We’ve come a long way, baby: How ABM has evolved over the last 18 years

Since I first codified ABM back in 2003, the world has changed, business is transforming, and ABM is evolving quickly across the globe. In fact, ABM continues to revolutionize the way we do B2B marketing. But what will that revolution look like over the next few years? And what does it mean for you as an ABM-er?

Can you remember back to 2003? Nokia phones were all the rage. Finding Nemo came out, and Dory’s charming lack of short-term memory captured our imaginations. Nokia phones were all the rage. And Facebook wasn’t even a thing – never mind that Meta thing. Oh, and did I mention, Nokia phones were all the rage.

Many of the lessons the early pioneers learned while building and scaling their ABM programmes back then still hold true today. ABM is a business growth initiative and has to be done in partnership with sales. Selecting the right accounts for your programme is one of the most important things to get right. Marketers need to capture the high ground in the account team – talking about how we want to be positioned in this account over the long term rather than the canapes to be served at tomorrow’s executive briefing. Deep insight must drive everything we do. And wherever possible, create reusable assets that can be personalised for each client. This is a mindset shift.

Today, new lessons are being learned. Data is truly at the heart of ABM and sales, marketing and customer success need a shared view and single source of truth for every account. These cross-functional teams are aligning to both imagine and deliver business outcomes with the client. They are driving account-based growth. ABM-ers are building plans with a champion in the account, making that person a rockstar in their own company and profession. And all of this is being done with respect and humanity, values that have come to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic. At its most powerful, ABM is a long way from personalised email nurture streams. And yet these are important too.

Which leads me to where this is all going. I’ve explored this at The Global ABM Conference, but let me summarise by saying that I see a bifurcation of ABM coming. (Don’t worry, you’ll know it when you see it…). 

The Pareto principle says that 20% of inputs deliver 80% of outputs; a law that holds true in the natural world, in human society and in business. So, 20% of your accounts will deliver 80% of your profitable revenue. As ABM-ers, with the limited time and budgets we typically have available, there is an obvious place to focus: driving account-based growth in the 20% of accounts that will deliver both today’s and tomorrow’s 80% of revenues. Even if you’re using ABM to attract new accounts, through deal-based marketing, they should be the type of client that will sit in your top 20%, so aim high.

Other marketing teams can market to the remaining 80% of accounts that deliver just 20% of profitable revenues, leveraging the fantastic technology available now to do ABM-inspired marketing at scale. The way we do this marketing to accounts, or M2A, is also evolving quickly.

The question I’ve explored at the conference - and one I’ll leave you with now - is which type of marketing do you want to do? ABM or M2A? Both are certain to be an exciting ride if the past 18 years have been anything to go by. Enjoy!

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