Ogilvy B2B's James Myers spoke to Little Black Book about approaching Account Based Marketing in 2018.


I attended a B2B webinar on Account Based Marketing last week. The conclusion and responses are what you would have expected:

Too few have embraced ABM properly.

Not enough attention given to strategic planning and key account identification. 

It’s just good marketing with another name. Technology is the new snake oil. Sales and marketing need to align. So far so good. 

One thing that did get ‘under-debated’ was understanding the decision making unit and influencers. To be fair, the moderators raised a virtual eyebrow when few attendees thought it a challenge. I will declare our interests. 

We happen to think that influencers are more influential than most organisations assume they are, we think the idea of decision making unit made up of a handful of people is just unrealistic; convenient, but unrealistic. It may be the case in certain mid-size organisations but on the whole it doesn’t work like that.

This highlights the problem about working in B2B. Most client organisations don’t invest in primary research and most secondary research is considered not to be reflective of their markets. So all that is left is to work to generalities and what sales tell us. 

Ultimately few companies can show they understand how their clients buy. They know the sales process but not the action that happens before the initial sales conversation. And if you buy into the 60%, 70% or 80% of sales process happens before the first contact. That’s a lot of missing action. In some B2B categories (not all), like professional services and complex IT transformations, the classical decision-making unit is the last to get involved. There are over 50 people who influence the decision and targeting them through social and customised lists not only creates a positive selling environment, it drives leads. 

But importantly this approach has worked better when targeting certain types of companies. Our hunch is that it works better if targeting a multi location company. Or perhaps there is a cultural dimension. 

Anyway, is this ABM? I don’t know and don’t really care. It is highly targeted, it focuses on key accounts and it drives action. 

But let’s return to the insight question. Do we need to understand better how organisations buy? Yes I think we do, technology and research can help us here. It would be great to get a few clients, agencies, tech and data companies to kick this off. Any volunteers? 


This was originally published in Little Black Book here and in B2B Marketing here.

For more from our B2B team see our thoughts on Emotive language in B2B.