Can You Shortcut ABM and Still Make it Work?


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In marketing circles, there’s little argument these days that a well-planned, well-executed Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategy can pay real dividends. It’s also true, however, to say that, as a full-blown strategic initiative, ABM can be a major undertaking and a significant investment in time, effort, and technology.

In the marketplace, this disparity between, on the one hand, the appeal of ABM as a marketing strategy, and, on the other, the resources required to make it work, creates a conundrum for those companies eager to give ABM a try but unwilling to make the investment required as a first step.

Shortcut ABMWhich, in turn, begs the question: are there shortcuts to ABM? Can a company make do with less than the careful planning, audience definition and profiling, sales enablement, executive buy-in, personalized content, and dedicated technology typically required of a successful ABM initiative and still make it work?

Similarly, can a company skip the complex process of strategic planning that ABM demands, jump right into account-based campaigns and still expect measurable results?

In most cases, the answer is no. (I’ve written previously in this space about how ABM is a strategy, not a campaign.) However, there are a few scenarios that may provide a viable option to dip your toe into something, if not quite ABM (“ABM Lite?”), as part of a pilot initiative to prove value and win budget for a broader, more strategic initiative:

1. Target account campaigns.

If you already have good content, adapted for different personas or industries, the technology to drive automated, multi-touch nurture emails, and a willing and capable sales team, you may not need a full-blown ABM solution, at least not at first. Add predictive technology, ideally equipped with intent data, and use advanced scoring to “bubble up” high value accounts with a propensity to buy. Develop a multi-touch, multi-channel campaign to market to those account contacts with display ads, nurture emails, and a meeting-setter direct mail campaign. Create alerts and a sales outreach strategy for salespeople to go after engaged contacts, and voila: an “ABM-ish” target account campaign.

2. Cross-sell/upsell to existing customers.

If the potential buyers for your new or expanded offering are current customers, you can create early, mid- and late-stage nurture content that speaks to the pain points or opportunities that the new solution addresses. Develop coordinated plays – campaigns that incorporate multiple touchpoints from colleagues in sales, marketing, and customer success – to educate customers and encourage them to take a demo or consider an upgrade. Add a solution like Engagio Playmaker to coordinate plays between departments. Call it ABM-y Customer Marketing.

3. Generating leads from key accounts.

Let’s be clear – true ABM is not measured by leads. But short of a more dedicated, coordinated effort to generate account-level engagement from specific, key influencers, you can still generate leads from key accounts and lay the foundation for a more concerted ABM initiative at some later date. For example, many publishers and networks in the content syndication space will now accept target account lists as lead filters, albeit at a premium CPL. Again, it’s not ABM, but it can set the stage for a broader initiative, or even run in parallel to an ABM campaign as part of a more general, “air cover” strategy.

Are there shortcuts to true ABM? Alas, no. If you expect to build a true ABM initiative, you need to put in the work, with all the planning and investment that entails. Can you create ABM-like campaigns and still generate results? Sure. Just don’t call it ABM.

Thanks to Tom Meriam, Spear’s VP Business Development (and resident ABM guru) for his contributions to this article.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Howard Sewell
Howard has worked in marketing for 25+ years, and is president of Spear Marketing Group, a full-service B2B marketing agency. Howard is a frequent speaker and contributor to marketing publications on topics that include demand generation, digital marketing, ABM, and marketing technology.


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