Account-Based Marketing vs. Marketing Automation: What is Best For Your Business

The most important goal at the heart of every business is how to make the enterprise more successful. How does the business attract more customers and convert them to sales?


With the abundance of innovation in the world of marketing, there are many different approaches to this challenge, many of them successful to one extent or another. In this article, we discuss two of the most prominent – Account-Based Marketing and Marketing Automation. We look at the differences between the two, and how they can complement each other to the benefit of your business.

What is ​​Account-Based Marketing?

Account Based Marketing is a type of strategy that is adopted by marketers working within certain spheres where they, in a way, hedge their bets on prospects that they are fairly confident they will be able to convert. So with this method, marketers pick out possible customers or companies that they feel are very likely to be successful with, and focus on those. These are usually high-revenue clients so that the return justifies the resources put into such a narrow approach. Campaigns and messages are then created with specifically these clients in mind and content that is highly personalized. 


By using this approach, marketers not only improve the likelihood of success, they also use resources more efficiently by directing them only where they are most likely to reap returns. Account Based Marketing is typically a B2B technique. In B2C marketing, there is a large number of regular clients with transactions of relatively low sums per client. This makes ABM less suitable there.

What is Marketing Automation?

When marketers use Marketing Automation they exploit the capabilities of software and technology to help them ease the burden of performing certain functions that do not depend on human decision-making. This approach provides several benefits, most crucially enhancing efficiency by reducing the amount of time required to carry out certain activities and respond to clients, and freeing up members of staff so they can focus on more complex tasks. The variety of facets of a company’s strategy that can be automated is quite diverse – ranging from the ordinary to the complex. For example, emails can automatically be sent out, and platforms with more intelligent capabilities can even carry out A/B testing and adjust ad spend.

Account-Based Marketing vs. Marketing Automation: Key Differences

The major difference between the two approaches is that Marketing Automation starts with a very broad target. It strives to put the product or service in front of as many eyes as possible, and based on the responses to this exposure, whittles that number down to a smaller percentage that are actually interested. Account-Based Marketing ignores much of this. Instead of casting a wide net, marketers look for big fish and entice them towards the goal. So it starts with a small number of carefully profiled prospects and creates a message specifically for them.

Marketing Automation Account-Based Marketing
Consumer attraction method Wide (high-volume) Narrow (highly-targeted)
Content types More general Niche
Targeted clients Regular Higher revenue
Implementation channel examples Hosted events, personalized email campaigns, educational content, phone calls. Website SEO, ad campaigns, podcasts/blogs/video content, SMM.
Sales cycle Short Long

Account-Based Marketing vs. Marketing Automation: Pros and Cons

Both approaches have considerable strengths, but also inherent weaknesses.


Marketing Automation improves efficiency and staff motivation as it eliminates the need to do repetitive, low-value tasks. It also captures a wider audience and more leads. Automation ensures that the system interacts with leads around the clock with no delays. Reporting takes place automatically and many platforms offer integration options with other industry software to ensure the whole system works seamlessly. 


However, due to the wide-scale nature of its approach, Automation lacks the level of personalization that Account-Based Marketing provides. It also requires some planning, endless tweaking and, especially for larger organizations, a high-level of technological expertise to implement it successfully. It can therefore be costly to set up. 


Account-Based Marketing, on the other hand, builds deeper relationships with your clients thanks to its more personalized approach. These relationships provide more opportunities to cross- or upsell other products and services, as well as meet higher customer lifetime values. Companies also spend fewer resources on prospects that are unlikely to convert. It is therefore more efficient in the use of marketing resources. 


The sales cycle is longer, though, and the content has to be skilfully crafted after extensive research in order to be effective. Because the volume of targeted customers is low, there are potential clients that will be missed if a business relies solely on this approach.

How to Combine ABM and Marketing Automation

ABM is usually adopted by B2B companies and MA is more favoured by B2C companies. There is plenty of scope, however, for the implementation of a combination of the two, regardless what your business model is.


You can use Automation to attract a high volume of prospects, and then target some of those that turn into leads with Account-Based Marketing. This way, you can have your marketing staff focus their efforts on higher value clients with more personalized and targeted messaging.


Striking the right balance between the two methods will depend on your business model and how well-staffed your marketing department is. ABM requires well-crafted content to be effective, and so your staff should have the resources, skills, and time to put into creating it.

ABM Automation Tips

For ABM to work well, your organization must be set up to be able to easily adjust to the needs of different clients. For example, you need your sales team to be able to provide vital information about different customers so that your messages are relevant, timely, and cognizant of any past interactions with the client. 


Once an ABM strategy has been successfully implemented, you can apply it to similar types of clients using automation. So it is important to record the performance of campaigns and use this data to identify critical success factors that can be reapplied using automation. Prospects with similar profiles can be grouped and you can accelerate the ABM techniques from past experiences using automation.


Both approaches have their pros and cons, but they need not be mutually exclusive. You can get the best of both worlds by applying ABM tactics to qualified leads from Marketing Automation. And then automating aspects of these processes on new prospects with similar profiles, tweaking and refining the process as you go along.

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