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How to Get Your Organization Ready for Account-based Marketing Success

ABM is top-of- mind for many our clients. If you think about our clients, these clients sell high value solutions. So, ABM is a really good fit. Again, most of our clients are doing things like inbound programs or mass outbound programs. Now, we hear a lot that those programs, although helpful, are not really the best fit for their businesses. It’s all about identifying very specific targets that buy high value solutions. ABM is a great fit for that approach, hence, the interest.

But how do you do ABM?

We implemented this over a year ago and we’re currently running it very successfully. There’s a lot of content out in the market place, a lot of buzz around why you should do ABM. But, there isn’t a whole lot out there on how you do it. What we’ve learned is that it’s a whole lot more than just implementing technology.

The technology is a very important piece of ABM. There are a lot of technology providers out there that do great things, but it’s much more than just a technology. We see our clients coping with that. Hence, our approach really gets us thinking about much more than just a technology piece of implementing this within an organization.

When you think about it, to do ABM right, you need coordination across different functional units. Sometimes, those functional units work well together and sometimes, they don’t. And sometimes, they’re just not used to working with each other. To do ABM well, you should have marketing, business development, sales, account management, and your customer success, at a minimum, working together.

Get Aligned

Those groups don’t always work well together. Most of the time, they’re just not used to working together. That’s the beauty of ABM – a good ABM process helps to align those functional groups to focus on the client or the prospect.

Again, we’ve implemented Engagio, which has been great at enabling us at scale. It’s enabled us to design plays that span these multiple groups, execute plays focused on a number of different key decision makers within an account, delivery of content and messaging across multiple channels, the tracking and reporting of contact engagement in these select accounts, and tracking for accountability purposes (the activities that are expected of the various people within an organization to execute a play).

Engagio has been really, really helpful. We couldn’t have done this without them. Again, it’s not just about the technology. It’s about all the other things that must be in place for this to succeed.

Success Roadmap

With that, we’ve created what we call our success roadmap. We have applied this internally with and we’ve been using it with clients. There are six stages of the process. What I’m going to focus on for this session is really the organizational readiness piece. If you don’t have these five key areas covered, you probably shouldn’t do this. You’re not ready to do account-based marketing yet.

Organizational Readiness

Think of it as a horse race. You go to the starting gate and have maybe 10 horses. It always seems like maybe eight of the horses go into the gate smoothly, and then you’ve got a couple of horses that just have a hard time sort of getting into those gates. It’s a good way to think about it.

You have different groups within your organization that need to be aligned. Some of those groups may be ready, willing, and able to do this, while others may not. You really need to either get them on board or re-prioritize.

1. Assessing Your Organizational Readiness

The first stage is knowing how aligned key functions currently are. If functions aren’t aligned, there’s conflict.
I think of it like a goalie fight. If people are protective, not ready or willing, and unconvinced that this is necessary, then you’re going to have a problem. The other thing is, do you have common processes and definitions today? Basic lead management process in definitions. If you don’t have that in place today, again, you’re probably not ready for ABM. You have some homework to do.

You need ABM. ABM is a more advanced program that requires a solid foundation to build on. If you don’t have it, then go back to the basics and get that taken care of before taking this next step.

Finally, is there mutual respect and trust? Again, these functions are going to have to work together pretty closely. So, if there isn’t that mutual respect and trust, then you’ve got an issue. You probably have a leadership issue. If that’s not in place, then you’re probably not ready and need to go back to fix a few things before you move forward.

2. Business Case

The next stage of readiness is the business case. The business case is critically important to get everybody rallying around this cause.

First of all, what do you want your ABM program to achieve? I think it’s so important for everyone to be on the same page. What I’ve seen is that a lot of ABM is driven by marketers who are really intrigued with the technology. Sellers, although they stand to benefit a lot from it, don’t really understand it as well.

Second, does it makes sense for your business? Again, our clients and ourselves, we sell high value solutions to very targeted buyers within an organization. For us, it makes a lot of sense. But, for others, it may be not make as much sense if for example, you’re more transactional. What’s your current and future state? Where are you today and where do you want to go in the future? How are you going to achieve that future state? That’s where you really start identifying the change required and the resources required.

Finally, will the cost and also with the cost of disruption potentially outweigh the benefits? When you do that, then you can take a step back and ask, “Should this be a priority for the business?” Because ultimately, you really need leadership bought into this to do it right. I think if your ABM program isn’t the top one or two priority growth initiative for your company, then again, you probably have some other things that you need to do first before stepping into the ABM waters.

3. Establish Charters

Once you’ve established the business case, you then want to establish the charter. This is where you start to take it down to another level of detail, not only at the leadership level but at the operational level with the people who will actually be supporting the program. Being very, very clear, not just at the top level leadership level, but down to the people who will actually be doing the work.

What are you trying to achieve? How will you define success? How will sales marketing and the other supporting functions work together? Very important to be clear about this before you get into it so you can be successful.
Another big one is how the program will be funded. Is this a marketing-funded program, a sales-funded program, and/or a special program that’s funded by the business unit? Very important to set a clear expectation upfront so that you don’t get into conflict later down the road.

Finally, is everyone really bought in? At both a leadership level and at an operational level, that’s important too. And, not only are people bought in, but are they really excited? Do they believe that this program will deliver the growth and be important for the business? If they’re not, again, you have some work to do to make sure that you’ve really covered your bases and that this is the right thing for your organization.

4. ABM Processes and Policies

You want to get into the more detail processes and policies. That’s where I showed you our success framework. You need a map like that to just really spell things out, end-to-end. Get everybody on the same page on how the ABM program is going to work. Set clear expectations or service-level agreements for how people are going to behave. How will important decisions be made?

You’re going to see here that there are opportunities where you’ll need to make decisions on whether something is working or not. Or, for example, what place should you design next and what place should you execute. There are cross-functional decisions that need to be made.

Also, what’s optional and what’s mandatory? You may have some people that may have the opportunity to opt out of the program, maybe some accounts that you don’t want part of the program. You need to decide that upfront so that you prevent conflict down the road.

5. Define Roles and Responsibilities

What are the roles and responsibilities? Who’s responsible for what and when? You’re going to have a number of activities within this process, like play design, play execution, conflict resolution, program communication, and reporting.

All of these are really important to support a successful ABM program. If you don’t have those roles and responsibilities clearly laid out, then you’ll get into situations where people might start receiving tasks in salesforce.com. They might see things pop up and question why they were assigned these and why they have to do them. It actually creates resistance to the program. Be very clear about who’s responsible for what.

When you’re clear, it also helps you evaluate whether you have the right and enough resources in place. Can’t say it enough – define the roles and responsibilities. Be clear and transparent. Take time to educate and train people on what they need to do and how they need to do it, especially if you have new technology, because this is a different way of doing business. It’s a change for many organizations, and you don’t want to underestimate what it takes in order for change to be successful within your organization.

Got Questions?

Hopefully, I’ve shared some good nuggets with you. I think there’s a lot of really good thinking that went into the success roadmap. I would be more than happy to share it with you and walk you through the full success roadmap in more detail, from start to finish. If this is something that is interesting to you, just please email me at dpriolo@spisales.com.

When you embark on the program you really want to be successful. Your credibility is on the line, so it’s better to cover your basis and not take chances. You know what they say – measure twice, cut once. You’re going to put it out there and we want you to be successful.

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