For years, marketers have been obsessed
with casting these wide nets.
Their philosophy: Attract enough fish into the net…
…and you’re bound to end up with a keeper or two.
But then an alternative
philosophy began to
evolve, one that replaces
the net with a spear.
Pioneered by ITSMA (the Information Technology Services Marketing Association),
ABM flips the traditional marketing funnel on its head.
With ABM, you’re laser-focused on companies that
you’ve already identified as being a good fit to buy.
Which means you don’t waste resources filling
your funnel with bad leads.
ABM aspires to be ‘zero-waste’
marketing. It’s a model that targets
only the companies and contacts
that are likely to buy your product
and that sales has pre-committed
to try to close.
VP of Marketing, InsightSquared
Rather than targeting an industry, ABM targets
individual companies using personalized campaigns.
With ABM, you're creating this really
strategic, orchestrated set of activities
that makes you rise above the noise
of what everyone else out there is
doing and gets that account to say,
‘Hey, I want to talk to you.'
President & Chief Strategist,
The Bridge Group
Glossary of ABM Terms
Before we continue exploring the ins and outs of
ABM, let’s do a quick rundown of some common
ABM terms, starting with the most obvious one:
Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
According to ITSMA, the simplest definition of ABM is “treating individual
accounts as markets in their own right.”
Remember, when it comes to closing a deal, it’s rarely a single person making the
decision. (With enterprise deals in particular, 17 people are typically involved in
the decision-making process…17!) ABM acknowledges all of the different people —
and different viewpoints — that comprise each account and uses highly targeted,
personalized campaigns in order to win over those accounts.
In ABM-speak, “coverage” refers to how much you know about a given account.
For example, how many relevant contacts have you identified from that account?
How much relevant information have you gathered? Coverage measures the
completeness of the research you’ve done.
Think “demographic,” but for companies and firms. “Firmographic” refers to
company characteristics such as number of employees, industry, annual revenue,
location, etc. Account-based marketers look at firmographic data when
researching accounts and developing ideal customer profiles.
Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
It’s sort of like a buyer persona, but instead of defining the characteristics of an
ideal buyer, an ideal customer profile (ICP) defines the characteristics of an ideal
customer account. Using firmographic data, technographic data, and sometimes
predictive analytics, an ICP highlights the common attributes of accounts that are
likely to buy. Note: In some circles you might hear the term “account persona”
being used instead.
Key Account, Key Account Management
Key accounts refer to customer accounts that are crucial to a company’s success.
One common definition I’ve seen: Key accounts are the 20% of customers who
make up 80% of a company’s overall business. (Note: Prospects who have the
potential to fall into this 20/80 category can also be referred to as key accounts.)
“Key account management” is a systematic approach to managing these crucial
customer accounts, with the ultimate goal being to maximize mutual value.
Land and Expand
After closing a new customer, the customer relationship doesn’t end (or at least
not if you follow the principles of ABM). The next step is to invest in the success of
that new customer, and to help them see the value in buying more seats, or buying
more storage, or upgrading to a premium version of your product. This model is
known as “land and expand.” While traditionally sales teams have been laser-
focused on generating new business, the land and expand model places a much
stronger emphasis on upselling and cross-selling existing accounts.
Marketing Qualified Account (MQA)
The ABM equivalent of a marketing-qualified lead (MQL). According to Engagio, a
marketing-qualified account (MQA) is a “target account (or discrete buying
center) that has reached a sufficient level of engagement to indicate possible sales
Predictive analytics is a way of turning your existing customer data into a model
for figuring what other companies would be a good fit to buy. It’s essentially a
matching game. A predictive model will look at hundreds or even thousands of
customer data points and use them to identify accounts with similar
characteristics. Account-based marketers sometimes use predictive analytics for
developing ideal customer profiles.
Refers to the technologies that companies are currently using or thinking about
investing in. Account-based marketers look at technographic data when
researching accounts and developing ideal customer profiles.
Inbound is a proven
strategy for small &
business (SMB) deals—
Fortune 500,000 deals.
ABM is a proven strategy
for enterprise deals—
Fortune 500 deals.
You can also think of
as feeding into your
Because if an inbound lead ends
up being part of a target account,
ABM can pick up right where
inbound leaves off.
But just so we’re all clear on why the ABM
model is different from what we’ve always been
doing, here are three key points to consider…
1) ABM is highly targeted.
Instead of relying on broad-reaching campaigns that aim to draw a larger number
of prospects to you, ABM focuses on just those prospects that are most likely to
buy and uses personalized campaigns to engage them specifically. In order to
source these high-quality prospects, account-based marketers build ideal
customer profiles (ICPs) using firmographic and technographic data (and
sometimes predictive analytics).
