An ABM Carol: The Past, Present, and Future of ABM

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Companies using account-based marketing (ABM) generate 200% more revenue for their marketing efforts compared to those that don’t.

Maybe that’s why, in 2016, SiriusDecisions reported that 33% of companies allocated at least 30% of their budgets to ABM. That number jumped 52% in 2017. That represents 57% growth year over year.

With all the fortune that ABM can produce, it’s no wonder so many marketers have jumped on board. But some marketers, in their greed, are using bad practices that ultimately hurt their marketing.

In the spirit of the season, let’s call one of these marketers Scrooge, after the miserly man that stars as the central character in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

In the first scene of A Christmas Carol, we see that Dickens’ Scrooge is cold-hearted and mean. Scrooge the marketer is just as bad off, sending product and case study-based emails to cold contacts. He doesn’t know what they think of the content he sends, and he doesn’t care.

The content he sends is not personal and it doesn’t take individuals and their unique buying processes into account. Overall, the entire experience feels “spammy.”

On the evening of Christmas Day, Scrooge is mindlessly scrolling through his Facebook feed, trying to fight the rising feeling of dread he felt as he thought about returning to work the following day.

Suddenly, his phone screen dims. A face flickers into focus. Scrooge gasps and the floating head starts talking.

“I thought your brand might help me solve my problem, but your email list is horrendous. I’m not interested in any of the content you send me. You send too often and maybe you aren’t a good fit for my brand. That’s why I unsubscribed.

You can prevent others from leaving like me, but only if you revise your ABM strategy. Three spirits will appear and show you the error of your ways. The first will visit at midnight”

The face flickers away, leaving Scrooge to gape at the Facebook feed he had been looking at prior to the interruption.

He glances to the time on the top corner of his phone screen. When did it get so late? he thought before drifting off to sleep.

Ghost of ABM Past

The Ghost of ABM past appears at the stroke of midnight. He whisks a confused Scrooge away to a bustling office. But everything from the workers’ hairstyles to their attitudes was off. The spirit reveals that they have gone back sometime in the late 80s’ or early 90s’.

Scrooge sees a younger version of himself, who is twisting a phone line around his fingers as his shoulder cradles the phone against his ear. He listens intently to the speaker on the other end of the line, then hangs up.

In the past, marketing was all mass broadcasts and blasts. The conversations were one-sided. The marketers pushed ads to the public through the radio and TV. They cold-called leads according to numbers they pulled from a phone book.

That all started to change in 1993, when Don Peppers and Martha Rogers published, “The One-to-One Future.” It predicted the shift from mass broadcast-style marketing campaigns to the one-on-one relationships that are sought after in marketing today.

In 2004, ITSMA coined the phrase, “Account-based marketing” but it wasn’t widely adopted by the B2B industry until 2013. You can see that this is when ABM started to take off in the world of search.

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ABM was created to reflect the need to personalize B2B buying to include the brand’s buying process and also personalize the lead process to include all relevant stakeholders.

ABM starts with accounts, not channels. Scrooge uses ABM in the same way his prior employer had him cold calling. It didn’t work then, so Scrooge changed his tactic to be more personalized and relationship-based.

ABM is a new name for an old idea, that is, nurturing one-on-one relationships with individuals at brands. Back in the day, it was known as targeted account selling, or simply “business.” Five years after the idea of ABM started to grow, we look to the present of ABM.

Scrooge is returned to his bed and he falls into a deep sleep.

Ghost of ABM Present

Times passes and the second ghost appears. He appears speaking the praises of hundreds of satisfied customers. This is the sort of abundance ABM can trigger if done correctly.

That’s why more than 60% of companies are planning to invest in ABM technology. Those who already use it reported an 84% improvement in reputation and 74% improvement in customer relationships.

The ghost takes Mr. Scrooge around, showing him the wealth and profits that many companies that are successfully using ABM.

Then he takes Mr. Scrooge to the company where he handles demand generation. The company is doing alright, for now, despite Scrooge’s ineffective ABM tactics.

Scrooge asks with sudden curiosity, “Will my company still be generating the same revenue at this time next year?”

“No,” the ghost replies. “Your company will actually lose leads and revenue as a result of your tactics.”

That’s when Scrooge starts to feel regret about the type of content he was sending cold contacts. He didn’t even know if the companies he was targeting are in his target audience. He doesn’t know where they are in their buying journey. He’s been operating this ABM strategy blindly.

Personalization is a necessity in today’s ABM. There are 100s of ABM solutions to use, and so many ways to deliver the leads in these tools the content they want.

Ghost of ABM Yet to Come

The final ghost appears and starts to show Scrooge a series of moments.

There’s a scene where a man at a desk opens an email, then clicks through to download an ebook. There’s a phone call, where several stakeholders have sat down to chat about a potential vendor.

Then another scene, which shows a man working in Scrooge’s old office, much of the décor has changed, as have many of the personal items on the desk. Then, the scene flashes a couple of Scrooge’s co-workers talk quietly in the kitchen about the new marketing manager and how there seems to be a lot more phones call in the sales department lately.

A final scene appears. It’s Scrooge sitting at his kitchen table in his PJs, scrolling through job listings.

Scrooge begins to sob as understanding hits him. He would inevitably lose his job when his superiors discovered his ABM efforts were hurting the company, not helping it.

As Scrooge has a change of heart, the Ghost of ABM Yet to Come takes Scrooge through some different scenes. He shows Scrooge himself, slightly older, in a bright windowed office.

He is using marketing automation, predictive analytics, and audience historical data to find out which companies are interested in his offering. He knows who each of the companies is, and who the best 2–3 stakeholders to target are.

The content he sends these companies is highly personalized to the company’s needs. The content is actionable and leads potential buyers toward the sale.

A fancy new smartwatch glints on Scrooge’s wrist. He leans back in his chair and smiles. The Ghost of ABM Yet to Come begins to fade away.

Scrooge is returned to his home and he collapses immediately into his bad.

He wakes up early the next morning, awakening 10 minutes before his alarm. He’s alert and focused. He brushes his teeth, packs his bag, and drives into work.

He sits down at his desk, whistling to himself. He knows the importance of good quality contact data, he knows that he needs to choose who and what he sends with care.

He didn’t have another encounter with the spirits, but he kept the lessons close at hand anytime he created a new piece of content or email.

Written by

HIPB2B is a demand gen solution provider, utilizing content, email, and marketing automation to drive outcomes for marketing and technology clients

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