The State of Account-Based Marketing: From Strategy to Technology Platform

Once upon a time, account-based marketing (ABM) was a strategy – a very smart one aimed at the biggest, most valuable accounts. However, somewhere down the line, ABM became a technology platform. While technology has certainly helped improve efficiency and effectiveness in sales and marketing, it has also created challenges for ABM, which aims to help companies sell to their most important customers.

ABM as a Technology Platform

ABM has shifted from being a strategy to a technology platform that enables a continuous set of marketing and sales activities at all stages of the buyer journey, as defined by Gartner. This shift has many benefits, but it has also created challenges for ABM practitioners, particularly in terms of the sheer number of technologies required.

Increase in technology

To enable a continuous set of marketing and sales activities, we now have more than just one or two tools at our disposal. Instead, there are 27 different tools that can be used for enterprise ABM alone, with seven additional tools at the “Shop/Buy” stage, three at “Install,” and another four at “Renew.” The focus on the buyer journey has led to an increase in technologies, each with its own purpose and value, but this has also made the ABM process more complex and challenging.

ABM Tools

The sheer number of ABM tools can often be overwhelming. There are tools for account identification, intent data, data management, demand generation, content creation, web personalization, digital advertising, inbound marketing, and more. ABM practitioners need to navigate this landscape of tools to find the ones that work best for their specific needs and goals.

Losing Sight of the Objective

The focus on measuring and tracking engagement has caused some ABM practitioners to lose sight of the objective, which is to sell something. Measuring activity or engagement against an individual at a certain stage has become the priority, taking precedence over driving conversions and sales. Due to this shift in focus, the effectiveness of ABM strategy has decreased, and its underlying purpose has been compromised.

As we work continuously to feed the machines that make ABM possible, we often produce an overabundance of content. Unfortunately, much of this content lacks relevance and actionable insight and fails to resonate with the target audience. This excess of irrelevant content can be a major challenge for ABM practitioners, as it drowns out the messages that are truly valuable and informative.

Working for the Machines

The focus on technology has resulted in working for the machines instead of having them work for us. Instead of being in the driver’s seat of ABM, human decision-making is now primarily based on machine learning and algorithms, which may not accurately define customer preference, behavior, or intent. This approach can lead to a lack of human touch and authenticity in marketing and sales, which can discourage target customers rather than engage them.

Once companies start relying heavily on ABM technologies, course-correcting becomes difficult. The momentum is such that it’s almost impossible to regain strategic value. To prevent this downward spiral, businesses must be proactive in analyzing their ABM processes and implementing changes that can help realign their strategies with the core objective.

ABM Redefined

The strategic value of ABM has been marginalized, if not lost completely. It is now better defined as activity-based rather than account-based, with too much reliance on measuring activity rather than sales. This means that ABM has shifted from being a strategy that helps companies sell to their most important customers to becoming another type of acquisition-based marketing.

Unfortunately, technology cannot solve all the problems caused by the evolution of ABM into a technology platform. What is needed is a more balanced approach that combines the power of technology with the human touch. Businesses that want to excel in ABM must focus on the customer experience and the value they bring to the target accounts. To regain the strategic value of ABM, we must dedicate our efforts to redefining and creating a more human-oriented approach to the process. By doing so, we can ensure that ABM remains an effective way to drive sales and business growth.

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