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Account based marketing (ABM) has been a hot topic in B2B marketing circles over the last couple of years. But what is ABM exactly?

Account Based Marketing search trend since December 2014. Source: Google Trends

What is Account Based Marketing?

Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a marketing approach used by B2B companies to penetrate and win named accounts, at scale. It’s an organizational effort, combining marketing, sales and customer success teams, in order to win clients.  

Ok, nothing new here – we’ve been doing named account outreach for years!

Well, it isn’t the same thing. Yes, companies are running outbound programs targeting named accounts. However, these programs are usually driven by sales and are focused on acquiring contact details and starting a sales process. ABM is a holistic approach that includes multiple tactics and channels, and involves various stakeholders in the organization.

What’s the difference between ABM and Demand Generation?

Demand Generation could be likened to fishing with a net: marketing brings a lot of leads, then nurtures them and identifies the ones that are ready to buy. Then marketing is handing them off to sales.

ABM is more like fishing with a spear. We start with a target account list, and then figure out the specific personas, messages, and channels that need to be involved in the account based effort. Another key point is that ABM focuses on accounts, while marketing in many cases generates leads. This is a fundamental difference, as it requires a well-orchestrated operation within the seller’s organization.

What are the main components of ABM Programs?

Companies vary in their ABM implementation, but here are the key elements:

  1. Target account list – it’s crucial to have data quality on past won accounts, as well as predictive tools to identify accounts with a high probability of high win rate (called an Ideal Customer Profile).
  2. Method aligned with all internal stakeholders – often called a playbook, companies detail their marketing program per account across the organization. Think about it as an ABM campaign blueprint, with multiple tools, channels, and internal partners.
  3. Personalized content – blog posts, emails, webinars, physical events, and ebooks are personalized based on specific attributes of accounts, personas, and sometimes a specific person in an account.
  4. Omnichannel orchestrated outreach – this includes email marketing, account based marketing, web personalization, sales development rep outreach, social media, direct email, and any other channel that can be targeted and personalized at the account and persona level.  
  5. KPIs and measurement – ABM requires a different set of KPIs compared to demand generation programs. For example, measure qualified accounts instead of qualified leads.

Recommended tools include Leadspace, Unomy, Engagio, Marketo, and Terminus.  

Does ABM require a lot of expensive new technology?

Well, yes and no. Many tools and technologies help companies run ABM programs at scale. However, some core elements are a must have, such as a well maintained CRM, a marketing automation platform, and the willingness to invest in data cleansing. Like in many other cases, the challenge in running an ABM program is organizational more than anything else. A company that is serious about ABM needs to break the silos and create a unified effort in the sales and marketing organization.

What are the benefits of ABM?

Companies practicing ABM see an increase in opportunities and deal size, as well as a decrease in sales cycle length. It also answers the sales and marketing alignment challenge, and helps marketing show ROI.

This not a huge surprise, because companies that practice ABM are offering personalized content to specific people in companies that have the highest likelihood to close. It seems pretty clear that ABM will bring better results than a demand generation approach, as long as you are targeting high-value accounts.

Companies such as Salesforce, Rapid7, Box, Influitive, Kaltura, Panaya, and Domo are running successful ABM programs today.

Where can I learn more about ABM?

We’re working on the ultimate ABM resource page, covering the best articles, presentations, and videos about this topic. Keep your eyes on this space!