ABM: To Tech or Never to Tech

David Linder

David Linder

MSc in Marketing from the University of Salford. Facebook Certified Planning Professional Facebook Certified Buying Professional
7 min read

Deciding on analogue vs digital is really a crucial part of the ABM process

Although it’s an integral phrase on the lips of several a Martech professional in Silicon Valley nowadays, account-based marketing (ABM) hasn’t been about technology.

In its purest form, ABM is really a strategy at the business enterprise marketing level – it’s about identifying the big white whales you need to snare, and investing time, effort and money into doing that, instead of casting a wider net for the minnows. During the past, it’s been largely considering selling to companies as market of 1.

However, the innovations of the final decade roughly around IP-to-company matching, automation and retargeting, led by famous brands Kickfire, Demandbase and Terminus, have made the conversation about ABM quite definitely one about technology.

As we realize, technology is frequently about making things simpler to do at scale. Enter “ABM at scale”.

Now that ABM is not any longer an analog tactic and the technology to aid at scale campaigns is easily available, even mid-market businesses and SMEs can set their sights on creating highly personalised digital campaigns to follow those whales.

All that said, I thought an instant comparison table to check out both strategies or approaches side-by-side will be useful here. Granted, there are some generalizations. That is an inevitable side-effect of compressing the vast history of a online marketing strategy and comparing two varying approaches right into a single three columned comparison table. Hopefully though, it can help to illustrate a few of the key differences between both of these ABM methods.

ABM comparison

Okay, let’s unpack some of these one-liners a bit.

Number of companies targeted

When we’re discussing traditional ABM, campaigns are centered on a very few accounts – sometimes, in probably the most acute cases, one account. This plan has been popular and proven mostly in enterprise-level businesses. And for them, it remains a strategy that’s definitely worth taking into consideration and probably worth pursuing.

ABM powered by tech includes a sweet spot of between 50 and 250 accounts. Anything under 50, and it’s unlikely you’ll obtain the scale you should see any significant return. Anything over 250 and pursuing the amount of personalization you will need becomes pretty challenging, not forgetting being very hard to plug sales into.


Either method of ABM just isn’t an inexpensive option. So if that’s what you’re trying to find, look elsewhere. That said, if you’re interested in return-on-investment, you’ll have more back on every pound, euro or dollar you spend on ABM – whether that’s traditional or tech-led – than you will with any other business development or marketing strategy.

A traditional method of ABM is problematic of this type because all your eggs are essentially in a single basket. Which means that you could find yourself spending thousands of pounds on a campaign which includes one chance at converting, and when it doesn’t – you’re left with only with an extremely big hole in your allowance.

Scaling this up with tech-led ABM, it is possible to hedge your bets. The expenses could be similar, but as your reach will undoubtedly be anything around 250 times that of traditional ABM, your returns can scale too.

Identifying accounts to target

Both traditional ABM and ABM at scale require some manual account targeting. This used means bringing your sales and marketing teams together to thrash it out and identify the accounts they would like to go after having an ABM campaign.

This doesn’t just mean management and executive sponsors either – this means the do-ers too. The target-carrying sales force and the marketing executives. Rely solely on business intelligence and data from CRM because of this activity at your peril. You need to take into account the potential insufficient internal process and the individual nature of how each salesperson goes about their business.

The best account targeting sessions I’ve seen are those where salespeople and marketers alike swap war stories and share wins and losses in a discussion driven by their passion because of their craft and the business enterprise. This generates great energy for the project which you are able to deftly nurture to great success.

Tech-led ABM includes a trick up its sleeve here too. It offers you the capability to augment those incredibly insightful human experiences with data famous brands that you or team haven’t seen. Platforms like Kickfire have firmographic databases that enable you to identify accounts predicated on a multitude of characteristics. It requires most of the heavy lifting using this area of the process.

If you intend to dive into greater detail with this topic, browse the article I wrote on how to create a target list for an ABM campaign.

Researching contacts

In traditional ABM, key contact identification has its roots in telemarketing. This was previously the only path to learn who the main element decision makers and influencers were at your target accounts.

The advent of LinkedIn and Google has seen that off – the barriers to get hold of research attended right down to significantly. A lot more ground could be covered using online methods in comparison to telemarketing – and also in the event that you still need to use telemarketing – it could be you need to be to plug the gaps as opposed to the be-all-and-end-all of the campaign.

Many of the various tools in the area involve some great technology that produce this technique easier. Kickfire, for instance, includes a platform called LIVE Leads, which comes filled with a contact database. Which means that once you’ve used firmographic data to recognize the mark accounts, it is possible to supplement this with information on the relevant contacts connected with those accounts.

This is usually a vital part of the execution of one’s ABM campaign – it lets you head to market with a solid “land-and-expand” strategy (engaging with an individual within the business and then utilizing a selection of marketing tactics to broaden that relationship to other decision makers).

Campaign execution

At face value, there’s very little in it with regards to campaign execution in traditional ABM weighed against tech-led ABM. For a long time businesses have run ABM campaigns utilizing a blended method of execute across offline and online channels and tactics.

Where tech-led ABM includes a slight upper hand here though is its capability to gather the tactics which were historically manual processes and neatly automate them, often inside a single suite of applications. Whether that’s powering display ads, search engine marketing techniques or content personalization on your own website, you can find tools open to make your daily life easier.

For busy marketers, this implies less time allocated to admin and much more time allocated to creative. This may only ever be considered a positive thing!


This is one area where tech-led ABM includes a big old home ground advantage over traditional ABM. It may look a straightforward and straightforward task – report on the success of a advertising campaign right into a single account. I’d offer you that, yes, if it were an individual channel campaign about the same media source, to a person contact at a small business within a location.

That is never the case though. ABM was created out of complex, multinational organizations where more traditional industry/vertical-based marketing campaigns proved ineffective.

In reality – even within single account, there are always a large numbers of locations, different contacts and decision-making units, and campaign execution across a multitude of channels. The manual reporting overhead will get uncontrollable.

Account based marketing

As covered in a previous article, many ABM tools offer their very own reporting platforms or easy out-of-the-box integration with other reporting tools such as for example Google Analytics. Which means that the it is possible to build your ABM campaign reporting directly into your other digital marketing reporting.

Whether it’s website visits from your own ABM lists, conversions or various other metric, it is possible to see at a person company level what’s working and what isn’t.

Ad campaigns

As marketers, we’ve honestly never really had it so excellent roughly easy with regards to ad targeting. Specific platforms like Google and Facebook and wider display ad networks have given us more power than ever before in order to target predicated on demographics. Between your two ABM methods, there’s really only 1 winner with regards to serving hyper-targeted, bespoke ads to the relevant accounts.

You guessed it – it’s tech-led ABM. It’s difficult to assume how you may get back to the other method of doing things when you’ve run online ad campaigns where you are able to not merely target the, generation or interest – but additionally the business itself. This topic is covered deeper in the ‘how to obtain ABM accounts to your website’ article.

Website personalization

This is tricky to attain minus the right technology available. It might be possible, using custom development, nonetheless it won’t stop wasting time or easy. The notion of an enterprise marketing team achieving this seems unlikely anyway, but additionally, reverse IP lookup isn’t in itself an ideal technology – particularly when multi-site, multi-location global businesses with firewalls and multiple data centres are participating.

Tech vendors have this nailed. Whatever CMS you’re using, whether it’s WordPress, Joomla or Magento, there are always a selection of tools open to make your site an ABM animal! This makes personalizing this content targeted accounts see if they come to your website as easy as developing a post or page.

ABM tools


It’s very difficult to gauge the difference in exchange between traditional ABM and tech-led ABM. In case a traditional ABM campaign manages to catch one large whale, the return could be big in the region of magnitude that ABM at scale might never have the ability to touch. This will depend on the business enterprise.

I would say though that both approaches offer you possibility to make a lot of money for the business. Granted, there’s potentially more reward to be gained from the traditional ABM campaign, but there’s more risk, plus they have a tendency to comparatively cost more. I believe because of this one, you can find few way too many variables to produce a definitive call in any event.

David Linder

David Linder

MSc in Marketing from the University of Salford. Facebook Certified Planning Professional Facebook Certified Buying Professional

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