Remember pet rocks or Rubik’s Cubes or hipster beards?
Well, add account-based marketing (ABM) to that list of trends. The question to answer: Is it a fad or an integral B2B strategy that is here to stay?
Some Marketers Have Doubts
It's true that not all marketers are buying into ABM. Many are still on the fence about the effectiveness of this strategy, which is odd, since the theory behind it has been around almost as long as B2B marketing itself.
So why the skepticism? There are a few reasons, and while I can understand all of them, I can also state with confidence that they’re without merit. Trust me.
ABM: The Next Step Forward
As someone who’s been in the industry for literally decades, I completely get that ABM seems like a step backwards. But deeper analysis shows that it's just the opposite: it’s a huge leap forward.
In fairness — and full disclosure — let me mention right here that I work for a company that offers and ABM platform. So, yes, I have a vested interest. But as a former skeptic myself, I think I also have some valuable insights.
4 Common Complaints About ABM
So, let’s take down the skepticism point by point.
“ABM is old news. We’ve done it for decades. Why are you screaming about it now?”
This is a common refrain from marketers in Europe and Asia who have been mining a focused account list due to a smaller pool of target companies, and it is sometimes heard here in the US.
The big change is the emergence of multiple technology solutions that form a sophisticated marketing stack (marketing automation, CRM, etc.). Never before have marketers had the technological infrastructure to acquire and nurture leads, but that technology is only as smart as the data that feeds it, and the B2B data available today means that this is not your old-school ABM.
While the basic principles of targeting at the account level are the same, this time around we’re using real data, not just rented lists, to tell us which accounts are in-market, who makes up the buying committee and the role of each person in the purchasing process.
With that data in play, we’re not just papering an entire building with marketing material, we’re able to send personalized content to each person according to their role and relevance as to where they are in the customer journey. Today’s ABM truly is the alignment of sales and marketing, brand and demand.
“ABM doesn’t even try to achieve great reach or scale. It’s too targeted. What’s the point?”
ABM isn’t branding (although it works very well in tandem with branding campaigns), so scale and reach aren’t really required in the same way. ABM is all about laser-targeting.
The goal is to reach the people within target companies who influence, or actually make, purchasing decisions. While that’s certainly going to be a smaller audience than your standard branding campaign, it’s also intended to be efficient.
By targeting only the people who can actually buy your product or service, you’re also reigning in your ad spend by limiting wasted impressions — and bumping up your ROI. If that’s “too targeted,” I’m all in.
That said, scale can be achieved to some extent by reaching out to companies similar to those on your target lists — for example, other companies in the same vertical but maybe in a different geo, or slightly smaller than the “dream” accounts. There’s enough B2B data available now to expand target lists this way.
“You want me to market to my own customers? Why would I waste my budget on that?”
A commonly quoted statistic is that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers. That leaves a lot of room for growth within your current client base.
Why wouldn’t you message your current clients about services that might help them grow? Why wouldn’t you reach out to different divisions of the companies with whom you already work?
You’re already an approved vendor, and you’ve already got references from within the company. Using ABM to engage these organizations just makes sense, and it could be more efficient and cost-effective than putting your salesman on the task right away.
ABM can get those influencers and decision makers to raise their hands - without costing a fortune and without taxing internal resources.
“Why would I use an ABM vendor when I can just use a retargeting tool, or buy cheap remnant media and do it myself?”
No one’s saying you can’t try to do it on your own, in fact the number of marketers creating their own data management platforms is growing, but I guarantee you’ll get better results if you work with a partner who has expertise in ABM.
B2B data is complex, as you know, and using it to target and engage prospects effectively requires some expertise in analyzing and activating that data. With retargeting, you’ll get some data about who you’re reaching with your creative, but not a whole lot.
Really, unless you’ve got deep data access, you’re largely flying blind, and you won’t know with any confidence who your ads are hitting or what the prospect needs to see in the creative to start making a purchase decision.
The truth is that ABM really is "all that" - it can drive amazing results for B2B marketers all along the customer journey, from awareness through retention.
There’s a lot that seems familiar, sure, but the new data-driven ABM is so much more effective than anything we’ve done in the past.
If it can convert a skeptic like me into a believer, I challenge you to give a try and see if it doesn’t win you over as well.