With account-based marketing sweeping across the B2B marketing landscape like an out-of-control wildfire, it was only a matter of time until we started seeing full-length books on the topic. One of the best is A Practitioner’s Guide to Account-Based Marketing by Bev Burgess with Dave Munn published earlier this year.
Bev Burgess is a Senior Vice President and the ABM Practice Lead at ITSMA, and Dave Munn is ITSMA’s President and CEO. ITSMA pioneered the development of account-based marketing in the early 2000s, and for the past 10+ years, it has conducted numerous research studies and educational programs regarding the practice. So, ITSMA has been a leading source of thought leadership and research data on ABM for more than a decade, and the authors draw extensively on that data and expertise throughout the book.
A Practitioner’s Guide is designed for readers at all stages of the ABM journey, from those who have just heard about ABM and want to learn more about it, to those who have an ABM program in place and want to improve it.
The book is organized in three parts. Part One covers the basics of ABM, including how to determine which accounts should be included in your ABM program. Part One also describes a proven four-step process for implementing account-based marketing. Part Two of the book explains how to plan and execute an ABM program for an individual strategic account. Part Three focuses on the attributes and skills you need to be a good account-based marketer, and it provides advice on managing a career in ABM.
Throughout the book, Burgess and Munn emphasize the importance of treating ABM as a strategic revenue growth initiative, not just as a marketing or sales support initiative. The authors repeatedly state that successful ABM requires a high level of collaboration between marketing and sales, and can require the involvement of other business functions as well.
This may be the single most significant concept contained in A Practitioner’s Guide because it constitutes the foundation that makes the other processes described in the book work effectively. What we now call account-based marketing is actually a business strategy that is built around maximizing revenue growth from a select group of target accounts. In retrospect, it would have been better if ITSMA had named this approach to revenue growth account-based demand generation instead of account-based marketing.
Another strength of A Practitioner’s Guide is that it paints a realistic picture of the effort that’s required to build a successful ABM program. Over the past couple of years, the hype surrounding ABM has been almost deafening. While much of the “positive press” about ABM is justified, the hype has also tended to obscure or minimize the work that’s necessary to do ABM well. Burgess and Munn have brought a much-needed dose of reality to the ABM conversation.
If there is anything to criticize about A Practitioner’s Guide, it would be that much of the material in the book appears to be based on the use of ABM by tech companies. For example, the book contains nine informative case studies, and eight of them are about companies that provide technology-related products or services.
The orientation of the book shouldn’t be surprising, given that ITSMA is the Information Technology Services Marketing Association. Some readers may wonder whether the principles discussed in the book are equally applicable for companies that operate outside the tech sector. In my experience, the ABM principles laid out in A Practitioner’s Guide are valid for any company where ABM itself is appropriate.
If you’re thinking about adopting ABM, or if you’re involved in developing an ABM program, you need to read this book.