR.) Then, on the same platform, BDRs and sales teams can deliver custom, personalized, interactive content that moves the ball forward. Once inked, Smart Rooms allow account management to onboard customers on a platform with which they’re already familiar.
Account-based marketing and account-based selling are designed to work in concert. That said, you don’t just declare you’re doing them and then kick back and relax. An account-based approach takes work, message and platform alignment, strong internal communication, the willingness to retrospect, and a crystal clear definition of account qualifications.