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!


You’ll never believe how amazing this post about click bait is!! Also mentions Facebook, LinkedIn, Donald Trump, Salesforce Pardot and Google!

If you’re human and have access to the internet, you’ve probably fallen victim to ‘click-bait’ at least once in your life. If you’re like me you hover on the edge of cynicism and curiosity every time you open Facebook. We’ve almost become desensitized to it and have learned to ignore it on Facebook…but what the hell has happened to LinkedIn?

And when did marketers think to themselves hey that thing I loathe in my personal life could be a fucking fantastic addition to my lead gen campaign?’ In case you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘click bait’ let me enlighten you.

Click bait is content, especially that of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page. Typically the sensation is not substantiated beyond the headline of the content which elicited the click-through.

Sample click bait. I’m sorry in advance, but you cannot click on the articles depicted above, so do not try. They’re not that interesting so I’ve really saved you from yourself. You’re welcome.

Why does shitty click bait work?

Click bait attracts our attention and often earns our click because we’re weak. And bored. And we’re so saturated in content that we’ve seen it all, so we’re always looking for something we haven’t seen. In our personal lives we seek to be informed and entertained, and no longer are the boring facts of life and those things you hear on the news interesting, provocative, or shocking enough (it’s why we love Donald Trump news reports even if we hate him).

I think we can all agree click bait is annoying, but it works, so we kind of deserve it. But what is click bait for? I don’t know this to be true, but I image it was concocted by vicious hackers and malware creators who have a shockingly enlightened grasp of human psychology. For a long time legit businesses did not bait us so cruelly.

Now that its proven effective, however, it seems enterprising enterprises have decided to jump on that morally dubious bandwagon to ‘earn’ our clicks the easy way – with exciting headlines and empty promises. And LinkedIn has (d)evolved into an effective platform for the proliferation of their crappy content.

Why would legit business use click bait?

It’s google’s fault. This is an oversimplified explanation of search engine optimization (SEO), but basically it works like this: To show up in unpaid search results on search engines like google, your content needs to contain the search terms people are looking for, but also prove that others find it interesting and valuable. The value of your content is measured by how many people look at it. Thus, to build credibility for your website in the eyes of search engines, you need high traffic. To obtain high traffic you can earn it slowly over time by producing high quality interesting content targeted at individuals who are your target readership, or you can trick a broader audience into visiting your site with broadly interesting headlines.

Could you offer those people substantive content which fulfills the promise in that headline? Sure, but that’s time consuming and expensive, requires talent and an you have to care about good marketing. You will get the clicks and downloads you seek without bothering to put anything worthwhile behind the gated form. So why bother? Because you have integrity? Apparently not.

The latest offender? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Salesforce Pardot  – a company marketing to marketers – thought they would get away with fooling us this with this enticing headline: 7 Inspiring B2B Marketing Campaigns: Must-See Examples of Marketing Success That You Can Replicate

A screen shot of the promotion on LinkedIn, which I also received via email. No, I will not give you the link because I don’t want the page to earn extra traffic. It’s not worthy and you’re better than that. PLEASE do not add fuel to the fire by searching for this and downloading it yourself. If you want to see this content I’m bashing and judge for yourself, you can get the PDF here.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking to be inspired and see examples of great marketing. Even better when there are takeaways I can implement. This could have been an awesome piece of content…except it wasn’t. There was NOTHING in it. I mean, not nothing…there were pictures and wimpy descriptions of what one might loosely call a campaign, with accompanying links to the featured company’s twitter account (more click bait!)


To be honest, I’m not sure whether this was intentional click bait; Pardot’s weak attempt to try to dazzle prospects by showing off the big-name companies that use their software; or a young millennial content marketer’s honest attempt at content creation skewed by the generation (s)he grew up in, which has blinded him/her to the difference between real content and internet garbage.

Think I’m too cynical? Maybe…but here’s what happened next….

About 15 minutes later I got a phone call, which I did not answer. There was no voicemail, but I did get a follow-up email from a sales rep who said he just tried to call me. I ignored it. Two days later I got another phone call with a voicemail from the same rep. And another follow-up email. He wanted to know when I was available to speak about my interest in Pardot. I politely told him I’m not interested in Pardot, I’m perfectly happy with my (much more robust) marketing automation platform, and I was simply interested in the topic promised in the content. He did not reply.

