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June 26, 2017

Account based marketing (ABM), quite literally, refers to a marketing discipline where individual customers, accounts, or relationships become the focal point of all promotions, communications, and cross/upsell activities. An ABM program is akin to storytelling based on facts as well as possibilities. In an age where enterprises need to be more inclined towards embracing customer-focused best practices, this strategy leverages digital techniques to unlock the potential of marketing to transition from sales support to sales enablement.

Not surprisingly, ABM strategies are also gaining prominence across IT service firms and consulting corporations. More so, as forging customer relationships become more complex, and the investments and strategic stakes for all parties involved are significantly high.

Clearly, digitalization has become a necessity for the industry. However, the transformational need for each organization will always be different. ABM could be the first nod to these unique digital transformation journeys.

Building a Collaborative Narrative

The key here is a story, a possibility, and above all, an acknowledgement of partnership.
Considered an extension of content marketing, ABMs versatility is made evident by its fervent focus on one customer, while allowing marketers the creative liberty to leverage traditional and innovative levers in varying proportion. In turn, this enables them to devise a unique concoction fit for just the occasion and objective.
For many businesses, an innovative and collaborative way to discover new opportunities that goes beyond the better, faster, cheaper model has been ideation on a forum with a truly wide variety of attendees. This would ideally be a multi-faceted platform wherein analysts, academicians, service providers, and most importantly, the customer would come together. Such a four-partite confluence of thought can certainly unlock possibilities, complementing interests of everyone involved.

The costs involved in executing such high impact events may become a decisive factor, but can never be a deterrent for creative, resourceful ABM programs. Imagine a more scaled down version of such an event where your customer-focused strategies are carried out over a stipulated period of time, involving participation from one, if not two, of the third parties. These programs could even include webinars and virtual conferences. Gaining a certain degree of peer validation, which goes well beyond a contractual relationship, increases trust and lends credibility to the story as well as possibilities.

Delivering Personalized Digital Experiences

As is the case with most digital marketing strategies, tuning content for these ABM programs becomes crucial. Intuitive and immersive digital experiences can further strengthen relationships. Suppose there is a solution that can deliver five benefits to the end customers if they choose to engage with that particular technology partner. In such a scenario, creating a proposal in the form of a short two-minute virtual reality clip or an animation will be more effective than the traditional eight-page brochure, which focuses more on vendor capabilities than the end results. Optimizing content to fit different digital formats reduces the effort required to decode the messagemaking it more convenient for engaging with a C-level audience. For sourcing decision makers, the answer to what can be done takes precedence over the question of how it will be done.

In todays digital age, data is critical to business success. One of ABMs key tenet is to leverage available tool and techniques to mine intelligence and develop as well as execute personalized campaigns. For example, by monitoring social activity, enterprises can glean actionable insights to effectively engage with potential customers. This could be through easy-to-download gated content or even a one-click meeting, among others. Organizations therefore need to be agile whenever new information is discovered and re-align their ABM strategies accordingly.

Going Beyond the Conventional

With ABM, you can spark off the right kind of discussion among stakeholders. This will help identify pain areas that stagnate growth, open up new avenues of partnership, and address matters beyond the contract like perception and alignment to softer expectations. Rather than using conventional request for information (RFI) or request for proposal (RFP) methods, vendors through ABM can pre-empt customer needs, making this an effective business development channel. In fact, unlike RFP, ABM provides a tactical advantagezero competitor noise. While the former is voluntary with uncertain possibilities, the latter is initiated through invitation only with a predetermined scope and scale. ABM is the clear winner.

B2B organizations can no longer ignore power of delivering customized experiences to their customers. Digital content, channels and experiences can further align ABM to the larger digital transformation roadmap enabling business relationships to grow, evolve, expand, and strengthen over time.

Where are you on the ABM continuum? Please tell us in the comments section below.

Raja oversees marketing initiatives for three key businesses at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Manufacturing, Life Sciences, and Energy and Resources. He is involved in the creation of global marketing campaigns and efficient models to drive brand awareness and sales opportunities. His key focus areas include value messaging, branding and visibility, driving thought leadership, and digital transformation initiatives. An alumni of the Tata Group Executive leadership program at the Ross School of Business, he has a Masters in International Relations from India and a Masters in International Business from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at University of Kentucky.


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