P1043217 (4)


12th February 2024

You know what's funny about The Office? (Aside from Steve Carrell, Kevin's famous chilli, etc.)

The B2B paper company they worked for had at least five sales staff and no marketing department.

Of course, it was made at a different time (the noughties), when businesses relied on traditional marketing methods such as telemarketing. These days, all sales teams would benefit from putting the phones down, working with their marketing teams, and becoming experts in Account-Based Marketing (ABM).

But you're a B2B marketer, so you already know that. Let's dig deeper into ABM vs traditional marketing, including the key differences and ABM best practices. 

What Is ABM vs Traditional Marketing?

The key differences between account-based marketing vs traditional marketing boil down to two things: data and personalization. It's the difference between understanding who your best potential leads are, and what they need, so you can target them most effectively.

Firstly, let’s look at what traditional marketing is. We mentioned telemarketing, but it applies to any method from before marketers had access to data.

Most traditional marketing methods take a 'scattergun' approach: for example, posting an advert in a B2B journal, with the journal's readership figures (often inflated) to hand, but no way of knowing who will actually see your ad.

In comparison, digital display advertising gives you a lot more data on who has viewed your ads and the opportunity to refine which audiences see your ads, but it's one of the closest matching digital marketing strategies to the more traditional marketing methods of days gone by.

What Is ABM? & How Is Account-Based Marketing Different? 

With ABM, you should first identify who your targets are: which businesses are the most relevant and importantly, the most valuable.

You'll then create a list, called a Target Account List (TAL), made up of those businesses and others like them. Ideally, this should be done in collaboration with your sales team to achieve true sales and marketing alignment.

Your ABM lead generation is then geared specifically toward these target accounts, and personalized to them.

Customers expect this from brands now. Traditional marketing is losing force as customers want increasing levels of understanding of their pain points. In fact, 73% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, according to Salesforce.

At the same time, 71% of marketers say that meeting customer expectations is more difficult than a year ago. Traditional marketing methods are not dynamic; you can't follow shifts in customer expectations if you don't know who your customers are, or what they want.

ABM also borrows from B2C strategies, which trailblazed personalized messaging and engagement. It's thought that B2B marketers now allocate an average of 15% of their budget to ABM.

Headley Media colleagues discussing ABM in a meeting

What Are the Benefits of ABM?

The benefits of account-based marketing vs traditional marketing are numerous. Personalized communications that cut through the noise and actively help businesses are obviously going to be more successful than random emails. But there's more to ABM than sending personalized emails.

Here are four of the major benefits of ABM:

  • Increased budget efficiency
  • Better relationships with customers
  • The luxury of time
  • Collaborative working

 Let's explore each ABM benefit in more detail.

ABM Benefit #1 - Increased Budget Efficiency

Have you ever done some traditional marketing, such as a mass email campaign or a paid advert, that was hard to track, got no traction, and generated no leads whatsoever? That's still fairly common and represents a huge wasted investment.

Account-based marketing solutions use data to ensure your marketing spend is going towards those most likely to need your products, so you're more likely to see the ROI.

ABM Benefit #2 - Better Relationships With Customers

Your ABM lead generation process counts towards the total customer service journey. Start it as you mean to go on: get to know your leads so that you can offer them something valuable from the start.

In an Alterra survey, 84% of marketers said ABM significantly benefits retaining and expanding existing relationships. Partly it's because targeted communications are less annoying than unfocused mass messaging.

Headley Media colleague talking in a meeting

ABM Benefit #3 - The Luxury of Time

The word 'traditional' implies slower, more leisurely-paced; not like the frenzied marketing methods of today. But actually, ABM can give you more time than traditional marketing.

With a shorter list of accounts to target, rather than attempting to reach thousands of nameless, faceless leads, you have more time to develop your approach.

With ABM you can:

  • Research your targets carefully.
  • Spend time developing and personalizing your messaging.
  • Find the channels most likely to reach them, e.g. email, social media, content syndication.

ABM Benefit #4 - Collaborative Working

As well as all the ABM benefits we've already discussed, ABM encourages collaboration between your sales and marketing teams.

LinkedIn even says it “forces teams to align”, and 82% of B2B marketers said ABM greatly improves the alignment between marketing and sales at their company.

That's because sales and marketing need be in sync to ensure the right messaging for each account, and that brings major benefits to employers; including higher revenues in less time.

