When it comes to what is, and isn’t, Account-Based Marketing (ABM), there are as many opinions out there as there are ABM experts. The reality is that ABM (now ABX, in some circles) is ever-evolving and so what qualifies as ABM is a moving target.

Also, does it matter? Well, it matters only because many B2B marketers who haven’t yet stepped foot in the ABM waters are under pressure, from management or sales or both, to do so. And so then the natural question is: what does it mean to “do” ABM, and where’s the best place to start?

Alas, too many companies consider ABM to be synonymous with one-to-one, high-touch campaigns exclusively, in the belief that one-to-one marketing is the only “true” ABM. The danger with that thinking, however, and the risk with an approach to ABM that prioritizes highly personalized, highly orchestrated, content-intensive, high-touch campaigns, is that those programs are expensive, relatively high risk, and can take weeks or months to get in market, albeit with a big payout if they succeed.


I wrote earlier in this space about how companies looking to move to a more ABM-centric approach, or simply seeking to integrate ABM into their overall demand gen mix, are wise not to abandon more traditional, broad-based demand generation altogether.

Indeed, companies looking to get started with ABM may be wise to integrate those tactics over time, based on a tiered account strategy:

* Tier 1 (One to One) – Highly personalized, “white glove” outreach to key accounts
* Tier 2 (One to Few) – Personalized and segmented outreach to key industries or other target groups
* Tier 3 (One to Many) – Broader demand generation to the wider market

In a tiered structure, a company can continue broader demand generation (Tier 3) but introduce more targeted, personalized outreach to higher-propensity industries or personas (Tier 2), perhaps via channels like content syndication or paid social ads. Then (critically), as specific, high-potential accounts show awareness, engagement and intent, those accounts can shift to a high-touch, Tier 1 strategy.

The advantages of this crawl-walk-run approach, versus a scenario where a company immediately vaults into a Tier 1 strategy, are:

* lower risk, because Tier 1 accounts are further along the buying cycle and not just target logos;
* speed to market, because Tier 3 and Tier 2 programs require less research, planning, and content;
* improved conversions, because lessons gleaned (“what’s working”) from a broader approach can be applied to one-to-one campaigns

There are situations when one-to-one campaigns can be introduced earlier, for example, where a company is marketing to existing customers. In customer campaigns, awareness and engagement are already baked in, so to speak, as is a deeper familiarity with the target accounts, and so risks are mitigated. But, even then, those campaigns will benefit from being part of a broader approach.

For a more detailed read on ABM planning and design, download our free ebook: “The Pragmatic Guide to ABM Success.”

Photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash