Value Propositions in an ABM World

    Every day in marketing and sales, it’s a challenge to land on the right message that will engage a prospect and spark a real conversation. The attraction of account-based approaches – selling more into the most important accounts – can often overtake the real intent of Account-based Marketing (or Revenue or Selling).  Zeroing in and pitching more stuff to more targeted individuals is only the beginning – but these days there is a risk of it ending there too.  

    Think if it like this:  you’ve been invited to go to lunch with a colleague. You get a word in here and there – but for the most part, they keep talking and talking. Finally, they take a breath, and say: “Enough about me.  Let’s talk about you...what do YOU think of me?”  We all have been in situations where the conversation (digital or live) is one-sided – and it doesn’t take long for us to tune out. ABM can end up there almost automatically without a solid strategy, insight research, and real buyer-focused messaging.

    I have been doing ABM consulting and training  with ITSMA – a pioneer in ABM since 2003 – working with companies like Adobe, Verizon, and Microsoft.  In my own business, Knowledgence Associates, I have been helping create buyer-focused value props for mid-market and enterprise companies.  What I know for sure is that the real strength of, and effort needed for true ABM and a resonating value proposition is a real “outside-in” approach.  This means talking about customer issues in customer language that lead to achieving customer goals.  Rather than an “offering” orientation, it needs to be an account insight driven orientation.  While my conversational example above may seem a bit exaggerated, it does underline some of the “quick and dirty” ABM activities going on out there.  

    Here are 3 key points of failure to avoid if you are implementing account-based marketing and sales programs (and here is a hint – value props and messaging bear the brunt):

    Failure 1:  A lack of a true account-centered view – a strong and clear understanding of what the accounts are experiencing or facing in their own markets that drive their business decisions.   This is bigger than just your inside-out view of how your company is doing in the account or what is in the pipeline, or where the whitespace is that you want to sell into.

    Failure 2:  A value proposition that is feature/benefit based, rather than communicating value-based outcomes that an account really wants to talk about – in their own language.

    Failure 3:  Pivoting to standard product and service messaging that doesn’t address and validate the account’s own initiatives, needs, challenges, and pains. 

    In this account-based world, value propositions have never been more important. Why?  Because everyone is aiming at the big, strategic, important accounts.  So, what are YOU going to say to them that is MORE RELEVANT than the alternatives that are also chasing them?

    Figuring that out isn’t easy, and it isn’t automatic, no matter how much technology you throw at it.  But I keep hearing stories where a CMO, or VP of Sales, or the CEO goes to the marketing group and hands them a list: “Here are the accounts we want you to ABM.” They may be strategic accounts, or key target accounts, or big white-space accounts.  Hopefully there is some rigor in the criteria used to select them, as most organizations find out sooner or later that not all accounts are a good fit for ABM.

    How do you avoid those three potential failure points in ABM?  Start by asking yourself this question:  What are we going to say to these specific, targeted, hand-selected accounts that is more relevant and more personalized than what we are already saying about our products and services to everyone else?  Because it should be different.  It should be about THEM.  If you translate the true business needs, issues, challenges, and goals of your ABM accounts, and bake them right into your value proposition, you have an opportunity to be both different enough and relevant enough to build a longer-term account relationship that drives ongoing revenue growth.

    About the Author Lisa Dennis

    Lisa Dennis is president and founder of ValueProposition.expert and Knowledgence® Associates. She is an international marketing and sales consultant, trainer, writer and strategist. Her forte is in helping organizations develop and integrate customer-focused value propositions into the marketing and sales mix of B2B companies across a broad range of industries.