What is Account Based Marketing?

Or why Bert, Erika and Tom are just not enough in B2B marketing.

You are not ordinary. And your customers are no more so, they deserve the best possible service. So serve them all the same marketing campaigns. Um. Wait. What was that again?

Surely you meet each of your customers and accounts personally and respond to their individual needs. Particularly in the B2B sector, no two companies are alike. Openness for a change here or an adaptation there is part of the good tone. They are not the privilege of your long-standing regular customers. Even if it is a worn-out proverb:

The customer is king.

In B2B with comprehensive consulting, multi-member decision-making teams and long sales cycles, this is all the more true. Those who fob off prospective customers here briefly need not be knocking a second time. This also applies to the first brand contact a potential customer has – your online marketing.

If we are honest, there is no Bert, no Erika and no Tom. There are many individual accounts. Truly many.

Do you feel directly addressed when thousands of other people receive the same message as you? Probably not. You wish to be recognized, respected and appreciated as an individual. And you are happy when someone listens to you, understands you and sends you a tailor-made offer. This is exactly what Account Based Marketing does in B2B.

ABM (brevity is the soul of wit!) requires not only other advertising assets, but also a new approach: If we understand each customer individually, he needs his own advertising concept.

But what exactly does account based marketing mean?

The Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) coined this term back in 2004:

“Treating individual accounts as a market in their own right.”

Meaning: Treat each individual customer as an independent market. 

So it is not enough for you to develop good buyer personas. They will always remain a distorted picture of many different interested parties and customers. Always a trace too anonymous and inappropriate.

ABM therefore focuses on the individual company – the account. On this basis you create your marketing campaigns. The advantage is clear: you put yourself in the position of the company to be advertised. This will convince you with the best possible messages.

One account is not enough for successful ABM. What you want is a comprehensive account list of all relevant customer companies.

We want to be honest: ABM requires a new form of cooperation between marketing and sales. Interested parties and customers want to be addressed with the help of a strategy. Not with platitudes and phrases. Implementing this is a strenuous process because the classic sales funnel is turned upside down. First you identify relevant accounts and create commitment with personalized campaigns. Your sales team then builds a long-term relationship with the customer.

Only at the end do you profit from your efforts.

So why use account based marketing?

In an increasingly confusing market with competent competitors, the importance of appealing advertising increases immensely. Interested parties and customers place higher demands not only on products and solutions, but also on the associated marketing.

Advertising must become personal.

At the same time, it is no longer an executive alone who decides with B2B customers. Decision-making bodies are growing. Some already speak of 20 decision-makers for a groundbreaking investment. And who would despise asking all available experts for a fundamental step? After all, a wrong decision in the B2B sector can put a company in serious distress.

It is clear:

Spray and Pray is at the end. Now also in the B2B sector. Due to an exuberant flood of advertising, many users are no longer aware of online ads. Banner blindness is common. The blame lies with inappropriate and annoying advertising.

ABM advocates the opposite: Advertisements that are tailored to the company and individual. The justified feeling that only one person is meant. Pick up at the respective level of knowledge. Who gets involved with it, must count on large expenditure:

  • Create an overview of all customers.
  • Divide the customers into different clusters. As accurately as possible, of course.
  • Create the actual account list from these clusters.
  • Think up a damn good campaign for the account list.
  • Implement.
  • Evaluate and improve.

You are right asking yourself:


And what’s the point?

An incredibly effective sales funnel, as it narrows considerably, according to a recent study by TOPO:

The engagement rate rises to 42%.

21% of accounts become opportunities.

And finally, 11% of target accounts convert.(1)

ABM’s success speaks for itself.


(1) TOPO: 2019 Account Based Benchmark Report, p. 14.