The Dramatic Growth of Global Content MarketingProviders of account based marketing (ABM) technologies have been loudly promoting the ability of their solutions to enable companies to scale their ABM programs. It’s easy to understand why solution providers are anxious to convince potential customers that the right technologies will allow ABM to be implemented at scale.

Research has shown that ABM can deliver a higher ROI than any other marketing approach, but the traditional approach to ABM was extremely resource intensive. As a result, most companies that adopted ABM only used it with a small number of high-value accounts. If technology can enable companies to use ABM with a larger number of customers or prospects, that technology will be very attractive to B2B marketers.

So, can the right technological capabilities enable companies to scale account-based marketing? To answer this question, we first need to identify what activities are required to execute a successful ABM effort. Engagio recently developed a framework that describes six processes that are required for a successful ABM program:

  1. Select target accounts
  2. Identify the relevant contacts or “buyers” at each target account
  3. Conduct research to gain deep insights regarding each target account
  4. Develop account-relevant messages and content
  5. Deliver account-specific interactions
  6. Orchestrate account-focused “plays”

All six of these processes are required for a successful ABM program, and they are linked and interdependent. This means that in order to scale an ABM program, you must be able to execute all of these processes at scale. Or, to put it another way, you can scale your ABM program only to the extent that you can scale each of these individual processes.

Therefore, the important question is: To what extent can technology enable you to scale each of these processes? Technology can provide varying degrees of support for all six processes. For example, many ABM solutions have predictive analytics capabilities that can streamline the account selection process, and there are several sources of data for identifying relevant contacts at each target account. Likewise, technology can be used to automate the interactions and plays referred to in items 5 and 6 in the above list. So it’s fair to say that technology can be used to scale four of the six essential ABM processes.

The two remaining processes – conducting research to gain deep account insights, and developing account-relevant messages and content – are a different story. Technology can also help with these processes. For example, some ABM solutions can access diverse sources of data to provide current information regarding accounts. But both of these processes still require a considerable amount of human judgment and creativity. Therefore, these processes cannot be scaled significantly using technology alone.

The bottom line is that the original approach to ABM – what I like to call “pure” ABM – is difficult to scale, even with the latest technology tools. In its 2016 account-based marketing survey, ITSMA found that companies using the pure ABM approach had, on average, only 10 accounts in their pure ABM program

Today, companies are using ABM-inspired marketing techniques with larger groups of accounts, and these emerging practices have led many ABM thought leaders to identify three types or tiers of account-based marketing. In this framework, Strategic ABM is the term used for the traditional (“one-to-one”) approach to account-based marketing. ABM Lite refers to a “one-to-few” approach that focuses on groups of accounts that share similar business attributes and needs. Programmatic ABM is a “one-to-many” approach that emphasizes the use of new technologies to apply ABM-like marketing techniques to a large group of accounts.

In terms of scalability, ABM Lite programs are more scalable than Strategic ABM programs, and Programmatic ABM programs are highly scalable with the right technology tools.

So, is it really possible to scale ABM? How you answer this question ultimately depends on what you are willing to include in the definition of account-based marketing.

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