Decryption: is ABM the new inbound marketing?

Focus on the annual Strategic Accounts Marketing Barometer, which takes stock of ABM practices.

ABM, a strong trend for the next few years?

Account-based marketing (or ABM) is increasingly talked about in our ecosystem. A few years after the advent of inbound marketing, this strategy which consists of focusing its efforts on its most strategic customers and prospects by personalizing its approaches and strengthening the link between the marketing department and the sales department arouses a lot of expectations. . But where are we really in its deployment in French companies? Do the practices currently observed in the United States portend a golden future for ABM in France in the coming months? What are the main difficulties encountered in its implementation?

For the first time in France, a barometer takes stock of these subjects through a quantitative and qualitative survey of BtoB decision-makers in France, but also an analysis of online content in the United States and in France thanks to the Synomia solution, an AI for semantic data processing. Produced by Winbound, La Poste Solutions Business and Nomination, it is commented on in this interview by Isabelle Defay, Director of agencies at Winbound.

In what context was this barometer created?

We realized that there was a lack of a state of the art of account-based marketing in France. During our daily watch in the Winbound team, we come across a lot of literature on the subject in the United States, but much less in France even if the subject begins to appear gradually. Our desire was precisely to be able to measure this evolution and this trend, to understand whether there is a difference in use on both sides of the Atlantic. We have already experienced it with Inbound Marketing, with a real starting point in the United States before it is adopted on the French market. There was a fundamental movement with a multiplication of articles, practices, specialization of professionals in the sector. It seemed interesting to us to see with our partners La Poste Solutions Business and Nomination whether account-based marketing was going to go through the same course!

Where are we currently in French companies in terms of deploying ABM strategies?

We conducted a survey of sales and marketing departments to find out. Half of the respondents say they have started to engage in ABM approaches. If the process has been well initiated, the success is not always as strong as expected for the moment, it remains a subject to work on. Three strong issues stand out to help in this direction. First of all, the data, which must be up to date, centralized and easily accessible by the marketing and sales departments. Then, the creation of content, the absence of which can be a brake on the deployment of ABM. And finally, the synergy between the Commerce and Marketing departments which must be done on a strong common basis, on an alignment which will make it possible to make the ABM strategies work and succeed.

Do these challenges seem surmountable for a rapid adoption of ABM strategies by French players?

Companies are aware of the shortcomings that they must correct before launching. To take up the three key points identified by the decision-makers interviewed, reconsidering your data is essential, the sales teams will not be able to get started without accurate and usable data and information. It is a real culture to adopt, even if it means reducing the number of accounts on which we work in order to progress better. Equipping yourself with common sense and creativity to create relevant personalized content is also a problem that we already encounter in inbound marketing, but which is also true in ABM, even once launched. And alignment, the act of “de-piloting” and working together, is not easy for sales people and marketers. You have to learn to talk to each other again, to use the same language. Paradoxically, the difficult context we experienced has certainly helped a lot, with more solidarity, openness and a reappropriation of digital. These three issues are in all cases transversal, and concern companies at an even broader level than for their account-based marketing strategy.

On the occasion of this barometer, you analyzed the content related to ABM in France and the United States. What trends stand out? What does this tell us about the future of ABM?

There is a strong advance in the United States on the concept of Customer centricity, on the fact of placing the customer at the center of its actions. It is a subject that is much more talked about than in France. There is also much greater maturity on the importance of data and on the technology and tools used. The ability to have a tool that centralizes and gives a 360 ° vision of sales, marketing, presale etc. interactions. is much stronger. This data-driven logic is starting to flourish in France but is not yet at the same level. In both cases, we can sense an awareness of French decision-makers and professionals, but with a slight delay. The overall idea behind these two concepts that emerge from our analysis is the need to know as well as possible your market, your strategic accounts and your contacts within these accounts. It is essential to understand who you are addressing, to collect all the information possible to provide the most adequate and personalized proposal.

Do you think that ABM has the same future as inbound marketing, which has established itself in a few years as an essential strategy?

There are different approaches. Some say that ABM is THE answer to BtoB challenges, like Sangram Vajre, the author of ABM is BtoB. For my part, it would be hard for me to be so categorical. I think that ABM responds to “market” issues, but that it remains complementary to inbound marketing. The investments are substantial, the survey relates to budgets which generally start between 20,000 and 100,000 euros, some structures are not large enough to be able to invest this amount, especially if the average baskets are low. Interest is strongly correlated with the very nature of the business involved, the size of prospects, cycles and sales volume. More and more interlocutors are activating the two strategies in a complementary manner: inbound to bring qualified traffic to their site and transform it, and at the same time to seek customers who are of particular interest to them.

What changes can be expected in the adoption of ABM in the years to come?

Until now, we were talking about account-based marketing, but the term is more and more overused. Discussions are being held on this subject in the United States: should we speak of an account-based strategy? Account-based engagement (ABE)? Account-based experience (ABX)? The subject is so much broader than marketing that the term becomes reductive. We asked ourselves the question when naming our barometer, by titling it Barometer of the marketing of strategic accounts to broaden the debate. But it could be even more open, and the next few years will probably see a broadening of ABM strategies that will confirm that these are real business strategies, well beyond marketing and sales departments!

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