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Why Now is the Time for ABM

Written by Declan Mulkeen

Apr 2 2020

How does sales and marketing change in a downturn? We look at the strategic defensive and offensive moves companies should take in the current environment - and why now is the time for ABM.

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What Approach Should Sales and Marketing Take Right Now?

We’re all finding our way in this new world. What was normality just a few weeks ago is now a distant (and longed for) past.

We’re adaptive and flexible animals. We’ve had to evolve and survive. This is just one more test of the human species and how we adapt and succeed will say much about us.

Related: B2B Marketers: What Gets Us Through This?

While governments across the world act to safeguard their citizens and economies, businesses are rapidly regrouping, retooling and ensuring not only their survival but also their ability to come out of the current crisis ready to grow. Those organisations that demonstrate the most agility will likely be the stronger on the other side.

The last few weeks have seen many of us in B2B sales and marketing questioning whether we should be selling and marketing right now. One of my recent LinkedIn posts discussed this and I advocated that we should be - but just in a different way showing empathy - and being authentic.

We’re all in this together and we’ll get through this together.

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How Sales and Marketing Changes in a Downturn

In every downturn companies adjust (cut their cloth…) to the circumstances. Training, marketing, headcount - these are typically the areas to be cut.

All counterintuitive.

It is your people that will get you through this. The better trained they are the better they will perform. 

In every downturn companies adjust to the circumstances. Training, marketing, headcount - these are typically the areas to be cut. All counterintuitive. It is your people that will get you through this.

The more (and better) marketing you do the more chance you have to survive and thrive once any crisis or downturn ends. Study after study shows that those who cut most, struggle to survive once economies pick up.

Related: Your Business Event is Cancelled - Now What?

Like many people working in B2B Sales and Marketing, I’m hungry for information, news, tips, techniques, strategies. A recent piece I read by consultants Bain & Company caught my eye with their “A Coronavirus Action Plan for B2B Sales” which consisted of a series of defensive and offensive moves companies should be taking in the current environment.

The one thing that struck me when reading the article and the “moves” was how much it resonated with Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and the use of data.

Why Now is the Time for ABM

ABM has been the hot topic for the last few years with 2020 predicted to be the year that ABM went “mainstream”. There are many reasons for this. Ultimately, organisations are looking to work more effectively together, remove silos and deliver on their digital transformation agenda.

ABM offers organisations the ability to do this in a very targeted and measurable way. ABM is an organisation-wide strategy (as opposed to a sales or marketing one).

While many organisations may delay purchase decisions over the coming months they will continue to assess vendors and prepare for when “normal working conditions” return.

ABM provides the opportunity to:

  • Focus your spend - only spend on target accounts
  • Drive preference in target accounts (be they customers or prospects)
  • Build your organisation’s reputation (brand)
  • Expand the Decision Making Units (DMUs) within your target accounts
  • Build long-lasting relationships that will be there when normality returns
  • Build a referral and advocate network
  • Develop an accelerated pipeline of “good-fit” deals
  • Sell new services
  • Increase your win rate and deal size
  • Align your teams, data and processes

Ultimately, organisations are looking to work more effectively together, remove silos and deliver on their digital transformation agenda.

ABM offers organisations the ability to do this in a very targeted and measurable way.

Consider your Offensive and Defensive Moves

The Bain & Company article (Coronavirus Action Plan for B2B Sales) suggested several defensive and offensive moves to secure key sales (and marketing) objectives.

Here’s a summary with how we see ABM answering many of these questions.

OBJECTIVE OFFENSIVE MOVE DEFENSIVE MOVE ABM
Secure Revenue
  • Data-led review of revenue opportunities
  • Focus your effort and spend on these
  • Build an internal team (not just sales - bring in marketing, ops, etc.) to support the sales efforts
  • Data-led due diligence of your sales pipeline - by customer, product, geography, etc.
  • Bring in the big guns and build a team to focus on those opportunities closest to close
  • First, second and third-party data will inform your account selection and targeting strategy
  • Cross-departmental teams (Sales, Marketing, Ops, Customer Success) are what makes ABM so powerful - we’re all in this together - silos suck - agility and knowledge sharing counts!
Demonstrate Value
  • Review your digital presence - focus on BOFU experience
  • Engage every strategic account and build stronger relationships
  • Review your offering - is it fit for the current situation?
  • Help your customers - show them that you are there in this difficult time
  • Be honest with your customers and how your service/offering may be affected
  • Re-tool your offering - what will work in the current environment?
  • ABM focuses on the 3Rs: Reputation, Relationships and Revenue
  • ABM builds lasting relationships across the entire DMU (and beyond)
  • ABM allows you to reach the right people with the right message - particularly important now
Optimise ROI
  • Review channels and optimise for best ROI
  • Justify every $ spent
  • Review sales capacity to match sales opportunities
  • Protect your prices
  • Invest in your most strategic customers
  • Review focus of new vs. existing accounts (lean more to existing)
  • Increase spend on digital channels
  • ABM invests in going deep and wide in your current and most important clients
  • ABM allows you to deploy innovative digital strategies and tactics to inform and engage
  • ABM is all about personalisation - getting under the skin of your customers
Tool Up
  • You’ve got the tech - now let’s use it properly
  • Re-configure your sales journeys
  • Re-think your messaging and approach
  • Give your sales teams the tools and data insights they need to succeed
  • Face-to-face is dead - rearm your sales teams to go virtual
  • Help your customers to work more efficiently and effectively with you
  • ABM deploys data in an intelligent and agile way to inform sales
  • ABM harnesses your own data (first-party) with third-party intent data to target those customers (and prospects) that are actively looking to buy
  • ABM informs your content and messaging strategy - particularly important at the moment

What To Consider When Starting ABM

ABM allows you to reach the right people with the right message - particularly important now.

As we adjust and adapt to these turbulent times, both personally and professionally, it's important to maintain perspective. The core foundations of truly successful marketing and sales campaigns remain the same; campaigns that win out long term, will be those that;

  • Focus on reaching the right people, with the right messages, in the right places.
  • Prioritise team (and campaign) agility and communication - and keep every area of the business aligned on priorities.
  • Use data and insights to recognise audiences as real people - and ensure teams have the first, second and third-party data toolkit they need to personalise accordingly.
  • Use data and insights to focus and invest in the most strategic opportunities.
  • Get close to your best customers and understand what’s driving their decision making - then overlay this with your data to shape messaging, content and campaign strategy.

When we consider coming out the other side of a crisis, those organisations who stand the test of time, will be those who provide clients - and the wider marketplace - with guidance and assistance.

Now more than ever focus on your customers, help them through this crisis and you will come out stronger.

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