Account-Based Marketing is, at it's core, a reaction of marketers to the increasing ineffectiveness of broader-brushed marketing techniques. It reminds me of when we used to send out direct-mail flyers to promote our events and exhibitions. My boss at that time had a mantra that "it's all about the list", by which he meant that although we should worry about our flyer design, copy and program, none of that would matter if we then sent it to the wrong recipient.
It seems to me that many ABM techniques are an extension of that thinking; essentially applying ever-cleverer machines to refine and segment an audience so the relevance of information delivered and hence the quality of "respondents" is higher than before. Segmenting your audience by which "account" they are from is a very sensible step.
Which all makes a huge amount of sense. Certainly Terminus pointing out that only 1% of leads turn into sales is a call to arms for marketers.
However, another view of the world is given by the data below from Tom Tunguz:
This shows, in numbers, the well known truism that selling to your existing customers is much cheaper than new customer acquisition (just over 10% of the cost for Renewals). So, two questions present themselves; "Why is the gulf between existing customer sales and New Customer Acquisition so huge" and "Where does ABM fit with existing customers?".
For many B2B companies, where there is a longer consultative sale, the answer to the first question is often tied to the "Rolodex" of the Experts within the firm. That is to to say, the relationships held by individuals often bring a great deal of value and when these senior individuals move, the accounts can move with them. This suggests that the product or service of the firm is subordinate to the Expert-to-Expert trust in the buyer journey. Following this logic, having a "bot", however clever, disturbing the conversation between a rainmaker and their client would be very detrimental.
This is where the importance of bringing the knowledge and relationships of the Experts into the marketing mix is so important. Being able to build the person-to-person, Expert-to-Expert relationships and deepen the trust between these individuals can help to build not just the new business funnel but also the, far more valuable, relationships with your existing clients.
The whole point of the last 15 years, the problem we were solving for was, “How do I optimize for the right person, at the right time, with the right product I want to sell?” So finally, with ABM we just went in a different direction than just generating more of the same… So I think it’s a natural evolution, but the problem is still the same: How do I give my sales team the best opportunity to win?