Account-Based Marketing vs. Customer-Centric Marketing: What is the Difference?

In the last few weeks, there has been a lot of buzz on account-based marketing (ABM) and customer-centric marketing - and which is the best strategy. But what exactly is ABM and what is the difference between the two? How do businesses know which strategy is best? And when did marketing get so complicated?

Read on to learn more about the specifics of customer-centric and ABM strategies and how to determine which strategy is best for your business.

What is Account-Based Marketing (ABM)?

In the last year, many companies jumped implemented an account-based marketing program within their infrastructures. In fact, there has been a 21 percent increase in the number of businesses that use ABM as a marketing strategy. Although many companies have seen success with ABM thus far, ABM still seems like an unknown or new concept for many others... 

So what exactly is ABM? If you've been following inbound marketing methodologies at all, then you probably know that "smarketing" (the alignment of sales and marketing) is incredibly important for businesses, and ABM is instilled in this alignment. Sale teams have an excellent understanding of which accounts should be targeted with an ABM strategy.

Businesses that utilize the ABM strategy treat each customer account as its own market. This is a common strategy in enterprise-level sales organizations and B2B efforts. This strategy is also useful for organizations with multiple buyers and/ or stakeholders.

But in today's marketing world when sales and marketing teams are focused on addressing customer needs, how does ABM work? In effort to meet stakeholder needs, ABM allows organizations to connect with ALL stakeholders within a particular account in order to make a sale. For example, in the world of B2B, it is very common to work with a small group of stakeholders in a deal rather than an individual customer.

The Importance of Customer Intimacy in a Customer-Centric Focus

So now that you know and understand a little bit more about ABM, how is this different from a customer-centric marketing strategy? Although ABM targets larger businesses and multiple stakeholders, is there room for customer intimacy? Is customer intimacy even appropriate in an ABM strategy?

Targeting consumers is a huge challenge for businesses. Customers' needs and priorities are constantly shifting and changing, which makes it incredibly difficult for businesses to keep up and cope with growing marketing demands, shifting strategies, and even media trends. 

As difficult as it may be, optimizing the customer experience - from lead generation to completing the buying cycle - is the best way to appeal to a customer's needs and also the best way to gain insight and understanding of your customers' buying behaviors.

As a business owner, entrepreneur or manager, you are aware of the importance of customer service and support. Even if your business has high customer service and customer retention levels, would you say that you also have trusting, personal relationships with customers that give your business a real competitive advantage? The point is your business might be offering good customer service but customer intimacy is another level...

Customer intimacy can be thought of as another level to a customer-centric business. It involves learning about your individual customers and meeting their specific needs. By doing this, you can customize and personalize products and/ or services as well as other innovative solutions that exceed their expectations.

As you can see, adopting customer intimacy can take a great deal of thought and effort, and it can also be a costly endeavor. However, building personal, trustworthy, and long-term relationships with your customers will also pay off in the long run.

Which Strategy is Best for YOUR Business?

So how do you know which type of marketing strategy is right for your business? Does it have to be that complicated? Maybe not. Learning about who your customers are is a great place to start. This information will be able to help you determine which marketing strategy would work best for your business, and that will also work for your customers.

For example, as we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, if your customer base is large enough or if you are a B2B, then customers who are comprised of "accounts" or a number of stakeholders will likely benefit more from an account-based approach. This is likely the best option for large businesses and enterprises.

On the other hand, retailers, smaller service providers, and nonprofits who target the consumer - an individual person - will likely benefit more by focusing their efforts on perfecting customer intimacy, and customer satisfaction and retention levels.

Is Marketing Getting Too Complicated?

If after reading this, you have a clearer understanding of the basic differences between ABM and customer-centric marketing strategies, great. If after reading this you are thinking, "when did marketing get so complicated?" Then you aren't alone...

If you rely on the customer-centric marketing model, then you probably know first-hand how difficult it is to capture the attention of the consumer and then some how get that consumer to buy. In recent years, marketers and businesses have focused on perfecting sophisticated marketing techniques, and integrating technology and analytics in order to make this happen, as well as pay particular attention to how this happens.

However, according to an article published by Forbes, some would agree that sophisticated and data-driven marketing has gotten in the way of just simple, basic marketing. Some even question some marketing tactics that involve "big data", social media, marketing automation and even analytics to generate leads and new customers have consumed marketers and taken them away from focusing on loyal customers. What do you think? Do you think marketing is too complicated today? Feel free to share your comments at the end of this blog.

It's true that marketing automation and monitoring and tracking marketing performance and KPIs are all crucial for helping businesses make more informed decisions and even save money by streamlining marketing tasks. In fact, mobile apps and other complicated technology has even changed how the modern buyer makes a purchase. But businesses need to remember the importance of implementing a solid marketing strategy - whether an ABM or customer-centric strategy - that focuses on new and existing customers.

The Best of Both Worlds

Even if you aren't sold on one particular marketing strategy over the other, you can still use certain elements from both to design your own strategy. For example, many elements of ABM can help you build stronger relationships with your customers and within all of your key accounts with just a little personalization. Much of ABM relies on personalization to create a deeper connections with customers. This kind of personalization goes further than just knowing their names, but knowing their challenges and how your business can provide unique solutions through each stage in the buying process and at key growth points in your relationships with your customers.

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