The original intent of Account Based Marketing (ABM) was to align marketing and sales, and it’s served its purpose as a launching point for getting organizations to recognize that alignment is critical for a successful go-to-market strategy. But does it really foster alignment?

As organizations implement ABM strategies, some of the model’s shortcomings are brought to light. Primarily, its focus on marketing. The ABM movement wanted to change the way marketers did their jobs so results would be more meaningful to sales. But, changing only one department’s processes is like the tail wagging the dog.

There’s no question that the tide has been changing for quite some time. Where there used to be only a couple influencers within an organization that needed buy-in to close a deal, now there could be upwards of seven — and these folks are cross-functional. Everyone from the end user up to the CEO might now have a say in buying decisions, and it’s forced marketing to shift its strategies to keep up with sales’ focus on the account rather than the individual. It makes sense, and it works to some degree.

But as President & Chief Strategist Trish Bertuzzi of The Bridge Group says, “Selling to companies, not individual prospects isn’t account-based anything. Prospecting more than one person in an account is fantastic, but that’s account-centric selling – or just good old fashioned selling – and it was innovative in 2004. With account-based, you need to think in terms of resource allocation per account, and that requires a cross-functional team that often extends beyond the sales and marketing organizations.”

As we’ve come to recognize the nuances between account-centric and account-based, this continued silo effect becomes more apparent and we find ourselves asking, “How do we really achieve alignment?” The answer is surprisingly simple.

It’s all about the bottom line.

Show Me The Money – Account Based Revenue Plays

ABM is not dead, but organizations are expanding on the concept. Rather than having sales and marketing focused on account-centric strategies, companies now target a shared, cross-functional goal of revenue from best-fit accounts. So, the more appropriate, silo-dissolving, cross-functional, and goal-oriented term is Account Based Revenue (ABR).

With an ABR model, it’s ok – and preferable actually – to see some blurring of lines between sales and marketing roles. Sales development representatives might even be co-located with marketing demand generation professionals to facilitate alignment and work as a singular team on strategy and execution. When the two are put together, and actually work in harmony, we see major changes in how both get the job done; not marketing coming to sales’ side or vice versa.

In an ABR strategy, account-focused plays are the name of the game. Having solid plans in place to engage target accounts at every level within the organization helps drive conversions, decision making, and revenue.

Let’s take a look at a sample ABR play:

  1. Using ABM tactics, marketing produces high-quality, meaningful leads sales can engage with.
  2. Sales begins nurturing these leads through emails, calls, social interaction and more.
  3. Using key account insights, sales personalizes content templates marketing developed to create powerful, actionable campaigns addressing the target account’s pain points and challenges.
  4. When appropriate, the vendor’s executive(s) reach out to their counterpart(s) within the target accounts.

Image courtesy of Craig Rosenberg’s Topo Blog


According to Trish Bertuzzi, President & Chief Strategist of The Bridge Group, “Real Account Based Revenue strategies are not about sending a cupcake so your SDR can book a meeting. That is a tactic not a strategy that may work if you are selling in the low end of the ASP pool. Those who are implementing ABR well, and are focused on larger deals from larger accounts, have taken an all hands on deck approach to determining how to surround those accounts with personalized sales and marketing messages that are relevant at both the account and the buyer levels. ABR Plays are so well choreographed and executed that the target account raises their hand and shouts ‘Hey, I want to talk to you and, after I do, then you can send me that damn cupcake!'”

Developing Custom ABR Plays

According to Brandon Redlinger, Director of Growth at Engagio, “Account Based Plays are crucial for orchestrating interactions across departments and channels. If you want to achieve a specific business objective, such as opening doors or reaching buying centers at target accounts, pre-designed Plays are the best way to ensure that your entire team follows best practices throughout the sales process – from the first interaction to the last.”

Keep in mind that an organization’s plays will be specific to their business model. There is no one-size-fits-all play that’s going to work every time for everybody. Your goals, your resources and assets, your solution, and the buying behaviors of your accounts will all affect the types of plays you develop.

They key to moving forward with the next phase of your ABM strategy is thinking outside the marketing box, connecting all actions to revenue and working in concert across your entire organization.

Today’s post is by guest author Matt Benati, CEO & Co-Founder of LeadGnome, an Account Based Intelligence web service that mines reply emails to grow pipeline and increase sales velocity by generating new contacts, providing actionable sales intelligence, and enhancing existing leads.