Next Moves for ABM: The Case for a Blended Approach

ITSMA's new eBook with Demandbase, Accelerating ABM Impact, makes the case that ABM practitioners today should focus on moving to a blended strategy.

Rob Leavitt

by Rob Leavitt

October 10, 2017


Accelerating ABM Impact

With little debate any more about whether account-based marketing (ABM) is worth the investment, the current discussion among B2B marketers focuses mostly on which type of ABM is right for their organizations and how best to move forward from initial program development.

It’s clear that ABM works well for a wide range of companies with a multiplicity of approaches (87% of practitioners agreed in our latest ABM benchmark study that ABM drives greater ROI than other marketing approaches). But the specifics of ABM strategy remain very much up in the air for many companies just starting out.

Should we focus more on existing accounts or new logo acquisition? Is One-to-One ABM key accounts the best investment or should we aim for broader coverage with One-to-Few or One-to-Many? What type of sales collaboration is required?

As ABM Has Taken Off, Three Distinct Types Have Emerged

Building upon our expanded collaboration with Demandbase (see recent announcement), ITSMA’s new eBook with the ABM technology leader, Accelerating ABM Impact, makes the case that ABM practitioners today should focus on moving to a blended strategy.

Amid all the ABM hype, the reality is that most practitioners are still just getting started. They’re in their first year or two of program development, and focusing mainly on just one type of ABM. Only about one third of ABM-ers are experimenting with more than one type, according our latest study, and just 12% have begun to implement all three.

Most Companies Are Implementing Just One Type of ABM

Why Move to a Blended ABM Approach?

So why consider a blended approach? Especially if you’re just getting started, why complicate the process?

The simple answer is to provide an optimal balance between breadth and depth with marketing coverage of your most important and potentially growing accounts.

Few, if any, companies can afford the investment it would take to provide true One-to-One ABM to even a fraction of their accounts. But most companies do rely on a relatively small number of key accounts for a disproportionate share of revenue, as well as testing and developing new solutions and new opportunities for growth. Relying on a One-to-Few or One-to-Many approach for those key accounts could mean missing a great deal of opportunity or even risking future revenue by failing to deliver an appropriately customized experience.

At the same time, the proven impact of ABM has generated tremendous interest in scaling the approach beyond the top tier. This has led to great success with One-to-Few and One-to-Many programs with great success across dozens or even hundreds of named accounts, even with a lighter touch of customization and lower levels of investment for each individual account.

Strategically speaking, there are four essential reasons to consider a blended approach to ABM:

  1. Buyer Demand
  2. Sales Alignment
  3. Corporate Imperatives
  4. Marketing Credibility

Buyer Demand

As the competitive bar continues to rise, B2B buyers demand increasingly personalized solutions. You need to know their industry, their individual business, and the immediate needs of different groups and functions within the business. And the more important the customer, the more you need to deliver.

You can’t afford deep dive customization for every account, so a segmented approach makes sense. Top tier accounts get One-to-One attention, the second tier gets One-to-Few, and the balance of your target account list gets One-to-Many. For example, the three-tiers might target McDonald’s, the rest of the top ten fast food chains, and the next 200 casual restaurants after that.

Sales Alignment

Most B2B sales organizations have a tiered structure, with, for example, key account managers for top tier accounts, enterprise reps for the next group, and territory managers for the rest. ABM offers great potential to narrow the historically wide gap between marketing and sales, but only if the programs align.

Key account managers are all about depth. Marketers can add significant value with One-to- One or One-to-Few approaches; somewhat less with One-to-Many. Enterprise reps often support a dozen or more accounts; they’re doing their own breadth and depth balancing so One-to Few and One-to-Many make more sense. Territory reps are mostly about coverage, so One-to-Many is often the best approach.

Corporate Imperatives

Growth is always a priority but corporate imperatives often include related strategic initiatives such as entering new markets, rolling out new types of solutions, shifting to digital and as-a-service business models, and even reorganizing the entire company.

A blended ABM approach can prove especially valuable in times of great change. One-to-One programs work with your most trusted accounts to innovate new solutions, test new business models, and obtain credible references to leverage for follow-on clients. One-to-Few programs provide a bit more scale with priority verticals and early stage solutions. And One-to-Many brings rapid coverage when scale matters most.

High-Performing ABM-ers Are Much More Likely to Take a Blended Approach

Marketing Credibility

The final reason is internal to the marketing organization and it has to do with strengthening the overall role and reputation of marketing across the company. Different types of ABM are especially helpful for different objectives, such as generating a broad base of demand, strengthening company reputation, or innovating new solutions. But a truly strategic marketing function should support them all. With a blended approach, marketers can more easily meet the diverse goals of key stakeholders across the organization.

With ABM, success breeds success. Perhaps not surprisingly, while only one-third of ABM-ers today are implementing more than one type of ABM, almost two thirds of high performing ABM marketing organizations are utilizing a blended approach.

There is no doubt that companies today are finding great success with any and all types of ABM. But a blended approach can help you move even faster and further in generating revenue, strengthening your reputation, and deepening your relationships with key accounts and partners.

What’s your experience? Let us know how you’re implementing ABM today and what you’re planning next.


Related Resources


Next Moves for ABM: The Case for a Blended Approach

ITSMA's new eBook with Demandbase, Accelerating ABM Impact, makes the case that ABM practitioners today should focus on moving to a blended strategy.