Should We Be Doing ABM? A Reference Guide for Marketers

April 14, 2021

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As companies begin to ramp up their targeted online marketing, many are turning to account-based marketing (ABM) as a way to distinguish and qualify their efforts. This idea of highly-focused targeting and engagement makes it easier to allocate resources (including time) and produce smarter, more effective messaging based on the prospect.

ABM can be a great strategy and is gaining widespread traction for a reason, but it’s not for everyone. Companies targeting niche audiences or extremely broad ranges of customers may find other modes of marketing more effective. The purpose of this article is to help companies assess their situations honestly before making the investment and strategic pivots necessary to activate ABM.

Is ABM right for you? That depends on your goals, target market, resources, and sales cycle. Ask yourself the following questions to determine if ABM is the right strategy and if it meets your need for an effective marketing model. 

First, What is ABM and Why Does it Work?

Determining whether ABM is a viable marketing strategy comes down to understanding it—especially in contrast to a traditional B2B marketing approach.

ABM is a focused strategy that targets individual accounts, instead of traits and qualifiers. For example, instead of casting a wide net for the VP of sales at a company with between 50-200 employees, you’d be more specific. You might target the top 100 companies in fintech or the 500 largest ecommerce websites. You’re not marketing to a specific persona or criteria; you’re calling your shot and orchestrating your marketing around these selected accounts. 

The beauty of ABM is that you know your target. Instead of a nameless, faceless company that may fit the criteria, you know your intent to market to XYZ Company. This, in turn, informs better, more targeted marketing with strong value propositions. At its core, ABM is an attempt at establishing and maintaining relationships with these key accounts.

ABM works because it’s a lot easier to talk to someone when you know who you’re talking to. Even more importantly, ABM opens the door for truly value-driven content. It allows marketers to address the specific needs companies have and create a rapport through strategic marketing.

What Problems Do We Have that ABM Can Help Solve?

As you begin to consider ABM, it’s worth looking at your current marketing approach first. If your marketing strategy is already proven and effective, moving away from it might not be wise. That said, if you’re falling short of your metrics or need a scalable way to ramp up prospecting, ABM could provide a runway to lead gen and sales. 

It starts by understanding the problems that ABM solves. Because it’s a form of lifecycle marketing, ABM can help companies at every customer phase:

  • Acquisition: Are you struggling to turn leads into customers? ABM helps identify your target audience from square one and incorporates value-driven content into the marketing approach. Acquisition isn’t something that hinges on a single message or phone call—rather, it’s a long-term process that offers incremental value along the path to conversion. 
  • Expansion: Do you have the opportunity to upsell or cross-sell existing customers to increase average contract values? Here again, knowing your audience through ABM means knowing how to communicate value to them. When you’re already intimately familiar with their business, and more deeply embedded with their decision makers, you’re better equipped to provide messaging that piques their attention while strengthening and growing relationships. 
  • Retention: When it comes to increasing customer retention and decreasing churn, the superior alignment and connections driven through an ABM strategy pay real dividends. Because you've tailored your marketing, messaging, and service to the specific account, they're more likely to have great experiences and stick with the company they trust.

The key advantage of ABM is that it’s scalable. From strategic 1-to-1 efforts, to a nuanced 1-to-few approach, to a programmatic 1-to-many approach, there’s opportunity to tailor every message to a specific intent. 

Is Your Organization Ready For ABM?

If ABM is an applicable concept for your company and its goals, the next step is to prepare for it. ABM can be a dramatic shift away from the norm for companies that engage in B2B targeting and prospecting. You can’t expect to flip the switch on a successful ABM campaign without a little preparation.

  • Buy-in: It’s vital to get marketing and sales leadership on board for an ABM program. The best-case scenario is that this decision is a top-down one; more often, it’s a bottom-up concept. Show leadership the results of an ABM strategy at work to gain buy-in.
  • Resources: ABM takes investment of time and money. Can your company dedicate a portion of its marketing budget to target accounts? Is there time available to train sales professionals on an account-specific, value-driven marketing approach?
  • Measurement: The measurements used to benchmark and evaluate ABM are more nuanced than simple sales metrics. Is your company prepared to build new reports to track and measure impact using account-based metrics? If so, identify those metrics.

More than anything, ABM requires the willingness to try something new. So many B2B selling tactics are sales-forward, whereas ABM is more customer-first. Getting acclimated with this new form of value-driven selling can mean adopting new mindsets and habits that seem counterintuitive. Success also requires a tight-knit collaborative relationship with sales. For ABM to be effective, marketers need to be comfortable with it. 

Is ABM Right For Your Organization?

ABM is quickly becoming one of the most prominent strategies in B2B marketing, and it’s easy to see why. When you know your target audience by name, you can better speak to them to provide value-driven solutions. And, with opportunities for lifecycle marketing, ABM stands to be a tool not just for prospecting and acquisition, but for expansion and retention, as well. All that said, ABM isn’t for everyone.

ABM is a departure from traditional B2B marketing and can be an adjustment for many accomplished marketing teams. It also requires buy-in from stakeholders and resource allocation to make the shift. Most important, ABM requires commitment to customer-first selling.

To learn more about this concept and the keys to making a successful shift to ABM, download The Marketer’s Framework for ABM Success.

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