Would ABM have Helped Nike Save the Stephen Curry Deal?

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Would ABM have Helped Nike Save the Stephen Curry Deal?

My recent posts have discussed the importance of account-based marketing (ABM), where a company hyper-focuses their sales and marketing efforts to create extremely focused and relevant content for customers. Although ABM exists mostly in the B2B enterprise sales world, the concept behind ABM — personalizing the buying experience for the intended target account — still applies in other important sales cycles. As a matter of fact, in any transaction you will have a much higher likelihood of closing the deal if you make your engagement with the prospect highly personalized and relevant to their needs.

As an example, Nike lost NBA Superstar Stephen Curry to Under Armour by forgetting to apply the key pillars of Account-Based Marketing (ABM). So did Nike trip over their own laces when it came to resigning Curry after the 2013 season? Yes, badly. So badly in fact that ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss described the final Nike pitch meeting to Curry as “something hastily thrown together by a hungover college student.”

Here are three ABM lessons that might have prevented Nike from missing this important shot:

In the last pitch meeting to keep Curry, Nike officials incorrectly addressed Stephen as ‘STEPH-on’ (The correct pronunciation is ‘STEFF-in’). It was never even acknowledged or corrected. Curry was offended and Nike appeared unprepared and uninformed, despite their intentions. Hey look, sometimes we all make mistakes in how we pronounce things. In fact, Nike itself is often mispronounced as ‘NAIK’ instead of the correct ‘NAI-KEY.’ But it’s up to you — the seller — to take the proper time and prepare BEFORE you engage with your prospect. Learn how to correctly pronounce the names of brands and executives in your target account. Learn about their industry and who they compete with. Learn about their business model and their challenges/goals for this upcoming year. It will be noticed if you don’t. This should be a lay-up!

At some point during the pitch meeting, a PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name (another NBA star). Apparently it was left on by accident since Nike re-used the same pitch deck. “I stopped paying attention after that,” Curry’s father told ESPN. ABM teaches us to make every customer interaction ‘hyper-focused’ and personalized. When we send an email to a prospect that references the wrong individual’s name, or the wrong company name, or talks about an irrelevant use case — it can be devastating to a sales cycle when you still are in the early stages of building trust and credibility. When Curry saw that Nike had just tried to re-purpose the Kevin Durant pitch deck, he felt it spoke volumes about how little they valued him as a tier-one client. In Account-Based Marketing, its critical to get a second set of eyeballs to check over any important materials or personalized content you send a prospect. Make sure it’s good, and then make sure it’s correct! People always remember how you make them feel. They may not want to work with you if you appear sloppy or careless.

Nike already has 96% of the basketball shoe market. So did losing Curry to Under Armour matter that much? You bet it did. Sales of Curry’s shoe at Under Armour were up 350% percent since the start of this year, higher than anything Nike had on the market (except Jordan’s). Curry is annihilating NBA records, hitting 400 three-pointers this past season before anyone else could even hit 300. Morgan Stanley analyst Jay Sole, assessing Under Armour’s basketball future prospects, said with such phenomenal sales growth this “could be a tipping point signaling the end of Nike’s basketball dominance.” Ouch.

Nike. Account-based Marketing.

Just Do It?

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