I have sat through numerous well-intentioned presentations from enthusiastic marketers sharing their account-based marketing case studies. While the stories are interesting and the results are compelling, some situations make it difficult for me to differentiate between ABM and JGM (“Just Good Marketing”).
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
“We had inbound activity but a majority of that activity was from companies and people that didn’t convert or didn’t fit our customer profile. Only a small percent of inbound activity actually turned into marketing qualified leads. While our inbound programs are important we had to do more to generate interest at the right companies that would good candidates for our solutions.
Our new approach was to create a targeted account list and create and execute focused marketing programs and tactics at those accounts.”
While that is certainly a smart approach and commendable, being account-centric is not the same as implementing account-based marketing strategy.
What differentiates an account-based marketing strategy from an account-centric strategy is customer insight. Customer insight is the heavy research, mapping, and monitoring that is necessary to establish yourself as a trusted advisor and potential solution provider to an account.
Audience and customer-centricity are table stakes for an account-based marketing strategy. If you’re going to market by product, have sales teams that are segregated by product, and are having product marketing creating product-focused content about products – then you are not set up to pursue a true account-based marketing strategy.
… even if you’re only marketing to a defined set of target accounts.
… and using some light personalization.
Knowing the organizations who are a good fit for your product and marketing to them is JGM, not ABM! If you can assemble the criteria of a target market, then they can be yours to pursue, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. However, calling that activity “account-based marketing” is rendering the term meaningless.
I am proposing that instead of the generic term ABM, we go a step further to specify what type of ABM we’re practicing. This helps marketers share challenges, solutions, and case studies that reflect ABM environments more similar to one and other. ITSMA, Jon Miller, co-founder of Engagio, and others have used a 3-tier system that describes the vastly different types of account-based marketing. I recommend we adopt it as a community of B2B marketers.
Tiers of ABM
All great ABM is customer-focused, insight-led and tech enabled. The secret sauce of account-based marketing at any tier lies in the insight. ABM at any tier features coordinated, parallel efforts or plays between marketing and sales to understand their accounts and markets.
That said, the level of customization in your tactics, messaging, and content, along with total number of accounts and overall business health dictates what tier of ABM is best for your organization.
Nowadays it might be tempting to refer to all forms of good, common sense marketing as ABM, but that would be misrepresenting the discipline. In doing so – we do a disservice to JGM’ers and ABM’ers everywhere.