ABM Is Not A ‘Set-It-And-Forget-It’ Tactic

Published: July 31, 2020

Brian BomboraAccount-based marketing (ABM) has its share of disciples who swear that it’s the best way to pursue prospects: 73% of respondents to a Demand Gen Report survey said they practice ABM to “ensure they are targeting the right stakeholders.” Yet, a surprising number of B2B organizations risk being too rigid in their adoption of ABM, focusing solely on their list of target accounts to the detriment of all other potential prospects and marketing opportunities.

ABM doesn’t have to be a locked list with no room for adjustment. In fact, keeping a static ABM list and only working from that list misses the point entirely of focused efforts to improve ROI. B2B marketers can use their target account lists as a starting point to experiment and find new prospects, without devolving back to inefficient spray and pray strategies. All it takes is reliable data and a willingness to go beyond the world of known accounts.

ABM With Blinders On

The reason so many enterprises are adopting ABM is because there is a great deal of value in dealing with targeted accounts. It lets marketing and sales coordinate on efforts, communicate in a one-to-one fashion, and tailor their campaigns and sales efforts with the right messaging for different parts of the funnel. The partner ecosystem is evolving to take advantage of the popularity, with Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) and other platforms building software solutions specifically for ABM.

This tactic has become so popular that there are businesses out there that are now saying they only pursue named accounts, or that they keep a locked ABM list that doesn’t change or grow based on new information.

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Companies that maintain static ABM lists may do so for a number of reasons, including staffing or budget constraints. Still, limiting marketing so severely doesn’t make much sense. If a brand wants to target 500 accounts only, why would it ignore a comparable company outside of those 500 that is displaying intent signals and has similar purchasing power? In other words, why miss out on a sale because it’s outside of the target account list?

Implementing Whitespace Strategies

It seems obvious that there are selling opportunities outside of a locked list of named accounts. The issue is that many B2B marketers seem to think in terms of a binary: ABM is tightly targeted, and everything else is inefficient spray and pray. But that’s not the case. The world of marketing data makes it easy to find new prospects that might be interested in a product or service.

The best place to start is to use a predefined list of accounts as a starter file, then include anything outside of that universe as “new.” When the two spaces – known accounts and new accounts – are defined and separated, it’s easier to manage and manipulate the lists.

B2B marketers can also rely on lookalikes, validating their target-account strategy by identifying and profiling similar types of companies. The accounts that emerge might be net new, but they also look similar to your other named accounts. This is a lot more precise and efficient than opening your marketing strategy to anybody and everybody outside of the list.

Another key thing is to start using this type of strategy with the sales teams. Yes, ABM is about channeling marketing toward the likely targets, but it is often easier to see immediate ROI using new data sources in a sales capacity first, and only then expanding to marketing tactics. Take that list of net new companies generated earlier, hand it to an outbound salesperson and ask them to contact the accounts. They’ll likely have success securing meetings, and it’s much easier to track and attribute the success of that effort than it is to start with marketing and go all the way through the sales cycle waiting for conversions.

The benefits of going beyond an ABM list are significant. B2B companies, like consumers, will move in and out of different stages of the sales funnel, and there may be a promising prospect that you didn’t know the day before. No retail store is going to put someone in the front door and turn people away because they’re not the right audience for the brand or product. Going after new accounts is low hanging fruit, and all ABM-inclined B2B marketers should be doing so.


Brian Dudley is Bombora’s VP of Customer Success. He brings almost 20 years of B2B MarTech and agency experience to Bombora. He oversees the company’s Customer Success and Operations teams and is dedicated to helping clients, partners and agencies get the most out of their relationship with Bombora and intent data.

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