What is account based marketing (ABM)?

Account based marketing is here to stay. In fact, according to analysts at TOPO, account-based marketing will become the highest ROI go-to-market strategy for B2B in 2019.

In 2016, we put out this definition of account-based marketing:

Account-Based Marketing Definition (2016): A focused approach to B2B marketing in which marketing and sales teams work together to target best-fit accounts and turn them into customers.

In 2019, after doing this a few hundred more times with real practitioners, this might be a little more accurate:

Account-Based Marketing Definition (2019): An end-to-end go-to-market strategy designed to focus a majority of marketing, sales, and success effort on the pre- and post-sales accounts with the highest likelihood of closing, through data-driven targeting and personalization programs at scale.

Let’s break that down:

An end-to-end go to market strategy…

ABM isn’t just for new business acquisition or a fix to lead volume issues. It’s a set of strategic and tactical plays that maximize revenue, retention, and customer delight across pre- and post-sale lifecycle stages.

The most successful ABX organizations are ‘doing ABM’ for acquisition, acceleration, and expansion.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”981b3″ via=”yes” ]The most successful ABX organizations are ‘doing ABM’ for acquisition, acceleration, and expansion.[/ctt]

It also involves the entire go to market organization – from marketing, to sales, to customer success. Some teams even get product involved!

…Designed to focus a majority of marketing, sales, and success effort on the pre- and post-sales accounts with the highest likelihood of closing…

In conventional inbound marketing – we put a bunch of content and activity out into the market that we think will appeal to the types of buyers we want to talk to, on the channels we think they frequent, and try to get them to fill out a form in exchange for a compelling offer.

And we know that of those people that filter in, somewhere between 1-2% actually turn into paying customers. That’s a pretty serious efficiency gap.

Account-based marketing differs from inbound marketing in that it’s designed to make use of the huge amount of behavioral data that has become available to marketers in the last 5-10 years.

This includes:

  • Intent data: Information about which keyword themes people are looking at around the web, typically collected using cookies on a network of content sites. (learn more)
  • Engagement data: Information about how individuals or accounts are engaging with your own brand. Ideally you’re able to get this across digital and offline channels. Digitally, you can associate known and anonymous web engagement through tools like Terminus Visitor ID. Offline you can use signup lists and other methods to associate people to campaigns in your CRM or marketing automation tool. Changes in engagement can signal internal conversations and potential inflection points for sales.
  • Relationship data: Relationship data scores the quality of one-to-one interactions between your company and another, by aggregating information about the emails and meetings happening between your companies. (learn more)
  • Technographics: Data feeds of what technologies companies add or remove from their web properties.
  • Customer behavioral signals: Many industries have unique behavioral signals that ABM marketers might be able to take advantage of. For example, databases of companies actively bidding on jobs in a particular field can indicate activity, new hire profiles can indicate upcoming internal priorities, etc.

The net of all this information is that marketers are now able to do a much better job of creating super-focused lists of accounts that are firmographically and behaviorally ripe for the picking. Using tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator you can make a complete list of all of your target market companies. Then, in a given time period, you can create target lists made up of the accounts in your target market that are in-market (revealed from their behavioral profile).

And this doesn’t just apply to pre-sales. Between CRM data and utilization information, marketers have the data at their fingertips to create much more focused customer marketing programs than ever before.

An account based marketing strategy is all about taking the time to figure out which accounts are right for right now, and focusing most of your effort on progressing those accounts.

…Through data-driven targeting and personalization programs at scale.

In its early days, ABM was about doing things that don’t scale. Since you’re starting with a smaller group of accounts, you’re creating more time to spend creating custom journeys and experiences for each individual account.

Depending on your product and your market, these may be high-touch experiences literally tailored to each account, or simply more customized stage-based programs that make use of all the data at your fingertips to run trigger-based programs instead of time-gated nurture programs, across channels that can traditionally be more difficult to coordinate (such as ads, email, and direct mail all working in tandem).

Today, ABM is about taking those high-effort tactics that show promise, and scaling them through new technology – specifically through account-based marketing platforms, like Terminus. Account based marketing solutions are designed to help marketers operationalize highly targeted, highly personalized content and interactive experiences at greater scale than has been possible for the past 4-5 years.


So there we are! An updated definition for account-based marketing in 2019.