In ABM Analysis

ITSMA, a marketing association for technology, communications and professional services providers, recently debuted research that highlights three distinct approaches to ABM: Strategic ABM, ABM Lite and Programmatic ABM. Here, ITSMA discusses these approaches and the challenges marketers face when implementing an ABM program.

ABM IN ACTION: What challenges do marketers face when implementing ABM?

JEFF SANDS: One of the core challenges is getting the CMO and other members of the marketing organization to buy in to an ABM program, because it may wind up pulling resources from other marketing initiatives. The other buy-in must be from sales. ABM is hard work and requires a very tight alignment with sales.

The most critical challenge is positioning ABM correctly. We’ve seen ABM being positioned as just another marketing activity. We strongly recommend that [clients] position it as either a corporate growth program or a strategic business initiative.

ABMIA: In the study, you highlight three different approaches to ABM. Can you describe them?

JS: In the beginning, everyone who was doing ABM was doing what we call Strategic ABM. That’s the true one-to-one model, where a marketer is assigned to work with a sales team on all of the necessary ABM framework, such as profiling, analysis and targeting to individuals inside of one account.

Many companies will begin their ABM journey doing one-to-one, starting with a pilot phase and bringing in two, three or four accounts. Then it becomes what the market refers to as ABM Lite. This is really a one-to-few model. Since companies in a given market segment tend to experience the same kinds of challenges, you can group a number of accounts together and apply the same principles, messages and campaigns, and personalize it for the group. Many companies in this mode will develop personas to build relevant, tailored value propositions and messages.

With the rise of marketing automation, we’ve seen a new phenomenon — what we refer to as Programmatic ABM. This is a one-to-many approach. In fact, many companies implementing Programmatic ABM may have 500 to 600 accounts. It’s a different kind of ABM, because it still involves a level of personalization. In this model, companies use technology to automate some of those ABM steps, such as gaining insight through social listening and by gathering a little more web-based information about the account. It involves targeted advertising to key people inside a group of accounts. More companies are now using Programmatic ABM as a demand gen tool, by personalizing to a large number of people in similar kinds of businesses.

ABMIA: What’s the ROI for each of these approaches?

JS: In Strategic, our research shows that 84% of the companies investing in ABM are seeing a greater ROI than they are with other kinds of marketing. In Lite, they’re still seeing good return, but not as much. In Programmatic, they’re seeing an average or run rate kind of return, as they would with any other kind of marketing automation-based program.

ABMIA: Any other advice for ABM marketers?

JS: You have to agree on what the metrics are going to be and be able to report both short-term and long-term metrics, both qualitative and quantitative. Your sales team and company leadership have to see those results. You need to come out with some sort of dashboard that demonstrates on a regular basis how your program is succeeding, and the impact it’s having on your company.

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