Is Account-Based Marketing Really Scalable?


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Providers of account-based marketing (ABM) technologies have been touting the ability of their solutions to enable companies to scale their ABM programs. It’s easy to understand why solution providers are anxious to show that their technologies will allow ABM to be implemented at scale.

Research has shown that ABM can deliver a higher ROI than any other marketing approach. However, the traditional approach to ABM – which was pioneered by ITSMA in the early 2000’s – was (and is) extremely resource intensive. As a result, most companies that adopted ABM only used it with a small number of high-value accounts. If technology can enable companies to scale ABM and use it with a larger number of customers or prospects, that technology will be very attractive to B2B marketers.

So, can the right technological capabilities enable companies to successfully scale ABM programs? To answer this question, we first need to identify what activities are required to execute a successful ABM effort. Engagio recently developed a framework that describes six processes that are required for a successful ABM program.

  1. Select target accounts
  2. Identify the relevant contacts or “buyers” at each target account
  3. Conduct research to gain deep insights regarding each target account
  4. Develop account-relevant messages and content
  5. Deliver account-specific interactions
  6. Orchestrate account-focused “plays”
All six of these processes are required for a successful ABM program, and they are linked and interdependent. This means that in order to scale an ABM program, you must be able to scale all of these processes. Or, to state the point differently, you can scale your ABM program only to the extent that you can scale each of these individual processes.
The important question is, to what extent can technology enable you to scale each of these processes? Clearly, technology can provide varying degrees of support for all six processes. For example, many ABM solutions have predictive analytics capabilities that can streamline the account selection process, and there are several sources of data for identifying relevant contacts at each target account. Likewise, technology can be used to automate the interactions and plays referred to in items 5 and 6 in the above list. So, technology can be used to scale four of the six essential ABM processes.
The two remaining processes – conducting research to gain deep account insights, and developing account-relevant messages and content – are a different story. Both of these processes require a substantial amount of human judgment and creativity. Therefore, these processes cannot be scaled significantly using technology alone.
The bottom line is that the original approach to ABM – what I like to call “pure” ABM – remains difficult to scale, even with the latest technology tools. Today, B2B companies are using ABM-inspired marketing techniques with larger groups of accounts, and these emerging practices have lead many ABM thought leaders, including ITSMA, to identify three types or tiers of account-based marketing.
It this new framework, Strategic ABM is the term used for the traditional (“one-to-one”) approach to account-based marketing. ABM Lite refers to a “one-to-few” approach that focuses on groups of accounts that share similar business attributes and needs. Programmatic ABM is a “one-to-many” approach that emphasizes the use of new technologies to apply ABM-inspired marketing techniques to a large group of accounts. In terms of scalability, ABM Lite programs are more scalable that Strategic ABM programs, and Programmatic ABM programs are highly scalable with the right technology tools.

Image courtesy of via Flickr CC.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Dodd
David Dodd is a B2B business and marketing strategist, author, and marketing content developer. He works with companies to develop and implement marketing strategies and programs that use compelling content to convert prospects into buyers.


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