• Account-based marketing (ABM) program planning must progress to become even more granular and more timely
  • In order to evolve, both marketers and vendors have to make significant changes
  • Combining first-party information with third-party intent data is essential to the future of ABM

The phrase “Winter Is Coming” from the hit HBO series Game of Thrones is the family motto of House Stark, one of the leading families in Westeros. It’s intended to ensure that the Stark family members stay mindful of what’s coming and remain vigilant in their quest for survival (from the weather, the Lannisters and now, as Season 8 has started, the wights).

That same motto, “Winter Is Coming,” is also perfect for describing the future of an account-based marketing (ABM) program planning.Fort Lovrijenac in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Over the past few years, marketers have made significant progress from developing one-size-fits-all programs to identifying key segments with target accounts and developing program variations that are more aligned to explicit (or anticipated) customer need.  Plans would incorporate a series of marketing and sales touches and see better engagement because of better targeting, message development and tactic optimization.

Although these initiatives mark progress, it’s not good enough to survive in the evolving account-based kingdom; just like Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch, we must look beyond the Wall to see what’s coming next and take the following steps:

First, marketers and sellers must change our mentality from selling to enabling.  Consider this shift in mentality as “buyer enablement.” We need to stop worrying about getting buyers to buy on our terms, but instead be there to support their information needs when they want to research. We must be willing to provide compelling thought leadership, ungated.

Secondly, programs must be even more insight driven. I’m talking beyond the segment, industry, and sub-industry and account level. I’m talking at the buying center, buying group and individual level. There has never been more information about buyers as there is today. Not only do we have profile information, but we also have the ability to glean insightful activity data that offers signals of potential buying opportunities that we might not have been aware of earlier. Companies must make a commitment to incubate and curate first-party information and complement it with third-party information to drive relevant, timely actions. Enabling that, technology vendors must be willing to make the necessary infrastructure adjustments to truly reflect comprehensive B2B buying scenarios where several cross-functional individuals are often part of multiple and unique opportunities (we call those demand units).

Lastly, ABM programs need to be more adaptive. There is no standard buying cycle, and we as marketers must stop developing linear, time-based automated programs that are irrelevant and inefficient.  We need to have a starting point for our ABM program plans, but recognize that things change. For example, organizational priorities change, which often leaves us sellers without an opportunity; new unforeseen buying members emerge while other champions leave; external extenuating factors accelerate (or slow) a buying cycle, etc. Therefore, companies must be in tune with ever-changing buying behaviors and needs and have enough appropriate content and delivery mechanisms to act on new signals placing individuals either later (or earlier) in the buyer’s journey or as part of a completely different demand unit with different content, messaging and tactics.

“Winter is coming” doesn’t mean that it is the end of the road for ABM.  Just as Jon Snow has mobilized an entire army to fight (and hopefully win) a completely different battle than what they are accustomed to, so too is the opportunity for the account-based organization to win in the future of B2B.

Here’s to Winter … and knowing something (Jon Snow)!

We hope to see you at Summit this year, where I will be sharing the top trends and opportunities affecting ABM with Bob Peterson and Steve Casey, Principal Analyst at Forrester, during our presentation, “Future Vision: Account-Based Marketing.”