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ABM - Is that really what this is all about?
By Uwe Seebacher, Author for B2B Marketing and Predictive Intelligence, Marketing and Management Professional, Professor, Executive Advisor, Andritz [WBAG: ANDR]
Account-based marketing is on everyone's lips. It seems like that ABM is the solution for everything in the area of the MarTech. As I was engaged in totally reframing a conventional coloring-in industrial goods marketing department into a fully digitized sales and marketing automation department increasing generated inbound leads by 250 % within 12 months, I had to thoroughly follow all discussions and key notes on all relevant topics. Frankly speaking, in the area of ABM after short period, I had to realize that the level of news and real new findings and insights was more and more decreasing.
The only thing I found out to be essential was the fact, that ABM as many other new-hyped terms in industry are wrongly and inconsistently used. Since many years, this is the case in the context of CRM. I happened to attend many meetings and discussions at clients during which I realized that most of the problems arose due to the fact of no clear roles and responsibilities. The people were more and more engaged discussing about who is in charge of CRM and lost sight of the real burning issues and problems. Since 2003, I am now closely associated to Template-based Consulting (TDC) which has now enlarged into the efficient and impactful managerial practice through Template-based Management (TBM). Both TDC and TBM strictly focus on methods and structures.
And in this context, I came to the conclusion that the reason for so many discussions going nowhere, were simply caused by the fact that people not having alignment and consistency in the understanding of methodological aspects of a certain topic. Due to this ABM and CRM, to name only those two areas as part pro toto, were elaborated with the different mindsets of the people. The leading standard textbook in B2B Marketing, which was edited by me, gets this straight as ABM can and must be seen in different meanings and perspectives in order to be able to discuss and work consistently and stringently on and with it. In this respect, ABM must be seen in the narrowest sense, broader sense and a broadest sense in order to be able to sustainably properly work with that term. ABM in the broadest sense is the philosophy of an organization to actively work and focus on a set of defined, ongoingly audited and monitored but also adjusted key accounts.
In this case, the organization should not celebrate a new deal as a successful closing but rather as the start of a good relationship. ABM on the broadest level can be seen as the strategic dimension.
ABM in the broader sense must be seen as the operational B2B Marketing working area based on which ongoingly a defined ABM process is deployed to actively nurture and develop the defined set of key accounts. In this sense, the entire MarTech stack of an organization is used for running focus campaigns, draft and deploy certain ABM journeys by fully leveraging the Predictive Intelligence towards a 360° on the defined key accounts. ABM on the broader sense can be seen as the operational dimension, which then leads to ABM in the narrowest sense as the IT topics, the part of the MarTech stack.
This is very similar with the above mentioned topic of CRM but in 90 % of discussions this simply appearing structure seems not to be clear and present. Because if all engaged stakeholder would be aware of this underlying and all-guiding structure, many discussions could be ended rather quickly. Why? Because IT-relevant systemic aspects must be guided by the Tech- or IT-department and all others by the content owners, namely the former marketing and sales and now the revenue and success departments.
So what does this mean for ABM in terms of MarTech and its future? I would like to tackle this topic two-fold, ABM as part of the broader MarTech, SalesTech but also Predictive Intelligence (PI) Techstack landscape and ABM in regard to the organizational maturity as this will be essential in the future. Today, the majority of B2B marketing departments must be considered as still being located in the “coloring-in” departmental corner. This means that the vast minority (88%) of B2B marketing departments, as confirmed by the 2020 B2B Marketing Readiness Assessment delivered by the author in cooperation with diverse institutions and associations, does not yet dispose of the required structures in order to be able to profit from an ABM solution. Such a structure consists of a comprehensive Marketing Process Library (MPL), consistent and, to new needs and requirements of modern B2B marketing adopted, Job descriptions, roles and responsibilities.
However, the majority of B2B managers is being urged by the market dynamics to digitalize their activities and due to this try to solve that task by simply putting everything on the one card of MarTech and its acquisition. But sooner or later they will not be able to generate the expected and required results, which will, as a consequence, lead to the non-extension of many ABM-related contracts, again causing the consolidation of the ABM suppliers. For the entire MarTech stack this phenomenon can be applied, as MarTech will never ever solve structural issues for and within B2B marketing departments. For B2B managers need to do their structural and methodological homework based on which then the stepwise development of a required and pre-defined MarTech does make sense and creates benefits. This means that only if an organization does have the required organizational maturity then only the investment in a modern MarTech stack will pay-off.
This situation is made worse by the fact, that we do not only look at an incredible development speed of the MarTech stack landscape, but also the one in the area of the SalesTech and in the last two years also the tech stack for Predictive Intelligence, the so called PITech stack. These different tech stacks are more and more redundant and do provide overlapping products and solutions. This puts the different content-owning departments within the buying organizations into a competitive situation causing conflicting interests. For ABM as part of the MarTech, and MarTech being only one aspect of a fast growing landscapes of different tech stacks, the challenge is and will be to have a tech stack roadmap, a growing internal competence and knowledge on the underlying processes and structures, in order to be able to recognize such overlaps and redundancies. Only this, will allow organizations to navigate safely and efficiently through the colorful wonderland of growing tech stacks landscape. In the context of a current state, uncovering that only 10 % of corporations globally are yet to be considered as data-driven, then the urgency arises that the one and only leading, driving and guiding tech stack will have to be the one of Predictive Intelligence.