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Trying out ABM? Go big or go home

Jon Silk, director at Bite, says marketers need to employ big tactics to make account-based marketing work

I vividly remember being in a Hammersmith Starbucks, drinking a cappuccino, reading Emma Parkes’ recent article about account-based marketing (ABM) in September’s B2B Marketing magazine. 

‘As with anything that’s relatively new,’ she said, ‘there can be hesitation from some before embarking on what could be a lengthy new process, but the end results can be substantial.’ 

What is ABM?
If I’m being honest, and I’m normally very honest with you lot, I didn’t really have a clue what she was on about. 

ABM, according to the piece, aligns marketing more closely with sales. It uses the latest digital techniques to make key customers feel special through personalisation. It deserves investment of both time and effort.

New? Is this new? Couldn’t you say all of the above about marketing in general? What makes ABM so special?

But since that day in Starbucks I’ve been involved in some ABM work, and everything good old Parkesey said is true. Lots of different types of marketing tactics, and the nuances that go with them, are accepted practice in most big B2B organisations. Advertising, with its big budgets. Email, with its ginormous failure rates. Social media, with its beards.

ABM, however, is new and needs careful thought. The subtlety of an ABM plan is such that it could look like just plain old key account management. It often borrows from mainstream sales and marketing initiatives, but then takes them hyper-personal and relationship based. It needs a lot of insight work, then approaches PR, then swerves off towards branding.

Big tactics
The one thing I’ve learnt about ABM is  the tactics themselves need to be big. I don’t mean big as in budgets. I mean big as in ideas. 

You know how every consumer-facing campaign that goes viral nowadays seems to be bigger in concept than the one before? 

We’re obviously sick of seeing people queuing outside shops as a PR stunt, so clothes retailer Desigual asked people to do it in their underwear to win a free outfit. Cue lots of press and a charming picture of people in pants (and one, worryingly, in a mankini,
in November).

When the clever people at Autographer released their new camera recently they didn’t just send a few review units to journalists – they ‘leaked’ a picture of the Loch Ness monster. 

TGI Friday launched drones with Mistletoe dangling from the undercarriage to celebrate Christmas. Taco Bell deleted all of its social media accounts to announce its new app. Santa joined LinkedIn for the NSPCC.

In order to achieve the legendary cut-through every marketer desires, every hit must be bigger, brighter, and more bonkers.

Here’s the thing. ABM needs to have that bigger, brighter, bonkers attitude built in. Yes, ABM is all about hyper-personalisation but then so is every other marketing technique right now. Yes, you can build an amazing relationship with your key customer stakeholders, but then so can every single one of your competitors.

Thinking about an event just for that customer? Make sure your CEO turns up. Make sure the tickets are exclusive, his or her favourite thing, and it’s the best event they’ve ever been to with a supplier. Unveil your new team logo that incorporates their branding too. Then take off your shirts and reveal your new tattoos of your customer’s logo.

Okay, maybe not that last bit.

Most importantly, invest. Hire people that understand ABM. Then give them enough money to go bonkers with it.