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How to choose the right level of personalization for your ABM program

Man in business attire looking at laptop with abstract imagery of marketing campaign streams appearing overhead

Personalization is crucial for making a human and lasting connection. There’s a reason people enjoy thoughtful gifts over expensive ones. We like knowing that the giver put thought and effort into selecting that gift specifically for us.

The same is true with marketing. As a prospect, or in the case of ABM a target account, people want to feel that they matter. They want to see that the outreach is personalized, and that the sender has put thought and effort into their approach, rather than spraying and praying, or hitting send on a mass email. But as marketers, is that really scalable? And if you don’t have an account-based marketing department or even an account-based marketer, what are you to do? How personalized is personalized?

The three tiers of ABM

Your level of personalization is largely dependent on the type of ABM approach you’ve chosen. ABM is not strictly one-to-one marketing. Sure, it can be sending a pair of concert tickets to a high-value prospect or target account because you know they are the artist’s number one fan. But segmenting your list and sending content that’s highly relevant to multiple accounts’ pain / challenges / persona is also a form of account-based marketing. ITSMA has done a lot of research on the different types and tiers of ABM.

ITSMA three tiers of ABM pyramid

Image by ITSMA

Each tier requires its own level of investment and ultimately its own level of personalization. Let’s take a closer look at each.

One-to-one ABM

Also known as: Strategic ABM, “Real” ABM

What it is: This is what most people think of when they think ABM. Here, marketers are creating and executing highly-customized programs for individual target accounts. Because it’s at the top of the investment chart, one-to-one ABM is often the most personalized, requires the most research, but can also have the highest return.

When it makes sense: If your deals are six and seven figures; if you have a big budget; if you have adequate resources; if you have enough data or intel on your target account or client to create something truly personalized and special.

What it looks like IRL: We found out that a new contact at an important account loved basketball and Drake so we created a custom card with Drake lyrics and sent her a basketball with the promise of Toronto Raptors tickets (in which Drake is the ambassador) the next time she was in town. We hit all the right notes with this account because we had the intel, creativity, and capacity to reach out in the right way.

Tweet from a prospect thanking Uberflip for her ABM gift, including a photo of her personalized card with Drake lyrics on it


Other ideas: Creating a custom ebook for a target account; personalized digital experiences

Personalization level: HIGH

Considerations: High effort, high return. It can take a significant investment in time, resources, budget, and research to put together a play like this. So if you don’t have the data to back up why this account is worth the investment and whether you’re using the right play to get their attention, you won’t see ROI.

One-to-few ABM

Also known as: ABM Lite

What it is: Similar to one-to-one, but applied to small groups of accounts. Maybe this small cluster shares similar challenges so you are able to keep the bulk of the approach (75 percent or more) the same across these few accounts while lightly personalizing.

When it makes sense: When you have high-value accounts with common threads like buyer pain, persona, technographic or firmographic data.

What it looks like IRL: We’ve targeted and segmented accounts that have a similar profile. For instance, if they use the same tech, are the same persona, and have the same challenges, we create a direct mail play / ads / content streams that speak to all of those accounts and lightly customize the rest. Like this Netflix box (complete with popcorn!) that our team sent out to multiple accounts who shared the same persona as opposed to just one individualized account. This play involved direct mail, a digital experience, and personalized follow-up.

Netflix-themed direct mail gift next to a similarly branded digital content destination

Other ideas: Branded swag with logos of tech in their stack or another detail you’ve captured that can be applied across a group of accounts.

Personalization level: MEDIUM

Considerations: This approach allows you to reap the benefits of a creative idea because you can apply the same play to more than one account. However, while the ROI on a play like this is greater than no personalization at all, it has a lower engagement rate than one-to-one. 

One-to-many ABM

Also known as: Programmatic ABM, Segmented marketing

What it is: Your scalable ABM solution. In this approach, you leverage technology to personalize marketing campaigns for potentially hundreds of target accounts.

When it makes sense: When your team is small; when you don’t have the resources to personalize assets; when you want to create personalized experiences at scale.

What it looks like IRL: We’ve targeted accounts with a similar profile, but less specific so we can widen our breadth. For us, this could mean segmenting our lists and sending specific collections of content to them in a personalized email or using digital ads to target specific accounts (we used the example below for open opportunities).

Digital ad that leads to G2 review page

Other ideas: Targeting a large number of specific opportunities with a slightly more generic gift and messaging based on less information.

Personalization level: LOW

Considerations: This approach is the easiest to implement and easiest to scale. It’s less personalized than one-to-one but more personalized than traditional marketing tactics. On an account-by-account basis, it’s low cost, with a good return.

Making the right choice

Choosing which tier of ABM and which level of personalization is right for you and your organization largely depends on your sales cycle, budget, and bandwidth. For many organizations, it makes sense to dip your toe into the ABM pool by leveraging technology to create personalized experiences at scale, while also trying out some high investment, high reward plays for top-tier accounts. Regardless, we know that personalization is what all buyers have come to expect, regardless of whether they’re on your top account list or not.

Want more ideas for your ABM strategy? Download Our No-Fear Guide to Scaling Personalized Content for ABM

About the Author

Christine is an experience-obsessed marketer. She was Uberflip's Director of Content, where creating engaging content experiences for marketers was a challenge she accepted daily. She believes that if you can't attract, engage, and compel that next action with your content, then why bother? She also has a thing for pugs, but who doesn't.

Profile Photo of Christine Otsuka