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ABM Marketing

Time to Get Real: Going Beyond the ABM Hype

The number of marketing professionals proficient in marketing automation and ABM is surely greater than those that identifiably advertise an official credential or deep ABM expertise on their LinkedIn profile. But probably not by much; marketing people tend to be good at marketing, and so it stands to reason that if they have the skill, they’ll show it off in their profiles. Also, more organizations than just those with CROs can be assumed to be literate in ABM.

So, both, the number of CROs and the number of ABM literate professionals, are probably lower bounds for some true number of executives and non-executives skilled and interested in ABM. But what matters to our central thesis in this blog, namely that the punditry’s ABM vision is outpacing today’s business reality, is the ratio of CROs to skilled marketing automation professionals. It’s a surrogate measure for the maturity of ABM’s readiness for the market. The supply of skilled experts and technicians doesn’t seem to match the CRO hiring record. As an interesting side observation: Only in the marketing consulting services vertical is the number of skilled professionals greater than the number of CROs. J

If we assume that the average CRO / CMO has about 3 to 5 marketing automation experts on staff, this would mean that if ABM implementations (as evidenced by the number of identifiable, skilled marketing automation professionals) were to keep pace with the strategic intent of moving toward ABM (as evidenced by the presence of a CRO), then we’d expect at least 900 to 1,500 identifiable, deep ABM experts. Our sample could only find 10 to 17% of that number.

Which brings us to our central concern: There is too much ABM hype out there in the blogosphere without talking about how to pragmatically make it work in any sort of credible way. Hyping the ABM vision might drive up the online ratings of bloggers or distributors of the hype, but it doesn’t do the industry a service by providing actionable information. Too often the blogs are either self-serving (e.g. vendor or consultants’ blogs trying to market their offerings). Or they’re devoid of practical details that come from “been there, done that” experience to make their writings relevant to real world implementers.

Most importantly, they too often don’t express an understanding of how the executive and budgetary approval processes for such strategic initiatives work in the real world. For example, most are completely silent on useful arguments with which to communicate the near-term ROI that needs to be demonstrated to warrant ABM’s growing share of the corporate budget.

Never mind talking about how to deliver the pipeline growth that sales needs in the next two quarters, to hit the corporate revenue goals that need to be met so ABM can continue to be funded. For example, what are other sources of budget that could be tapped into while the ABM machinery is still being built?

We’ll give you a hint. Nationwide, general PR programs, re-branding exercises or international events budgets often are sacred cow marketing spend, yet with unclear lead production potential that can be converted to ABM use without missing a revenue generation beat.

They also often miss providing practical tips on how practitioners can go to their management to overcome objections around timing, costs, and skilled resource requirements for successful ABM rollouts.

They don’t answer questions regarding metrics and dashboards and how they will be built to make the ABM machinery measurable and accountable, and are those metrics agreeable to all stakeholders? Or what are the handoff criteria for when a lead can become an MQL, SQL, or SAL? And do those criteria incent passing through high volumes of low quality leads, or do they encourage responsible handoffs of high quality leads?

Closely tied to the above issue are compensation guidelines on who to pay how much for lead production at what stage in the funnel. If not done well, compensation squabbles can scuttle an ABM implementation.

ABM is a great invention but by simply hyping its promise without also addressing the true, Monday morning challenges faced by organizations trying to fund, recruit and scale an ABM infrastructure, the punditry risks doing this marvelous invention a disservice. As in business, over-selling risks high attrition rates. By now, the core sale around the vision of ABM has been made for any serious sales or marketing professional actively following the evolution of modern pipeline generation techniques. What’s needed are concrete best practices on how to make these implementations successful on time and on budget.

So, we believe that less hype, and more factual research and meaningful implementation tips and tricks would do the industry good as that information would reduce adoption barriers for the serious practitioner. But that’s a lot harder to write about, and hence less often found.

Disagree with our thesis? Please send us your comments.

In the meantime, for some further reading, here are links to some useful articles:

How to make ABM work:

Issues around ABM

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