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Customer Strategy: ABM vs. ABX

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Unraveling the Differences

As a fractional CMO, staying ahead in the ever-changing B2B marketing landscape is crucial. The shift from Account Based Marketing (ABM) to Account Based Experience (ABX) represents a significant evolution in customer engagement. ABX takes a holistic approach to the entire customer lifecycle, offering greater effectiveness.

In this blog post, we explore the differences between ABM and ABX, highlighting why ABX is essential for fractional CMOs to maintain a competitive edge in B2B marketing.

ABX vs. ABM - What Sets Them Apart?

Account-based marketing (ABM) refers to high-level coordination between marketing and sales to gain or grow customers at the account level (and not the individual contact or lead level). With ABM, the idea is that the highest value B2B customers are companies, and to keep and grow a customer, you need to win an entire account, not just one or two people who work there. Historically, ABM was run out of the marketing department and emphasized a more focused lead-generation effort on a small group of target customers.

Account-based experience (ABX), on the other hand, is essentially just a more modern way of referring to the same concept, that intentionally incorporates a full customer lifecycle view of an account - from marketing to sales and customer success and everything in between. It’s account-based everything. Some people even use the ABE acronym. ABE/ABX takes a systems view of the revenue organization and relies on true alignment and coordination between teams.

ABM has never really been just about marketing, which is why many companies use the more inclusive ABX and ABE acronyms. We’ll use ABX throughout because we believe it’s philosophically more aligned with our view of the customer lifecycle.

Why ABX?

There are myriad reasons a company might move to an ABX model, but for many, they transition because the customer demands it. B2B buying has changed dramatically over the past 5-10 years. The typical B2B buyer comprises multiple stakeholders - at least 4 people, often up to 10 or more. It’s a complex sales process, with more buying interactions before a deal closes, buyers finding information everywhere (and definitely not just from the vendor), and multiple competitors involved in most deals. These changes in buying complexity mean companies need smarter, more sophisticated ways to sell.

Enter ABX.

Let’s compare ABX to a more traditional transactional approach. In a transactional model, your job is to convince someone to purchase a product or service within a single sales cycle. You either win or lose. ABX takes a broader view. You know which businesses should be your customers, so you engage them over time - often over multiple sales cycles. You tailor your messages to different folks within the account (the C-Suite, the decision makers, the influencers) to ultimately build broad-based support for your solution.

If you lose an individual sales cycle, you derive information you can use in future sales cycles. When you think about it, the transactional model is about winning one game, while ABM is about end-to-end winning.

But does this actually happen? When an end user goes to your website and fills out a lead form, you assign that lead to an Account rep to follow up with them, correct?

If only it were so simple.

Gartner has a useful operational definition of ABX. Here are Gartner’s five attributes that define account-based everything:

  1. Targeted, high-value accounts

  2. Data and intelligence-driven programs/campaigns

  3. Orchestration across marketing, sales development, sales and customer support

  4. Valuable and personalized buyer experiences

  5. Coordinated, high-frequency/effort outreach

If the above is not working for your company and you are looking to adjust your model from a lead-based GTM motion to a more account-based one, you will want to consider the following. Account-Based Experience (ABX) takes a broader view of the entire customer experience, creating a personalized and consistent experience across all touchpoints.

ABX enables marketers to focus their efforts on accounts most likely to convert, building stronger, long-lasting customer relationships. That means:

  1. Accounts should be your focus, not leads.

  2. Creating nurturing and clear rules of engagement.

  3. Your CRM, workflows, and segmentation will need updating.

  4. You will need to learn and update flows based on (ideally) an uptick in conversions.

  5. Marketing, sales, and customer success will need to be in lockstep.

Exploring the Shared Foundations

There are a few similarities across both frameworks, concepts that are both foundational to ABX and important for revenue operations. Let’s dig in.

1. Strategy

An effective ABX motion requires alignment between all customer-facing teams. There may be new specialized roles and there will definitely be new processes, both of which require careful change management. You’ll likely need to develop a new playbook for your rules of engagement that define how customers flow through your organization, and how teams work together for the best results.

2. Planning and process

If you’ve historically structured your sales organization around leads or patches, you’ll have a lot of work to do on account distribution. That will require orchestration in plays across teams, coordination in outreach and timing, new SLAs, and so on.

3. Technology

Naturally, new sales processes mean new sales technology. You may need to replace or add to your revenue tech stack to include more modern software for ABX management, like lead routing, account assignment, or sales process automation.

Key Takeaways

In conclusion, it is evident that ABX is not simply a revamped version of ABM but represents a significant shift in mindset and approach toward customer engagement. While ABM traditionally focused on marketing efforts targeted at a select group of key customers, ABX encompasses a holistic view of the customer lifecycle, incorporating marketing, sales, and customer success functions. ABX recognizes the evolving complexities of B2B buying, where multiple stakeholders are involved, and decision-making processes span across various interactions and cycles.

Implementing an ABX approach requires strategic alignment across customer-facing teams, introducing new roles, processes, and playbooks. Account distribution, orchestration, and coordination become essential elements of planning and execution. Furthermore, the adoption of appropriate technologies is crucial to support ABX strategies, such as lead routing, account assignment, and sales process automation tools.

As the B2B landscape continues to evolve, companies that transition from lead-based GTM models to a more account-based focus through ABX will position themselves for success.

By shifting the focus from leads to accounts, implementing nurturing strategies, and ensuring tight alignment between marketing, sales, and customer success, organizations can unlock the full potential of ABX and deliver superior customer experiences that drive sustainable growth.

If you are exploring the option of hiring a fractional executive, discuss with Mindy Anderson how to take your business to its next phase of growth.

About the Author

Mindy Anderson, a data-driven and results-oriented digital expert and marketing leader, has consistent experience driving 2X - 10X improvements in visitors, sales leads, conversions, and revenues. Available as either a Fractional CMO or Fractional Chief Growth Officer, she helps companies scale their growth. Mindy delivers advanced digital & brand strategies and innovative multi-platform campaigns, with expertise in delivering sophisticated strategies that generate revenue and superb bottom-line results.

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