What is ABM, and is it Right for You? (Part 1 of 7)

For this introductory post in our ABM series, we tapped Lisa Ames, VP of marketing at Lucidworks, for some I've-been-there insights.
What is ABM


This blog post is the first in Alyce’s seven-part series on account-based marketing best practices. For this post on ABM basics, we tapped Lisa Ames, VP of marketing at Lucidworks, for her I’ve-been-there insights.

Over the years, a “more is more” mindset has been ingrained in B2B marketers. But, what if more isn’t always the right kind of more?

For example, if sales teams sound the alarm that they need to close more business, the response from marketing may be, “Let’s cast a wider net to pull in more leads.” And sure, the marketing team might end up bringing in a higher number of leads, but are they the right leads that sales can convert into closed-won business? Unfortunately, “more is more” marketing can often result in more miscommunication with sales and more leads that end up getting tossed out of the funnel altogether.

This is where many B2B marketers have started thinking, “Maybe more isn’t always more,” and where we see the origins of account-based marketing (ABM).

What is ABM, Really?

We recently caught up with Lisa Ames, VP of marketing at Lucidworks and former VP of demand gen at Demandbase, to get her take on what ABM is all about at its core, and how B2B marketers can determine if this is a strategy that makes sense for them.

“The simplest way to define ABM is that it comes down to aligning marketing and sales around an account-based approach, identifying the accounts most likely to buy from your company, and then marketing and selling to those target accounts as a team,” Lisa says.

And, when you put it that way, it does sound simple. Get aligned, make a list, market to the list. However, making a mindset and behavior shift from “more is more” to “targeted is better” doesn’t always feel simple. For some marketers, it feels anything but.

“When ABM represents a different way of thinking for B2B marketers, it can sound a little scary, and it can be all too easy to overthink things or get in your own way,” Lisa explains. “In my role at Demandbase, I talked with hundreds of marketers about account-based strategies, and there were plenty of times when it was clear the term ‘ABM’ made people feel nervous. But when I shifted the conversation away from ABM specifically, and asked questions like, ‘Do you have some accounts that matter more than others?’ and ‘Would your sales team like to see leads from these accounts more than others?’ the marketers in the room always said yes.”

Is ABM Right for Your Business?

What is so interesting about Lisa’s conversation-shifting example is that when you strip away a term that might make marketers feel like they’re in uncharted territory, the ideas behind it all ring true. And this lines up with how ABM has begun to evolve in B2B marketing – people had begun asking new questions and trying new approaches before we stuck the ABM label on.

“In general, any B2B marketer is a fit for ABM,” Lisa says. “Unlike B2C where you may want millions of customers, B2B marketers inherently have a sense that there are some accounts that are a better fit for your business than others. So, the starting point for ABM is shifting your thinking to focus marketing efforts on going after those potential customers, not anyone and everyone in your addressable market.”

Getting Started with an ABM Strategy

In the course of her career, Lisa has been part of marketing teams with varying degrees of ABM maturity. In some cases, she’s joined a team that already had an ABM ethos, and in others, she kickstarted ABM from scratch.

“Building an ABM strategy can be a crawl, walk, run progression,” she says.

“Building an ABM strategy can be a crawl, walk, run progression,” she says.

“When I joined Lucidworks, we had agreement that ABM was a smart strategy, but nothing in place yet. My idea for a quick win here was to build an initial target account list and then start marketing to those contacts through content syndication. In a few hours, we developed a list of accounts we believe are likely to buy from us, validated and adjusted in collaboration with the sales team, and turned on content syndication with our vendor. Now we have leads coming in from our list, and my sales team is nodding, saying ‘Yes, I’m getting more leads at accounts I want to sell to.’”

And that kind of “more” should be music to marketers’ ears.

The Moral of the Story

  • “Targeted is better” is beginning to replace “more is more” marketing
  • At its core, ABM comes down to an alignment of marketing and sales around a list of target accounts
  • ABM doesn’t have to be scary or run-before-you-crawl endeavor
  • Whether you call it ABM or something else, you can take simple steps right now to begin building an account-based strategy

Many thanks to ABM champion Lisa Ames for her words of wisdom on this topic.
Have your own ideas to add? Drop the Alyce team a line to talk shop.

April 1, 2019
Nina Butler
Nina Butler

A born-again Bostonian and Martha’s Vineyard native (yes, people do actually live there year-round), I attribute my passion for making personal connections in my personal and professional life to my neighborly Island roots. I joined Team Alyce in January 2019 to be a part of a bigger story and have a little fun while doing it :) . While not riding the startup roller coaster, I love spending time traveling with my unbearably cute niece and nephew, attending New England sports championship parades and taking in the sun and sea at my favorite local beaches.