2) ABM focuses on accounts, not markets or
Account-based marketers gain a deep understanding of their target accounts in
order to create content and campaigns optimized for them. This is different from
your typical approach to content marketing where you’re addressing a broader
market or industry.
3) ABM targets both prospects and customers.
ABM’s goal is to “land and expand” using optimized campaigns to bring in new
customers and act on opportunities to grow current accounts (i.e. cross-sell,
Here’s a table that sums up the key differences:
1) Strong alignment between sales and marketing
For years, marketers have been trained to write and create campaigns for people in
particular markets and industries. Meanwhile, sales has been focused on engaging
with just those accounts that are likely to buy. With ABM, sales and marketing are
both focused on target accounts and are working toward a common goal.
In traditional demand generation, marketing
throws leads over the fence for sales to chase.
In ABM, there is no fence. The collaboration is
close, constant, and totally focused on
defined, account-specific objectives.
2) Efficient & optimized
Because ABM is so targeted with its marketing efforts, resource-waste is limited.
As Joe Chernov said, “ABM aspires to be ‘zero-waste’ marketing.”
Remember, ABM is fishing with a spear, not a net. There’s considerably less “by-
catch” as you’re only engaging with prospects that are likely to buy. Combine that
narrow focus with an amazing customer experience (more on that next) and
conversion rates start to climb.
3) Better customer experiences
Instead of going broad by blasting folks with content that appeals to a particular
market or industry, with ABM you go deep — you research accounts and design
campaigns specifically for them. Every touchpoint along the buyer’s journey is
At Drift, we’re obsessed with being customer-driven, so this aspect of ABM aligns
perfectly with how we run things. Instead of doing what’s convenient for the
company (re: automating everything and reusing the same content for all of your
leads), with ABM the focus is on doing what’s most convenient for the contacts
and decision-makers inside of your target accounts.
A 2014 ITSMA survey showed that “Nearly all B2B solution providers that measure
account-based marketing (ABM) ROI find that ABM delivers higher ROI than other
One of marketing’s biggest challenges has always been justifying budget. And
while one ROI survey likely won’t be enough to convince decision-makers at your
company that ABM is worth it, what will convince them is proving ROI within your
own company by running a pilot program.
To get started, you’ll need to identify your target accounts and start developing
personalized campaigns. Here are a few real-world examples you can use for
1) Air Cover Campaign
As business development reps (aka BDRs) work on target accounts, Terminus’
marketers target the contacts and decision-makers within those accounts with
relevant online ads. The targeted ads help build awareness within accounts before
and/or at the same time a BDR is reaching out.
2) Event Marketing Campaign
Because events are a big part of their broader marketing strategy, Terminus has
built an event marketing campaign playbook that covers activities that happen
leading up to, during, and after events. Sales and marketing work together to
identify the target accounts for these campaigns — they look at past event
attendees, pre-registration lists, and also target accounts that are located near
where the event is taking place. After an event, follow-up kicks into gear, which
includes ads targeted at attendees, emails and social posts, and calls and emails
3) Pipeline Acceleration Campaign
This campaign is technically three campaigns, but all three are focused on one
thing: closing deals. Sales and marketing work together to come up with targeted
messages and ads that match the opportunity stage different accounts are in —
early-stage opportunities, mid-stage opportunities, and late-stage opportunities.
While Terminus had campaign-specific goals for
each of the examples we described, they also have
key metrics they look at for every ABM campaign:
• Engagement (How many target companies are you engaging with?)
• Close rates (Are they improving?)
• Time to close (Is it decreasing?)
• Deal size (Is it increasing?)
• Upsell/cross-sell opportunities (Are they increasing?)
• More opportunities being influenced (Is it happening?)
Engagio’s “complex account-based everything
The section title above is a direct quote from Engagio’s post documenting their
first-ever account-based marketing campaign. Here’s how the campaign worked:
• Target accounts: 300
• Goal: have 20% of those accounts turn into opportunities
(65% MQA per engagement with a 30% meeting rate)
• Marketing: owns initial setup and execution of the
campaign, delivers MQAs to sales
• Sales: owns follow-up to any responses and MQAs,
converts engagement into opportunities
• Channels utilized: Human emails from/to multiple players
+ Direct mail package + LinkedIn profile views + LinkedIn
messages + Phone calls + Account-based ads
Here’s Engagio’s day-by-day breakdown of how
the campaign played out:
Ultimately, Engagio discovered that engagement with the campaign didn’t cluster
around a particular channel. It was scattered.
The takeaway: Don’t limit ABM campaigns to a single channel. Different people are
going to respond to different touchpoints. The important thing is that you always
deliver value, regardless of the channel you’re using.