You've probably seen the reports, case studies, and testimonials about the advantages of account-based marketing (ABM). But let's be honest: Although some marketers are successful with ABM, many struggle to achieve its promised value.

Implementing a successful ABM program is a big, complex job requiring new thinking and new processes. It also requires a new role: the account private investigator, AKA account PI.

Defining the Account PI

A few years ago, I worked with a small marketing team that served as a support function to sales. Those marketers focused 90% of their time on current accounts, working with Sales to help expand the business within each account. A byproduct of that situation was that the marketing team had a profile and an intimate knowledge of each account.

The team was actually responsible for mapping and staying current with everything that might affect business opportunities in an account. The marketers mapped the key contacts, executives, and varying people who affected the health of the account. They mapped the structure of the account and created relationship trees for key players. They mapped the multiple other business divisions and stakeholders in each for potential expansion opportunities. The team mapped messaging for each account by following and reviewing the account's websites, blogs, Twitter feeds, and Facebook accounts.

To understand the business direction and plans, the marketers digested annual reports and CEO publications. They researched the competitive landscape for each account as well as how each one played in their industry.

In other words, the marketing team served as an account PI—investigating and discovering all relevant information and co-planning marketing programs based on those discoveries.

The account PI's essential role is to identify and pursue account-expansion opportunities. That "account mapping" activity is a key function when working in a major account strategy, as illustrated in the prior example. The rub has always been who executes that time-consuming and challenging function. I've seen it as a function of Sales more often than I have seen it as a function of Marketing.

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image of Debbie Qaqish

Debbie Qaqish is principal partner and chief strategy officer for The Pedowitz Group, a revenue marketing agency. She is the author of Rise of the Revenue Marketer, chancellor of Revenue Marketing University, and host of Revenue Marketing Radio. Reach her via or 770-331-4443.

LinkedIn: Debbie Qaqish