Struggling to allocate your ABM Strategy resources among your 1:1, 1:few, and 1:many segments in your ABM strategy? You are not alone.
Account-Based Marketing strategies (ABM Strategy) emerged as the game-changer in the B2B marketing landscape. It’s like tailoring a bespoke suit—meticulous, personalized, and a perfect fit for the client. It changed what effective Go-to-Market Strategies looked like in thousands of companies. But anyone who has tried their hands at it knows that it is a double-edged sword. While on the one hand, it holds the promise of high returns, on the other, it poses the challenge of optimal resource allocation.
And this is not a minor issue. Most companies are not behemoths with endless resources, and hardly will ever have all the resources they need, both economical and in manpower, to work the three segments of an ABM strategy. But fret not, by asking #TheRightQuestions, you can find the light at the end of the tunnel.
ABM is not a tool or a tactic, but a way to build a strategy for your org where you can win.@sangramvajre
Let´s start by defining those three segments real quick, in case we have any non-initiated reader on the post. Account-Based Marketing strategy divides the list of target companies, or accounts, according to the potential or strategic interest they have. They end up in one of these three pockets:
- One-to-one (1:1)
The understanding of this account’s needs, challenges, and business context should be comprehensive. Everything from marketing content to sales outreach is highly personalized and specifically tailored to resonate with that single account.
In a 1:1 ABM strategy, you focus on individual, high-value accounts that are likely to provide a significant return on investment. Each account is considered a market of one. This could expand up to between 5-50 key accounts, depending on the size and resource capacity of your organization. It is more often than not, between 5 to 10 accounts.
From a marketing operations perspective, a 1:1 ABM approach is resource-intensive as it demands detailed research, significant investment in creating bespoke marketing materials, and potentially close collaboration between sales and marketing teams. This strategy usually is employed for top-tier accounts that have a high potential value or strategic importance.
Ideally, between 5 to 10 companies are in this list.
- One-to-few (1:few):
The 1:few (also called ABM Lite or Cluster ABM) strategy is a scaled version of the 1:1 method. In this approach, you focus on small clusters of accounts that share significant commonalities, such as industry, geography, business challenges, or buyer persona. This typically ranges around 10 to 50 accounts per cluster.
In practice, a 1:few approach means your content and marketing strategies are personalized at the segment level, not the individual account level. Your messaging would be highly relevant to the group as a whole, but might not address the unique needs of each individual account within that group.
From an operational perspective, this approach is less resource-intensive than 1:1 ABM because it allows for some degree of scalability. You can tailor campaigns to fit a handful of accounts simultaneously, providing an opportunity to deliver personalized experiences while also managing resources effectively.
- One-to-many (1:many)
1:many Account Based Marketing is a strategy wherein marketing efforts are aimed at engaging a broader segment of target accounts, rather than focusing on individual accounts or small clusters. This could mean targeting hundreds or even thousands of accounts that fall within certain predefined criteria. It is arguable to what degree is this ABM at all.
The defining characteristic of a 1:many ABM strategy is its scalability. While it still focuses on target accounts rather than casting a wide net over the entire market, it does so at scale. This is accomplished by identifying common characteristics, challenges, or needs across a wider segment of accounts and creating marketing campaigns that will resonate with those shared attributes.
From a marketing operations perspective, a 1:many approach allows for greater reach while still being more targeted than traditional demand generation efforts. While the level of personalization might not be as high as in 1:1 or 1:few strategies, it’s still more personalized than broad-reaching, non-ABM campaigns.
This approach relies heavily on marketing technology to identify, segment, and engage with the selected accounts at scale. Success in 1:many ABM requires effective use of data and technology, crafting relevant and resonant messages, and maintaining a degree of personalization that makes each targeted account feel valued and understood.
Don’t count the people that you reach, reach the people who count.David Ogilvy
It is worth noting, that all of the three groups, come from a list of high value target accounts. In other words, is not that the 1-to-many segment is a pocket where you throw anything to see if leads stick, as you would do with traditional Demand Generation. All these segments, have been chosen carefully.
Now, let’s jump into how to allocate resources among the three segments.
1:1 ABM Strategy: The Michelin Star Experience
The 1:1 ABM strategy is like preparing a gourmet meal in a Michelin-star restaurant, where the utmost attention is given to each and every ingredient, each step of the preparation, and each element of the presentation.
When considering how many 1:1 companies should I target?, it’s much like asking how many custom meals can my kitchen handle at once?
The process is demanding, requiring you to source the finest ingredients (a compelling unique selling proposition communicated through bespoke content), a skilled and dedicated team (a team focused on that account), and a clear understanding of the guest’s preferences (insight into the company’s current circumstances, challenges and goals).
