What is account based marketing and what is an ABM platform?

What is account based marketing ?

This content was originally published in the Elevate Your Marketing newsletter and has been repurposed and republished here with the author’s permission. 

ABM (Account Based Marketing) is misunderstood as much as it is simple. The more I interact with entrepreneurs, business leaders, and even marketers, I get a sense that not many understand it end to end, especially if we delve into the details.

This is why I decided to begin a series on ABM where we will discuss:

  1. What ABM really is.
  2. What is an ABM platform and what are the different types of ABM platforms?
  3. How to build an ABM tech stack that achieves the desired ROI?
  4. What are the factors to consider while choosing an ABM platform?
  5. What are the pros and cons of using an ABM platform?

…and more.

Today, we will cover the first two points, and a bit of point #3 as we dive deep into the details of 1 and 2. This is only going to be the first of many articles where we discuss everything ABM.

That said, let us jump right in.


What is ABM?

To many, ABM is just about coming up with an account & contact list and running email campaigns to them. For others, it is running account-based PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns on LinkedIn. And many see it as an activity done once in a full moon and forgotten.

The reality is that ABM is a combination of all of this. Simply put,

ABM is the combination of marketing techniques used to target, engage, and finally convert a focused set of accounts.

It’s not one channel. It’s not one tool. It’s not a one-time activity (rather a continuous effort). And most of the time, it’s not just one person contributing to ABM activities.

Have a look at the below video where I exchange my thoughts on what ABM is with Paul Denham, the founder of ResearchHQ in the B2B Uncovered Podcast. I also share my views on whether ABM is a tactic or a strategy.

As I explain in the video, ABM refers to the overall strategy and set of activities you implement to get the desired results from a defined set of accounts. In this journey, you might use:

  • A combination of channels (email, LinkedIn, cold calling, in-person events, etc)
  • Multiple people (an ABM Manager, SDR, data mining specialist, etc)
  • Various tools that will help you take out data, send out emails, do targeted display advertising, and more.

Related: Account Based Marketing Strategies: 12 Ways To Find Target Accounts


What really is an ABM platform?

Now that we have settled the dust on what ABM is, let us see what an ABM platform is.

Whenever I have discussions on ABM with marketers as well as non-marketers, I have come to realize that many of them have a narrow view of an ABM platform.

While some think of only LinkedIn as an ABM platform, a few others consider email tools as the only ABM platforms. If I go to more experienced and advanced marketers, they take the names of platforms such as DemandbaseTerminus, or 6sense.

The fact is, none of them are wrong.

Only that the implementation of ABM is not limited to a single type of platform. While the likes of Demandbase, Terminus, and 6sense (and there are a few more such as Kwanzoo, MRP, Rollworks, Triblio, etc) position themselves as end-to-end ABM platforms, your email automation tool, database tool, or even LinkedIn are all part of the ABM tech stack.

Check out the below video from the B2B Uncovered Podcast episode where I demystify what an ABM tool is:

Just to make the concept clearer, let me list down a few categories of ABM tools and a few examples against each of them.

  1. Account-based display targeting: LinkedIn
  2. Email automation: Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Benchmark, etc.
  3. Marketing automation: HubSpot, Marketo, Salesforce Pardot, etc
  4. Database tools: ZoomInfo, Hunter.io, Apollo.io, and the likes.
  5. Intent intelligence + ABM suite: Demandbase, Terminus, 6sense, Kwanzoo, Triblio, etc (the features of each of these platforms differ. However, their objectives more or less remain the same).
  6. Person-based targeting: Influ2, Google ads (if you are using the customer match targeting method).

To summarize, like how we gave a broader meaning to the concept of ABM, the ABM tech stack is also fairly diverse.


What are the key features of an end-to-end ABM suite?

First, we all need to know that each platform is different. However, there are a few modules and features they have in common. For instance, if I compare Demandbase and Terminus (two of the most popular ABM suites in the market today), they have the following in common:

  • An intent intelligence module
  • Targeted display advertising
  • Website personalization

However, in addition to the above, Demandbase also comes with sales enablement and B2B data modules, whereas Terminus offers conversational marketing and email signature marketing as additional features.

