If you visit the same restaurant you’ve gone to for years, there’s probably a waiter who knows your name. They stop by, welcome you back and ask how your family is doing – and instead of asking for your order, they just bring it to the table. And the friends that came with you to this restaurant for the first time? They’re impressed.

Now imagine you’re going to a restaurant for the first time and you have that same experience. You haven’t had to show up for years to build this rapport, because they’ve done the hard work of finding out who you are and what you like. There’s a high likelihood that you’ll talk about that experience. And there’s a high likelihood that you’ll become a regular customer. That’s what a prospect experiences when an account-based marketing (ABM) campaign is executed successfully.

ABM is more than a trend

As a marketer, you’ve probably heard the term “ABM” by now. Forrester’s 2017 Q1 International B2B Marketing Panel Online Survey showed that 36 percent of companies had an established practice of ABM. That figure nearly doubled in the same survey this year, reporting that 61 percent of companies in 2018 now have a mature program, and Forrester’s Q1 2018 Global B2B Marketing Benchmark Panel Online Survey revealed that mature ABM programs correlate to exceeding revenue goals.

ABM is often described as fishing with a spear instead of fishing with a net. It allows you to focus on the top 20 percent of accounts that can actually drive profitable revenue growth, which means spending less time on developing generic content and instead focusing your energy on specific, personalized content – content that actually has a chance of capturing someone’s attention in a busy sea of noise. ABM provides marketers a chance to succeed in highly competitive markets and even accelerate the sales cycle.

Yet ABM can pose some challenges, especially as the program is in its early experimentation phases. Forrester surveys report that common early ABM challenges include everything from creating personalized content to getting a prospect to engage with it, and even measuring whether the program is working at all.

So how do you move over the hump of early experimentation and into maturity? It’s about having the right tech mix.

ABM tools to help you execute successfully

As the practice of ABM is maturing, so are its tools. Forrester’s 2018 Q2 Report on the top ABM tools shows that different platforms have different focuses and core competencies, but the majority are either planning on rolling out additional features or going through mergers to offer more. While the landscape is growing, Forrester recommends taking a look at any gaps in these four areas when you select ABM tools:

1. Account selection and intelligence: Do you have the right tools in place to track the high impact accounts for your bottom line? This includes not only identifying these companies, but also selecting key decision makers within those organizations to focus your efforts.

  • Premium tools: Advanced tools like Clearbit, Crayon, LeanData or ZoomInfo will combine sales and marketing data to help identify what works and what doesn’t, help you choose prospects worth pursuing, and provide you with the intelligence to make that first touch effective.
  • Just getting started? Take a look at your existing CRM, which may have some of the capabilities you need, like the ability to consolidate insights from your lists of existing and prospective customers. Additional tools to help launch an ABM program include Leadspace, Demandbase and LeanData.

2. Account engagement: When you’ve done your planning and execute that first touch, do you have the tools to deploy it on the right channel? This can be anything from direct mail to social media, or even a combination of different channels. In this category, it’s worth focusing your energy on the channel tools that will most likely match where your target prospects prefer to hear from you. An effective email tool won’t help you reach prospects on social media.

  • Premium tools: Demandbase, FeedOtter, RollWorks, Sendoso and Sprout Social all help you distribute personalized content at scale. Some of these are channel-specific, and others are more flexible across channels.
  • Just getting started? Social media channels can be a very basic way to begin ABM efforts. Early supplementary tools include Terminus and PFL, and tools like Demandbase, Sendoso and even LinkedIn can help position you early on to grow a successful program in the long-term.

3. Orchestrate interactions: Your ABM tools should provide you with the flexibility to transform marketing automation into personalized content delivery without losing the ability to scale your efforts. This will help you take a prospect from a stranger all the way through to a customer.

  • Premium tools: Frontify allows you to keep things consistently branded at scale, while tools like Outreach, Engagio, PathFactory (formerly LookBookHQ) and Uberflip provide automation and engagement tools.
  • Just getting started? 6Sense, Marketo and Outreach can provide you with automation tools that position you for program growth.

4. Measurement and reporting: ABM success relies on the level of insights and analytics you can piece together over user interactions. This includes everything from basic contact information to predictive analytics, purchase intent and advanced behavioral analysis.

  • Premium tools: Pardot, Oracle / Eloqua and Marketo all give you advanced customer data and the ability to measure interaction at scale.
  • Just getting started? Your existing CRM combined with Google Analytics can give you a basic palette to start painting with. Demandbase and LeanData are tools you can layer on to start measuring at a deeper level.

ABM allows you to engage the right buyers, reach them more efficiently and effectively, increase deal sizes, shorten the sales cycle and even grow the lifetime value (LTV) of customers through a high level of personalization. First impressions last a lifetime, and the right tech stack will help you to engage new prospects with the right content in the moments that matter.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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