Aug 24, 2023 Paul Sullivan

What is blended ABM - and when is it better than Demand Generation?

Today’s marketing leaders are asked to produce more with less, driving deeper cross-functional alignment and contributing to revenue growth.

Let’s face it: Life is tough for today’s marketing leader in a role often under-supported, disrespected and now underfunded. The facts show that you can thrive in a recession or downturn (there are even books written on it), yet swathes of companies' first thought is to cut the marketing budget. That doesn’t even make sense to me. I mean, cut certain types of campaigns for sure, but just reducing marketing to a budget line doesn’t smack of excellent business sense.

But rather than poke at the powers that be, why don’t we look at how today’s marketers can achieve all they are being asked, with a reduced budget - and still deliver a quality pipeline of sales-ready opportunities?

Enter Blended Account-Based Marketing

The definition of Blended ABM

Blended ABM, blended account-based marketing or ABM blended - all three can be used interchangeably - is the strategy of utilising all three known ABM strategies: one-to-many, one-to-few and one-to-one simultaneously. It suits B2B technology and services companies with a broad market and enterprise offer. It assumes that your customers can scale the use of your product/service across the lifetime value of the relationship. 

So why blended ABM? In truth, I love everything that ABM needs at its core to succeed, like:

  • Sales enablement
  • Cross-functional alignment
  • A single source of customer data
  • A highly integrated tech stack*
  • Optimised onboarding with a highly defined customer success playbook
  • A highly defined approach to named target accounts

As you can see, this is a great way to build a roadmap that underpins your revenue operation's growth model and enables you to move toward that with a clearly defined strategy reliant on cross-functional alliances, a shared data source and a single view of your customer.

But beyond that, blended strategy ABM is perfect for established companies with a valid enterprise offering as part of their product or service suite. It helps you partner with your customers on their pathway to growth and builds long-term relationships. It also helps your organisation pre-plan on a net new, retained and expansion revenue strategy - or at least that’s how we deliver it.

A potential roadblock for this strategy is that whilst it's easy to implement, many companies are reluctant to commit to wholesale change and prefer to maintain the status quo even if they can see the pain in the figures across the pipeline. It's the shift to a single tech stack, a new approach to customer acquisition and the “what if” scenarios that play out. 

We’ve got ahead of this at BIAS with AMPLIFY©, a product for HubSpot teams dedicated to blended ABM or traditional ABM as a strategy and aligning with your sales and customer success teams.

Blended ABM for net-new business

Many companies see ABM (in all its understood forms) as a critical driver of growth for net new target accounts, and it can be, but you can also use it for expansion revenue strategies. So you see, ABM isn’t just a line in the budget. It’s a wholesale culture shift into how you win new business and change your go-to-market plan. 

ABM is all about a deep understanding of your customers and how you best help them achieve their goals and solve their challenges. It’s about building relationships rather than closing deals and developing playbooks to help them repeat the early successes that your product or service can help them attain.

It’s also about people in a way that demand gen isn’t. It’s about hyper-personalisation rather than generic persona-led messaging. It’s about having absolute clarity across your whole organisation on who you help, why, how and when they can expect to achieve their own goals with you. It’s about knowing the customer by name, their story by heart and being so well-briefed that you know your client's businesses almost as well as your own.

In short, blended ABM is powerful because it's about targeting who you know well enough to shorten the sales cycle, increase the closed-won volume of lookalike customers, and, if needed, narrow down and niche to expand further. After all, you will have the defined playbook based on this ICP.

So, what characteristics are you looking for in this great-fit ICP? Beyond the firmographic and technographic, those:

  • With the longest average lifespan with your company
  • With the most natural expansion revenue opportunities
  • Who benefit most from this product or service, typically reflected in product/service adoption (cross-sell/upsell)
  • Those who would grow from your standard offering into an enterprise offering within a fixed period (natural account expansion through growth)

It’s about deliberately targeting the accounts that provide the best return on investment and activating them from inertia. It means you reach out to particular companies with a plan for their growth or growth from adopting your solution, explaining how and why they should shift from a holding pattern and commit to changing their circumstances.

You use the technology that enables you to target the specific person in the buying committee with the proper marketing and sales mix, and you can predictably explain how building a relationship with you will drive a better outcome for them.

Why not Demand Generation or Inbound Marketing?

ABM blended isn’t a reactionary approach to customer acquisition like Inbound or demand gen, which, despite its given title, is still highly driven by persona-led messaging, targeting personas and an ICP - that’s the significant difference between demand generation programs and blended ABM.

Demand generation strategy takes your ICP, builds a funnel based on said pain-point or benefits-led messaging and hopes that you incite a reaction from said persona somewhere on the internet. It's reliant on a target buyer being able and willing to act. Hence, it's a reactionary campaign because other influences are at play here:

  • Budget restrictions are causing inertia in your market
  • Too many solution options are causing inertia in your market
  • Too much content and “influencer” opinion is causing inertia in your marketplace
  • Misalignment of messaging between your marketing and sales teams is causing issues within your pipeline
  • Demand gen teams typically don’t focus on sales enablement as part of the overarching campaign 
  • And they certainly aren’t aligning with their CS teams for a comprehensive customer acquisition and retention strategy

But do I believe in demand gen as a strategy? Of course, every tactic has a place in the marketing mix for the correct type of organisation. ABM blended takes demand generation and flips it upside down so that you include similar tactics but a defined list of target accounts. Hence, you reduce waste of ad spend, misallocation of time and content mix and focus only on proving to the target account list how you help them and others like them.

So, particularly for companies who serve both the broader market and enterprise, ABM blended has to be your go-to - or at least deeply explored.

Please read another of our articles, How to target the buying committee alongside this to flesh out this approach in more detail.

Published by Paul Sullivan August 24, 2023
Paul Sullivan