Top B2B marketing leaders think carefully and thoroughly about which markets represent the best fit for their offerings. Account-based marketing (ABM) is the most recent embodiment of this practice – what is generally called go-to-market strategy. Old timers (like me!) hear the ABM hoopla and think “wasn’t this called major* account management 10 years ago?”

Source: TheCulinaryGeek
via Wikimedia Commons

A new generation of marketers — bottle-fed on technology — have grown up using that tech to attract interest and harvest leads. So dependent on their technology have they become, that customer knowledge and solid segmentation now take a back seat to the more technical aspects of marketing.  As Jill Rowley, the recently-appointed chief growth officer at Marketo puts it, “We’re drunk on inbound.”

ABM’s resurgence reminds us that outbound still matters. Marketers who try to use every digital marketing trick in the book are not nearly as effective as those who stick with the fundamentals that drive good business strategy: segmentation, targeting, and positioning.  Are you wondering why I’m on this tirade?  I’ve been thinking about ABM recently as I anticipate the publication of my next report on ABM best practices. Also, I’ve been helping clients with their targeting, messaging, and positioning. And, guess what? It’s all inextricably linked.

Here’s a sneak peek at just one of the key findings from the B2B research team’s recent ABM survey (and the basis for this upcoming report): 92% of respondents agree that better data and more research are key to ABM success. Ninety-two percent! That’s huge!

Unfortunately, I find B2B marketers are not yet adept at using data and insight to develop ideal customer profile(s), size the total available market for their portfolio, and orchestrate a go-to-market strategy across marketing and sales to pursue lookalike ICPs.  Last year, we found:

  • 84% of marketers said that the accuracy of their customer data was one of their top 5 concerns
  • yet only 12% of them reported high confidence in the accuracy of the data they manage.

Data and tools are in the market today to change this trend and cure the underlying problems this survey reveals. Not enough marketers are taking advantage of this.

For example, most think they know the size of their firm’s total market opportunity (and usually see it as much larger than it really is). I ask:

  • How often are you looking at your TAM?
  • Do you know how it changes?
  • How accurate is your understanding of it?”

and I’m likely to get some blank looks.  (Or long pauses if we’re talking over the phone via inquiry.)  Outdated practices and messy data (not a lack of tech) are holding them back.

Photo Courtesy of Staci James, Forrester Research

Most B2B companies perform go-to-market planning and analysis in product silos and often fail to involve sales and marketing teams early in the process – those who must execute the strategy. Planning is a slow, manual process, based on limited information.  Most firms have few ways to measure market performance reliably against strategy, making it nearly impossible to course correct in real time. It’s time to change this.

Here is where ABM represents an evolution in go-to-market strategy and execution. Today’s ABM uses analytic tools and more available data to make it easier to evaluate different markets, understand relative potential, and target the right people with the right ideas at scale. But success comes with knowing where to start. With focus.

If you want to know more about how and why go-to-market planning “done right” elevates the B2B CMO’s game plan, you are welcome to read this Q&A with , InsideView’s Tracy Eiler. She and I caught up recently after a webinar on the topic of go-to-market planning and she asked some pointed questions.  She’s the co-author of Aligned to Achieve  which discusses the topic of sales and marketing alignment, so I hope you enjoy our exchange. In the meantime, let me know about your ABM progress and practices.  And keep an eye out for the upcoming research report.

*major, key, global, … insert your favorite adjective — it all means “the big ones” when it comes to differentiating these accounts from the rest.