Sunday, November 1, 2015

What's Old and New in Account-Based Marketing

If you're involved in B2B marketing, you're probably aware of the hype surrounding account-based marketing (ABM). Some industry thought leaders are touting ABM as the "next big thing" in B2B marketing, and research confirms that the enthusiasm for account-based marketing is growing. For example, in the 2015 State of Account-Based Marketing Survey by SiriusDecisions:

  • 92% of respondents said that account-based marketing is "extremely" or "very" important to their overall marketing efforts.
  • 61% of respondents whose companies had implemented ABM said they plan to invest in technology to support their ABM efforts over the next twelve months.
Most of the hype about account-based marketing tends to portray ABM as a "new" type of marketing. In reality, account-based marketing is an amalgamation of old and new marketing principles and methods, and a set of relatively new, technology-enabled marketing techniques.

What's "Old" in Account-Based Marketing

The defining characteristic of account-based marketing is that it focuses on a group of identified or named accounts. ABM programs or campaigns are directed at relevant individuals (decision makers or influencers) who are affiliated with those named customers or prospects. This aspect of account-based marketing is by no means new.

Any business or marketing strategy worth its salt will include a definition of the company's target market, and this has been true for decades. In addition, for years, many B2B companies have been using direct marketing methods that focus on specific individuals who are affiliated with the business organizations that are in the company's defined target market.

So, in short, some of the fundamental principles and methods of ABM aren't new, but in fact, they embody techniques that many B2B companies have been using for years. However, this doesn't mean that the current incarnation of account-based marketing is simply a rehash of "old" marketing methods and practices.

What's "New" in Account-Based Marketing

Two characteristics distinguish the current practice of ABM from the "account-based" marketing campaigns and programs of the past. First, we now have technology tools that are enabling several new ABM techniques. For example, we now have the ability to target online advertisements and customize website content for individual named accounts or for specified types of accounts.

The second defining attribute of current ABM efforts is the level of coordination among marketing, sales, and business development activities. Today's most effective ABM programs typically combine content-based interactions and human-to-human interactions to create an integrated communications plan for each target account. In companies with the most successful ABM programs, marketers, sales reps, and business development reps work jointly to develop and then execute the integrated communications effort. This characteristic has caused some ABM thought leaders to argue that account-based marketing should really be called something like strategic account development because it encompasses much more than marketing.

ABM can be a powerful approach to demand generation for many B2B companies, and new technology tools can certainly enhance the effectiveness of ABM efforts. But ABM isn't entirely new, and successful ABM programs will incorporate many long-standing marketing principles and techniques.

Image courtesy of Cliff via Flickr CC.

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