Before I unveil the best framework for Account-Based Marketing, let me say upfront that I dislike the ABM acronym for two reasons.
The first reason is silly and childish, and I’ve never talked about it publicly because it’s so juvenile, but heck, here goes.
You see, I was very close with my late Grandma Tilly. Whenever I stayed with her at her home as a little boy, around lunchtime, she’d ask me, “David, did you do a BM today?” (She pronounced a hard ‘A,’ by the way.) There, I finally revealed why it makes me uncomfortable when someone says something about doing ABM. If only Grandma Tilly knew how many companies want to do ABM. Okay, potty talk over.
The second reason I don’t care for the acronym ABM is that it’s a misnomer. It fails to capture just how cross-functional the discipline is as it involves not only Marketing, but Sales, Services, and other departments like Product Management and even sometimes the executive team. In short, doing ABM requires tight alignment and collaboration across all your revenue-focused teams.
I’m not the only one who doesn’t love the ABM acronym. I’ve seen friends like Jon Miller, CEO of Engagio, attempt to rebrand it to ABE so it stands for Account Based Everything. Many people just call it AB for Account Based. If you want my opinion on what the industry should call it, let’s go with ABG for Account-Based Growth since, after all, that’s why we are applying the discipline in the first place.
For now, we are stuck with ABM as the acronym for this cross-functional discipline. Just remember that to be successful on your ABM journey, you’re going to need to orchestrate a cross-functional TEAM far beyond Marketing.
Ah, there it is, in all caps above, the word TEAM. That’s an Easter egg as you’ll soon learn.
DemandGen’s ABM Engagement Structure
For the past couple years, we’ve been helping our clients shift their demand generation efforts from spray and pray campaigns to targeted programs. I’ve personally worked closely with my team to develop our methods, bootcamps, advanced ABM workshops, and consulting materials.
All of these engagements have helped us to develop over the years a structured approach for working with our clients that I thought would be helpful to share so you can see the key steps along the journey. They are:
- Identify target accounts and implement the targets in their CRM, marketing automation, and related systems.
- Craft and administer multi-channel engagement plays.
- Activate these cross-functional plays across their systems and teams.
- Establish agreed-upon KPIs and implement tools to measure what’s working and what must be optimized.
Just last month we updated our ABM workshop materials. One of the early slides in our training tools features the picture you see above with a group of people around a desk playing a board game with the words “ABM is a TEAM Game” overlaying the picture. We have a little asterisk next to the word TEAM, and in the lower right corner of the slide we have the words: Pun intended.
The pun is in reference to the word TEAM, and the ABM framework that bears its name. The pun underscores how cross-functional ABM is and serves as an “Easter egg,” alluding to the framework we then go on to teach them. The point of the slide for the cross-functional stakeholders in the meeting is that ABM isn’t just Marketing; it involves all of them — and all of them working together well.
Introducing the TEAM Framework for ABM
Let me start by giving credit where credit is due. The TEAM Framework was originally conceived by my good friend Sangram Vajre and the team at Terminus. This framework outlines the necessary components of any target account strategy: Target, Engage, Activate, and Measure.
The Terminus TEAM Framework
So, why is the TEAM Framework the best for ABM? For one, it addresses my pet peeve about ABM being so marketing-centric, as it communicates the cross-functional team nature.
But the most important reason it’s an ideal framework for ABM is that the four components are spot on. Given DemandGen’s experience helping countless clients with ABM, our structure maps almost exactly to these areas and definitions. Take a look again at our ABM Engagement Structure above and you’ll see the synergy.
For full transparency, we have slightly modified the definitions over the years in our own materials for good reason that I explain below:
The DemandGen TEAM Framework
What changes did we make and why?
- We moved the operational aspect of account targeting under Activate because it aligns with our definition of activation.
- We expanded Engage to illustrate the need to focus on both new clients and your existing customers, rather than just “ideal customers” as Terminus defines it.
- We felt activation was too narrowly focused on just sales enablement, so we broadened the definition to include operationalizing all systems, processes, and departments involved with ABM.
- We tweaked Measure a bit as reporting spans further than the four elements Terminus lists in their definition.
At the end of the day, it’s like two chefs making their favorite spaghetti sauce, or two bartenders with their favorite Old-Fashioned recipe. It comes down to personal preferences, but it’s the same basic structure whether you use the original definitions or ours modified for our client engagement structure.
It just makes sense
So, there you have it, the best framework for ABM: The TEAM Framework. I stand by it because the structure works and I want to thank Sangram and the Terminus team for creating the original framework a few years ago and their ongoing thought leadership around ABM.
If you’re just getting started on your ABM journey or getting off course, hit me up on LinkedIn and I can give you a peek at our team’s ABM workshop materials and methodologies. The materials are structured across the TEAM Framework and go into great depth in each area — more than I can write about in a single blog post. We also have over two dozen additional resources from best practice guides and podcasts to checklists and other great aids in the DemandGen Resources hub. You might also want to grab a copy of ABM is B2B written by Sangram Vajre for more information on the framework and his additional insights around ABM.
Should you start applying ABM to your business? Yes, if you are B2B. ABM is here to stay, and if you’re a B2B marketing practitioner, developing the skills and expertise are going to be key to your future success.
For more than 20 years, David Lewis has been a pioneering innovator in digital marketing and has overseen marketing for some of Silicon Valley’s leading technology firms. He founded DemandGen in 2007 to build the worlds’ first marketing technology agency.
For the past decade, David and his team at DemandGen have been at the forefront of the transformation taking place in marketing by helping hundreds of the top sales and marketing teams around the world incorporate sales and marketing technology to drive growth. David is an accomplished industry speaker, thought leader, author, and host the of DemandGen Radio, a bi-weekly podcast devoted to educating marketing professionals on the best technologies and methods for driving growth. His ground-breaking work on the transformation of marketing and sales is at the heart of his #1 book on Lead Management, Manufacturing Demand: The Principles of Successful Lead Management.