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October 11th 2022

What ABM is versus
what ABM is not

By Sudhir Kumar | Head of Technology Solutions

“We do ABM”

This is something I hear a lot. And, I get it, ABM has gone beyond being just a buzzword, in today’s global digital economy, ABM forms a fundamental part of many B2B marketing strategies, as it should. But ABM, isn’t new, it has been around for quite some time.

In fact, ABM can trace its roots back as far as 1993, as this timeline from ITSMA shows.

What is new and always evolving is the technology and the ABM tech stack available to help support your ABM process. And for me, this is where the problem lies and really brings me to ask the question, “what is ABM?”

A taste of the ABM market

With so much technology now at our disposal, I think it’s important to manage expectations when it comes to your ABM tech stack and ABM technology in general. Technology is not ABM, it’s not the process and it’s not the strategy. Technology is there to help you refine the process and to accelerate it.

The same applies to ABX. It’s not a technology, but a strategy.


  • Something you can accomplish with just a piece of software
  • Just picking target accounts
  • A replacement for your lead gen efforts
  • Cold calling multiple contacts within an account that you’d like to win
  • Solely using display ads to target the IP addresses of accounts you’d like to win
  • Sending the same, untargeted messaging, content and calls to action that you send every other lead in your database
  • Generating one-time interest within an account and giving that account to sales

Now that we’ve established what ABM is not, how do we build successful ABM – and what commitment is needed? 

Shifting the ABM mindset

“ABM is a focused and targeted approach to B2B marketing where sales and marketing align and work together to identify, target and engage best fit accounts and turn them into customers. The concept of targeting and nurturing high value accounts has been around for some time. What’s new is the ABM approach, methodology and technology that makes this strategy manageable and simple to implement.”

That’s the definition of ABM I gave in my book "Being Human – Marketing and Social Selling in a digital world”, ABM is a strategy and not a tool. What’s encouraging for me as a marketer is the adoption of ABM because ‘true’ ABM is customer centric. It moves away from traditional marketing methods that are focused on numbers and getting more “bang for your buck”.

In today’s world you need to know and understand your audience on a human-to-human level. It means investing the time to understand their behaviours and collecting deeper insights. The more you can understand your audience the better you can serve them. 

Yes, I said serve and not sell.

Why? Because people buy from people who they trust and like. We all want loyal customers and advocates, but achieving that requires building trustful relationships. This can happen if you change your mindset to serve your audience rather than sell to them. So, take the time to understand their wants, needs and challenges to bring value into their world. 

Let me ask you a question, if an individual from a targeted account consumed a gated piece of content, would you pass that on as a SQL? Do a sales outreach?

Or would you enhance the data you had on the contact and continue to monitor their behaviour and intent so you could then personalise your next touch point or nurture programme to them?

If you went for option 2, you have the right mindset, the ABM mindset. Building this type of relationship takes time and, on your part, a lot of effort – after all, you want to get inside their heads, you want to know about their like and dislikes. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s kind of like dating, you need to show your audience a lot of love and attention!

By having an ABM mindset, you’re implementing one of the key elements needed. You’re open and willing to change your approach and mindset. This is key, especially when it comes to aligning your sales and marketing teams which is fundamental when it comes to successful ABM.

The foundations for long-term success

There has always been a battle between sales and marketing which drives from ROI, KPIs and conversions. ABM will allow you to remove this and have them working as one cohesive unit. It's been reported that 56% of aligned companies meet their revenue goals, and an additional 19% manage to beat their targets.

Sales are vital in providing marketing teams with key insights into the market and customer. As a result, setting the right foundations in place by ensuring everyone is aligned in their roles and responsibilities is essential for the long-term success of ABM. I’ve implemented ABM campaigns and worked with sales and marketing teams from the UK to the Silicon Valley, and having two teams who are used to working in silos, suddenly expected to work as one, is never easy. From experience, you need to ease teams together and get their buy-in first.

It’s hard work breaking old habits, but I would try to embark on the following:

Team workshops
Get the teams together regularly to review marketing and sales approaches. This gives you a perfect opportunity to frame the conversations and get the teams talking. Highlight how the buyer has evolved in their expectations, how we now need to communicate, build trust and engage with them. They will soon see that a new approach is needed, and that ABM fits the bill.

Target Accounts
Encourage the team to create a list of target accounts together. This will allow them to look for overlaps and create a clear picture of what the ideal account looks like, building a tiering system. Off the back of this, you can open wider conversations around lead scoring systems.

Marketing needs insight, so work with sales and start to create some solid personas. This process is all about the details. While marketing can get the basics, the real insights are held by sales, so again, this exercise is great to get the teams interacting and collaborating.

Marketing has the data on which pieces perform the best in a digital world, but sales will have the insight as to which approach works best with real people when it comes to conversations, meetings and closing deals. Work as one when it comes to creating content plans, researching subject matters and creating an authentic tone of voice.

All the principles of ABM can and should be applied to your multi-channel strategy, tactics and outreach. Be it pushing out content via your blog, social channels, PR, ads, retargeting, OOH, direct mail, calls or emails, it all needs to be integrated. This will help you influence the culture of your business and mindset of your teams to appeal to the customers of today.

Reaping the benefits

Now, I know you may be thinking this sounds good, but does this approach work? Well, consider the following stats:

  • It’s reported that companies that have aligned account-based marketing strategies have seen 208% growth in their marketing revenue (MarketingProfs research)
  • Marketo research has shown that businesses can improve their deal closing rate up to 67% by streamlining their sales and marketing teams
  • A collaborative study conducted by HubSpot, Litmus, and Wistia showed that 53% of businesses use the revenue won to determine the success of their ABM strategy

Once the foundations of your strategy is in place, the results of ABM speak for themselves. If you’re interested in learning more, or want to discuss how I might be able to help, do let me know.


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