Like powered flight, account-based marketing has never been a bad idea. Considering that so many marketing best practices roll up into account-based marketing (ABM) – personalized messaging, precise and relevant targeting, pragmatic execution, and more – it’s clearly a worthwhile pursuit.
Where marketers have historically crashed and burned with ABM, however, hasn’t been because of the strategy itself. Instead, like early attempts at aircraft, ABM strategies were often too clunky to hold together, or too underpowered to get off the ground.
Why, though, has talk of ABM seemed to sky-rocket over the past year or so? Has account-based marketing suddenly transcended the typically slow progression of trial, error, improvement, and finally sophistication, that most good ideas have to go through before they stick? Could it be that, since we’re talking about a strategy marketed to marketers by marketers, it’s a simple case of “if there’s buzz to be had, there’s buzz to be built”?
I pose these questions because, as it turns out, most marketers are still in fact in the trial and error phase with respect to ABM. In Aberdeen’s recent Knowledge Brief, Account-Based Marketing: Technology & Tactics Converge in 2016, it was shown that 42% of all marketers practice some form of account-based marketing. However, when put side-by-side with ABM technology adoption in Figure 1 below, we see that only 13% of all marketers have shifted gears to start improving ABM performance with ABM-specific technology.
Figure 1: The Disparity Between Tactical & Technological Adoption of Account-Based Marketing
The Power Problem in Account-Based Marketing Performance
When people first chased the dream of flight, they looked to birds for inspiration. Birds had wings. Flapping said wings seemed to get the birds off the ground, so for humans to be able to fly, wings had to play a role. This was never wrong, but it was also never the whole picture.
Like wings for aircraft, accounts for account-based marketing were the end-all and be-all for effective execution. Have wings; get flight. Have accounts; get account-based marketing results. Like humans trying to rely on their own power to flap bird-like wings, having accounts to pursue alone was never enough to get ABM off the ground as a competitive marketing strategy.
Old ABM efforts would require lots of human effort in creating customized marketing campaigns for specific accounts, research on said accounts, reporting performance with said accounts, and high sales involvement to follow through with the defined accounts. Since Aberdeen research shows that a top pressure for 37% of marketers is executing on marketing initiatives with limited resources, old ABM efforts were hitting many marketers right where they hurt.
As a result, ABM would often absorb other marketing efforts, diminish or plateau in performance, and apparently flop as an all-encompassing marketing strategy.
What Changed to Make Account-Based Marketing Take Off?
When the Wright brothers realized that air flowing over a wing at the right speed created a pressure differential that caused lift, flight was no longer about wings alone. Flight could then be achieved with a properly designed and well-tuned machine. This is where account-based marketing stands today.
ABM can now be effectively executed without the unsustainable cost of human effort. With that opening, ABM can also be executed in concert with other marketing efforts like content marketing, inbound marketing, and SEO. ABM doesn’t have to exist on its own, it can work within a greater marketing system, and this is where it really climbs in utility.
Don’t Try This At Home Without Proper Supervision!
Now, once word got out that people could in fact fly, there were, of course, a healthy cohort of over-zealous types who wanted to try for themselves without the proper principles in place. Again, more crashing and burning in the pursuit of flight.
Today, with ABM, the word has also just gotten out that it can work, but it must be used strategically in concert with other relevant marketing tactics. With 42% of marketers currently practicing ABM, but only 13% using ABM technology, there is a danger that marketers will try to take off too fast, face-plant, and perhaps even give up on ABM.
In such cases, marketers lose out on all the benefits of ABM right when they were on the cusp of achieving them. ABM takes skill, a kind of mechanical marketing engineering, and a well-established runway where other marketing efforts can land as well. When it all comes together, though, the sky’s the limit!
For a deeper understanding of account-based marketing today, read Aberdeen’s free research, Account-Based Marketing: Tactics & Technology Converge in 2016!
Image Source (Public Domain): Wikipedia.