Elephants, Unicorns, and ABM in Challenging Financial Times

Change is good for ABMers – especially agile ones. While recent economic changes aren’t necessarily positive, they are a reality every organization is facing. Here are some considerations for your team as you address this new reality.

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by Momentum ITSMA Staff

October 19, 2022

Written by Momentum ITSMA guest, G. Marlowe Fenne

Change is good for ABMers – especially agile ones. While recent economic changes aren’t necessarily positive, they are a reality every organization is facing. Many of my conversations with fellow ABM strategists are now focused on the implications of the economic volatility on our respective clients. And while it’s easy to let a scarcity or fear-based mindset creep into the discussion, it’s healthier to view this change as just another inflection point that brings both challenges and opportunities to savvy ABM teams.

Here are some considerations for your team as you address this new reality.

Acknowledge the Elephant in the Room

Without over-rotating, it’s important to acknowledge the situation once you’re ready to share new insights about it. For example, clients appreciate industry baselining that shows how they compare to their peers in key areas; the more specific you can be about their industry or peer group, the better. Can you connect the dots between industry baselines and topics such as profitability, cost reduction, or business resilience and make them compelling to your clients? How can you personalize these insights for each member of the buying committee with innovative content?

“The Unicorn Days Are Over”

This article from CBInsights’ financial research brief outlines the recent decline in startup growth and investment, particularly in the Americas and Asia. As startups falter or get acquired, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) will become even hotter topics with deep implications for clients as well as ABMers. Are M&A scenarios already part of your ABM strategies?  Here are some interesting acquisition predictions from PipelineIQ that can help you develop contingency models. These scenarios become even more valuable as your ABM practice becomes increasingly agile, so be sure to include a timeline for delivering client content and value as you navigate the possibilities.

Startups aren’t the only ones facing headwinds – organizations of all sizes are being scrutinized more heavily now. How can your ABM team get ahead of this curve and find new ways to become trusted advisors to further nurture relationships and reputation, and reduce friction from longer buying cycles? Personalized content opportunities abound here, so you may consider new types of content and experiences that focus more on relationships and reputation than pure revenue.

You can also expect even more focus on brand trust and sustainability from clients as well as your competition. Here’s a great report from the Morning Consult on the most trusted brands that you can leverage as part of your ABM toolkit. And here’s an interesting Deloitte study on “Quantifying Customer Trust” that found that “fewer than 40% of our respondents highly trusted the brand from which they recently purchased.” How is your ABM team working with your broader organization to measure and build trust with your clients? How are your ABM experiences and content building trust with clients?

ABM creates many “marketing moments” that are remarkable opportunities to grow trust with clients – particularly when sales and marketing alignment are optimized around customers’ unique business challenges. In this process, savvy ABMers can recognize multiple opportunities to lead with value and empathy and truly differentiate themselves from competitors who may appear opportunistic or inauthentic through less personalized experiences. In these scenarios, asking the right questions and listening carefully can mean the difference between creating and missing big opportunities.

With New Economics, New Metrics?

These marketing moments are at the core of differentiated ABM metrics that measure the long-term ROI and success of strategic ABM practices. As many marketers face increased pressure to produce leads, now more than ever, ABMers need to stick to the “3 Rs” – revenue, relationships and reputation. ABM has proven to consistently deliver the highest ROI of all marketing strategies precisely because it optimizes the balance between the 3 Rs in dynamic buying environments.

ABM programs with proven ROI can layer on new metrics that offer strategic clarity amidst a potential cacophony of marketing signals. While engagement rates and larger average deal size have been hallmarks of ABM success for many years, you may also consider “at bats,” win rates, time to revenue, renewal rates and ACV growth. One note of caution – the value of your “at bats” depends heavily on your sales team’s capabilities and your sales enablement programs to optimize these outcomes. Have you updated your content and sales enablement processes to reflect recent economic shifts?

By the way, if you’re still facing MQL pressure, here’s a great discussion with Terry Flaherty at Forrester on MQLs and MQAs from a recent B2BMX session. Terry’s insights are important considerations for any ABMers facing traditional broad-based marketing pressures.

As we endure another economic downturn cycle, it’s reassuring to know that Momentum ITSMA’s ABM framework has stood the test of time since its initial development in the early 2000’s. Through the 2008 downturn and beyond, it’s been pressure tested for a wide variety of scenarios. To me, that’s the beauty and essence of Momentum ITSMA’s ABM approach – it embraces change and leverages it as fuel for new ways to help ABMers work with clients solve their biggest business challenges. Here’s the Momentum ITSMA ABM timeline for more information.

About the author

Marlowe Fenne is a strategic marketing leader at the forefront of the ABM movement. Focusing on Agile ABM, he has built award-winning programs for several prominent companies in the IT and cyber security industries that drive double-digit growth while bringing sales, marketing, and customers closer together in new ways. With 10 years of front-line ABM experience, he is an author, speaker and trusted advisor who has served as a member of the Momentum ITSMA ABM Leadership council, driving best practices with other ABM front-runners globally.

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