In marketing circles, there’s little argument these days that a well-planned, well-executed Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategy can pay real dividends. It’s also true, however, to say that, as a full-blown strategic initiative, ABM can be a major undertaking and a significant investment in time, effort, and technology.

In the marketplace, this disparity between, on the one hand, the appeal of ABM as a marketing strategy, and, on the other, the resources required to make it work, creates a conundrum for those companies eager to give ABM a try but unwilling to make the investment required as a first step.

Shortcut ABMWhich, in turn, begs the question: are there shortcuts to ABM? Can a company make do with less than the careful planning, audience definition and profiling, sales enablement, executive buy-in, personalized content, and dedicated technology typically required of a successful ABM initiative and still make it work?

Similarly, can a company skip the complex process of strategic planning that ABM demands, jump right into account-based campaigns and still expect measurable results?

In most cases, the answer is no. (I’ve written previously in this space about how ABM is a strategy, not a campaign.) However, there are a few scenarios that may provide a viable option to dip your toe into something, if not quite ABM (“ABM Lite?”), as part of a pilot initiative to prove value and win budget for a broader, more strategic initiative:

1. Target account campaigns.

If you already have good content, adapted for different personas or industries, the technology to drive automated, multi-touch nurture emails, and a willing and capable sales team, you may not need a full-blown ABM solution, at least not at first. Add predictive technology, ideally equipped with intent data, and use advanced scoring to “bubble up” high value accounts with a propensity to buy. Develop a multi-touch, multi-channel campaign to market to those account contacts with display ads, nurture emails, and a meeting-setter direct mail campaign. Create alerts and a sales outreach strategy for salespeople to go after engaged contacts, and voila: an “ABM-ish” target account campaign.

2. Cross-sell/upsell to existing customers.

If the potential buyers for your new or expanded offering are current customers, you can create early, mid- and late-stage nurture content that speaks to the pain points or opportunities that the new solution addresses. Develop coordinated plays – campaigns that incorporate multiple touchpoints from colleagues in sales, marketing, and customer success – to educate customers and encourage them to take a demo or consider an upgrade. Add a solution like Engagio Playmaker to coordinate plays between departments. Call it ABM-y Customer Marketing.

3. Generating leads from key accounts.

Let’s be clear – true ABM is not measured by leads. But short of a more dedicated, coordinated effort to generate account-level engagement from specific, key influencers, you can still generate leads from key accounts and lay the foundation for a more concerted ABM initiative at some later date. For example, many publishers and networks in the content syndication space will now accept target account lists as lead filters, albeit at a premium CPL. Again, it’s not ABM, but it can set the stage for a broader initiative, or even run in parallel to an ABM campaign as part of a more general, “air cover” strategy.

Are there shortcuts to true ABM? Alas, no. If you expect to build a true ABM initiative, you need to put in the work, with all the planning and investment that entails. Can you create ABM-like campaigns and still generate results? Sure. Just don’t call it ABM.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash