Although account-based marketing isn’t easy to execute, it proves significant value! ABM focuses on specific accounts most likely to support growth.

Account-based marketing (ABM) is enjoying a moment lately, which is great. Still, I can’t help but worry some companies who try it may not have a happy ending.  Let’s be clear: I firmly believe some form of ABM is a good idea for nearly every company. As a popular trend, however, I fear it may follow the path of so many others that take hold of the collective business imagination and prompt everyone’s bosses to say, “Why haven’t we tried…”

Here’s why: No one seems to acknowledge is that good ABM isn’t easy.

This fact shouldn’t be surprising. ABM is far from a new approach. A number of smart marketers and analysts in the B2B space have built and shared ABM definitions, many of which have been around for a decade. In this post, I describe the four types of Account-Based Marketing as SiriusDecisions defines them. Our basic premise is that marketers can use ABM to focus on the accounts most likely to support growth. This must be done in line with the sales model and objectives for the accounts. This specific, account-level focus is what separates ABM from broad-based marketing. Like most things that deliver a real competitive advantage, however, the logic of ABM is simple but the delivery takes some effort.

Here’s where the delivery effort starts: Account-based marketing is a method that aligns execution to a defined set of accounts and the contacts (i.e. real people) within them, based on the business goals for those accounts. It’s popular right now because ABM is a sensible evolution for the next phase of sales and marketing alignment and it works well with the reality of the buyer’s journey. It also ties in with marketing’s increasingly sophisticated ability to blend inbound and outbound execution to match customer needs in real time. B2B companies have more and better insights, along with better technology platforms to take advantage of them. Better targeting and segmentation allow companies to deploy these components in support of account-level sales goals and specific customer needs. Happily, many companies also recognize the practicality of the ABM approach, often with requests from sales, and a number of marketing teams are delivering excellent and valuable programs.

Still, I fear trouble is ahead for ABM as a hot “marketing trend.”

Inventor Thomas Edison said, “The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.” So it is with ABM. What attracts companies to ABM in the first place (i.e. the massive opportunity it represents to deliver more efficient growth) can be realized. But this cannot happen without effort and (more importantly) change. When marketers first get into the details, the upfront effort can seem daunting. It will require significant work to define goals with sales and use account insights to make better tactical choices.

Here’s where “ABM: The Trend” must separate itself from “ABM: The Valuable Strategy.” Just because ABM requires more effort doesn’t mean ABM is a bad idea. It’s never a bad idea. Every company can benefit from the insight-led, goal-oriented and customer-friendly discipline that ABM provides. It’s simply a question of how companies want to use their marketing resources and if they’re open to change. Most trends lose momentum as the reality of implementation sets in and another trend that sounds easier pops up. Don’t let that happen to your ABM strategy.

Anything that delivers real competitive advantage is not going to be easy. As they say, if it were so easy, everyone would be doing it. In his recent post, my colleague Matt Senatore describes the foundation for account-based marketing to help you get started. Now’s your chance to beat the rush with ABM and get out ahead of all those who aren’t willing to do the work that delivers real competitive advantage and better results.