Circa 2005, the term account based marketing was coined when ITSMA created ABM certification. But in reality most B2B marketers working in mid-market and enterprise companies have been employing account based marketing strategies for decades. We might have called it key account marketing or sales marketing, but whatever the lexicon, the strategic concepts behind ABM excellence haven’t really changed all that much.
What is truly exciting are three emerging trends that will greatly impact ABM moving forward.
Trend #1: Scale
In the old days we used to focus on the top 50 or 100 accounts. In my days at MSFT, we focused our industry marketing on 10 x 10 (10 Accounts x 10 Industries). It was clean and measurable. Did these 10 accounts grow yr / yr or q/q in terms of revenue, NPS and margin? Now we can apply ABM across a thousand accounts with the same level of precision. And this creates scale not only in volume of “key accounts” but also in messaging framework applications, persona usage and storyline implementation.
But as marketers, scale for us can be a challenge. How do you develop messaging frameworks that are flexible enough to support 1000 accounts across tens of decision makers per account. That’s 10,000 plus messages. While tools help (e.g., marketing automation; ABM Ad Stacks) they need to conform to our overall go to market strategies and messaging framework.
One way to manage scale effectively is to: think modularly, act uniformly. That is for each marketing deliverable from advertising to sales enablement we need consistency and dynamically insertable content (read: images, messages and CTAs). But in addition to the right tools, we must think this way in our marketing strategy at all levels strategically and tactically.
Trend #2: Digitization
Account based marketing’s most recent growth has come from the digitization of B2B advertising. But a more interesting trend is taking the entire customer experience and infusing it with account based marketing approaches.
Think how much better your brand’s go to market would perform if you had that level of customization inside all your marketing and sales efforts. For example, sales enablement would have an account-specific set of deliverables based upon that account’s needs / wants. This is what good sales executives do in their day to day, customizing products / offerings / solutions for your customers. But if marketing delivered a solution that provided that level of sophistication imagine how much more time your sales team can focus on deal closing rather than PowerPoint building. Sales Leadership will thank you.
Trend #3: Data beyond Firmographics
For now, most ABM approaches and tech stacks rely on Firmographic insights to guide their customization deliverables (e.g., firm size, ARR, job function). But as data gets more sophisticated there are some interesting approaches to using data in new ways. For example, imagine if marketing built a predictive behavioral index that could identify prospects that have more likelihood to close using content consumption. Wouldn’t you separate those SQLs and accelerate their path to get in front of sales.
This is where data is interesting using actual prospect behaviors not just to push them through your marketing funnel, but to infuse your funnel with intelligence to drive your business growth. At TBM, for example, we’ve created the TBM Inventiveness IndexTM that looks at firmographic and behavioral data to help upstarts identify customers (both people and firms) that have a higher likelihood to be open to newer vendors. This intelligence can reap material benefits to helping sales close deals faster, better and smarter.
ABM is really an excellence marketing approach – not a tech stack – that should be infused in all of your marketing and communications efforts.