Account-based marketing (ABM) is not new, but its recent rise in popularity is capturing the attention of B2B marketers looking for innovative ways to increase marketing performance. It is not yet determined whether ABM is just another buzzword or the new way to go, but its benefits seem to be acknowledged by many B2B marketers and companies.

In this blog, the concept and characteristics of account-based marketing will be explained, and the steps to get to ABM as well as its benefits will be listed. Finally, some characteristics of an ABM-ready company will be mentioned. Consequently, after reading this blog, you will know whether your company should move towards ABM and how.

‘Simple Secrets to Account-Based Marketing Magic’ This blog explains the concept and characteristics of account-based marketing (ABM), and lists the steps to get to ABM as well as its benefits. Finally, it mentions some characteristics of an ABM-ready company. After reading this blog, you will know whether your company should move towards ABM and how. Read the blog at

What is account-based marketing?

Jon Miller, who co-founded Engagio, appears to be the one who coined the term ABM: “Account-based marketing is a strategic approach that coordinates personalized marketing and sales efforts to open doors and deepen engagement at specific accounts.” Using the 7 characteristics below, I try to give you a clearer picture of ABM.

ABM characteristic 1: for B2B

Alp Mimaroglu explains that by nature, effective ABM is best used by B2B adopters. Account-based marketers sell very specific products and services to very specific clients.

Examples of companies that use ABM include a medical device company that only sells to plastic surgeons, a design agency that only creates auto ads, or a marketing agency that only targets Fortune 500s.

ABM characteristic 2: adopted increasingly more

In 2015, SiriusDecisions has released its State of Account-Based Marketing survey. It concludes that 92 percent of companies recognize the value in ABM, but only 20 percent have had full programs in place for over one year. The study shows wider adoption is expected as more than 60 percent plans to invest in technology for ABM to align sales and marketing better over the next 12 months.

“B2B marketers are realizing that marketing to large quantities of individuals does not result in quality sales opportunities,” Peter Isaacson states. “ABM is quickly becoming the B2B strategy of choice, because it truly aligns sales and marketing while focusing their teams on the highest value accounts. I expect adoption to grow rapidly as companies that have made this switch have seen tremendous results by focusing their efforts on attracting, engaging, converting and measuring the accounts that are most likely to buy.”

ABM characteristic 3: account-centric

Inbound marketing and outbound marketing are both “person-centric.” ABM, on the other hand, is any “account-centric” form of marketing—usually outbound, as Mimarogly clarifies. Although ABM may use inbound tactics at times, it relies on tried-and-true sales methods to unlock accounts.

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ABM characteristic 4: long-term view

According to Jason Compton, marketing’s job is to listen, to advocate, and to add insights to the process at every step of a sale. Account-based marketing also relies on marketers to help sales take a longer-term view, rather than a narrow focus on quarterly results.

ABM characteristic 5: marketing automation

According to Mimarogly, the popular solution many B2B marketers are increasingly adopting is account-based marketing powered by marketing automation. By limiting their target buyers to specific accounts, leads become easier to handle, and marketing automation becomes much easier to implement.

The problem that Mimarogly identifies is that most companies outside of tech are not quite ready for marketing automation: “They are not ready for the sheer number of leads they will be qualifying, and they do not have the infrastructure to handle those leads properly. Most leads generated by marketing automation never reach sales, or are seen as off-target. Some marketers complain about getting 10,000 leads per month, because only 10% align with their target account list. It is madness.”

Compton also emphasizes the role of automation in ABM: “Marketing is responsible for identifying and understanding the triggers that indicate a prospect in the making, such as a company hiring a particular role or suddenly entering a new marketplace. Developing content that can be customized in an automated fashion is essential, primarily to avoid the need for an impractically large marketing staff to serve each account.”

ABM characteristic 6: applicable to existing accounts too

As useful as ABM is for customer acquisition, the approach also creates opportunities to engage with existing accounts in a meaningful fashion in order to increase future lifetime value, Compton argues.

