Account-based marketing is a broad church

By Barry Richards |
2 minute read

Account-based marketing is a broad church

Let’s not get hung up on labels.

Are you spending too much time arguing over the definition of ABM?

A trend I’ve noticed in recent months is for marketers to point out that many initiatives placed under the ABM banner are not ABM at all. And in some cases, this leads to uncertainty, and even scepticism, about ABM as a strategy.

So, I thought I’d explain exactly where I stand on the “is it ABM?” question. And point out that just because some initiatives are falsely labelled as “ABM”, it doesn’t mean they’re not valid approaches. And, in some cases, exactly the right thing to do.

Where do you stand on ABM?

One of the first things we try to establish when we’re working with a new client is the company’s view on ABM. What does it mean for that particular organisation, what does it mean for the marketing and sales departments, and what does it mean for the individuals we’re dealing with?

For some people, ABM is a real revelation – a new strategic view on how to market to named accounts. To others, it’s a slightly modified way to do key account marketing or traditional demand generation. And I wholeheartedly agree… with both arguments.

What's your preferred flavour of ABM?

There is no doubt everyone agrees that 1:1 or 1:Few is ABM, it requires research that’s unique to a cluster or an individual account, resulting in customised messages, content, and activation. It requires time, it requires budget, and it requires a very strong business case.

The size of the opportunity is the biggest factor for many organisations, but there are other things to consider – perhaps you want to oust a competitor, or you desperately need a logo and case study in a particular industry.

The flip side is that many organisations have account lists in the thousands. There’s no way they’re going to do desk-based, or even data-driven, research for each target account and run thousands of unique programmes. And so they go down the 1: Many “ABM” approach – which some people would say is also known as… really smart demand generation.

Programmes in this category may take advantage of the latest in AdTech and MarTech. They may be based on account selection and persona insights at scale. And they may automatically feed this information through to targeting and activation – with keyword insights feeding through to the programmatic desk and key messaging being placed in front of thousands of target accounts. While your message may not be any more sophisticated, you are enjoying some of the promise of ABM at scale. And to a lot of people that’s just how demand generation should look in 2020.

But…. it’s critical you used the smartest approach possible to take this type of program to market. You really need to understand the MarTech and AdTech landscape, how to set up, combine and optimize your activation tactics, and understand what to do post-engagement.

Focus on what matters most

Whatever the label you place on your marketing programme, it pays to be obsessed. The difference is, where do you focus that obsession? At one end of the scale, it may mean extremely detailed research, messaging, and activation to one person at one account. At the other, it may mean an incredibly sophisticated marketing plan incorporating the technology, tactics, and insights required to effectively engage thousands of people at thousands of accounts.

But you don’t want to obsess over the “Is this really ABM?” question. It’s more important that whichever approach you choose, you’re really clear on how you’ll be creating the right marketing strategy for both your sales and marketing teams.

Want to learn more? Get more information on account-based marketing here.