Formal account planning strategies arose in the 1980s to court large corporate buyers. These techniques involved intensive effort from marketers to learn about the individual customers who made the greatest impact on profits. They learned their customers’ preferences over time through conversations and fact-finding in a process that often took years. Tracing the organizational hierarchy within their target businesses was also time-consuming, and the understanding marketers got of the structure was sometimes inaccurate because organizational charts didn’t always reflect true channels of influence.
Although marketers were aware of these weaknesses in conventional account planning techniques, the technology to support more advanced stages of account-based marketing only came about in the mid-1990s with an exponential increase in computing power. Databases that would once have taken months to assemble now took days, and retrieving data was faster than ever. Marketers could now build on past insights about their customers more easily because they had ready access to prior knowledge at the click of a few keys. With each incremental step forward, technology improved marketers’ ability to pinpoint key accounts, understand these customers’ needs, and offer personalized solutions.
The real leap to modern account-based marketing occurred when marketing automation made it possible not only to learn what customers tell marketers directly, but also to infer knowledge about them from behavioral and contextual information. Research comes from primary sources within the organization itself and from secondary resources such as website data, social media, and email tracking. Marketers can now trace a customer’s buying journey from its outset and act as a knowledgeable guide along the way, working in real time to provide complete care for their most valued prospects and customers.
Businesses have always tried to please their best customers, but that elementary rule of business was easier to follow when every customer was also a neighbor. That’s no longer the case; today, business has gone global, and you may go years between seeing some of your best customers face to face. Business also moves at a vastly accelerated rate, and decisions that used to span years now take place in a matter of weeks or months. Keeping pace is essential, and ABM makes it possible.
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