The ABM view from the other side of the pond
While account-based marketing is gaining traction in the States, where does it stand in other parts of the world? Columnist Peter Isaacson explores marketers' approach to ABM in the UK.
A few weeks ago, I had a chance to spend some time in London to discuss the impact of technology on Account-Based Marketing (ABM). I’m pretty familiar with the UK market and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) in general, having traveled there 30-plus times during my days at Adobe.
I have always enjoyed my trips to the UK. The Brits love a good beer, a good joke and a good political debate.
On this trip, there were two topics weighing on their minds: Donald Trump and the “Brexit.” The Donald has them worried about our future, while the Brexit has them worried about theirs.
Toss in a few beers and the requisite jokes, and we had a fun week.
But I digress. The real focus of the week was engaging with UK marketing leaders and discussing Account-Based Marketing. ABM was on everyone’s mind!
Account Based Marketing dominates discussion
The events that I attended were completely over-subscribed. In fact, the B2BIn:Tech ABM sessions were standing room only. And the smaller, more customized field marketing events that were focused specifically on ABM were also well attended.
What’s fascinating is how strong the awareness of ABM (what we call an emerging category in the US) is in the UK. Practically every B2B marketer is familiar with this marketing approach. If I had to guess, I’d say the UK has twice the level of ABM awareness as we have in the US.
The reason? In contrast to our broad-scale demand generation marketing efforts that have dominated B2B marketing in the US over the last decade or so, many UK marketers have been utilizing “traditional” ABM for years by targeting 10 to 50 accounts with high-touch, bespoke (what Yanks call “custom”) programs.
If you think of marketing as a pyramid with traditional demand generation as the base (targeting 5,000-plus accounts with a focus on volume over personalization), the top of the pyramid could be considered traditional ABM, with up to 50 accounts receiving high-touch and specialized marketing programs.
With this approach, ABM is always limited in quantity and impact because it requires such intensive research and account-specific information to be effective.
This type of ABM is very consistent with the ABM approach that IT Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), a research-based membership organization which focuses on B2B companies, advocates for. (Disclosure: Demandbase, my employer, is a member of ITSMA.) ITSMA has been pushing ABM for longer than anyone — both in the US and the UK.
Now, with the growing sophistication of marketing technology, ITSMA is evolving their practice to consider larger-scale campaigns that can reach thousands of accounts. And in June, they’re hosting an event in London, “The 2016 Next Generation ABM Forum,” that will bring together leading B2B marketers to discuss the demand to scale ABM programs.
ABM at scale
But while ABM isn’t new to our marketing counterparts in the UK, what has proven revolutionary is the ability to scale efforts and see that 10 to 50 range turn into 500 to 5,000 accounts. By using ABM solutions to complete the middle of the pyramid, what I call “ABM at Scale,” targeted accounts can be grouped into buckets (such as industry, size, attributes and life cycle stage) so that personalized marketing is delivered to larger groups.
By scaling your ABM efforts, you can now have a significant impact on overall revenue — rather than just focusing on a few accounts that make up a small fraction of revenue.
While the UK has a bit more experience with ABM as a practice, the US is a bit out in front with the adoption of technology that brings scale to ABM. Both countries are moving quickly, though, with agencies in both the US and the UK jumping on board.
DWA, Agent3 and AprilSix all have divisions devoted to scaling ABM. And with organizations like ITSMA spreading the gospel, this will only accelerate adoption even more.
With things moving so quickly, there are bound to be variations in definitions, frameworks, processes and measurement. What I call “ABM at scale,” other organizations call “ABM Lite.” Whatever.
The most important thing is that companies are jumping into ABM and getting phenomenal business results that impact a company’s bottom line. We are just at the beginning of an amazing revolution that is transforming B2B marketing.
I’ve been excited about ABM (even though we didn’t call it that back then) since my time at Adobe in the early 2000s. While heading up worldwide field marketing at Adobe, our use of ABM illustrated the clear value of an account-based approach and got me excited about where ABM could go.
Years later, the addition of technology has proven the point that all good things really do scale with the right tools.