ABM Instead of Needles in Haystacks. Marmalade and Cuff Links. Coping with Normality.

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So now we are settled into the new normal. Covid-19 rates are barely under control, lockdown is being eased, carefully or wantonly depending on your location and perspective, we are learning to shout because I don’t know how good a job face masks do at protecting us (or others) – especially as we keep handling these germ-traps, but they do a jolly good job at muffling speech.


My son is wondering whether postponing his wedding a year was enough, we are learning to holiday nearby and I have discovered watching sport on T.V. is just as compelling without an audience as with. (Though jury still out on fake crowd noises.)

And marketing has got more personal. Now I have a bit of a beef about the marketing supply industry, because almost all the articles I read about marketing (that is, almost all of the unsolicited emails I receive) make one giant assumption: that it is a needle-in-a-haystack problem. That there are thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of potential leads out there, and only, if only, we can tease out from this morass the best qualified ready-to-buy marketing will have done its job.

But in my world, it’s much more intimate. B2B. In fact, B2B2B. Not that we can’t learn from B2C – that’s a rich vein – but we know the organisations who should be buying (they may agree with that word ‘should’ or may not: that’s one for sales and product to sort out) and we often even know the details of the ever-increasing buying decision-maker group. We know them as individuals. Some even former colleagues. We know where the needles are. We know the needles.

So ABM it is, then. But ABM is just a name, a plethora (a friend of mine used to call it a “pleth-a-load”, which I quite liked) of techniques, from individual-target market research to social listening to personalised collateral to LinkedIn targeting, to on-site exhibition days (no longer) to… I could go on; you’ll be pleased I didn’t.

But in this situation, one effect I have noticed is that interactions with potential leads are now much more personal than before. Personal as in personalised, so that every communication is crafted for relevance, and personal as in more human and emotional.

Immediately after lockdown I noticed personal enquiries about each other's safety and well being, and this seems to have continued. So after years of trying to talk about markets-of-one and turn-strangers-into-friends-before-you-turn-friends-into-customers, we seem to be getting there because of a bat disease.

We’ve been torn out of the office and into the home, where cuff links meet marmalade. Well I spent years building up a nice collection of cuff links to wear at face-to-face meetings. But now not needed: even if a formal shirt is worn, the hands are not visible.

The world has changed, working has changed and the caricature of someone in a formal shirt with just underwear below the belt is uncomfortably now close to reality. Maybe we should start doing zoom meetings standing up. That might be more fun.

But lest you think this zoom-world means we cannot impress, persuade, create relationships and sell, some clever colleagues of mine have just pulled off a rapid major multi-million dollar deal in a country in Africa to a client we did not know beforehand – without us being present locally and without a single person travelling to the country.

Wow. How many known truths does that overturn?

And marmalade? Running out. Every January with the finest Seville oranges my wife and I make enough marmalade for a year. Assuming I travel to work most days often skipping breakfast. It’s only August and we’ve just about run out. Shop-bought – pshaw.

Now Covid-19 has had some pretty disastrous effects and many people have suffered greatly. But messing with my marmalade – that’s just beyond the pale.


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