ABM goes mainstream: What have we learned and what’s next?

  •   August 19, 2019

Account-based Marketing is one of the most discussed strategies in conferences rooms and at conferences. Sales and marketing research and advisory firm TOPO released a report to the B2B community last quarter that stated emphatically: “ABM is going mainstream in 2019.”

Game on.

In the spirit of understanding the state of all things account-based, here’s what I’ve learned from meeting with more than 50 B2B teams last quarter on the state of ABM.

B2B marketing and account-based marketing aren’t synonymous yet – but it’s close.

The B2B sales process is in sync with an account-based model, driven by how solutions are purchased and the total available market (TAM) of accounts for most B2B brands. 

The numbers so far are giving us a strong indication of what’s possible. Account-based leads are four times more likely to be followed up on by sales, according to Sirius Decision’s 2019 ABM research.

However, most marketing teams struggle with transitioning from a quantity-based lead generation system – create content, drive traffic, capture lead, nurture, score to qualify, route to sales and hope leads get followed up on – to the more precise and collaborative account-based approach.  

ABM is not the antidote to the elusive sales-marketing alignment. 

Having an account-based strategy and mindset gets deeper sales buy-in, focuses the marketing department’s effort and gets the organization moving in the same direction. But it’s not the way to get sales and marketing aligned. If metrics aren’t shared, the collaborative culture isn’t in place and/or executive leadership isn’t behind the strategy, the chance of revenue success with an account-based model is just as unlikely as the old lead gen model. 

Account-based Marketing is not enough to deliver results.

Marketing driving an account-based effort and/or operating in a silo will fail. Don’t believe me? Check the history books on “lead scoring.” Acknowledging this challenge, the B2B industry has attempted to adopt multiple different versions of “ABM” descriptions (Account-based everything, Account-based revenue, Account-based orchestration, etc.). 

For an account-based approach to work, it must include a holistic approach integrating (not just aligning) sales, marketing, customer success and product. 

ABM’s hidden gem use case may be customer revenue and expansion.

ABM works extremely well for revenue expansion and growing your relationships with existing customer accounts. 

Here, we have a very clear set of accounts. There is no debate about which companies or organizations should be on your “account list.” They’re straightforward to identify and to reach out and engage in context to your existing relationship. Just as importantly, your customers are looking to get more out of their existing investments and more value from existing, approved providers. 

Your current lead-based metrics will go down, don’t panic.

Lead quantity will go down. Embrace it. 

Many of us are driven (and often rewarded) by quantity metrics, such as web site visits, database contact size, and the number of leads – especially marketing qualified leads. Key strategic metrics for account-based efforts are different. Key success indicators include an increase in average contact value, faster close rates and larger lifetime contract value. 

Accounts don’t buy anything, people do.

As you adopt an account-based approach, be careful not to get so obsessed with accounts you lose sight of the true buyers – people. Accounts are important but ultimately people on the buying committee will make the decisions and determine your fate. 

Successful account-based marketers emphasize the things that still matter to people: being relevant, differentiated, timely and inspiring in their communications. 

Intent data is gaining traction and success in account-based strategies. 

The lead generation era was about digital buying language, and tracking and acting on the behaviors of individuals. In contrast, the account-based era is all about understanding the collective actions of people that work at target accounts, around action and engagement with specific topics. 

Using this “intent” data has become an important signal and way to prioritize when and how to follow up with specific accounts. The mindset needs to shift from “I see you downloaded this white paper” to “it looks like you may be doing research around x topic.”

Mastering account-based strategies and tactics is a good career bet. 

Account-based strategies and know-how have moved from nice-to-have to critical skills for B2B professionals. 

The good news is that there is a lot of data generated from those that have successfully deployed account-based strategies and tactics – and we can tap into deep learnings from that data. It’s the perfect time to commit to mastering account-based strategies for your professional advancement and for the success of your organization.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Scott Vaughan is Chief Growth Officer of Integrate, an enterprise marketing software and solutions provider. With previous roles as CMO and B2B revenue marketing leader, Scott leads Integrate’s go-to-market, customer, and growth strategies. Scott’s experience and passion are fueled by working with customers and partners to create new levels of business and customer value.

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