“Opportunities lost and budgets squandered”

Swedish ABM pioneer Christopher Engman about the new era in sales and marketing

Nearly a decade ago, Swedish entrepreneur Christopher Engman saw the light and launched Vendemore, pioneering account-based marketing. Today, more than 100 Fortune 500 companies reap the benefits of his ideas and technology. 

Christopher, in your mind, what’s so special about ABM?

It’s very simple, actually. Having experienced sales and marketing in several different industries, I had recognized a number of rather basic, and more or less generic, problems that called for better ways of working. 

“Even the largest companies, in spite of their resources, couldn’t reach through to the right people”I was particularly intrigued by the number of large deals that were lost because even the largest of companies, in spite of their vast resources, couldn’t reach through to the right people. Framework agreements that didn’t generate anywhere near the potential revenues. Obvious cross-selling opportunities that were not realized. Or content that tried to please everybody, and therefore engaged no one. 

Opportunities lost, and big budgets squandered due to fundamental shortcomings in the companies’ marketing and sales approach. More often than not, the underlying problem was the lack of coordination between marketing and sales. 

OK, but that was ten years ago. Since then, most companies have trimmed their organization considerably, and now they also have access to smart tools and a wealth of data… 

Sure, but many of the structural problems are still there. Most marketing departments still spend the bulk of their budget on companies that are not prioritized by the sales force, and the sales reps spend a lot of valuable time on unqualified leads. Their efforts and resources should really be coordinated all the way, from setting the objectives and strategies to meaningful analysis and follow-up. 

In one respect the new digital systems and tools have actually made the problems worse. Because, when you “succeed” with a typical marketing automation, e.g. email, Google search or LinkedIn campaign, you get a flood of totally unqualified leads. They will keep your organization very busy for weeks or months, but 99 percent of them will not be worth the time and effort.   

In contrast, a well-conceived and implemented ABM strategy would have enabled them to get far more value out of their established accounts and potential dream customers.

What about the alignment of marketing and sales?

Let’s face it – it isn’t humanly possible for a sales person to influence a sufficient number of potentially influential people in a targeted company. Not within the best existing client companies, and even less so with new leads. Which is a major factor behind unnecessarily long sales processes as well as lost deals. Traditional marketing techniques tend to spread the money on too many accounts which dilutes the effect.

Furthermore the old tools are simply not built to influence large numbers of communicating and interacting people in each target company. And these dynamics are key to the buying decisions.

As a result, too little money is being invested in the relatively few accounts that generate the bulk of the business potential – accounts that also tend to require more qualified marketing efforts. And way too much is spent on the large number of less interesting accounts within easier reach.

Take marketing automation fort example. A great tool for transactional B2B sales with only a few individuals involved in the buying process. But much less effective in complex B2B deals with large order value and many more people involved. Marketing automation is aiming at those who are already engaged while ABM aims at people that the sales person may not be able to reach.

For marketing automation to work in companies with complex B2B deals, with large order value and many more people involved, account specific rules need to be applied in the system. All systems cannot handle that. If not, use ABM on the key accounts and marketing automation only on the long tail. If you use the generic marketing automation configuration on the key accounts, it is likely that sales will get upset when one of the key stakeholders gets an email about topic A, while sales is talking about topic B.

Meaningful analysis, you say. What do you mean by that, exactly? What specific KPIs should be monitored and measured?

Again, it’s rather basic: Ask yourself what your sales people need to know about the selected customers’ behavior and interests to establish or develop their relationship. Which accounts indicated the most interest in your messages and content? Which topics did catch their interest? How much time did they spend on that content? Did they continue to read more stuff on your landing site, or did they move on to your main homepage? Did they come back? Did they sign up for future information? And so on. 

“Imagine getting all that info – specifically for each one of your dream customers”Now, imagine getting all that information and more, specifically and individually for each one of your dream customers. The information that really counts for your sales people, continually, throughout your customers’ buying journeys. So you can monitor your progress and adapt your activities and content depending on where they are in the pipeline. 

And because you only address a limited number of companies you can afford to reach all the relevant people. Far more often, closer to any decision while at the same time building a solid brand with the people that really count. 

Research conducted in this area indicated that, after one month only, the targeted people only remember about three percent of your content.  

What about content?

Ah, thanks for asking, that’s another key issue. An ABM strategy is of course totally depending on your ability to “pull” your targeted companies to your landing site. To do that you need content to match the specific interests of these people. Blog posts, videos, check lists and so forth, specifically directed towards your chosen accounts. 

The more informative, editorial, educational, inspirational and trustworthy you can be, the more engagement you will create.

Now, this is easier said than done. Many big companies have qualified ad agencies, in-house PR professionals and other people with great writing skills. However, ABM is rather special and, in my experience, it takes a more distanced outsider’s eye to maintain the required “independent” approach over time. 

Therefore, we often cooperate with or refer customers to specialized ABM focused content agencies like Freya News. 

Download: The complete guide to Account-Based Marketing

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