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The Realist’s Guide to Account Based Marketing

Gary Survis | September 07, 2017| 1 min. read

As marketers, we are great at jumping on the next new wave in the hopes of driving stronger results, and ultimately, justifying our marketing budget. That said, sometimes we are too early, and the technology can’t support the strategy - much like the early days of PPC advertising platforms. Other times, we hit it just right when both the technology and the market converge to deliver that “perfect solution" - think Marketing Automation Platforms. The marketing strategy du jour is Account Based Marketing (ABM). And truth be told, there are seldom interactions through Onsite’s Marketing Center of Excellence where a portfolio company marketing leader does not ask me about ABM.

The ubiquity of ABM in marketing circles is driven by the consultant and the technology ecosystem that smells opportunity. There are some incredibly promising aspects of ABM that, I believe, will deliver compelling results for our portfolio companies. 

What is ABM?

ABM isn’t a new strategy. We have been doing targeted account marketing and selling for years. According to Sirius Decisions, “Account Based Marketing is a strategic approach that aligns demand creation programs and messaging against a set of defined accounts and goals in a way that is relevant and valuable to those accounts.” It is not a single tactic or a one-off initiative. It is not simply about tech or a set of tools. It is, most assuredly, not a marketing-only initiative. What is different about ABM is how all of these elements come together to deliver a new approach to demand generation.

What is Different about ABM?

Five key aspects make ABM a compelling strategy:

  1. Focuses on a select number of targeted accounts - The key to ABM is to limit your world and focus on either a segment, a group of existing targeted accounts, or at the true one-to-one marketing level, a handful of strategic accounts. The choice of focus will depend on your organization’s readiness for ABM, the ABM technologies chosen, and your selling strategy.
  2. Personalizes messaging, content, campaigns, and interactions - The goal is to treat each account as a market of one. Your marketing organization will need the resources to support ABM efforts across these tactics.
  3. Requires a “whole funnel” approach - ABM is NOT a marketing strategy; it’s a precursor to Account Based Sales. It will most likely fail if marketing is siloed in its ABM approach. Efforts must be coordinated between marketing, BDRs/SDRs, and sales. For tips on improving your marketing-sales relationship, read Onsite’s blog post, BFFs: Marketing and Sales.
  4. Takes a holistic account view - The goal is to influence many people in one target account. I often remark that the strategy is to “surround the account” i.e., to provide all the influencer personas in an account with a customized selling journey.
  5. Goes beyond the initial sale - ABM is not simply about new logo sales; it is equally important to consider how cross sell/upsell expansion strategies will benefit from ABM.

What does it all mean?

We are in the early stages of a transformational shift in demand generation activities in the B2B space. The days of driving as many top of funnel leads as possible, with the belief that those raised hands will ultimately end in sales, is coming to a close. In its place is a new strategy that is more focused on penetrating target accounts through tactics that result in fewer MQLs (or rather marketing qualified accounts) that convert at higher rates. This transformation will require that marketers, CMOs, CEOs, and board members understand the impact an ABM approach has on an organization's go-to-market strategy. Account based selling is an organization-wide approach to targeting, selling to, and delighting customers.