There was a time when Account Based Marketing could be easily defined. At the onset of the new millennium, ITSMA proposed ABM as “a strategic approach to create sustainable growth and profitability” by means of targeting a handful of the company’s most valuable clients.
With the modern developments in technology and rapid implementation and acceptance of Account Based Marketing, ABM can now be applied to almost all aspects of B2B marketing and is viable for companies of all sizes. The opportunities in this field are vast, but knowing how to effectively target your audience plays a key role.
With a carefully planned out ABM strategy, many top tech companies have shifted focus from their offerings to meeting the specific business needs of their key accounts. This has helped them increase their turnover as well.
The 4 Principles of ABM
Focus on reputation and relationships: While it is a given that revenue generation is a must, the focus of ABM should primarily be one of building a long term relationship with the client, founded on trust and reliability.
Customized campaigns and programs: Combining insights from the account, the market and the buyer, teams from sales and marketing need to work hand in hand to craft personalized plans which can generate the necessary buzz, thereby prompting engagement.
Symbiosis of Sales and Marketing: The true potential of ABM can be unlocked only when the sales and marketing departments work in symphony. Both need to take equal responsibility on all matters including engagement, campaign planning and listing of prioritized accounts.
Client centric solutions: ABM is more of a solution driven method than a promotion driven one. The focus of ABM is towards solving the problem of the customer instead of selling a proposition. This requires client centric thinking based on a deep understanding of the organization and their values.
Demand Generation vs. Account Based Marketing
Demand generation follows the reverse funnel (wide to narrow) process of targeting a large number of visitors, who get converted into leads. Further down the line, some of these leads get converted into opportunities. With proper marketing, these opportunities can be converted into sales, finally landing the business their customers.
On the other hand, ABM follows a revers funnel approach; wherein one begins with a list of target accounts and maps the buying centres within each of those accounts. Following that personalized marketing campaigns would be created to engage with each target prospect across mutlple channels. Finally the aim would be to convert each customer into an evangelist and farm accounts for cross selling and upselling opportunities.
Three Types of ABM explained
After the widespread implementation of ABM as a B2B marketing vehicle, a need was felt to further categorize and develop ABM into three distinct types, based on a company’s need to scale.
The three types of ABM are:
- Strategic ABM
- ABM Lite
- Programmatic ABM (Broad based)
As Strategic Account Based Marketing is a highly resource intensive process, it is generally recommended for large scale enterprises. Mid-level organizations and small businesses can however adopt and engage in ABM Lite or Programmatic ABM which is more broad based in nature.
Strategic Account Based Marketing
Strategic ABM, which was the original approach designed when ABM was first introduced, focuses on one to one accounts, where the investment as well as the ROI is significantly higher as compared to ABM Lite and broad based programmatic ABM. As the name suggests, this approach is predominantly used in ‘strategic’ or high value accounts. This kind of approach generally involves a senior level marketing employee working closely with the sales team to create a personalized marketing plan for the account, in line with the overall account plan.
The use of technology alone is insufficient for a successful strategic ABM plan, as creative and unique value propositions need to be thought of, relationship development initiatives need to be planned, in sync however with the tech-driven data insights and analytics.
Account Based Marketing Lite (Cluster Marketing)
ABM Lite is used in conjunction with strategies based on one to few accounts. Instead of relying on the key account, a larger subset comprising of the next level of strategic accounts are targeted. All these accounts clusters tend to have common challenges and business attributes, and exhibit similar needs.
Based on this observation, the ABM Lite module is developed for multiple account groups usually ranging from 20-50 accounts, while having the sales team on board for key decision making steps including account targeting, issue identification, proposition highlighting and content tailoring.
In ABM Lite, technology plays a greater role than in strategic ABM, as many parameters such as insights, execution of the campaign, outcome measurement etc. can be automated, thereby reducing the resource load on the account. However, it is important to note that with a lower resource intensity in the input, the results (or the output) are likely to be lower too.
Tier-1 retailers and small businesses tend to opt for such an omnichannel operating model which is personalized to their specific needs.
Programmatic Account Based Marketing (Broad based ABM)
The newest method in the ABM arsenal, Programmatic ABM relies on the principle of one to many accounts. The focus is on majorly using technology to create tailor-made marketing propositions for a large number of specifically named accounts.
With the advancement in technology that enables to use of pin-point targeting and data-driven analytics, it is now possible to create and personalize campaigns for hundreds of named accounts. As there is a single individual handling all these accounts, the resource dependence is greatly reduced. This is an ideal approach for organizations where Strategic ABM and ABM Lite are ruled out due to cost and time constraints.
However, there is a need to align this broad based ABM with the sales coverage model that the company adopts. It can be used to target precise markets from a specified segment, or included samples from named accounts across the entire market.
Choosing the right type of ABM
Armed with the knowledge of what works best for the problem the marketer wishes to solve, the appropriate ABM method needs to be implemented. Only when the marketer, in close collaboration with the sales team understands the pain points of the issue they are trying to solve, can they choose an ABM that is ideal for the desired outcome. An in-depth understanding of the implications and key differences of each of the 3 types of Account Based Marketing propositions will furthermore help in designing, implementing an optimal strategy and scaling the ABM program for best results.
Another emerging trend is the blending of two or all three of these types of ABM for a more varied outcome. In a survey of organizations using ABM, conducted by ABM Leadership Alliance and the ITSMA in July 2018, it was found that out of all the respondents, a staggering 46% had opted for a blended ABM strategy, which was 11% higher than that of the previous year. 58% of the respondents also shared their plans to scale their ABM efforts in 2019 by means of adopting a blended or hybrid strategy. The details of the 2019 survey are still awaited, but is sure to show an increased adoption of hybrid ABM.
At the 2018 ABM Forum conducted by the ITSMA, it was revealed that “one-to-few stylings of ABM Lite have become the most popular implementation of ABM.” This trend can be attributed to the fact that not every small organization has the resources to adopt Strategic ABM, and hence prefer stepping into Account Based Marketing through ABM Lite.