Account-Based Marketing And The Ascension Of The Account In Modern Marketing

Fred Isbell

I have learned quite a bit in my nearly 30-year marketing career. And probably the most significant change is how marketing organizations use metrics to assess the impact of their efforts on a specific target audience. We have come a long way from “one-size-fits-all” and “spray-and-pray” marketing tactics from the past. And now, modern marketing demands that we thoroughly understand our audience and use targeting and segmentation tools for optimal demand generation.

Consequently, we see an increase in account-based marketing (ABM), an approach where we align demand generation efforts against a predetermined and strategic set of accounts. The concept of one-to-one or one-to-few marketing is hardly new. But in ABM, we focus on a specific set of accounts determined collaboratively by sales and marketing to deliver end-to-end programs at the account level with specific objectives and goals for these selected, targeted accounts.

It was my great pleasure to sit down recently with an expert in ABM Dave Munn, the president and CEO of ITSMA, which is a long-time leader in ABM, thought leadership, and other strategic marketing innovations.

Dave, ITSMA recently published the “The Rise of Account-Based Marketing Timeline” showcasing the evolution of ABM over the past 15 years. If we apply the Gartner “Hype Cycle” to this where does ABM currently stand?

The early adopters in ABM were all focused on strategic ABM with large accounts (one to one). But with the rise of marketing automation and other ABM tools and technologies, we’ve seen a real hockey-stick effect with companies now able to scale ABM programs to cover more accounts (one to many) than what was possible 10 years ago.

ITSMA also just published a book on ABM, “A Practitioner’s Guide to Account-Based Marketing: Accelerating Growth in Strategic Accounts.” What were some key lessons learned that you came across when you co-wrote the book? Are there consistent themes those who have deployed more mature ABM models?

My co-author, Beverley Burgess, and I organized the book around three key sections: creating an ABM program, implementing the seven steps of ABM, and developing your ABM career. There are nine case studies throughout the book, including one on SAP’s North American program, that focus on the different aspects of ABM. The common threads of all successful ABM programs center around:

  • Focusing on what is driving the customer versus what you want to sell the account
  • Partnering with sales to develop integrated campaigns; tailoring programs and activities to individual stakeholders within the account
  • Going beyond lead generation and near-term revenue goals to improve mindshare and engagement
  • Building stronger relationships
ITSMA pyramid

ABM has been a very popular category of the ITSMA Marketing Excellence Awards you present at your annual Marketing Vision Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. What do you think that the ABM award-winners will look like in the future, given the evolution you have witnessed and documented in your research and the new ABM book?

I think we’ll continue to see innovative approaches with ABM programs that help sales teams target specific accounts within key vertical markets. I also think we’ll see more blended ABM programs leveraging a range of tools and technologies to help reach more accounts across the three types of ABM – one-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many.

Thanks, Dave, for your time and tremendous insights. It’s clear that ABM is an established, not emerging, best practice in the repertoire of modern marketing. As we move forward, ABM will continue to be on the rise in organizations of all sizes. Meanwhile, those not employing ABM in their largest accounts will likely become the exception, rather than the rule. It’s truly an exciting time in marketing, and we look forward to the continued evolution of ABM and the key role it will provide in the ever-evolving journey to modern marketing.

Dave MunnDave Munn is the president and CEO of ITSMA and is a well-recognized thought leader in business-to-business services and solutions marketing. Dave helped pioneer the discipline of account-based marketing (ABM) in the early 2000s and is a co-author of the book, “A Practitioner’s Guide to ABM: Accelerating Growth in Strategic Accounts.”

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About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell is the Senior Director of SAP Digital Business Services Marketing at SAP. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.