Difference Between ABM and Traditional Marketing

Difference Between ABM and Traditional Marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a modern B2B marketing strategy that focuses on targeting specific companies or high-value accounts. It involves creating personalized campaigns designed to engage each individual account, based on its unique needs, pain points, and goals.

On the other hand, traditional marketing takes a broader approach. It targets a wider audience through mass marketing techniques such as print ads, billboards, radio, and TV commercials. Used in both B2B and B2C settings, this method is less personalized but can help you reach a large number of people quickly.

In 279 qualitative interviews with ABM leaders across the globe, an ITSMA study found that 28% of the 2022 marketing budget was dedicated to ABM and 71% of companies planned to increase ABM spending in 2023, up 13.1% year-on-year.

As for traditional marketing, it still commands a significant share of advertising revenue, with approximately 56% of the global ad spend. And despite a reported annual decrease in traditional advertising spending of -1.4% from February 2012 to February 2022, traditional marketing spending has since been projected to increase by 2.9%.

As a B2B company deciding between ABM vs traditional marketing strategies, you need to consider your goals, target audience, sales cycles, and resources. In essence, an ABM framework is highly effective for engaging and converting specific high-value accounts, while traditional marketing can be useful for building broader brand awareness.

In this article, let’s dive into the differences between ABM and traditional marketing and explore how they impact ROI. By the end, you’ll have a better idea of which strategy might be best suited for your needs as a B2B brand.

What is Account-Based Marketing?

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach to business marketing in which an organization considers and communicates with individual prospects or customer accounts as markets of one. ABM narrows the marketing focus to a few select accounts that have been identified as key to business success. These accounts are then targeted with personalized campaigns designed to resonate with the specific characteristics and needs of each account.

ABM works by aligning marketing and sales teams to identify high-value accounts and then crafting personalized marketing strategies aimed at engaging each account. This involves extensive research to understand the target accounts’ business challenges, industry, competition, and place in the market. Marketing efforts are then tailored to address these specific attributes and to speak directly to the stakeholders within each account.

The personalized campaigns used in ABM might include customized messaging through email campaigns, specialized events, or targeted digital advertising on platforms like LinkedIn. The content and messaging are developed to reflect the unique perspective and needs of the account, ensuring relevance and increasing the likelihood of engagement.

By focusing resources on a smaller number of high-value accounts, ABM seeks to provide a higher return on investment than traditional marketing methods. It is a collaborative process that requires sales and marketing teams to work closely together to identify the right accounts, develop a deep understanding of those accounts, and execute a customized marketing strategy that will resonate with each one.

What is Traditional Marketing?

Traditional marketing refers to the conventional methods of marketing that have been used for decades to reach a mass audience. It encompasses a variety of offline advertising and promotional strategies, including print advertisements in newspapers and magazines, broadcast advertising on television and radio, direct mail campaigns, billboards, and telephone sales.

This approach is characterized by its broad reach and one-way communication flow, where the message is crafted by the company and pushed out to a wide audience.

Traditional marketing works by casting a wide net to attract customers from the general population. It relies on the law of averages, where a small percentage of the mass audience engaged by these methods is expected to respond to the marketing efforts. Thus, the campaigns are typically designed to appeal to a bigger demographic rather than tailored to individual preferences or behaviors.

In practice, traditional marketing involves creating a consistent brand message and using repetition to build brand awareness and recall. The success of traditional marketing campaigns is typically measured by the number of people reached and the frequency of exposure, known as impressions. While it can be challenging to directly measure the impact on sales, traditional marketing methods are still valued for their ability to increase brand visibility and establish a brand’s presence in the consumer’s mind.

Difference Between Account-Based Marketing and Traditional Marketing

Account-based marketing and traditional marketing differ in a variety of facets. Here’s a quick listicle that outlines the key distinctions:

1. Targeting

  • ABM targets individual accounts or companies, creating highly personalized marketing experiences.
  • Traditional marketing targets a broad audience, using demographic data like age, gender, and location.

