In First Hand Accounts

By Blake Grubbs, Alyce

Before we get started, it’s important to level-set on what we really mean when we talk about Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and what we are actually trying to accomplish by implementing an ABM strategy.

Everyone has their own idea of what ABM really is. If you ask 100 people, you’ll get 100 different definitions, but to get us all on the same page, let’s use this one:

ABM is a coordinated marketing strategy used to target, engage and bond with the most important people to your business by delivering to them highly relevant messages and experiences.

Notice anything missing? The word “account” isn’t mentioned once. Because the real reason we decide to run an ABM strategy isn’t to market to accounts — it’s to be as targeted and relevant as possible to the key people within companies. We know this type of approach will maximize engagement and lead to the highest return.

So, it’s not really about, “accounts.”

Your targets can become customers, clients, strategic partners (and noted as “accounts”) but it’s the relationship established and nurtured, and the trust that’s built that is core to ABM.

I actually think ABM was named the way it is because at the time, account-level insights and targeting were as granular as we could get at scale. Today, I think the more appropriate term is really People-Based Marketing. Why? Because accounts don’t buy … people buy. 

In the digital world, people’s interactions with companies are changing. There is a growing backlash to the onslaught of impersonal outreach, blanket sending of material that’s causing us all to opt-out. People are reevaluating their relationships with businesses, looking for more personal and relevant interactions.

Think about it. Individual people are your champions, coaches, influencers, decision-makers and final signers. You might initially target “IBM,” but when it comes down to it, you’re not talking to “IBM.” You’re having conversations with Jim, the Director of DevOps at IBM. Sarah, the VP of Sales at IBM, and Joe, the Head of Procurement at IBM. 

To execute the most effective ABM strategy, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your individual buyers, invest in the relationship and get personal. You can’t put yourself in the shoes and mindset of an account.

Being empathetic is what makes marketers more effective than others today. And being empathetic is inherently a task of understanding feeling and emotion.  You can’t do that with an account. You can only do that with people.

I love the way that Al Ries and Jack Trout talk about this in The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing:

“Brilliant marketers have the ability to think like a prospect thinks. They put themselves in the shoes of their customers. They don’t impose their own view of the world on the situation.”

So tactically, what this means for marketers employing an ABM strategy is that instead of just slapping your target account’s logo on a landing page or assigning an arbitrary value to the aggregate number of emails your account opens, you need to go deeper and learn extensively about the actual interests of the people within a buying group at that account. 

Eighty-four percent of customers today say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business. Turns out, the best way to establish a connection and trusted relationship with a person at your top account is not to focus on what they do during their 9-5 workday, but their interests and passions from 5 to 9. Focus on the things that fuel and inspire their lives as much as drive their business needs. Get to know them as people first and the rest will follow.

Fundamentally, when you treat them like “the procurement guy at IBM,” you’re clearly not treating your buyer the way they want to be treated. You need to treat them in a personal way to differentiate yourself and truly provide the best possible experience that makes them want to work with you.

Being personal with buyers means being relatable, relevant and respectful:

  • Relatable
    What do your prospects actually care about? Not at work, but outside of work. What are the things they care about personally that you can relate to in one way or another? Are they a college basketball fan? Talk to them about their favorite hoops team. Do they like hiking? Talk to them about their favorite hiking spots where they’re from. Whatever it is, find something you can talk about that starts a relationship and builds rapport. 

  • Relevant
    What’s important to your prospect right now? The worst part of a cold email or cold call is that it’s completely out of nowhere and out of context. But if you can reach them when they personally are expressing interest in your solution and showcasing intent so that your outreach is actually reaching them within the context of what’s most helpful for them, they’ll appreciate your outreach and are much more likely to engage.
  • Respectful
    How can you be as buyer-centric as possible? This is where empathy really comes into play. Would you want to be peppered with a 12-touch sales cadence? Or an 18-touch marketing nurture? Most definitely not. Treat your prospects the way you’d want to be treated and you’ll win more business. 

ABM isn’t going away anytime soon, and it shouldn’t. Industry analysts forecast dramatic growth, more strategic adoption and investment of ABM initiatives in the immediate years ahead, particularly within the enterprise market.

ABM is real and it’s time to realize the actual promise of ABM. Targeting and engaging the accounts that are most strategic and best fit for your business is just good marketing. But what makes it great marketing is your ability to go further than the account and be as personal as possible with your key prospects, top customers and influential decision-makers. Business relationships matter — and when you’ve established a personal connection, expansion and new growth opportunities are more dramatically open.


Blake Grubbs is the Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Alyce. Born and raised in New Hampshire and transplanted to Boston, he spent the last few years having a ton of fun as a marketer at high-growth SaaS startups. In April 2019, Blake decided to join the unbelievable team at Alyce as a Product Marketer to do the same thing. Outside of work you can find him at Fenway or the Garden watching the Sox and C’s, eating all the pizza and pasta in the North End and drinking Coronas on Seabrook Beach.

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