The Case for Top Account ABM: Lessons from Red Hat, HCL Technologies, and SAP

Momentum ITSMA Staff

August 13, 2019

Collaborating closely with top accounts is more important than ever. They are often our primary partners giving us deep insight into changing market trends.

The Case for Top Account ABM: Lessons from Red Hat, HCL Technologies, and SAP

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Amid the endless discussions of ABM these days, some have lost sight of its original intent in driving strategic growth with key accounts. Today, many see ABM primarily as a lead generation tactic; they focus mostly on which set of tools best fits their needs or budget and how fast can they scale programs to cover hundreds or even thousands of accounts.

In a time of tremendous business upheaval, however, strengthening relationships and collaborating more closely with top accounts is more important than ever. Not only do our top-tier existing accounts provide a disproportionate share of revenue (which we need to defend!), they are typically our primary partners in developing new solutions, providing valuable references, and giving us deep insight into fast-changing market trends and priorities.

From left: Rob Leavitt, ITSMA; Eileen Egan-Cammarata, Red Hat; Eric Martin, SAP; and Abhishek Mendiratta, HCL Technologies.

As Eileen Egan-Cammarata, Senior Director, ABM, Verticals and Strategic Partner Marketing at Red Hat explained during an ABM panel discussion at ITSMA’s recent Marketing Leadership Forum:

Like many companies, Red Hat follows the 80/20 rule with 80% of our revenue coming from 20% of our accounts. We have real opportunities in those top accounts. We also have a very broad portfolio of cloud products and a focus on emerging technologies and solutions. When we put these two realities together, we asked how can we drive emerging technology? Who is most likely to adopt our emerging technologies? The answer is our most strategic partners. So, this inspired us to implement ABM at Red Hat with a focus on our top accounts.

Speaking on the same ABM panel at the ITSMA Forum, Abhishek Mendiratta, Senior Director, Marketing, ABM, Demand Gen & Alliances at HCL Technologies, echoed the same point:

Over 90% of our business comes from existing accounts. About three years ago, we created the client partner (CP) model which designated 160 of our accounts as white-glove accounts. We want to grow our white-glove accounts through upselling, cross selling, and creating new demand. With ABM, marketing is closer to revenue, but the purpose is also to move the needle on brand perception within these target accounts.

Working with top accounts is no simple task for marketers, though. Unlike more straightforward targeted demand gen programs, truly partnering with individual sales leaders and account teams for your most strategic customers often requires a wide range of skills, experience, and business savvy.

Eric Martin, Vice President, Account-Based Marketing for SAP North America and a long-time ABM program leader, highlighted two essential qualities during the panel discussion:

I primarily look for two things when hiring ABM-ers. The first is, have they been around enterprise sales cycles for some time, either as a field marketer or from the sales ranks? They’ve got to thoroughly know and be comfortable with the selling process. Second, do they have fluency with the full bag of tactics for marketing? In one account, they may have a digital-heavy strategy and in another, it might be that we’re going to do two events in Q3. In other words, I am looking for seasoned marketers.

Interested in more insight from Red Hat, HCL Technologies, and SAP? Check out our new Viewpoint, Driving Strategic Growth with ABM: Strategy, Structure, and Skill.