To be truly successful, however, this strategy requires compensating marketers for ongoing conversions. Miller explains that “often, your most valuable accounts are your current customers, but the traditional marketing model is focused on generating net new leads and some marketing departments do not get credit if they generate a campaign response from a current customer.”

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ABM characteristic 7: personal

Shifting to ABM presents B2B marketers with a range of opportunities for engaging current and prospective customers in new ways. However, some relationship-focused marketers worry that the approach may seem forced or impersonal. Compton believes that the opposite is true. “Using ABM does not mean abandoning the one-to-one connection marketers have been striving to create for decades. It simply pairs that mind-set with the complex realities of the considered-purchase buying cycle.”

Account-based intelligence as foundation of account-based marketing

Falon Fatemi claims that account-based intelligence forms the foundation of an account-based strategy as it provides marketers and salespeople with the information they need to:

  • discover the right companies and best people to contact at those companies
  • identify the critical moment when customers are ready to buy
  • inform your reps of the most impactful things to say to each potential customer

7 benefits of account-based marketing

Rachel Balik finds that there is no shortage of reasons why ABM is attractive to B2B companies. Companies practicing ABM have better alignment with sales, often close bigger deals with target accounts, and increase pipeline velocity.

David Cain adds the following 4 benefits to the list:

  1. Clear ROI
  2. Reduced resource waste
  3. It is personal and optimized
  4. Tracking goals & measurement is clear

6 steps to account-based marketing

Balik says that although there are a number of touch points across the funnel where ABM will play a big part, you need a plan to identify, market and measure your target account list before you can execute on these things.

Cain is more extensive in detailing the steps to ABM. I briefly list the steps here. If you would like to see these explained, his Marketo blog What Is ABM and Is It Right for You? does just that.

  • Step 1: Discover & define your high-value accounts
  • Step 2: Map accounts & identify key internal players
  • Step 3: Define content & personalized messaging
  • Step 4: Determine optimal channels
  • Step 5: Execute targeted & coordinated campaigns
  • Step 6: Measure, learn and optimize

One key account or more?

Kate Maddox says that some marketers have developed marketing campaigns to reach just one high-level account, while other B2B marketers have created integrated campaigns personalized to a few key accounts that have similar needs and characteristics or buyer personas. She offers best practices for both options. In her blog Best Practices: How to Succeed with Account-Based Marketing in B-to-B, she explains the best practices by using two case studies. Here, I will only list the practices briefly.

Best practices for marketing-to-one campaigns

  1. Alignment of sales and marketing
  2. Heavy research into the prospect’s pain points
  3. Consistent storytelling

Best practices for marketing-to-few campaigns

  1. Give prospects a hard offer
  2. Integrate with sales

Other best practices for account-based marketing

She offers two other best practices for account-based marketing, whether one-to-one or one-to-few:

  1. Start with the right list. Know the decision-makers, the influencers and how to contact them within a company.
  2. Understand relationships between the people you are targeting to tailor the communications. You may not know where the budgets lie.

5 characteristics of an ABM-ready company

Compton argues that the following 5 characteristics prequalify a company to look deeper at ABM:

  1. A B2B model. Although households can have multiple stakeholders in large purchases, the account concept is most applicable to B2B firms.
  2. High-value products or services with a lengthy consideration-to-purchase cycle.
  3. An account-based sales model. Although not mandatory, it usually indicates that the other characteristics of the company and its customers warrant the adoption of ABM.
  4. A keenness to understand the buyer’s individual experiences and challenges as they are, not as you hope they will be.
  5. The willingness to look for prospects and opportunities outside the traditional funnel. ABM represents a deliberate shift away from standard marketing-automation practices of recent years that focused on giving prospects abundant opportunities to raise their hands and opt in to the funnel.

Compton considers that last point to be crucial as ABM expert Miller became a proponent of the approach precisely because he hit a wall with standard marketing automation. Thinking of his time at automation vendor Marketo, Miller says, “We were well-known for being a company that was extraordinarily good at demand generation, but when we tried to move up-market, that playbook just did not work with larger, named accounts.”