You might have a board member that swears by the “dialing for dollars” approach or a former enterprise executive that wants to go big with broad inbound marketing. But the reality for any startup or emerging technology is a harsh one – very little budget and very little runway. You’ve got to take on a strategy that makes efficient use of spend and can be counted on for success. Enter ABM — Account Based Marketing.

What is Account Based Marketing anyway?

It’s not rocket science and it will sound a whole lot like target account selling that has been around for ages. It’s really an enhancement of the target account approach with a fancy new name. The new name arose because of new technology available that can automate much of the work of ABM for marketing and sales.

In a nutshell, ABM is the practice of: 

  1. Identifying target accounts and personas.
  2. Focusing sales and marketing efforts on engaging ONLY those accounts and personas.
  3. Nurturing that engagement until the account (with multiple engaged leads) is ready to enter the pipeline.

Why is ABM so successful?

The reason ABM is working for so many B2B companies is:

  1. Traditional practices aren’t working. Prospects don’t pick up their phones and read emails anymore.
  2. The ability to target ads, content and even website content directly to the IP address of the account and titles you are targeting within the account is extremely effective. 
  3. Focus brings results. When sales and marketing learns about the pains of each account, your messaging and corresponding receipt of that message becomes much more effective.

But what makes it so good for a small business?


It’s really that simple. ABM forces you to focus and that’s good because you don’t have a lot of resources. You need those precious resources aimed squarely at the prospects most likely to buy.

Isn’t cold calling and email blasts a more proven approach?

These tactics used to work extremely well for the investment. But today’s reality is that the buyer has taken back control of the sales process. They no longer answer their phones nor open unwanted emails. They are bombarded with noise and the only way to get their attention is with content that directly addresses their needs and explains how it solves their pains. More importantly, they want to self-educate before they have a conversation with you.

While this may seem like a daunting challenge, if you are in a young company just starting to think about expanding sales and marketing this is great news. Unlike larger companies who are struggling to transition (which is people and process as much as technology), you can hit the ground running with a team that is completely on board with a more focused approach.

Isn’t it too early to reduce my addressable market to target accounts?

Focus is scary. Particularly to sales leaders who see it as reducing their market size. To ease your fears, revisit a great business growth book, Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey Moore. In the book, Moore clearly demonstrates how having a more focused approach to go-to-market will drive better results. 

Instead of thinking of your market size being reduced, think of this as a place to start attacking it. Figure out your first “bowling pin”, then line up adjacent markets as the next bowling pins to focus on after you’ve conquered the first set of target accounts.

What resources do I need to pull it off?

Not much. Focus on resources for these four areas and you can build and automate later.

Target account list

The hardest part of ABM is asking the right questions and getting the right data to determine your ideal customer (see process and example), then finding all of the accounts that fit that ideal. This may require a data provider. Don’t be intimidated by list prices, they do have packages for startups with just a handful of users and that is all you need.

Personalized content

Once you have your target list, you’ll need to understand the personas to target and the pain they are experiencing that your solution solves. Create strong thought leadership assets and messaging for sales that hones in on what your targets care about (see sample list of ABM content to create).

Targeted advertisement

With assets created and target list in hand, create targeted IP ads in networks like LinkedIn and Google. Just upload your target account list and identify titles to target and your ad spend will only go to those targets. Which means your ad can feature the great personalized thought leadership content and be delivered to targeted buying personas. Have these ads lead to personalized landing pages to help drive conversion until you are ready to invest in website personalization. Additionally, create personalized email nurture campaigns to help your target personas self-educate and engage across the account.

Personalized engagement

Your salespeople can also help generate demand by utilizing social selling and personalized video (individuals can get free licenses)  to penetrate into these target accounts. This is not a volume exercise, but a personalized effort to understand each account and persona within the account to gain entry. BDRs can play a key role here too!

Where can I get help?

There are some great guides that ABM technology vendors are putting out. A quick Google search on “Account Based Marketing” will turn up a plethora of information. Additionally, spend some time looking at the #flipmyfunnel community. This is vendor agnostic and has great resources as well as access to ABM practitioners. Lastly, there are ABM consultants who can guide companies through this process.

Don’t waste your investment dollars chasing after go-to-market strategies that are no longer effective. Start using ABM today and watch your company grow!