ABM & Cluster Marketing, Part I: Try ABM Lite

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ABM & Cluster Marketing, Part I: Try ABM Lite

In the first part of a two-part report, Joe Stanganelli distinguishes ABM Lite from Strategic ABM.

ABM has become the belle of the B2B marketing ball, showing tremendous promise and driving a lot of investment, return, and enthusiasm – and hype.

Many marketing departments (and the sales teams with whom they work), however, often find a true, devoted ABM strategy exhausting, overwhelming, and even unworkable.  A targeted 2013 study found that nearly one out of every five B2B marketers were seeing “about the same” or lower ROI on ABM initiatives compared to other marketing pursuits.  

Moreover, even when ABM is profitable, it can require a tremendous amount of dedication and the utmost resource investment – typically involving a bare minimum of $25,000 annually on a marketing campaign, with at least one marketer devoting one to five (or more) days a week to that campaign.

For struggling or stressed ABM-ers or would-be ABM-ers, salvation can be found in the relatively nascent methodologies of “cluster marketing” – also known as “ABM Lite.”

ABM Lite is exactly what it sounds like – a watered-down, “diet” version of ABM.  It is a hedged bet, distinctly and substantially favoring ABM strategies over mass marketing, but requiring fewer touchpoints and a lower level of commitment to account individualization.  

Whereas pure-play ABM (also known as “Strategic ABM” – so called because it is generally reserved for “strategic” accounts) employs a strict “one-to-one” account strategy, ABM Lite uses a “one-to-few” account strategy.  Accordingly, while the ROI may generally be lower in ABM Lite will be lower than with platonic ABM, so too will the actual investment.  Moreover, ABM Lite still offers the benefit of being far more personalized and potentially impactful than a non-ABM methodology – and, as such, promises substantially greater ROI.  Indeed, according to the ITSMA 2016 Account-Based Marketing Survey, more than two thirds of all ROI-measuring marketers who use ABM Lite report that ABM Lite “delivers higher ROI than any other marketing approach” (i.e., including Strategic ABM).

Because the entire ABM framework is based on scalability, deploying an ABM Lite model in an organization just getting its feet wet with ABM can be a good start to scaling up to Strategic ABM.  Technology consultancy Capgemini, for instance, recently adopted an ABM Lite approach because the organization lacked the resources to go full throttle with Strategic ABM – but still wanted to leverage some form of ABM for top accounts.

For these reasons, ABM Lite has been enjoying a substantial increase in popularity – both in terms of moving existing accounts to ABM Lite models as well as applying ABM Lite to new accounts.  The ITSMA 2016 ABM Survey shows that the average B2B marketing organization, for every four accounts managed by Strategic ABM, there are nearly 17 accounts that have been relegated to ABM Lite initiatives.  56% of ABM Lite accounts were pre-existing accounts. 

Still, ABM Lite is a form of ABM.  Accounts must be carefully vetted for ABM Lite – arguably more so than for Strategic ABM – to achieve ABM-like optimization and personalization.  In Part II, we’ll examine the evaluation process for identifying optimal ABM Lite accounts, as well as what goes into the actual clustering of cluster marketing.

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