ABM History

Account Based Marketing: What’s Old is New Again

You’ve probably heard about it. It’s the marketing industry’s new prima ballerina. Account based marketing, also known as ABM, appears to be leading a revolution in B2B. In actuality, it’s a concept that has been in play in some shape or form for decades.

Though the practice is nothing new, the term ABM was minted back in 2004. Since that time, we have seen notable spikes of interest along the way, with the most marked surge happening in the past two years. While the concept itself is long-established, it’s really the delivery system that has made it seem so shiny and new.

Defining ABM

ITSMA’s definition of ABM advocates treating individual accounts as a market in their own right. You might say it’s the marketing equivalent of account based sales, which has long been the backbone of enterprise sales. To sales teams in this category, it is imperative to communicate with multiple influencers within a single department in order to close a sale. So you could say that ABM – or the term, anyway – is just giving credence to an already established concept.

ABM is further defined as a “collaborative approach that sales, marketing, delivery and key executives use toward achieving the client’s business goals.” But what does this really mean?

The traditionally held approach to lead generation is an inferential strategy: you begin by identifying your prospects. Next, you develop buyer personas, after which you devise a process by which you reach out to those who match these personas, lining them up with specific criteria and certain definable actions.

Matt Senatore, Research Director of Account-Based Marketing for SiriusDecisions says, “In its most basic definition, ABM is a strategic approach that aligns resources against a set of defined, targeted accounts. Regardless of the goal or approach, the focus must be on bringing relevance based on specifics within those targeted accounts.”

In a traditional marketing approach, all efforts are targeted to the individuals who are deemed to be the best fit for a product or service. An ABM approach acknowledges that several individuals are engaged in the average purchasing process, and treats each singular account as one whole unit. In essence, you are not just focusing on the organization, you are targeting the individuals within that organization.

If any of this rings a bell, you are starting to grasp the bigger picture. Sometimes called key account management or strategic account management, these approaches all have a similar philosophy: target favorable accounts, and your chance of success goes way up.

So if the concept, in itself, is nothing new, why is ABM suddenly such a hotkey?

Answer: technology. Combining well-established marketing principles with current internet tracking technology, it is now easier than ever to put this methodology into practice.

Tracking The ABM Agenda

Through the decades, we wined and dined our prospects. Cocktails, lavish dinners, VIP parties, and private boxes at exclusive events were commonplace. Still are, in fact. Some efforts were more in-your-face, baiting the hook, casting your line and patiently waiting for a fish to bite. These are all account-focused attempts at marketing, but none can be directly linked to modern day ABM because of one very basic detail: their success can’t be measured. Marketers could say “I’ve done these specific things, but I’m unsure which was ‘the one’ that sealed the deal.” ABM gives us a way to track the results as well as the variables that led us there. Our actions are now more focused on what actually works, rather than just seeing what sticks.

Get a load of this nifty grid, brought to you by the sales and leadership consulting gurus from Barrett. It outlines the history of sales methodologies, why some work and some just don’t. A lot of food for thought here, and good times had by all!

Measurable Results

So we’ve established that the newest thing about ABM is that we now have the ability to track and measure the results of our efforts – and that is the undisputed key to marketing success. With robust metrics available to help us determine an individual’s online activities, and the ability to identify key accounts within a greater group of accounts, we can now focus our efforts towards a more predictable result. With the statistical support that modern day ABM supplies, marketers can now report measurable results, qualify their ROI and further personalize their efforts to extract the greatest possible effect for their time.

So it’s not that ABM is so new, it’s just got a bit of a new, albeit steroidal shine on it. The key to using it to its greatest potential is in recognizing that account based marketing is a complex strategy, not just a software package. Your best possible chance of success is to optimize your entire organization with an account-centric focus, and watch your metrics come to life.

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