I tuned in to a very interesting virtual talk yesterday by the self-named 'Grandmother of ABM' Bev Burgess who is the ABM practice lead at the ITSMA. Bev firmly believes that more companies are moving to elements of an ABM model and this has been accelerated like many things, by the pandemic.  What isn't always clear, is actually the definition of what ABM (account-based marketing) actually is and Bev attributes this in part to the fact that Martech companies have developed a category for it and thus have carried out a lot of the education.  This rather helpfully, is where Bev starts.

What is ABM? Treating individual accounts as markets of one. 

The core principles are as follows:

  1. Partner with BD & Sales
  2. Build reputation, relationships not just revenue
  3. Tailor everything
  4. Build everything around client insight

When to use ABM? There are four main contexts for using ABM.

  1. To improve account penetration (normally amongst your top accounts)with the idea being to uncover more opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling
  2. To change perceptions or positioning.  This can be used to develop new lines of revenue from a new business unit or change a negative perception into a positive one.
  3. To pursue major opportunities
  4. To develop new accounts

Why is ABM harder in professional service firms?

This part of the presentation was actually opened up to the floor with the main reasons ranging from; a fear of fee earners sharing accounts, lack of education and awareness in terms of what ABM is throughout the firm, there is a fear that it only works for larger firms, difficult to track ROI.

Where can I learn from others mistakes? There are seven common roadblocks that Bev highlights to avoid or try to overcome and they are as follows:

  1. Don't do it alone- like most things within PS firms, it is good to get champions and advocates throughout the business on board and fully equipped on what you are trying to do.
  2. Focus on marketing objectives and metrics- these are what you are judged on and so incorporate into the rest of your overall plan.
  3. Accept any account- some just won't be set up for ABM techniques or may be too small to make it work.
  4. Jump straight into tactics
  5. Think its just about targeted online ads
  6. Add ABM to your day job- always pilot this first and don't go at it in an all-consuming manner.  Instead, block out time maybe once a week to start with.
  7. Don't leverage technology.  You don't need to in the first instance and it can distract from what you are trying to achieve plus adding to costs.

How do I get started? Bev outlined a model used by the ITSMA that works really well with four key stages and 7 dimensions that evolve with time.  

Importantly like all strategies, it can take time to implement.   Of course one could argue, that now is as good a time than any to start the first stage and start exploring.