B2B marketers are people too and like everyone else, they watch Game of Thrones1. Also, like everyone else, they love a good marketing trend. So, they know that there’s one topic colleagues are talking about even more than GOT these days – Account Based Marketing. Which is more exciting: GOT or ABM? I know it’s hard to decide, so read this post to help you choose.

Battle-tested B2B marketers say, “I’ve been doing account based marketing for years!” For decades, demand generation specialists have done laser focused marketing to the “strategic” or “named” accounts, primarily with events and CRM.

So why all the ABM hype? And why now?

Platforms are our dragons

In GOT, Daenerys now has three grown dragons. With innovations in Martech, B2B marketers now have two. Both have grown and they’re going to use them:

Technology Platforms – Salesforce and Oracle Marketing Clouds and many others – now allow us to personalize our owned digital media down to the strategic account level. More dynamically with greater automation than ever before.

Media Platforms – LinkedIn and a host of other players – now allow us to surround the strategic account, driving preference and action. Also, more dynamically with greater automation than ever before.

Recently, Pragmatic has seen fixed investments in tech platforms, like Pardot and Marketo, accelerate interest in ABM. Others in the B2B ecosystem like DemandBase and Triblio, who enrich account-level intelligence, also stoke the ABM flames.

Many argue that B2B media platforms are not grown yet and are still an area ripe for innovation. We can also debate whether or not Google, “B2C” paid social, and existing programmatic buying meet our needs. But suffice it to say that LinkedIn alone is now beating the ABM drum loudly.

One trend we are already seeing emerge is technology and media platforms not integrated together and quickly turning into individual silos or “houses” as they say in GOT.

As always, it starts with the data

ABM is about synchronizing initiatives across channels to prioritized accounts. To do so, there must be a data environment that delivers a single account view across sources. In a way, the rise of ABM simply increases the urgency for centralized data management. And this environment must not only bring together sales and marketing data, but must now synthesize the mountains of data from the platforms.

We see organizations start down ABM with little attention to their fractured, broken data environment. Meanwhile, platforms only exacerbate this by creating new instances, adding to a fractured ecosystem. So, more siloed houses.

Additionally, envisioned ABM requires low data latency, data completeness, and two-way capture of sales disposition and marketing promo history.

So to maximize investments in platforms, we start with the data. Once a data strategy is in place to support ABM, capitalizing on the platforms, while no small feat, becomes a matter of connecting the pipes.

Five Competencies

It is our view that ABM requires five competencies, working in concert, that modern B2B marketing organizations must acculturate. And note that these are competencies. After all, technology and media platforms are just “things.” It is people with their skill set and resident knowledge to activate them that bring their value to life.

While data is the centerpiece, a close second is Sales Alignment. If you are armed with a single account view and have alignment with sales, you have fundamental ABM. With that foundation, you can now unleash your platforms to breathe fire across your channels. And not only is sales alignment a competency, as the experienced B2B marketer knows, it is an art form. It is even more critical for ABM since these are strategic accounts being heavily targeted by sales.

Content Creation has been a hot topic these days. This is in part because ABM implies your content moves beyond just industry, company size and title segmentation into personalized journey experiences. Across many channels that you access from the platforms. All of this amounts to a massive resource and thought leadership requirement. This merits its own post on creating a “content factory” capability in your organization.

So, did you decide which is more exciting?

Whichever you choose, it is definitely an interesting time to be a B2B marketer. Whether we still call it “Account Based Marketing” in a few years or not, the idea that we target top accounts by centralizing data and unleashing the power of the platforms will be the end game. And those that master the five competencies will be sitting on the throne.

1I am informed that not everyone watches GOT, so I apologize to those folks who might feel left out.