Why we do ABM completely backwards – and how to fix it


Account-based marketing (ABM) was created to break the noise. But what if we’ve been doing it backwards all along?

ABM’s fundamental strategy is to focus our marketing and sales efforts on “target accounts” based on company data that we believe will most likely qualify companies who will buy our products or services. The thought is, if your company is a certain size, structure and in a certain industry or location, you are more likely to buy from us.

This makes sense in principle, which is why companies typically achieve great results when they switch to an ABM strategy. We shouldn’t expect to sell sophisticated CRMs or enterprise marketing automation software to mom and pop stores, for example.

So by focusing on companies that match our ideal customer firmographies, we can save our marketing dollars and sales contacts for potential customers who match our Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP) and show them how our B2B products provide the solution are what you’ve been looking for.

But does all of this activity mean that we really understand our customers’ needs?

Firmographies don’t tell the whole story

As a consumer, you no doubt fall into a variety of categories based on your age, gender, location, etc., but you would also likely agree that you don’t have exactly the same interests as everyone else in your demographic. Not all women like mascara, and not all men want power tools. And even if they do, these characteristics alone cannot predict that they are ready to buy these things right now.

So why do we think this logic extends to companies?

You can see where the traditional ABM approach is reaching the limits by identifying some of the biggest challenges marketers face in ABM strategies: figuring out how to personalize their digital marketing campaigns on a large scale and knowing which companies are in the right place Stage are in the buying cycle.

For example, just because you know that “IT companies with 1,000-10,000 employees” typically buy your products doesn’t mean that your standard monthly newsletter will resonate with the specific target accounts on your list or that they are actually interested To buy your product now.

That’s the root of the problem with traditional ABM: We end up knowing a lot about our customers … without really knowing them.

This is why so many B2B buyers forego marketers. B2B buyers are completely inundated with ads and emails for products and services they should be interested in based on firmographic analysis. However, if the buyer is not actively in the market for these solutions, it can result in wasted spending, with both the marketer and buyer being disappointed with the results of the contact.

Switch to “Buyer-Led ABM”

In order to better serve us and our buyers, it is time to turn the ABM strategy on its head. Instead of selecting accounts based on characteristics and trying to generate interest, we need to prioritize our target customers based on their interest and then qualify them according to firmographic characteristics.

We need to rethink the traditional ABM model and put future customers at the center of our digital marketing strategy development process. It’s ABM with a heart – or, as we like to call it at Bombora, Buyer-Led ABM.

Buyer-led ABM is what it sounds like: you keep the same focus and efficiency as traditional ABM, but now let your buyer tell you when they are interested in your solution and what they would like to know about it.

How do you ask With intent dates.

Almost half of B2B buyers find a solution by doing their own independent online research. Intent data providers can collect data on this research and provide you with a simplified report that ranks your target accounts based on the active interest they are currently showing in your solution or related topics.

Intent data helps solve some of ABM’s biggest challenges:

  • Once you know what topics your buyers are most interested in, you can customize your messages and reach to target the topics that interest them most.
  • By understanding which prospects are most actively looking for your solution, you can know which of them is most receptive to marketing messages at any given time.
  • By knowing which competitors are distracting your prospects from the value of your brands, you will gain competitive intelligence on where to increase awareness and differentiation.

Source: Bombora’s Guide to Buyer-Led ABM.

Established intent data providers can even integrate the data into their marketing stack so you can customize performance and organic marketing campaigns to deliver personalized messages in real time without retraining your team or moving to a new platform.

Your buyers will feel like you miraculously showed up in the right place at the right time, and you can be sure that your messages and reach will appeal to your customers’ interests and needs – not just their “category”.

So, are you ready to flip your ABM and see which buyers can’t wait to hear from you? Check out our latest guide to learn more.

This article was written by Kate Athmer, VP of Growth at Bombora, where she is primarily responsible for generating demand and driving growth by finding ways to help clients get more value from their Intent data investments pull.


Jeffrey Rabinowitz