What Flavor of ABM is Right For You?

By all accounts, ABM has moved beyond mere hype. Most organizations have adopted ABM to some extent. Regrettably, organizations have been so eager to jump on the ABM bandwagon that many haven’t taken the time to fully appreciate that ABM can’t be viewed as a blanket one-size-fits-all approach to sales and marketing. There are three general “flavors” of ABM. Depending on your organizational makeup, product mix, ideal customer profile, etc., one specific flavor, or a strategic medley of flavors, will be best suited for you.

1. Strategic ABM

Strategic ABM is ABM in its purest (and initially intended) form. This ABM approach involves a high touch, one-to-one approach. Accounts receive the “VIP” treatment. There’s an emphasis on in-person meetings, bespoke campaigns, innovation days, private events, and the like.  Without a doubt, this represents the most effective “flavor” of ABM if an organization has sufficient resources. According to “A Practitioner’s Guide to Account-Based Marketing”, 92% of marketers say it delivers a higher ROI than any other form of marketing.

2. ABM Lite

ABM Lite is a scaled-down version of Strategic ABM. It’s a one-to-several (versus one-to-one) approach. Rather than targeting individual accounts, it involves targeting groups of accounts that typically share similar business attributes. Comparatively speaking, it is slightly less resource intensive.

While it also entails in-person meetings, it emphasizes scaled approaches, including email marketing, targeted digital ads, website personalization (as opposed to bespoke campaigns and private events). Understandably, it is less effective than the Strategic ABM approach. 68% of marketers who measure ROI and leverage ABM Lite maintain that it delivers a higher ROI than other marketing approaches, according to ITSMA.

3. Programmatic ABM

Programmatic ABM is an extremely watered down (drenched, perhaps) form of ABM. It involves a one-to-many approach (tens, hundreds, or sometimes thousands of accounts). It is much less resource intensive, as compared to the two approaches described above. Programmatic ABM has only recently gained traction, in large part to the influx of marketing automation platforms. It typically emphasizes scaled email marketing, social listening, reverse IP targeting, and targeted digital ads.

Somewhat surprisingly, 67% of marketers who measure ROI and leverage Programmatic ABM attest that it delivers a higher ROI than other marketing approaches (only 1% lower than ABM Lite prescribers), according to ITSMA.

The natural question, then, is which approach is right for you? To answer this critical question, ask yourself the following questions:

1. How strong is the alignment between my sales and marketing teams?

ABM will only be successful with complete buy-in from your sales and marketing teams. Sales and marketing alignment is critical. The stronger the existing alignment between the two teams, the more you should sway towards Strategic ABM. If alignment is weak, you’re likely better off taking baby steps and starting with the less resource-intensive Programmatic ABM, while simultaneously focusing on forging stronger alignment between sales and marketing.

2. How mature and large is my sales force?

In order to reap benefit from Strategic ABM, a relatively large and mature sales organization is required. If you have the resources necessary to assign individual reps to individual accounts, you’ll likely want to oscillate towards Strategic ABM.

3. How many target accounts do I have?

Strategic ABM is best-suited for companies that are targeting a select group of named accounts (the Fortune 100 companies, for example). If you’re primarily focused on targeting a specific set of fewer than 100 accounts, you’ll likely be in a position to sway towards Strategic ABM. In contrast, if you have tens of thousands of target accounts, you’ll likely want to sway towards Programmatic ABM.

4. How large is my budget for sales enablement technology?

ABM will not work in the absence of effective supporting sales enablement tools. If you have a minimal budget for sales enablement technology (for example, you are only in a position to purchase a subscription to an IP lookup service), you’ll likely want to sway towards Programmatic ABM.

Alternatively, if you have a large budget to devote to a slew of sales enablement tools, including predictive intelligence solutions such as Enlyft, you’ll likely reap the largest rewards from Strategic ABM. Enlyft helps companies extend their understandings of organizations beyond tradition technographic details and is a boon in advancing Strategic ABM initiatives.

5. What are my organizational sales objectives?

Too many companies fail to appreciate that each ABM approach has a different primary use case. Strategic ABM, for example, is most effective at changing buyers’ perceptions and uncovering opportunities to grow revenue within existing accounts. According to ITSMA, 70% of Strategic ABM prescribers leverage the approach to increase business with existing clients, while only 30% use it to expand into new accounts.

In contrast, ABM Lite places more emphasis on existing accounts. Only 56% of ABM Lite prescribers leverage the approach to increase business within existing accounts, while 44% use it to break into new accounts. Finally, Programmatic ABM is most effective when trying to gain exposure within new accounts. A mere 51% of ABM Lite prescribers leverage the approach to grow business within existing accounts, while 49% use it to break into new accounts.

The more focused you are on tapping into new accounts, the more likely Programmatic ABM is the approach of choice. Although such a low touch approach won’t move waters in terms of getting deals signed, it will increase the number of leads entering your sales funnel.

When it comes to ABM, there’s is no “objective reality” on which everyone agrees. Most organizations opt for a hybrid of ABM approaches. After prioritizing their accounts, they’ll select the most lucrative accounts for Strategic ABM. The accounts that are least promising and exhibit the lowest buying propensities garner the attention of Programmatic ABM.

Accounts that fall in the middle are candidates for the ABM Lite therapy. With ABM representing such an important investment for your organization, it’s imperative that you devote sufficient time to considering the flavor or flavors of ABM that your organization is best suited for. Devoting time to this matter will enable you to reap the largest rewards and stand atop the competition.

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