LONDON: Account-based marketing (ABM) is experiencing a surge in popularity among B2B marketers, but an industry figure warns that, without a clear strategy, the promised benefits are unlikely to materialise.

In a WARC Best Practice paper, How to develop an account-based marketing strategy, Bev Burgess, Senior Vice President & ABM Practice Leader at marketing agency ITSMA, explains that the benefits of ABM marketing – focusing on specific accounts rather than entire industries – extend beyond "significantly higher" returns on investment.

"ABM has specific objectives and a narrow audience," she says, adding that "it is by an integrated, coordinated program of activities that proactively brings valuable propositions and relevant ideas to the client".

It is not only the client that benefits, however, as "ABM also fosters closer cooperation between marketing, account management, and sales, as they work collaboratively to engage and deliver value to specific, named accounts".

To make it work, everyone in the organisation has to know what ABM is, why they're investing in it, and how it works, Burgess advises.

And beyond the ABM basics, marketing leaders and other stakeholders "need to think hard about how best to apply ABM principles and approaches to their specific business model, market context, and sales strategy" – which may mean using more than one type of ABM.

Burgess outlines the three types currently being used – Strategic ABM, ABM Lite and Programmatic ABM – depending on the degree of customisation needed, and the seven-step process that ensures cross-organisational collaboration in crafting the most relevant and effective programs and campaigns.

Whichever type or types of ABM used, companies "need to invest and maintain continuous focus on aligning marketing initiatives with account and overall sales management and processes", she stresses.

One successful approach has been to create a senior-level ABM leadership governing council, representing marketing, sales, practices and services, that can oversee the adoption, execution and alignment of the ABM program, with implementation then placed in the hands of a program management office.

Data sourced from WARC