ABM vs Traditional Marketing Example

Traditional Marketing  Account-Based Marketing
  • Company B spends a similar amount on an ABM lead gen campaign, working with the supplier to build a list of 500 targets using quality data sources.
  • Company A doesn't know how the leads they received were generated (red flag alert - check out our quality lead generation checklist!). 
  • Company B spends time researching its 500 leads, grouping them based on the additional data they have, and assigning each lead with a score based on information such as their need and timeframe. 
  • Company A sends out 5,000 emails once a week, with well-written but similar, generic messaging.
  • Company B uses 12 different email templates and personalizes the emails to each lead depending on the data they have on each prospect.
  • Company A continues regular email blasts that get little to no traction.
  • Company B nurtures its leads, including content syndication to target leads who are actively researching solutions.
  • Company A converts four leads into new clients within a year, and alienates 4,996 others.
  • Company B converts 15 of its leads into new clients within a year, with dozens still in the marketing funnel and interested in its brand for future needs.

How Can You Measure ABM?

Lead generation is considered the top ABM KPI by 42% of ABM marketers, according to Terminus, while LinkedIn gives ‘revenue won’ as one of the most common account-based marketing metrics.

New business generation, customer retention and pipeline acceleration are also some of the other major account-based marketing KPIs.

Best Account-Based Marketing Tactics

Now that we've looked at some of the benefits of ABM, here are some of our favorite ABM tactics, and why they're successful over traditional marketing methods.

Headley Media colleagues in a meeting

ABM Tactic #1 - Building a TAL

A classic traditional marketing method is to generate as many leads as possible and then hit those thousands of new, unknowable contacts with untargeted mass email campaigns.

Whereas in ABM, you build a select Target Account List (TAL) based on which businesses will be most lucrative as clients, and which have the most need of your product. Using intent data, you can get to know each of your targets and personalize all your communications, so the target gets more value from you and sees the benefit of working with you quickly.

Beware, though: it can be tempting to keep your TAL very small and select, running the risk of making it too small. Even those businesses you've identified as being a great fit might have no interest when you contact them. The ideal size for a TAL is 400-500 leads minimum.

ABM Tactic #2 - Inclusion... and Exclusion 

ABM vs traditional marketing again: in a traditional email campaign, it's harder to be discriminating. It can be easy to ignore the hundreds of bouncebacks you get, or keep hammering away at leads that simply aren't going to convert. Worse, you might be contacting your existing customers with irrelevant upper-funnel content.

Who you exclude in your TAL can be just as important as who you include. Who don't you want to target?

Your exclusion zone might be your existing customers, companies that are wedded to your competitors' products, or companies you've identified as unsuitable for your business – whether because they're too small to be profitable, or too big to need your solution.

ABM Tactic #3 - ABM Content Syndication

Content syndication for ABM works really well because you can put useful resources in front of your targets via 3rd party content libraries. They'll find your content organically when they're researching on these account-based marketing platforms, and become a lead through a transparent, robust lead generation process.

Content syndication is where you publish a piece of content, such as an eBook or case study, to brand new audiences via content syndication platforms you don't own. Account-based marketing companies like Headley Media own their own content libraries, read and trusted by decision-makers in the sectors you're targeting. When they download your content, they give their business contact details in return, which qualifies them as a lead.

At Headley Media, an account-based marketing agency in the UK, we run ABM campaigns, helping you to build and expand your TAL with lookalike audiences, then specifically targeting our readers who are on your TAL.

Headley Media colleague working at desk

Choosing An Account-Based Marketing Agency

Compared to the modest success rates of traditional marketing, some of the stats associated with ABM are almost mind-blowing:

To achieve these results, though, you have to treat ABM as a premium approach. It can't be rushed, and don't expect success to come immediately: let your campaigns mature. There are several common pitfalls to ABM, which we've laid out in our free eBook.

To choose an ABM supplier, consider whether you need help creating or expanding your TAL. A good ABM agency will be able to help you do this, using lookalike audiences to find different companies with similar profiles and business needs.

A specialist will also take a consultative approach to your account-based marketing campaigns, getting to know your business and offering personalized advice.

The other thing to consider is whether your ABM content syndication supplier is transparent and trustworthy. They should be able to show you exactly where your leads come from, with data generated by their own content libraries and authenticated before delivery.

Read our Lead Generation Checklist to ensure your supplier ticks all the boxes, and check out our Complete Guide to ABM here!