The 2 Core Foundational Requirements for ABM Impact
ABM observations and learnings from 2022’s B2B Marketing Exchange
I’ve just gotten back from B2BMX in Scottsdale, the first face-to-face event I’ve attended in exactly two years. Among the many topics covered, this big celebration of B2B practices provided a great opportunity to look at how far account-based marketing (ABM) has come in the past 24 months. Whether 1:1, 1:Few, or 1:Many, ABM is clearly here to stay — because it’s working! For mature marketing and sales teams, it’s become a terrific way of focusing GTM team energy on achieving substantive revenue growth from specific targeted accounts.
At B2BMX, I got to take a deep dive with practitioner-leaders from ServiceNow, Google Cloud, Snowflake, Talkdesk and more as they outlined how they’ve brought their ABM strategies to life. Across all the leaders, core systems aside, there was a huge diversity of software solutions being brought to bear in tactical support of their programs. But software aside, two essential elements for success that were common among all the players really jumped out at me.
ABM Foundational Requirement #1 – Insight: Performance everywhere depends on it
First and most critical of these was a super high-quality set of data they leverage to guide the content and action priorities of the many players involved. Better data is clearly a critical capability for these teams because it creates the launch pad from which they then create their unique value in bringing the ABM go-to-market strategy to life. For all of these teams, insights drive optimization into planning, targeting, positioning, messaging, outreach and more.
Beyond hygiene, better access to actual behavior
To populate the basics within their ABM list and keep it up to date, they depend on a range of reliable firmographic, technographic and demographic sources combined with essential hygiene techniques working consistently in the background. What stood out to me as very different from where practices were a few years ago is how focused these teams have become on understanding their audiences’ behaviors — their intent signals — both by monitoring their target markets at large, and of course, in response to their own 1st-party marketing and sales activity. This is what the whole Intent Data revolution is all about.
Understanding your markets, customers and prospects
The success seen by these teams depends on these vastly improved abilities to understand target account needs both for prioritization in the moment and to guide longer term account engagement efforts in their programs. From ServiceNow’s Carrie Feord, I picked up a wonderful term that encapsulates this: Their “Imperative-Based Messaging” is built by first deeply understanding what accounts need to get done [to improve their own performance] in the next 12-18 months. The ABM team then oversees how that knowledge gets turned into the content that clearly explains how ServiceNow can help. To deliver on the promise of this approach, the ABM team must then work hand-in-hand with all the executional elements within the go-to-market organization to ensure timely, relevant delivery. It’s better personalization, and really, better CX, truly operationalized! And without better data, it simply can’t be achieved.
ABM Foundational Requirement #2 – Teaming: End-to-end thinking, from start-up to scale-up
The second critical ABM success factor that these four companies demonstrated was around the evolving nature of ABM team contribution to the target account GTM organization as a whole. In the session I hosted with Talkdesk’s Mervyn Alamgir, he went into very prescriptive detail on building out their account engagement, demand identification and capture engine. Embedded in the learning was a deep awareness of his team’s role in serving other colleagues’ objectives. Success of the program as a whole required that his team carefully consider the linkages and dependencies between the various GTM elements. From the outset, Mervyn was critically aware of the need to assist sales in driving revenue in the near term – without revenue to fuel continuous momentum, progress could easily stall. Based on experience, he knew that this was an area where Prospect-Level Intent™ data could deliver immediate impact, so he included that into his data infrastructure rollout as a foundational building block.
Enabling effectiveness across the GTM
Forrester’s Barry Vasudevan was super helpful in detailing out the need for what he calls better ‘enablement’ at multiple points in the GTM organizational value chain – and this crystalized for me what I was hearing about from those ABM practitioners mentioned above. Fundamentally, advanced ABM teams are all about enabling the various other functional members of the GTM organization to do their parts with much greater precision. In these teams, their outlook has moved far beyond generic ABM cries for better sales and marketing alignment. These are well-oiled machines with a target account list and an ABM team at the center, plus a whole lot of other interlinked elements working in concert. Instead of trying to be the executing muscle of an ABM automation effort separate from the rest of their companies’ resources, these teams have become more like the brain and nervous system: They focus on interpreting what they’re seeing and then communicating that in a highly prescriptive way to the more executional members and capabilities of the GTM team. While some have added quite specific tools to fill functional gaps, that seems to be a relatively minor feature within their overall success. Building on the critical data and insight element, success here seems to come much more from how an ABM team then supports and guides the whole GTM ecosystem to align together on prospect and customer needs.
People and process first
Earlier in my career, and importantly, in my time at some very large, well-resourced organizations, I learned that until I got my teams and my processes working better, the last thing I needed was more technology (we certainly had plenty of tech!). Beyond the basics, this can be even more true for smaller shops. If a sub-group within the team was struggling to understand the market or our target accounts, nothing we did executionally delivered the impact on outcomes we all sought. Over many years in the business, I’ve learned the hard way that inserting more tech at the wrong time can easily create harmful drag, because it distracts and dilutes the team’s focus on higher-leverage issues. With all the feature/function research out there from the technology analyst community, it’s very easy for team members to get caught up in a kind of tech stack arms race. Tool envy can become very real and can blind you to your most serious gaps. My own recent B2BMX experience has once again served to underline how important having this perspective is to any leader looking for lasting progress. All the tech in the world is probably not what your team needs to move faster towards what these ABM leaders are currently doing.
How we can help
Here at TechTarget, these types of observations reinforce our relentless focus on delivering the very best in enterprise tech buyer insight from our opt-in audience of some 30 million members. Building on our intent data core, we deliver a wide range of service capabilities that help solve the most critical GTM challenges. A lot like those ABM teams I’ve described, we work with thousands of tech companies end-to-end – strategically, from product concept to in-market content, and executionally, from click to close. To learn more about how we can support your ABM evolution, speak to a TechTarget representative today.