Marketers / Marketing Automation / Marketing Ops

Is Your ABM Really Account-Based Marketing? (5 ABM Myths)

By Taylor Grimes

Account-Based Marketing is a hyper-personalized, coordinated effort between revenue teams (marketing, sales, and service) where each team works together to identify, segment, and target accounts.

Revenue teams then coordinate communication with the right stakeholders at the target accounts, with the aims of revenue growth and increasing retention.

With all the buzz around how focused ABM campaigns can lead to jaw-dropping conversion rates, people can easily be led into believing they’re already doing “ABM”. The mistake is common when marketers use marketing automation systems to perform industry verticalized and persona-based personalization, at scale. Unfortunately, that’s not ABM.

Let’s talk about some examples of ABM misconceptions, and how status-quo sales and marketing tactics could be masquerading as ABM.

READ MORE: Building a Cross-team Account-Based Marketing Machine

1. ABM is not Demand Generation

MYTH: Account-Based marketing is demand generation.

Demand Generation is like a concert, the artist is trying to get their message to resonate with a large target audience and attract new listeners. Think about how Queen’s “We Will Rock You” makes concert go-ers stomp-stomp-clap, stomp-stomp-clap.

In contrast, ABM is more like a serenade, you’re singing a personalized song to a specific account to influence them to take action. Think about how Eric Clapton talks about how his date has long blonde hair and love in her eyes, in “Wonderful Tonight”. This serenade is a love ballad for a specific woman. While you will not be professing love to your target accounts, your teams will pay close attention to tailoring your messaging specifically to their needs, challenges, and aspirations.

ABM is about taking an account-centric approach to carefully orchestrating the customer buying experience. When each team thoughtfully communicates with the right stakeholders at their target accounts, they are able to more quickly and easily penetrate the accounts that matter most to the business. They are also able to more quickly progress the buying and adoption cycles forward because the customer feels acknowledged and understood which builds momentum.

2. ABM Doesn’t Focus on MQLs

MYTH: All marketers must generate marketing qualified leads (MQLs).

If the marketing teams are using demand generation strategies to achieve a set volume of (marketing qualified) leads, it’s not ABM.

Organizations that focus on lead volumes tend to have low conversion rates (typically less than 3%). This is a broad-based inbound marketing approach, which may include some personalization.

Check yourself: have you run any company-specific advertising campaigns, offers, or landing pages for a specific, target customer?

3. Marketing and Sales Team Alignment is Non-Negotiable

MYTH: Account-Based marketing can happen in isolation of the sales team.

If the marketing and sales teams are not on the same page, it’s not ABM.

In order to execute an ABM strategy, there needs to be account-specific personalization and coordination across marketing and sales messaging/offers.

Check yourself: have you ever done a targeted giveaway, or an event for a targeted account where marketing and sales crafted the experience together?

Even if the campaign wasn’t personalized at the account level, use the example and think about how you can make it an ABM initiative, with a coordinated focus on what would be valuable to stakeholders at a key account.

4. Account-Level Campaigns are Essential

MYTH: You can rinse and repeat “ABM” campaigns for multiple accounts.

If the messaging could apply to multiple companies who would get value from your client’s products or services it’s not ABM.

Check yourself: do you have a few, high-performing pieces of content? Consider how you’d customize it to resonate with the specific challenges your key accounts are facing. Marketing will need the sales and service teams insight into what would resonate with stakeholders at their accounts, and move their opportunities forward.

5. Purchasing Software is not a Strategy

MYTH: By investing in ABM tools and technologies, you’ll slot nicely into an ABM strategy.

Strategic software investments can bring great benefits, but software is not a substitute for having an executable marketing strategy and the organizational alignment to make it successful.

Take note that organizations starting their ABM journey don’t make radical changes all at once. Companies need to shift the way they measure the effectiveness of their ABM programs as part of the process.

Remember, ABM is a people and processes change. With the hyper-personalization needs of ABM strategies, it’s easy to use tactics and systems that don’t initially scale.

Check yourself: Start small by piloting a campaign focused on a small number (e.g. 10) accounts using what you already have in your tech-stack. Focus on team alignment, understanding accounts from the sales team’s POV. Form a hyper-specific goal, e.g. at a target account, create a new sales opportunity for the new product offering.

Keep in mind that with ABM, you don’t have to focus solely on net-new customers. It’s much easier to convert someone who has already purchased from you in the past. Top tier accounts don’t need to only be prospective accounts – consider forming a list of top tier customers to impart the magic of “land and expand”.

Is it Actually ABM?

Now we’ve covered common ABM misconceptions, it’s over to you. Decide whether these examples are actually ABM, or status-quo sales/marketing tactics masquerading as ABM. For each of the questions below, answer “ABM” or “Not ABM”.

You developed a campaign to drive demo sign-ups for a new product by:

  1. Sending out emails to all of your existing customers. The email has personalization around the customer’s name, industry, and account.
  2. Sending a handwritten note to 10 of your best customers. It was co-written by sales and marketing, sent by the account manager thanking them for their business and letting them know about the new offering and how it might be valuable for them.
  3. Setting up an industry webinar series that promotes how the product drives value for your client’s top three industries. Marketing sent three separate email invites to active subscribers based on their industry with company name personalization.
  4. Sending a 5-minute video to the top 10 accounts in the three target verticals with top 2-3 value drivers of the new product offering to their industry. The video script was developed by marketing with input from the service team.
  5. Sending a 5-minute video to the top 10 accounts in the three target verticals with top 2-3 value drivers of the new product offering to their company. The video script was developed by marketing, sales and service to highlight specific customer benefits.

[Answers at the end of the article]


ABM is often confused with persona-based or industry-specific marketing personalization. To be considered ABM, marketing needs to be tailored to a specific account.

It may be useful to remember that ABM is a serenade for a specific account (like the Eric Clapton song, “Wonderful Tonight”) not a rock anthem anyone can clap and stomp to (like Queen’s “We Will Rock You”).

Answers: 1. Not ABM; 2. ABM; 3. Not ABM*; 4. Not ABM; 5. ABM.

*technically speaking statement 3, could be considered programmatic ABM

The Author

Taylor Grimes

Taylor Grimes is 14x certified Senior Program Manager at Salesforce and supports multi cloud integration, strategy and design principles for Architects.

Leave a Reply