Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach to business-to-business (B2B) marketing that focuses on targeted accounts rather than leads. The goal of ABM is to create tailored messaging and personalized experiences for high-value accounts to build relationships, influence decision makers, and drive revenue.
What are the benefits of ABM?
There are several key benefits that make ABM an effective B2B marketing strategy:
- More relevant messaging – ABM allows you to craft messages, offers, and experiences specifically for target accounts rather than a general audience. This personalized approach resonates more with each account.
- Increased account engagement – By researching and understanding target accounts, you can better capture their attention and interact with the right decision makers.
- Higher conversion rates – Account-specific selling and marketing leads to higher conversion rates from prospects to customers compared to scattershot traditional marketing.
- Larger deal sizes – An ABM focus on high-value accounts naturally leads to larger deal sizes and sales volume compared to lead-based approaches.
- More predictive pipeline – Account-level activity provides greater visibility into the sales pipeline compared to individual leads.
- Marketing and sales alignment – A shared focus on target accounts gets marketing and sales teams working together more collaboratively.
Who is ABM right for?
ABM is best suited for B2B companies that meet some or all of these criteria:
- Long or complex sales cycles
- High-value accounts and deals
- Need to coordinate multiple stakeholders
- Offer highly customized products or services
- Currently use an account-based sales approach
Companies selling low-cost products or services with short sales cycles are less likely to benefit from the high-touch, account-focused nature of ABM.
What does an effective ABM strategy require?
These foundational elements help ensure ABM success:
- Account selection – Carefully define your ideal customer profile then identify and tier/rank target accounts that best fit.
- Account insights – Research each account extensively to map stakeholders, uncover pain points, and identify purchase drivers.
- Personalized campaigns – Develop customized campaigns, messaging, and offers tailored to appeal to each target account.
- Orchestration – Coordinate touchpoints across channels to deliver a consistent, omnichannel ABM experience.
- Alignment – Sales and marketing teams need to be aligned on target accounts and work together seamlessly.
- Technology – An ABM tech stack provides necessary automation, insights, and attribution tracking.
- Metrics – Track engagement, conversion, and pipeline metrics at the account level to measure ABM impact.
How do you get started with ABM?
Follow these steps to launch a successful initial ABM program:
- Gain executive buy-in and develop an ABM strategy document endorsed by sales and marketing leadership.
- Identify your total addressable market and come up with an initial target account list of around 100-250 accounts.
- Review historic sales data to calculate the profile of your best accounts – use firmographics, technographics, and engagement metrics.
- Refine your target account list based on ideal customer profile attributes using statistical analysis and sales input.
- Prioritize accounts into tiers and set revenue goals for each tier.
- Map key stakeholders and decision makers within each account and add relevant firmographic and personal details.
- Build detailed buyer personas across titles, departments, and roles at your target accounts.
- Audit existing marketing content and campaigns and create new assets tailored to ABM accounts.
- Develop campaigns, emails, and touches sequenced over time for multiple buying group stakeholders.
- Execute orchestrated account-based campaigns and track performance at the account level.
What technologies enable ABM success?
ABM relies on leveraging the right technologies and integrations to deliver results. Here are some of the main technology capabilities to support ABM:
- Account identification – Use firmographic data and ide
Technology Capabilities Account identification Firmographic data, predictive analytics Account insights Buyer journey mapping, contact enrichment data Personalization Dynamic content, website personalization Omnichannel orchestration Journey orchestration, multi-channel engagement Account scoring Predictive lead scoring at account level Marketing analytics Customizable ABM reporting and dashboards Marketing and sales integration Shared account data, account hand-offs
While single point solutions exist for many of these capabilities, ABM platforms bring many of these together into an integrated technology stack.
What sales and marketing alignment is needed?
ABM requires tight alignment between sales and marketing teams to coordinate effectively. This includes:
- Joint target account planning and sharing common goals
- Using integrated technologies and shared account data
- Consistent messaging across functions and channels
- Cross-team collaboration through account handoffs
- Coordinated sales and marketing touches by stage
- Regular pipeline reviews and lead scoring alignment
- Joint success measurement based on account KPIs
A named, joint sales and marketing account team with clear responsibilities is an effective ABM structure for large, global accounts.
How to improve sales and marketing alignment
- Create joint account plans and define workflow handoffs
- Hold regular pipeline review meetings
- Share and monitor account data together
- Have marketing personnel join sales calls
- Include marketing in win/loss analysis
- Conduct joint account-based training
What metrics indicate ABM success?
ABM programs should be measured based on account progression and engagement, beyond typical lead-based metrics. Relevant ABM metrics include:
- Account engagement rate
- Target account list penetration
- Account retention and churn rate
- Target account deal size and contract value
- Account conversion rate from prospect to customer
- Share of wallet within accounts
- Account lifetime value
- Account-specific NPS or CSAT score
Both marketing and sales metrics at the account level provide insights into ABM effectiveness.
Implementing ABM metrics
Follow these best practices for ABM metrics:
- Align on target account list and tiers
- Define metrics categories and KPIs
- Set up tracking at account and contact level
- Build account-based reporting dashboard
- Review metrics together in sales and marketing
- Optimize campaigns based on account metrics
What are common ABM challenges?
While ABM can drive substantial benefits, there are also some common challenges to overcome:
- Account identification – Difficulty identifying and segmenting the right accounts
- Content personalization – Lack of account-specific content for personalization
- Technology gaps – Missing martech needed for automation and orchestration at scale
- Proving ROI – Hard to quantify incremental benefits of ABM vs other approaches
- Team alignment – Sales and marketing misalignment on accounts
- Content production – Resource-intensive to create customized content
- Expanding ABM – Challenging to expand ABM beyond initial target accounts
Strategies to overcome ABM challenges
- Improve account selection with data and buyer insights
- Develop modular customizable content
- Invest in essential ABM technologies
- Focus on incremental account metrics
- Increase sales and marketing collaboration
- Leverage targeted paid media for scale
- Automate analytics and reporting
Best practices for account-based marketing
These proven ABM best practices lead to better execution and results:
- Gain executive sponsorship and set revenue goals
- Limit accounts to a manageable number (~100-250)
- Research accounts and contacts thoroughly
- Craft targeted messaging for roles and buying stages
- Sequence touches across multiple channels
- Empower sales with account insights and tools
- Use personas tailored to each account
- Ensure sales and marketing alignment
- Leverage intent data for account engagement
- Track granular, account-based metrics
Best practices in action
Putting these ABM best practices into action can significantly increase account engagement and pipeline velocity for B2B firms. Dedicating the resources for a pilot ABM program focused on 50-100 key accounts enables validation of the approach and sets the foundation for wider rollout.
How does ABM differ from traditional marketing?
Traditional Marketing Account-Based Marketing Target Leads Accounts Approach Generalized nurturing Tailored, 1:1 engagement Audience Broad-based Named accounts Content Generic, one-size-fits-all Customized and personalized Metrics Lead-based Account-centric Teams Siloed Tight sales and marketing alignment Decision Process Individual Consensus-driven Strategy Volume-based Account-focused
As this comparison shows, ABM takes a dramatically different approach tailored to how B2B purchases actually happen.
ABM represents an evolution in B2B marketing strategy beyond traditional lead-based approaches. By concentrating marketing resources on targeted accounts, ABM drives greater personalization, relevance, and engagement. To execute effective account-based marketing, close coordination between sales and marketing is critical — along with the necessary account insights, content, and technologies. With more rigorous focus on accounts and buying groups, ABM enables more predictable revenue growth and higher conversion rates for complex, high-value B2B sales.