The Ultimate Guide to B2B ABM: Account-Based Marketing Made Simple

Adam Smartschan

Partner & Chief Strategy Officer

Account-based marketing (ABM) has gained incredible traction in business-to-business marketing. And for good reason. B2B ABM is delivering significant increases in ROI and deal size.  

In this blog post, we’ll break down:

  • What is B2B ABM?
  • Does account-based marketing replace other B2B marketing initiatives?
  • Why B2B organizations need to implement ABM
  • How to get started with B2B ABM

B2B marketing has evolved quickly over the last few years.

Broad campaigns with generic messaging for both traditional and digital channels used to work just fine.

But those days are over.

It’s becoming harder than ever before to grab the attention of B2B buyers with generic messages. If you try to speak to everyone, you might end up speaking to no one.


What are B2B buyers looking for these days?

Today’s B2B buyers demand personalization.

And personalized B2B marketing is what we now call, account-based marketing, or ABM for short.

Yes, I know, you already have plenty of marketing acronyms to deal with. But I promise, if you only learn one more this year, make it B2B ABM.


Because your bottom line (and your CEO) will thank you.

ABM has provided greater ROI for 91% of B2B marketers surveyed by SiriusDecisions in 2019.

Intrigued? Read on …

What Is B2B ABM?

Account-based marketing is much more than a specific B2B marketing tactic.

It’s truly a new category of B2B marketing.

What makes it unique from traditional outbound or inbound marketing is the laser focus on personalization.

In ABM, your focus is on one specific account, rather than the entire target market. You’re going after one company at a time.

ABM content is designed with highly personalized messaging. This content is then distributed through channels that will resonate best with each account.

As HubSpot puts it, account-based marketing is “marketing that’s based on a specific customer, existing or prospective. It’s a market of one.”

Another defining element is the need for tight alignment with sales from the get-go.

This means working together (i.e., in the same room) to outline your complete B2B ABM game plan.

Don’t let this scare you off.

Better alignment between sales and marketing is a good thing. A really good thing.

In fact, 80% of respondents to the 2019 SiriusDecisions survey stated that win rates were higher for ABM accounts.

Coincidence? I think not.

Does ABM Replace other B2B Marketing Initiatives?

The short answer: No.

To make a B2B ABM approach successful, you’ll need to have a solid foundation in place.

This includes a strong brand identity, clearly differentiated and well-positioned in the market. (That’s where your branding team comes in.)

You’ll also need a top-notch website. One that’s fast, modern, easy to navigate, and provides clear and concise information.

For most companies, it’s a good idea to use account-based marketing as a supplement to other types of inbound lead generation campaigns. Not a complete replacement.

(What you probably don’t need are specific ABM software solutions like Terminus and Drift. They’re great, but you can typically do without them.)

Of course, ABM is generally not a silver bullet.

For most companies, it’s a good idea to use account-based marketing as a supplement to other types of inbound lead generation campaigns. Not a complete replacement.

The amount of budget you decide to allocate to ABM will depend on several factors, including:

  • The size of your target market
  • Industry-specific dynamics
  • The cost of your product or service offering
  • Your level of ABM expertise

And, most importantly, it will depend on the size of your entire marketing budget.

Customizing a campaign to each target account requires a large investment.

The investment per target account can range from $1,000 to $36,000, according to ITSMA’s 2018 ABM benchmark study.

Not cheap, but worth every penny for the right targets.

Let’s take a look at why …

Why B2B Companies Need ABM

A quick Google search will reveal a huge number of stats on ABM for B2B marketing. But which ones can you trust?

We’ve got you covered.

Here’s a quick summary of the most important, reliable, and recent stats on B2B, account-based marketing.

Significantly Higher ROI

Forty-five percent of ITSMA’s survey respondents reported that ABM delivers at least double the ROI of other marketing strategies.

While 77% reported achieving at least a 10% increase.

Increased Deal Size

ITSMA’s survey also found that 73% of B2B ABM deals were greater in size than ones generated by traditional marketing efforts.

How much greater?

According to a 2017 ABM in Action survey, B2B companies that implemented ABM saw contract value increase by 171%, on average.

Improved Engagement

99% of B2B marketers surveyed by ITSMA reported that account engagement was higher for ABM accounts.

And remember, this goes for both new prospects and existing accounts.

Improved Customer Experience

ITSMA also found that 67% of ABM accounts resulted in higher levels of customer success.

While 66% were more likely to give positive references. (A huge factor in closing most B2B deals!)

