Here’s the scenario: There were times, well before the internet, when marketing to customers was more personal than hand-written birthday cards. Take it from Jon Miller, the Co-Founder of Marketo and now Founder and CEO of the Account Based  Marketing Platform Engagio.

“Back in the 19th Century, the corner market was really where you saw perfected personalization,” says Miller, where he credits Don Peppers and Martha Rodgers’ marketing book The One to One Future.

“The vision Peppers and Rodgers illustrate is compelling and effective marketing. In those days, you went to your corner market for everything. And the proprietor would know if you liked brown eggs or white eggs. And they knew if your son was sick and what the right remedy was for him. That’s relevant marketing. That’s personalized.”

Miller is well aware that personalization took a backseat in the years to come. Instead, mass production meant efficiency became the staple.

Miller’s on a mission to return to that standard of personalization we once saw at the corner market. His company, Engagio, has a simple purpose: make account based marketing easy and scalable.

In this exclusive interview, Miller draws from a rich career in marketing to share his stories and teachings from his latest book The Clear & Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing. He offers key takeaways for better implementing ABM marketing strategies, and charts 3 ways to better understand the value of ABM: through its relationships with sales and marketing, the different tiers of ABM & how to effectively establish your ABM process.

First and foremost: Reach the right people with a targeted strategy. That’s ABM.

To understand ABM, Miller suggests comparing it to demand generation. “I like to look at demand generation marketing as fishing with a net. You develop a campaign, you promote your content, and you start catching fish with that net.”

“The key idea here is you don’t care which specific fish you catch, you just care: Did I catch enough? In contrast, ABM is a different tactic entirely.”

Fishing with spears

“Rather than waiting around for the right people from the right companies to come swimming to your net,” Miller continues, “ABM allows you to reach out the right people with a targeted strategy. It’s what I call fishing with spears.”

The goal of ABM is even simpler: Maximize customer lifetime value. Period.

Fishing with spears allows your organization to focus time, energy and resources on accounts that matter most to your business. “Sometimes that might be generating a new relationship, sometimes it’s going to be about expanding a relationship, and other times it’s going to be maximizing retention and accuracy.”

“True ABM equally supports retention and growth. Not one or the other.”


When looking at the makeup of ABM, Miller explains it in a simple analogy. “The model for traditional demand gen tends to be a funnel. And you think about the funnel, you model the funnel. At Marketo, I had pictures of funnels during every presentation.”

“Rather than a vertical movement, an ABM model expands horizontally. Like a bowtie. That’s the framework you need to be thinking about, and then apply to account-based marketing.”



ABM is nothing new, at least to sales teams.  

When assessing the traction of ABM, it’s worth noting that the essentials are nothing new.

Sales, Miller shares, has always been account-centric. But somehow marketing fell into a person-centric trend. Why is this?


“Partly because all the marketing tools tended to be people-centric. You go into Marketo or Constant Contact or any marketing technology and you have lists of people and you do campaigns to people.”

“It’s just in the last few years that, in order to be completely aligned with sales, marketing needed to adapt a more account-centric approach to their campaigns.”

Miller believes there are three main reasons ABM is gaining significant traction:

1.) Inbound is not always the most efficient tactic.  

“People are recognizing that inbound isn’t really appropriate for some styles of deals. When you have to go after certain accounts, larger, enterprise deals for instance, inbound tactics can attract too many unqualified prospects.

Besides, inbound can never be truly targeted, because you won’t be able to control exactly who is receiving your message.   

2.) Existing customers are, by nature, named accounts.

There’s a clear value to upselling your current customers. As teams understand this and are establishing processes to support this, they’re realizing that these customers are a part of a named account.

People are focusing more on the cross-sell, the upsell. These targeted tactics for customer marketing are becoming absolute necessities.

3.) More inbound techniques means more noise, noise, noise. 

More and more people are adopting inbound techniques. “Ten years ago at Marketo,” Jon says, “all I had to do was start writing a blog, and boom, we had top rankings for all our keywords”.

Today it’s much harder.  There’s so much noise. So much content. And so many people adopting these techniques.

The solution to all this noise? Treat each account as a market of one.

Personal vs. Scalable.

Treating each account as a market of one is what Miller calls “Classic” or “Tier 1” Account Based Marketing.

“Basically, you research the hell out of that account and put together a plan for that account. You then create a completely customized 1:1 campaign tailored specifically to that account.”

Unsurprisingly, this approach delivers great ROI and everyone loves it, but it doesn’t scale.

This lack of scalability, Miller believes, held account-based marketing as an idea.

“Because people would look at it and say, you know, that’s not for me, that’s just for the big 100 million dollar or 500 million dollar accounts.”

“What’s happened in the last year and a half is the emergence of other styles of ABM that are not 100% personalized but are scalable.”


The trade off: emerging Account Based Marketing styles.

In addition to Tier 1 ABM, there are a few emerging styles which compromise slightly on personalization to meet the demands of scalability.


Tier 2 or “Account Based Marketing Light”

You still treat accounts individually but the research is lighter and your go-to-market is less custom. Rather than every piece as custom as can be,  you’ll maybe take an existing white paper and put the clients’ logo on the cover. It’s a lighter level but still effective.

Tier 3 or “Hybrid”

“Tier 3 fits between ABM and demand gen. It’s essentially using traditional marketing techniques but while also using account-level targeting.

In the last few years we’ve seen a rise in the use of account-based advertising:  You’ll buy display ads but you’ll only show those ads to people at your target accounts. So it’s not customized like true ABM, but it’s still efficient because you’re targeting just the right people.”

With the emergence of these two other styles in the last year or two, Miller believes ABM is now more available for more types of companies and people.

Establishing your process: prioritize and match your accounts to your strategy

Though there are many steps when it comes to executing an ABM strategy, to Miller, the single most important process involves both picking and aligning targeted accounts.

That is your foundation for success in account based marketing. And it’s got to be collaborative. It’s not something marketing can do by itself and it’s not something sales can do by itself. The two teams have to work collaboratively. Usually, this involves marketing providing insights and sales actually doing the account selection.”  

“It’s not just picking the accounts. It’s also prioritizing and matching them.”


By matching, Miller refers to defining which type of ABM tier will be most effective for the account, and setting up a process around the type of tier.

“Regarding matching accounts, I think there’s also a technical process that people need which is lead-to-account matching. It involves everything from identifying which account they should be apart of to bringing in all the analytics and scores that matter. The analytics are essential for a number of reasons: You can have all these people in your system that work at targeted accounts where you have no ability to roll out their account activity or understand what’s happening at the account level.”

Where the mindset needs to move, onwards to both breadth and depth of engagement

With all these tactics marketing is now adapting from sales, the single most important is the change of mindset.

“I think there’s a lot of lead scoring, and the idea of Marketing Qualified Lead, and in ABM we’ve got to change the concept and way of thinking. You always need to be thinking about Marketing Qualified Accounts (MQAs).”  

“Where you’re looking not just at the total depth of engagement but also the breadth of engagement across the account.”



To Sum Up

ABM is all about fishing with spears.

It’s goal is simple: maximize retention and growth. To make it possible?

Align sales and marketing in all manners. And read Miller’s book: The Clear & Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing.