ABM: WTF or F*** Yeah!?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has been a hot topic over the last couple of years. Predictive Marketing and AI are nipping at it’s heels but it seems ABM is still leading the pack of topics everyone wants to talk about. In fact, I think the last topic to have this level of spotlight and longevity was Marketing Automation.

94% of the sales and marketing emails I get on a daily basis mention ABM (yes, I kept track and did the math) That would lead one to believe it IS a big deal worthy of our attention. But is ABM really as big a deal as hot topics of the past like Marketing Automation? Should we be saying “WTF?” to the deluge of #ABM clogging up our inboxes, twitter feeds and LinkedIn stories (like this one), or embracing it with a hearty “F*** Yeah!”?

Short answer: both.

WTF if…

  • …You expect your sales or executive teams to know or care about ABM. If you’re a B2B marketer they already think you should be focused on target accounts and they aren’t going to be amused that you put a cute new hashtag to what they probably think is your JOB. If you want to use the term internally to help get your marketing team all rowing in the same strategic direction, great…but I suggest you don’t go around thumping your chest to your sales team about how much they should love you now that you’re on the ABM bandwagon. The only sales people who are excited that #ABM is a thing are the ones who get to sell products that claim to be the ABM miracle cure. They love selling their snake oil to us marketing chumps (okay that’s harsh, there are some good solutions out there…but none will solve your problems…keep reading…)
  • …You approach ABM as a special initiative or campaign. If you want to be successful, this can’t be a one-time push. ABM is a way of segmenting and targeting your marketing efforts across campaigns, supported by the right tools and messaging. If you’re going to do it right, it has to be an integrated strategic foundation to the way you approach marketing. Not a fad that will fade after you’ve checked the initiative-complete box.
  • …You think buying a bunch of technology is going to elevate you to ABM high-achiever status. Yes, there are a lot of technologies out there that can help enable your marketing strategy in support of ABM (I’ve used several and I have my favorites). The tech you already have can probably help, too. There are also plenty of martechs that claim to be the ABM silver bullet…they are lying. Technology is an enabler, not a solution. if you’re spending more time buying and managing tech than actually USING it, then you need to take a trip to shiny-new-object rehab (I know people who can help you snap out of it).

F*** Yeah if…

  • ...You’re leveraging the plethora of ABM content out there to inspire your marketing maturity evolution. All B2B marketing organizations are at different phases of maturity . If you’re trying to drive marketing evolution within your organization – let’s say you aren’t really doing much segmentation and you want to get there – this is a great time to take that next step, and there are lots of resources readily available to help. I like ABM for this purpose because even though the term #ABM is marketing speak, the principals are totally aligned with sales, and that’s important. Just beware that you don’t fall into a silver bullet trap. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing, so you need to think critically about your unique situation and use the knowledge in the market as a guide. Don’t forget to partner with internal stakeholders (like sales and business leaders) as you develop your roadmap.
  • ...You’re using the ABM fad as a catalyst to think critically about your segmentation approach. If you read about ABM and realize this is a totally different approach to the way you’re marketing today, you probably DO need it. In my opinion, ABM is simply a way to think about defining and segmenting your target audience, selecting the right channels to reach them, and developing and delivering the most impactful and relevant messaging. All of those things are fundamentally what marketing does (or should be doing). What makes ABM different is that company (account) attributes become the basis for defining and segmenting your audience (I call it ‘firmographics’). In B2C marketing, segmentation is traditionally done based on demographics, and we’ve seen this principal used in B2B as well. None of this is new, but what IS new to the market is an enhancement to the traditional firmographic and demographic segmentation: behavioral insights (eh hem…the thing that made Marketing Automation so big…so maybe it’s no SO new.)
  • You’re critically evaluating your martech stack to ensure it’s designed to fully enable your marketing strategy. ABM is not just about technology, but new integrated technology has never been more accessible. Take this opportunity (whilst you’re getting bombarded by every martech company out there) to have a look across your stack. Does it support and enable your marketing strategy? Are all of the components of your stack integrated and working together? Are you using them all? Do you have a gap? If you’re finding you spend a lot of time manually doing stuff or working around the tech you have to get stuff done, it’s probably time to re-evaluate. Don’t just look for things that have the ABM sticker (or claim to). Look at your marketing strategy as a whole and make sure you have integrated tools that address each component of your strategy end-to-end (that probably includes sales, too).

Is ABM worth your attention? Yes.
Is it worth your undivided obsessive and exclusive attention? No.

Let the buzz be an inspiration for you to reflect upon and evolve your marketing approach. Do not get sucked into the hype telling you it’s the new way of marketing, or the only way of marketing. And do not buy a bunch of tech just because the sticker on the box says #ABM. Be careful about where you keep your counsel, and if someone tries selling you a steaming pile of ABM-anything as a miracle cure, run!

Good luck!


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