The critical initial question to contemplate in your ABM strategy is whether you should engage in a 1:1 segment at all. Undertaking even one or two companies in this segment can significantly devour your team’s resources, particularly if you’re working with a smaller crew. There is no same in recognizing you do not have enough resources to embark into an 1-to-1 strategy. Venture into it only if you can adequately fuel your 1-to-few and 1-to-many segments concurrently. It’s vital not to place the weight of your revenue goals solely on the success of a few accounts. A well-rounded, diversified approach typically proves more resilient and profitable.
As with a fine-dining restaurant, biting off more than you can chew can result in a less than satisfactory experience. Even when you do have the resources, starting with more than five 1:1 companies may overextend those resources, reducing your ability to deliver the ‘Michelin Star’ experience. After all, a restaurant that aims for excellence limits its covers to ensure that each guest enjoys an unrivalled gastronomic journey.
For a restaurant, this might mean sourcing exotic ingredients, developing unique recipes, and personalized table service. With such an investment, starting with more than five 1:1 companies may spread your resources thin, diluting the potential for a ‘Michelin star’ experience.
1:few ABM Strategy: The Artisan Approach
If 1:1 ABM is a gourmet meal, the 1:few ABM strategy is like an artisan food fair where you’re catering to a small group of customers with similar tastes.
Your key question here is, how many 1:few clusters should I pursue?
This strategy is about finding the right balance between personalization and scalability. You begin by identifying common characteristics among your customers (the ‘food lovers’ at the fair). Pinpoint your most effective product features (your unique ‘dishes’) and cross-reference them with the needs of your ideal customer groups.
Start by creating a matrix, using your most powerful use cases as columns and your priority Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) segments as rows. Rank each square based on its potential to maximize the impact of your resources. Be brutally honest with yourself about how many clusters you can effectively manage, and choose that number from your ranked list.
Just as an artisan chef carefully selects which dishes to serve based on the audience, you rank each combination based on its potential. Evaluate your resources just as the chef would consider their cooking capacity, ingredients availability, and serving staff. Aim for the optimal number of clusters that your ‘kitchen’ can handle without compromising the quality of service.
Transitioning between 1:few to 1:1: The Upgrade Decision
The third question in your ABM strategy is, when is it time to move a company from 1:few to 1:1? Consider this transition only when you’re sure that the potential deal size warrants a 1:1 focus and that the company is well into the sales funnel, preferably already in conversations with your sales team. Assessing that the potential return on investment (ROI) is positive is crucial before making the shift. If these conditions are not met, it might be better to keep the company in the 1:few bucket.
Now, imagine among the food fair attendees, you spot a few who absolutely love your offerings and are willing to pay a premium for an exclusive experience.
This brings us to the next question: when is it time to move a company from 1:few to 1:1?
Just as a restaurant manager would invite these high-spending patrons to the VIP room, you consider upgrading a company from the 1:few category to 1:1 when the potential deal size is substantial. This requires the keen eyes of a maître d’ who can discern when both a patron is ready for that next level of service and they have the potential of becoming a great customer, greater than assessed at first when assigned into the 1:few segment.
1:many ABM Strategy: The Buffet Spread
While gourmet meals and artisan food fairs cater to a select few, a 1:many ABM strategy is like a buffet spread where you’re reaching out to a wider audience.
The key question here is, is your 1:many strategy providing enough opportunities?
A common oversight in the ABM landscape is undervaluing the 1:many strategy. ABM marketers tend to obsess over 1:1 and 1:few because it’s in the very DNA of ABM—engaging and expanding selected accounts. While it’s easy to get entangled in the intensive personalization of the other segments, it’s essential to remember that a buffet spread, when done right, can be just as satisfying. This strategy allows you to reach a larger number of prospects, like a buffet that caters to various palates.
Let’s challenge the orthodoxy and embrace pragmatism—a well-executed 1:many strategy can work wonders. If your 1:many strategy is filling up your plate with opportunities, then it’s time to stoke the fire and keep that buffet running. A good chef knows when to experiment with gourmet and when to satisfy with a hearty buffet
Conclusion: Personalization vs. Resources to Maximize ROI
ABM Strategy is synonymous with personalized engagement and expansion. It’s not just about knowing your audience; it’s about understanding them deeply and thoroughly, and tailoring content and campaigns that resonate with them on an individual level. While this approach is resource-intensive, it’s also highly effective when done right.
At the heart of this strategy is the fine balance between real personalization, the resources at hand, and the volume of accounts you need to engage to keep your pipeline bustling. The question becomes, how do you find the right balance between personalization and resource allocation in your ABM strategy? This is a dynamic process, adjusting and readjusting as you progress through your ABM journey. But keep in mind: overstretching resources for excessive personalization may not yield the expected results.
Constantly questioning and revisiting your strategies, targets, and methods are essential to stay ahead of the curve in the realm of ABM. The process of identifying which accounts to target, how much resources to dedicate, and when to transition between strategies is a continuous, iterative process. Remember, success in ABM is not a one-off accomplishment, but an ongoing journey.
Never stop asking #TheRightQuestions.