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Without Account Planning, ABM Is Just Account-Based Muck

  • Written by Justin Gray, LeadMD
  • Published in Demanding Views

justin gray headshotThe term Account-Based Marketing doesn’t take it far enough for my liking. Just the mere presence of the word marketing might make your sales team feel like they’re absolved of any labor in the process of driving engagement (they can be literal like that sometimes).

Conceptually, ABM means narrowing your prospect list to the most high-value accounts, then personalizing all your efforts to have the greatest effect on your target. Marketing is just one part of that. The term “account-based everything” has been gaining momentum for this exact reason, but let’s dive into why.

In the process of aligning your company to create these one-of-a-kind buyer experiences, the traditional way of doing things is to pass the buck between sales and marketing, with each team staying in their well-defined lanes. But that zooms right past the first stage, the crucial organizational process from which great ideas will follow: account planning.

Sales alone cannot gather every insight that will be used to inform the campaign. Accounts are more siloed in ABM; it would be stretching your salespeople too thin to expect them to gather all the intelligence for the team.

It may be counter-intuitive, but a narrow messaging strategy to a narrowly defined target requires a broader approach. It necessitates participation from sales and marketing, working together with account executives and executive sponsors to formulate and deliver a plan that speaks to each individual client.

It’s a framework that goes something like this:

Set Up An Account Team

You don’t have to make any extra outside hires or reorganize your company to make dedicated account teams for your specific targets. You must convince everyone to play nice with each other and share their expertise with the group. That’s right: account planning is a kumbaya opportunity for your organization. If you’ve been skipping over the planning stage time after time because it gets awkward when no one wants to take ownership of their part, you’ve been making ABM needlessly hard on yourself.

As previously mentioned, your players on this team are:

  • Account executive (or account manager): leads all meetings, manages assignments to keep everyone on track
  • Dedicated sales rep: Researches, strategizes and advises on campaign plan execution
  • Marketing manager: Also researches, strategizes and advises on campaign plan execution
  • Executive sponsor: Approves the campaign plan

Now, while everyone still has their own functions to perform, account planning is not a battle for taking credit. Through regular team meetings, all members of the planning crew (give yourself a fun team name if it helps camaraderie) are sharing their progress and speaking candidly about barriers. 

Establish Account Reviews

With the specificity of targets in ABM, you’re bound to experience the roller coaster that is prospect needs and desires. As such, quarterly reviews are a great way to report recent data findings and pivot on strategy if the account calls for it.

This is where you talk big picture - what is changing in the industry? What’s new, big, exciting or different in the internal world of your account? ABM isn’t one size fits all, so you see why dedicating one team for one account can cover the bases with much more agility.

These reviews are also where you set goals, which are then tracked in your…

Bi-weekly Scrum Sessions

Fifteen minutes. Everybody stands up. Everyone is prepared to answer simple agenda questions: How did you progress toward our team goals? What’s in your way? What will you be working on going forward? These meetings are fast and furious and act as a tune-up for your team to get realigned toward your common objectives.

As you continue to collect insights into the market, the company, the people and the organizational buying structure, you’ll develop two or three insights that will be your north star in the scrum meetings. The insights that rise to the top could take the form of big account initiatives, pain points, opportunities for improvement or competitor analysis - you know, the factors that determine a successful ABM campaign.

This process is simple, and it works. Under the old system of ABM, insights into the world of the target could vary slightly (or greatly) depending on which department conducted the research. That led to sales teams pulling one way, while marketing pushed in the opposite direction. No wonder there are so many clichés about departmental feuds between those two.

Account planning gets your team members in the practice of consistent communication, which can have only positive trickle-down effects into their interactions with your targets. How often has a confused client come to you wondering why sales said one thing while marketing said another? Think of what can be solved if everyone is in the same room. Even if it’s for just fifteen minutes at a time.

Justin Gray is the Founder & CEO of LeadMD. He founded the company in 2009 with the vision of transforming traditional "grassroots" marketing efforts through the use of cloud-based marketing solutions. Gray sees grassroots marketing dollars shrinking and traditional branding efforts being strewn aside in favor of a true Conversational Marketing approach.