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What you can learn about ABM from the tech sector

The IT sector may have a closer relationship with ABM than other industries, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable for other B2B segments, writes Mark Goren

This trending marketing tactic, built on collaboration and alignment between an organisation’s marketing and sales teams, focuses on selecting customer prospects that are the ideal or best-fit accounts based on the organisation’s current mission and operations structure.

After agreeing on the target list, ABM then requires developing an outreach plan built around customer and organisational insights, creative concepts and executions geared specifically for these accounts, and relationship-building efforts targeting key contacts and decision-makers at the best-fit accounts.

The rise of ABM

There’s a reason IT firms know ABM so well: they essentially created it. ABM was by many accounts 

conceived by the Information Technology Services Marketing Association

, now known as ITSMA. The organisation says members came up with the approach around 10 years ago to market sophisticated technical systems or products that either weren’t well known in the marketplace or that represented a significant B2B investment.

Over the years a number of technology companies adopted ABM tactics because they seemed more effective when dealing with groups of decision-makers weighing major B2B purchases. The reason: these high-investment high-risk decisions are typically made by groups of individuals, all of whom deserve to be included in messaging and marketing strategies. In cases like these, requiring collaborative decision-making, ABM is a perfect marketing strategy.

The fact that ABM focuses on the quality of relationships over quantity makes it a powerful strategy for complicated, high investment purchases, like technology, that tend to have lengthy sales cycles.

It’s also an effective disruptor tactic in cases where buying groups have developed an affinity or long-term buying relationship with one supplier, or where other suppliers hold a dominant share of the market, also not uncommon in the IT industry. New entrants may find that ABM strategies help them break the sales cycle, get their foot in the door, and level the playing field.

Rethinking marketing’s numbers game

Of course, organisations outside of the tech industry have often relied on playing more of a numbers game when it comes to marketing: using wide-reaching lead generation campaigns with much less selectivity, if any, about the kinds of prospects that are ideal for the organisation.

Methods like these can still be effective, but the benefits of ABM are hard to ignore. When buying groups work together, for example, marketing approaches targeting just one or two individuals across a wide range of accounts pale in comparison to efforts dedicating more time and effort to understanding and working with the team involved in the buying decision at each prospect account.

So clearly it’s not only tech organisations where ABM is an appropriate strategy. There are many B2B market sectors, after all, where purchasing decisions are complex and lengthy, and where a few organisations seem to rule the market.

Consider for example, specified markets such as for building materials. Many different professionals usually have a hand in selecting these products, from architects to engineers to builders to contractors. And, those who specify these products often depend on longstanding supplier relationships when making these decisions. In this, and similar sectors, competitors and market newcomers hoping to win out over an established supplier can use ABM tactics to break these cycles.

It can happen as long as the ABM tactics are successful at forming trusted connections with key purchase decision-makers, showing these stakeholders that they do understand their concerns and priorities, and presenting them with solutions to answer those concerns.

Yes, ABM efforts can take some time, and are usually not inexpensive as far as marketing tactics go. But when used strategically, the evidence shows they’re effective. For example, 

Forbes has reported

 that as many as 97% of marketers claim ABM campaigns deliver higher returns than other marketing tactics.

Considering these factors, it’s clear that ABM is not just for tech organisations anymore, as some might assume. And there are other myths about the approach that persist in some experts’ minds; we’ll cover some of them in an upcoming blog post.

For marketing organisations interested in taking a closer look at how to put an ABM campaign to work,

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