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a single, special tree representing one-to-one account-based marketing
Hope Relly-CobbOct 26, 20217 min read

The 3 Types of ABM & When to Use Them

Account-based marketing, or ABM, isn't a one-size-fits-all solution for B2B companies. The best ABM tactics are creative and personalized for each campaign.

There are three main types of ABM, however: One-to-One, One-to-Few, and One-to-Many. Which one works the best varies and depends on your campaign goals, industry, and leads. Let's take a quick look at what each approach involves and in what situations they should be used. 




ABM, at its most targeted, involves identifying a company that would benefit from your services, determining the decision makers and end users, learning about their needs, and crafting a campaign specifically for those individuals. You'll need to learn how to identify the qualities of your ideal lead, pick them out of the crowd, and nurture them into becoming your best customer. Every ad, every landing page, and every email will be created for your target account. Because you’re only focusing on one company, you can take the time to research them and select the right content to share. As a result, your conversations with them will be personalized, human, and meaningful. 

In One-to-One ABM, you should give your target account the first-class marketing treatment, like they’re your dream customer or client (because they are). Write sales emails specifically for them. Serve them geofenced ads tailored to their company. Add their logo to your landing pages. Create sales videos addressing them. Send them presents, like your branded swag or a gift card to the coffee place down the street from their office. 

Now, in order to validate spending all that time and money to market to one account, you need to be certain that your product or service is the right fit for them — and then prove that to them. And you don’t prove that to them by explaining why your product or service is so amazing — you prove it to them by showing them how you can solve their problems and make their lives easier.

The One-to-One approach works best if your product or service involves a large purchase or contract, or if you know of a company that would be an ideal and large client to sign, or if there's one company you really want to work with. Basically, this is the strategy to use if you want to land a whale. What makes One-to-One ABM so creative is that each account is treated like they are special — and focusing on one client at a time makes it easy to keep each campaign unique, creative, and highly personalized. 

Example: If you worked for a marketing agency, you might implement a One-to-One ABM campaign to target a company that fits your ideal client profile, is looking for several of the services you offer, and has a product or mission you're excited about. 


string of light bulbs representing one-to-few account-based marketing


If it’s not practical to focus on acquiring only one new customer at a time, you can apply those same tactics to a small group of hand-picked accounts that are very similar and highly qualified — a handful of your brightest prospects (and future best customers). Each One-to-Few ABM campaign should focus on a very specific market you want to cater to, and the accounts should be similar enough that the campaigns are still personalized to their needs. 

You’ll still research accounts to focus on and identify the end-users and decision makers at each target account, and they’ll likely fall under similar job titles at each company. If necessary, you'll break your audience down by these titles into personas and craft marketing materials tailored for them. Your sales sequences, marketing emails, ads, landing pages, and content offers should still cater to their needs and points of view.

You can still send your prospects gifts and you can still take some time to research each company, but your emails, ads, landing pages, and other materials won't speak directly to one company. You'll use personalization to insert their company name into emails and keep the emails a little more general, but they should still be genuine and persuasive. 

One-to-Few is the middle option, and like a lot of middle options, it's probably the best fit in most cases. Although it depends on the industry and circumstances, this is the one we'd usually recommend to our clients. You'll still focus your efforts on high-quality target accounts and you'll still be able to make personalized, human connections with your leads. But you won't be putting all your eggs in one basket, either. 

Example: If you worked for a marketing agency, you might identify a small group of target accounts that all meet the same criteria and would benefit from one of your services (e.g. local mid-sized food manufacturing companies that are in need of a new website). 


hundreds of arrows flying into the dark representing one-to-many account-based marketing


The One-to-Many approach applies ABM tactics to more traditional marketing methods. Your target accounts should once again be similar, but on a broader scale. It's like kicking your regular marketing up a notch — it's more targeted than serving ads to look-a-like audiences, but less personalized than other types of ABM. 

In One-to-Many ABM, you'll pull a list of contacts based on their company's profile. These accounts are less qualified to begin with because they will fall under larger umbrellas, like industry, location, company size, or other characteristics. You'll figure out high-level pain points and needs for these companies, serve ads to your contacts, enroll them a sales sequence, send them marketing emails, and in the end, try to get them on the phone. To reference the image above, it's a bit like shooting hundreds of arrows into the void and hoping some of them reach your ideal customers. 

You won't do research into a company unless they respond to your marketing efforts and want to set up a time to talk. You won't send gifts unless they show interest. Your emails will be more general and less personalized. You're basically generating brand awareness and trying to educate your contact list — and hope that some of them are interested in learning more. Many won't respond or engage with your materials because they never asked to be contacted in the first place. Email sales sequences have become white noise and often just get deleted unread or marked as spam. 

True ABM is about marketing to predetermined, high-quality leads that have a good probably of closing... and this isn't it. One-t0-Many ABM doesn't have the effect that highly-tailored ABM does, but it can be a good approach if you need a lot of new leads and have enough SDRs to call a large number of prospects. 

Example: If you worked for a marketing agency... you probably wouldn't use this method because marketing to hundreds of accounts typically isn't a good idea if you offer a service. One-to-Many is better suited for businesses that offer a B2B product. Even though this method is much less effective (akin to cold calling), it can be a way to generate leads that are more qualified. 


What makes ABM special

Clients are often concerned with lead generation but forget that there’s a balance between quantity and quality — and ABM is about marketing to a carefully-selected handful of high-quality leads. Quantity isn’t the point of ABM. Instead, you’re predetermining highly-qualified leads who have the best potential to become your future customers/clients. And no matter how amazing your product or service is, solving your prospect's problems and building their trust is what seals the deal in B2B. 

At the heart of ABM is the concept of making marketing truly unique and personal. ABM is not a large-scale tactic that can be set and forgotten about. It's an individualized approach to reaching your ideal customers in a genuine way. 


Which type of ABM should you choose?

So, what's the best type of ABM? Just as every account is unique, every company that runs ABM campaigns has a unique set of needs and tactics that work best for them and the specific accounts they're targeting. The safest route is likely going to be One-to-Few, but focusing on just one big, highly-qualified fish can pay off, and casting a wide net can help bring a lot of leads into the top of your sales funnel. It just depends on what you're trying to achieve.

The moment you try to nail down the "one true way" to practice ABM is the moment you lose sight of what makes ABM special. So no, I can't tell you which type is best — that's something specific to you, your goals, and your future customers. But I hope you've found this article helpful for understanding the intent of ABM and its different forms.

If you'd like to learn more about ABM tactics and talk about which type might be best for your business, you can always schedule a quick conversation with one of our ABM experts.

Not ready to talk? Visit our website to learn more about our account-based marketing services.


Hope Relly-Cobb

Director of Content & Senior Analyst | SIX Marketing