Normally I’m annoyed by over-zealous sales reps, but this time I was nice because his marketing team set him up for failure. Putting aside the especially disappointing lack of content in this particular piece of content, generally speaking creating content that’s of interest to a broad group of people may make for good lead gen, but it’s not sufficient qualifying content. Just because you got someone to download a provocative piece of content does not meant they’re interested in what you have to offer or ready to speak to a sales person. You’d think that Pardot, a company that markets and sells to marketers a product which has automated lead scoring and qualification capabilities, might exercise proper use of the tool they are selling.

I hope this was an isolated incident and that they will learn from their mistake, but I suspect more likely they will see the huge download counts and call this piece of click bait a success. And they will continue to have a proliferation platform in LinkedIn – a tool I once valued, which is rapidly becoming the click-bait emporium of the business world.

I hope you felt the click bait headline I lovingly gave this post yielded satisfactory content.


Digital Summit Nuggets of Wisdom (#DSATL16): Content Marketing

Whether this stuff is new, or you’re looking to validate what perhaps is obvious, there’s some good stuff to hear at the Digital Summit in Atlanta. While perhaps not as prestigious as the SiriusDecisions Summit, which is also happening this week, this event will probably deliver much more immediately actionable ideas. Here are some I picked up so far…(you may notice a reoccurring theme)…

Content pros: content isn’t King (gasp!), CUSTOMERS are King

  • No one cares about your content and the crap you want to say, they care about getting insight and answers to the crap they’re doing. Content wins when you say what they want to hear. 
  • Content marketing is about PULLING customers in not PUSHING stuff out
  • If someone wouldn’t Google your content title, change your content title. Cute, clever or proprietary titles don’t get your content found. If your content doesn’t get found, it doesn’t get read. 

SEO Pros: keywords aren’t King (gasp!), CUSTOMERS are King

  • Don’t rely exclusively on keyword research, ask your staff who have actual interactions with your prospects and customers (sales, delivery folks, customer service, etc)
  • Here’s an idea…just try to HELP people
  • Look at ‘Google suggests’ – Google knows what people are looking for. Use the magic wildcard (*) to see what people are really searching for 

Demand Pros: your company isn’t the King (gasp!), CUSTOMERS are King

  • Unless you company is an established content and thought leadership factory (like @Hubspot) people aren’t going to you for info, and even when they go to Google, they’re likely going to a hub of content that offers numerous content options (like @MarketingProfs). Don’t fool yourself by thinking you’re too good for content syndication. 
  • Just because someone downloaded your content doesn’t mean they want to buy your shit. You NEED to nurture people. This helps weed out those who aren’t viable buyers and prepare those who are to have a fruitful convo with sales on their terms. 
  • One touch and one channel isn’t gonna cut it. You wouldn’t send someone to an event or webinar with a single email and leave it at that (I hope). Why would one email be enough to expose people to your content? I’m not suggesting lambasting people with ads and email for every piece of content you’ve got, but I do suggest taking time to think strategically about how your content will be distributed and consumed, and that strategy better include multiple channels and touches. 

Sales Pros: you aren’t the King (gasp!), CUSTOMERS are King 

  • Just because you know someone exists (you have their name and contact information) doesn’t mean they care about your company or want to talk to you. 
  • And just because they downloaded something doesn’t mean they care about your company or want to talk to you. What it DOES mean is they have an interest/a need/a challenge. It DOES mean you likely have an opportunity to hel them (hint: help = sell).
  • If your marketing team is worth their salt, they’re using tech to capture and communicate who in your CRM is interacting with what content. Take an extra moment to look at that, and let that inform your conversant with prospects and customers 

I said a lot of words so if the main theme got lost, I’ll repeat it here: YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE KING. Think about how you behave in your personal and professional life. Unless you’re a unique and special snowflake (aka a total weirdo) chances are you behave just like your customers do. Market to people accordingly.