It turns out that there really are a lot of Eskimo words for snow. The Central Siberian Yupik dialect, for example, has 40 terms while there are another 53 in use by the Inuit of Canada’s Nunavik region. Different words to specify composition, levels of permanence and potential utility – separately and in combination. Perhaps you didn’t know, for example, that there’s a word for the type of wet snow that’s perfect for icing a sleigh’s runners. That word is “matsaaruti.”

As it is with snow, so it is with the word ‘scale’ when it is used to preface ABM. “Marketers need at least a handful of words to describe what’s currently under the single word scale,” suggested one attendee at our recent All Bright Minds event. All Bright Minds is a gathering of account based marketing practitioners and a chance to exchange views, experiences and best practice. Its most recent gathering was devoted to the benefits, challenges and approaches to scaling ABM.

If not in the eye of the beholder, scale in the ABM context might mean reaching a cluster of accounts within a single vertical market or appealing to a more diverse range of existing or would-be customers that are a united by a specific challenge along their adoption journey. Scale might mean expanding geographically or reaching more influencers and decision makers in a single large account.

If the application of scale is broad, the reasons for doing it are relatively narrow. First, scale allows organisations to make their budgets work harder while keeping their eyes on the main prize – driving revenue. “When you’ve run ABM across 50 or 100 accounts, what you have is a series of patterns, blueprints, scenarios,” explained one attendee. “Those patterns can be replicated across many more accounts.” The asset will still need to be tailored to the specific needs of an individual organisation – and decision maker within it – but this kind of versioning allows you to reuse 80 percent of the initial work.

Second, scale raises awareness. And that matters when you are trying to establish a relatively new marketing discipline. “I’ve got street cred with the accounts that I’ve worked with but most don’t know me,” noted one attendee looking to apply ABM across hundreds of strategic accounts. Greater visibility brings greater uptake brings greater visibility, a virtuous cycle that ends in critical mass. “If you are doing this on five accounts, no-one cares because it’s happening over there on an island,” noted another attendee. “You need to have enough internal stories.”

The biggest potential pitfall of scale, said our practitioners, is that in the pursuit of volume you lose the essence of ABM.

The essence of ABM demands that everything starts with the customer, an audience of one. It demands that through ongoing research you understand account needs and concerns, goals and motivations. It demands that you know where that customer is in its adoption journey and what internal changes and external trends might impact decision making, drive engagement and influence next actions. And it demands, at all times, that you avoid talking about you, your products or your services. “We don’t go very far down the solutions chain,” as one person put it.

Without all those elements you are simply “broadcasting messages,” an exercise in scaled marketing rather than scaling ABM. “Nothing that we have done to date has started anywhere but research,” explained an attendee from a large technology firm. “We look at it from an industry standpoint; from an IT in the industry point of view – what does Blockchain or machine learning mean to banking, for example; and from an organisation point of view – what is the CEO saying to the world, what’s in the annual report, what is the company vision.”

The essence of ABM also implies a symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing. “The danger with scale is you break the link and suddenly ABM just becomes what marketing does for sales as opposed to a partnership.”

In some cases, successful scaling ABM projects allow sales teams to self-serve. More than one company present has created a platform that allows sales teams to order assets that are versioned not just for an industry sector but for a specific organisation. “We’ve built something that’s inexpensive that [sales] can walk through the door with,” explained one.

‘Scaling ABM’ was an All Bright Minds event, hosted by MomentumABM at the Covent Garden Hotel, London on 12 September 2018.

All Bright Minds is a community of account based marketing practitioners that meets on a regular basis to share thoughts, experiences and best practice. You can find out more and become part of our ABM community here.