2. Personalization

  • In ABM, messages and campaigns are tailored to meet the specific needs and challenges of each account.
  • Traditional marketing employs a one-size-fits-all message that’s distributed across all channels.

3. Communication Style

  • ABM fosters two-way communication between the marketer and the targeted account, encouraging a dialogue.
  • Traditional marketing is characterized by one-way communication from the brand to the consumer.

4. Sales Alignment

  • ABM requires close coordination with the sales team to identify and nurture specific accounts.
  • Traditional marketing typically operates independently of the sales team, focusing on generating leads in a wider pool.

5. Sales Cycle

  • ABM is effective in longer B2B sales cycles, where nurturing key accounts is critical.
  • Traditional marketing can be utilized for shorter sales cycles, aiming for volume and reach.

6. Metrics and ROI

  • ABM measures success through account engagement, conversion rate, pipeline impact, customer lifetime value, and revenue growth from targeted accounts.
  • Traditional marketing typically measures success through reach, impressions, and the number of leads generated.

7. Resource Allocation

  • ABM concentrates resources on a smaller number of high-value accounts, aiming for depth over breadth.
  • Traditional marketing disperses resources broadly, aiming to reach as many potential customers as possible.

8. Marketing Channels

  • ABM leverages targeted channels that the specific accounts engage with, often including personalized content and messaging.
  • Traditional marketing uses mass media channels like TV, radio, and print to broadcast messages.

These conceptual differences underscore the strategic nature of ABM in focusing marketing efforts and aligning them closely with the sales process, in contrast to the broader, more generalized approach of traditional marketing.

ABM vs. Traditional Marketing: Which Yields Better ROI?

Before we conclude, let’s take a look at how these two strategies fare in terms of ROI. Naturally, given its modern, more personalized approach, you’d expect ABM to deliver better returns in terms of revenue per unit of investment.

Recent data corroborates your assumption — according to the ITSMA study cited earlier, most ABM programs show measurable improvements in terms of:

  • 84% pipeline growth
  • 72% say ABM delivers a higher ROI than other types of marketing
  • 66% say ABM is significantly improving marketing and sales alignment

Another report also found that 60% of companies see at least a 10% revenue boost in the first year of a new ABM program. Furthermore, as per Gartner, ABM positively influences several key sales metrics, including a 28% increase in overall account engagement and a 25% rise in the marketing-qualified lead (MQL) to sales-accepted lead (SAL) conversion rates.

On the other hand, the ROI in traditional marketing can vary widely based on the methods used, the industry, and the campaign’s reach and execution. Traditional marketing ROI is generally harder to measure compared to ABM and digital efforts due to its offline nature.

Still, it can deliver great ROI in terms of brand building. For instance, TV advertising, despite its high costs, can be responsible for as much as 72% of brand awareness, which can be a crucial component in a customer’s journey to purchase and thus indirectly affects ROI​. Moreover, direct mail continues to be a powerful tool, with 39% of customers indicating that it has prompted them to try a business for the first time, suggesting a strong initial ROI from this traditional method​​.

Ultimately, these pieces of data highlight a trend where traditional marketing methods, while still valuable for certain objectives like brand awareness and reaching particular demographics, may not deliver as high an ROI as a digital-first ABM strategy. Thus, often a blend of traditional and account-based marketing can help you capitalize on the strengths of both, optimizing your overall ROI.


Clearly, account-based marketing has a lot going for it. It provides a targeted, personalized framework that’s laser-focused on engaging specific high-value accounts, which has shown to yield substantial ROI and deepen customer relationships in B2B sectors.

Traditional marketing, with its broader reach, continues to play a role in brand awareness and can still be effective, especially in reaching certain demographics. However, its ROI may not match that of an ABM strategy, especially in the context of closing sales and cost efficiency.

As you strive to optimize your marketing efforts, the decision between ABM and traditional marketing will ultimately depend on your specific goals, target audience, and the value you place on personalization versus reach.

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