To understand what these platforms offer in detail, I suggest you check their website out.

To get you started, I am sharing the below videos on the two platforms that will give you an overview of what they are all about:


The top 3 benefits of using an ABM platform

Now that we understand how an ABM platform works, let us look at the main advantages of using one. Have a look at the below video from the B2B Uncovered podcast where I talk about the top 3 benefits of using an ABM platform:

As I explained in the video, here are the 3 benefits

  1. Prioritizing target accounts.
  2. Ability to get data, identify high intent accounts, and target them, all in one place.
  3. Ability to serve ads to high intent accounts.

Let us look at each of them in detail next.

1. Prioritizing accounts

To know how we can prioritize accounts using an ABM and intent intelligence platform, you need to first understand the concept of intent data.

Watch the below video excerpt taken from the same podcast episode where I explain in simple language what intent data is:

The intent data that you get from a platform like Demandbase or Terminus is nothing but the content consumed by your ideal customers around the topics related to what your business sells.

By finding accounts that show high intent around the topics/keywords of your interest, you can narrow down your target list even further to make your campaigns and messaging more pointed.

Hence, instead of defining your TG (Target Group) purely based on firmographic characteristics such as industry, revenue, region, number of employees, etc., you get one more method to find accounts that are more likely to buy your products or services.

2. Ability to find data, identify high propensity accounts, and do targeting in one place

As we discussed before, different ABM platforms come with different modules and features. We even compared two of the most popular ABM platforms – Demandbase and Terminus. While Demandbase offers intent intelligence, display targeting, B2B data, website personalization, and sales intelligence under one platform, Terminus combines intent intelligence with display ads, website personalization, conversational marketing, and email signature marketing.

Typically, you would take data from a ZoomInfo, do account-based display advertising on LinkedIn, website personalization using specialized tools like Adobe Target or Evergage, and email campaigns using an email/marketing automation tool.

But here, you get everything under one roof. To some extent, you get an integrated marketing platform.

3. Ability to serve ads to high intent accounts

Using the intent intelligence module of an ABM platform, you can identify high propensity accounts in your areas of interest. And you can then run targeted display advertisements to these accounts with personalized messaging.

The ability to target high intent accounts this way is something that you cannot do on a platform like LinkedIn or Facebook. Hence, platforms like Demandbase or Kwanzoo offer a unique way of reaching your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile).

That’s all I wanted to cover today. There are many more dimensions of account based marketing that need to be discussed – such as building an ABM tech stack, designing an ABM program, orchestrating account based experience (ABX), etc. We will touch upon these topics in the upcoming articles.

Hope this was a useful read. Make sure to do your own reading and further research to develop a deeper understanding of the topic.


Skalegrow – account based marketing agency 

Skalegrow was founded with the aim to address the gap of not having a B2B marketing agency that can deliver results the way clients want. Not that any agency in the world isn’t doing it. It’s more like there aren’t many which are doing a good job at it, especially in account based marketing.

Skalegrow offers account based marketing services in the form of consulting engagements as well as end to end implementation – including implementing a tech stack, creating content, running campaigns, and more. Please write to us at info@skalegrow.com for more details on it.


About the author

Naseef KPO

Naseef KPO is the Founder and CEO of Skalegrow. He comes with rich experience across multiple areas of B2B marketing including content marketing, demand generation, SEO, account based marketing, marketing analytics, revenue attribution, marketing technology, etc. He writes thought-provoking and relevant articles on The Skalegrow Blog and his weekly LinkedIn newsletter Elevate Your Marketing.

Prior to starting Skalegrow, Naseef led large marketing teams in multi-million dollar B2B organizations where he made significant contributions to the topline growth of the business. He has also appeared on numerous podcasts where he shared his thoughts on trending marketing topics such as the application of AI in marketing, startup marketing, ABM, and B2B content marketing, just to name a few. Being the founder of Skalegrow, he is currently focusing on helping its clients stay ahead of their competition by using innovative yet practical marketing tactics.

You can connect with Naseef KPO on LinkedIn.