Account-Based Marketing: Fad, Trend or Paradigm Shift?

One of the hardest parts about being a 5th grader (if I remember correctly) is looking around the classroom and feeling like in order to fit in, you need to have every single toy or accessory your peers have. If your parents were like my parents, they frequently pointed out that, “in two months, that [slap bracelet/yo-yo/pair of Chuck Taylors] isn’t even going to be cool anymore.”

They were right about most of those things. Of course, in every lump of fads, there are timeless trends. For example, in 1994, I finally convinced my mom to spring for a pair of Chucks (which she insisted had gone out of fashion in the 70s) and I’ve been wearing them ever since.

Being a marketer is actually a lot like being a 5th grader, and not just because of the gift bag you get when you go to parties. Everywhere you turn, there’s something new and cool to try. Hopefully, your budget is bigger than it was when you were 11, but it’s still not unlimited. Tough decisions need to be made. To make good decisions, you need to be your own parent and try to separate the fads from the trends. Sometimes, only time can tell. But since you don’t have the luxury of time when you’re building a marketing strategy, you need a process for evaluating the next big thing.

Alex Poulos, President of LaunchPad Media wrote about this very topic for Boston Business Journal over a year ago. He outlined some important questions for marketers to ask as they try to determine when to jump on the bandwagon:

• Are you confident it will generate more revenue or reduce expenses?

• How will current customers respond? Test it on some before going all-in. People like novelty, but realize “new” doesn’t always mean “improved.”

• Will it enhance your company’s reputation?

• Will your employees gain more credibility when talking with prospects?

• Does it work well with all parts of your business — not just communications, but management and production?

It reminded me of some of things I’m hearing from my colleagues who are “on tour” with our Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Game Changer Tour. We kicked off last week in Austin, where we had our first opportunity to check in with our live audiences about their familiarity with ABM.

In a show of hands, over half the crowd said they’d heard of ABM. What’s more interesting is that when asked how many of them had heard of it two years ago, only four people raised their hands. As was the case with my beloved Chuck Taylors, tenacity over time is often the greatest indicator that a new idea is not a fad but a long-standing trend. But another key indicator is how it operates in relation to the rest of the organization.

Poulos advises that a trend should “work well with all parts of your business.” As we’re seeing with ABM, it’s just not about playing nice. It’s about delivering results and benefits that can be quantified across the whole organization.

Emily Reagan, Sr. Director, Global Demand Generation at Bazaarvoice, who spoke at the event, mentioned that ABM wasn’t just impacting the marketing department. By helping change the way they measure results, it’s helped them to align their goals and programs with overall organizational metrics.

When a practice starts to shift the way we do business at an infrastructural level, it’s more than a trend, it’s a paradigm shift. It’s often easier to identify those retroactively – for example, I never would have guessed that the sneakers I fought hard to own when I was 12 would be acceptable Silicon Valley work attire two decades later.

Of course on a day to day level, fancy labels don’t really matter. And whether a trend lasts doesn’t matter either – what matters is how much success that trend enables for your business. What’s key is putting strategy before tactics and adopting practices that have measurable, holistic value.