Three Levels of ABM and How to Get Started

For companies that get it right, ABM promises some amazing business rewards: greater efficiency, bigger wins, higher close rates, better ROI, tighter sales and marketing alignment, and improved customer experiences.

Being successful starts with knowing how to choose the right ABM approach to match your company’s needs. Let’s review three types of ABM to help you get a clearer understanding of what will best fit your business.

The ABM Pyramid: Strategic, Lite, and Programmatic ABM

Most marketing thought leadership out there visualizes ABM as a pyramid with strategic (one-to-one) ABM at the top, lite (one-to-few) ABM in the middle, and programmatic (one-to-many) at the bottom. The higher up you go on the pyramid, the more ROI and investment you can expect. Whether you engage just one ABM approach, a combination of two, or all three, your approach will be dictated by your goals and available resources.

Source: ITSMA

Strategic ABM

Strategic ABM refers to a one-to-one marketing strategy — an approach usually reserved for existing accounts — in which marketing, sales, and executive teams coordinate closely to strengthen relationships with high-value customers in hopes of upselling and cross-selling. Together, the teams focus on 1 to 5 accounts that have a clear business and unique individual needs and create hyper-targeted and high-value account marketing plans that reinforce your relationship with customers.

One thing to note about strategic ABM is that it’s resource-intensive, and you must have a solid grasp of your customers’ business and unique needs. To properly run strategic ABM, targeting needs to run for months, even years at a time. Teams need to be dedicated to creating individual personas within each account, along with the other activities involved in conducting deep research to create successful and relevant hyper-targeted messaging.

If you’ve got existing clients that hold plenty of business potential and an ample budget with room for investing in a new strategy — think time, tools, and people — then strategic ABM is the way to go. Be prepared to set expectations, however, as you should measure ROI in years rather than months.

ABM Lite 

The second tier in the ABM pyramid refers to a one-to-few model, where your efforts focus on groups of strategic and/or second-tier named accounts. Whereas strategic ABM demands your teams to take a deep dive into the individual needs of your customers, ABM Lite requires less intensive focus. Here, sales and marketing will collaborate to identify 5 to 10 target accounts based on similar business needs, challenges, and goals.

They will also decide which key business issue to address, and frame messaging according to the account groups’ needs.

For companies with a healthy but somewhat flexible budget, ABM Lite is a great option to consider if you have the capability to add more tools and team members. You’ll still need to have a good understanding of your ideal customer profiles, personas, and segments in order to create effective account groups — but ABM Lite offers the benefits of highly targeted messaging while still maximizing your marketing’s reach.

Programmatic ABM

Programmatic ABM is the third tier and refers to a one-to-many strategy. Like ABM Lite, accounts are grouped by similar business needs, challenges, and goals. But that’s where the similarities end. Programmatic ABM can cover hundreds, even thousands of accounts grouped according to segments (horizontal, vertical, regional, etc.).

In order to make programmatic ABM a success, your marketing team will still need access to a CRM and marketing automation tool like Pardot, Marketo, or Eloqua. These tools allow marketers to efficiently group accounts and target communications based on broad parameters such as industry verticals.

For smaller companies that need to stretch smaller budgets, programmatic ABM is a great approach to start targeting accounts. While it’s not hyper-personalization, it still takes the principles of customer-centricity and personalization to your marketing practice without the resource intensiveness of the first two ABM tiers.

Getting Started with ABM

Before executing ABM, identify your audience. This means that you need to have your personas crafted and ready to go. Without this fundamental building block, personalization becomes tedious, inaccurate, and irrelevant, leading to frustrated and unempowered teams, and lower  ROI.

Once you’ve got a good grasp of your customers, you’ll need to gain executive support. While ABM does promise better alignment and communication between marketing and sales, the strategy requires some fundamental shifts in perspectives and workflows. Growing pains will inevitably ensue, and if you don’t have executive support, the obstacles can overshadow and snuff out your efforts before your ABM campaign has time to flourish and grow.

Lastly, understand that any ABM approach is a huge undertaking. You’ll need to identify the right partners to help you hit the ground running – from strategy to tools to content. The amount of targeted content needed can be overwhelming for even the most resource-rich marketing departments, so working with an outside team like Unreal Digital Group can help you achieve your ABM goals. Contact us if you have any questions or would like to learn more ABM and how to connect with your customers. And, be sure to follow us on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook so you don’t miss out on additional strategies and insights.