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In ABM, the ‘lighthouse customer’ guides the way | B2B Marketing

At a recent roundtable on ABM, the feeling among participants was one of excitement at the ambition and importance of the strategy writes Passle’s Tom Elgar

Recently we had the pleasure of hosting an account-based marketing (ABM) roundtable with a group of software and IT services companies (SITS) with B2B Marketing. All of them were either involved in or were starting the journey to set up an ABM program and one of the biggest issues – very openly expressed – was: “What should it even look like?”

To some, ABM is simply the process of focusing on smaller volumes of clients with a higher degree of personalisation. As someone told me very earnestly a week or two back: “It is a funnel, but it’s a narrower funnel!” This is not a terribly inspiring concept and hardly transformational for our group. One member noted three quarters of their several billion dollars of yearly revenue was from just 30 firms. A sales funnel – pour the leads in the top and watch them drip out the bottom – is simply not an appropriate analogy.

Our conversation darted around, this is an open and interesting topic and very few feel they have nailed it, but one overarching feeling was excitement at the pure ambition and importance of this strategy. In a world where more and more products are being delivered as services, engaging with your client to define ‘the problem’ as early as possible is becoming absolutely critical. And using ABM throughout the lifecycle is becoming a key differentiator.

Working hand-in-hand with sales

An interesting thing about ABM – a new thing – is that it adds the skills and techniques of the marketing department to those of sales for the benefit of this very small numbers of clients. Marketing adds value even in very targeted situations, it does not just fill in gaps left by sales. This means that sales and marketing must be working hand-in-glove, with similar KPIs and focus.

A participant in charge of one of the most longstanding ABM programs of the group had become so embedded in the sales process they had what was described as ‘lighthouse’ engagement with key customers. These lighthouse customers were the ones with whom they engage so closely and understood so well that they are able to chart their course together from product design, construction and delivery.

These lighthouse customers can show us the way.

What ABM really means and looks like for marketers

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