Better Marketing-Sales Alignment

A 2019 Forrester survey reveals that better alignment between sales and marketing is the “No. 1 value that marketers can demonstrate from ABM today.”

And remember, better sales and marketing alignment helps ensure what we’re all striving for. Increased win rates, greater customer engagement, and an improved bottom line.

ABM Budgets Are Growing

The amount of marketing budget dedicated to account-based marketing almost doubled from 15% in 2013 to 28% in 2018, according to ITSMA.

How much is this, exactly?

SiriusDecisions reports that the average ABM budget (excluding headcount) for 2019 was around $350,000.

And 70% of organizations surveyed expect to increase that budget in 2020

How to Get Started with ABM

Convinced ABM is a really good thing for B2B marketers?

Good. Thought so.

Let’s get started. Here’s how to implement a B2B ABM strategy.

Step #1: Define your list of target accounts

Start by meeting with your sales team and customer success folks to nail down your list of target accounts.

Be realistic.

Carefully consider your budget when determining the number of target accounts.

Each one will demand significant time, effort, and funds. (Simply slapping an account’s logo on a display ad does not qualify as B2B ABM!)

Step #2: Gather LOTS of data on your target accounts

Once you have your list of accounts defined, it’s time to gather in-depth information on each of these organizations.

Remember, you need details.

  • How is the company structured?
  • Who are the major decision makers and influencers?
  • What makes each of them tick?
  • How do they define their goals?
  • What are their major challenges? 

Leverage insights from internal resources like your customer success and sales teams.

Complement this first-hand knowledge with some intensive online research.

Check out any public company reports published. And dig into the company and individual social media profiles like LinkedIn.

Step #3: Create personalized ABM materials

Like any other marketing campaign, B2B ABM campaigns involve content and distribution channels.

But again, the difference is that both need to be customized to each target account’s specific needs.

B2B ABM content can include personalized versions of:

  • White papers
  • Video, delivered in video mailers
  • Webinars
  • Case studies
  • Direct-mail pieces
  • Sales presentations
  • Gifts, like posters or food

The key is to ensure your content delivers something of real value to each account.

Put your creative hat on. Set up an unfiltered brainstorming session. And don’t be afraid to insert a bit of fun or humor that will resonate with your target accounts.

You can distributed your personalized content via:

  • Events
  • Executive briefings
  • Retargeting ads
  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • In-person delivery

Consider using a mix of a few different channels to maximize the impact of your ABM program.

Step #4: Set up and run your B2B ABM campaigns

The setup of your ABM program is one of the most crucial steps in the process.

Account-based marketing requires a lot of moving pieces across marketing, sales, and customer success.

For example, rushed or poorly thought-out campaign setup and implementation can result in total failure.

Take your time. Think through and document each event and touchpoint in the campaign.

After that, make sure you have everything (including people and tools) in place to ensure a seamless execution.

Then, press go, right?


Make sure you test the campaign thoroughly before running it to a real-life account.

After all, ABM is a BIG investment …

Better safe than sorry!

Step #5: Measure your B2B ABM campaign results

This sounds like a no-brainer for those of us in the marketing world.

But when it comes to ABM, 40 to 60% of companies surveyed by SiriusDecisions in 2019 were not measuring critical metrics.

The most important metrics you should be measuring include:

  • Return on Investment: How much revenue (from both new and existing target accounts) can you attribute to your ABM initiatives? Is this ROI higher or lower than other types of marketing efforts?
  • Average Deal Size: Compare the average deal size of your ABM accounts to your non-ABM accounts. It should be higher.
  • Win Rate: Of the total number of target accounts, how many did you win? How does this compare to other types of campaigns?
  • Customer Engagement Level: How satisfied are your customers won via B2B ABM? How likely are they to refer your company to others?

The Bottom Line

ABM is an exciting new genre of B2B marketing that is producing incredible results for companies in a wide range of industries.

If you’ve read to the end of this article, I’m guessing you’re a bit new to account-based marketing.

But have no fear! You’re certainly not alone.

Only about one in six business-to-business organizations surveyed by ITSMA has more than three years of ABM under their belt.

If you’re looking for guidance on how to put together your ABM strategy or need tactical campaign support, we’re here to help!

Contact us today and tell us about what you’re looking to achieve with account-based marketing.

Adam Smartschan

Adam Smartschan heads Altitude's strategic marketing and branding efforts. An award-winning writer and editor by trade in a former life, he now specializes in data analytics, search engine optimization, digital advertising strategy, conversion rate optimization and technical integrations. He holds numerous industry certifications and is a frequent speaker on topics around B2B marketing strategy and SEO.