• Liz Lathan

The 80/20 rule: ABM events drive more revenue

Updated: Nov 10

The time of spray-and-pray event marketing is over. Smart marketers are leveraging their ABM teams to drive more event participation and more pipeline.



Your company probably already has an account-based marketing (ABM) team dedicated to revenue expansion among install-base accounts, but have you aligned your event strategy to support them yet? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. We asked marketing professionals if they have an ABM event strategy to complement their ABM program and the vast majority said no.

The numbers tell a compelling story. Research conducted by ITSMA indicates that almost 80% of marketers measuring ROI believe an ABM strategy outperforms all other marketing campaigns. Marketo reports that nearly 84% of event marketers said an ABM strategy helped them retain existing relationships and expand their customer base. And according to Alterra Group, 97 percent of marketers say that account-based marketing (ABM) has resulted in a higher return on investment (ROI) than other marketing activities.


“Companies that have implemented some targeted digital marketing tactics through the ABM campaign team, companies are seeing significant increases in engagement and conversions of event registrations. ”

So it’s no surprise that among those who are using an ABM event strategy some incredible opportunities have arisen.


“As events bridge the gap between the personal touch and technology, incorporating ABM into the event strategy can lead to team alignment that creates positive customer experiences,” writes Jake Diserio in an Aventri blog post about ABM event strategies. “Such engagement can ultimately drive customers through the marketing funnel for increased close rates. If executed properly, an ABM strategy can benefit both the customers and the marketers as it specifically addresses the customer’s needs, resulting in long-term valuable relationships.”


Of the marketers we interviewed, we uncovered three approaches to ABM programs:

  1. Leverage ABM relationships for audience acquisition for existing events

  2. Create events specifically for ABM accounts

  3. Have not connected ABM programs to events at all

Leverage ABM relationships for audience acquisition for existing events

For those who are leveraging their ABM programs for audience acquisition, they benefit from several key advantages:

  • Outreach to accounts and contacts who are familiar with their brand is a solid audience acquisition strategy to drive early registrations for events. Arming the ABM marketing managers and their sales teams with upcoming event opportunities allows them to align the right events with the needs of the account’s business.

  • Install-base accounts are more likely to say yes to joining events because they have an existing relationship with the company and a vested interest in learning more about the products and solutions to help them scale their programs.

  • They are already (usually) in the CRM systems, allowing for more personalized invitations through email automation as well as easier connections with the sales team who can access their information to send invitations through the CRM.

  • ABM accounts are more likely to bring a colleague with them to the event, again due to the vested interest in the vendor relationship.

  • ABM contacts are also more likely to engage post-event because they attended to learn more or connect more with SMEs or executives, so they are more willing to accept a follow-up call or meeting to discuss the new information they gleaned from the event.

Companies that have implemented some targeted digital marketing tactics through the ABM campaign team, companies are seeing significant increases in engagement and conversions of event registrations.


Event technology company Bizzabo shares a few digital tactics in their blog post “Account-Based Event Marketing: 15 Powerful Tips.”


One suggestion is to create customized landing pages for each account being invited. If your company has a large enterprise account and hopes to drive dozens or more participants from a single company, a hypersite can be created targeting that single account.


Sales and marketing professionals supporting the account can send a direct invitation to the hypersite or by obtaining the IP addresses for the key accounts and triggering "smart" website content accordingly, the technology can do the work to determine if the prospects clicking on the link are with the key account. “Doing so will increase the chances of your event website deeply resonating with your account contacts and thus convincing them to register,” according to Bizzabo.


As a stand-alone tactic, or in coordination with the hypersite approach, you can leverage your account and contact data to run targeted display ad campaigns. Similar to targeted display ads, social media ads also allow for effective targeted campaigns. LinkedIn allows you to target for company size, location and even job title. Facebook ads also allows targeting for very specific traits. Make sure to utilize social ad campaigns to their maximum potential to achieve the highest click-through rate among your account contacts.


And of course measuring the success of these initiatives is imperative to determine if these tactics are actually worth the investment. You can specifically track the website activity of targeted accounts, locate their IP addresses and track them.


Creating events specifically for ABM accounts

For the companies that have invested specifically in creating events for the accounts in their ABM programs, they have experienced incredibly low attrition for event attendance and fostered deeper relationships with those accounts. Some of the key advantages of this strategy include:

  • Curated and relevant content based on the needs of the business. According to the Harvard Business Review, customers who perceive supplier content to be tailored to their specific needs are 40% more willing to buy from that supplier.

  • Expansion opportunities within the account without having to onboard as a new vendor.

  • Executive buy-in on participation for the benefit of the vendor relationship.

  • Curated more meaningful connections allowing for cross-sell/upsell conversations.

While the pandemic put a wrench in some wildly successful programs, the team at Haute, a creative agency supporting Fortune 500 B2B clients, were able to transform an ABM pop-up event program they run for a tech client into a virtual experience until a transitional strategy could be created for seeing customers in person again.


“We had a fully-functioning ABM pop-up program running on 3 continents, supported by a team of more than 15 people and we were executing upwards of 6 events per week globally until all travel was banned,” said Liz Lathan, CMO of Haute. “The program was created as a product showcase that could be set up onsite at the customer’s location. Our client’s sales rep would ‘order up’ an event through an app that we created and our team was able to coordinate with the customer to execute the logistics of the pop-up event right on the customer’s campus.”


The program was set up to be modular so the sales representative could curate the products that were being displayed at their account to support the needs of the client’s business, and showcase new technology if the intent was to upsell or cross-sell into the account.

But when the pandemic hit, closing all customer offices and eliminating the ability to travel, the team had to take it virtual. “We did create a virtual replica of the in-person experience but we made sure to continue the bookings through the app as a hosted experience,” said Lathan. “Just throwing a customer into a virtual room and telling them to click around isn’t the personal touch we wanted for the customers, so we still have the same dialogue and walk-through experience when we do a virtual tour as we would in person.”


As their client prepares for a travel ban lift in late 2021, Haute is preparing for a “2.0” version of the ABM program using a mobile tour approach. “We know that there will be varying degrees of corporate office facilities being open and even inconsistencies around those customers working in the office versus remotely, so our next iteration will still take an ABM approach on a geographic level by bringing a mobile tour to the customer’s city,” said Lathan. She believes it will take a little more coordination with the local sales teams to get multiple accounts to use the truck experience when it is in town, but the same basic ABM event principles will remain to curate the experience for each account’s business priorities.


Have not connected ABM programs to events at all

For the companies that we spoke to who have not yet connected their events to ABM at all, many said that it was simply a strategy that hadn’t come up as an opportunity, and the ABM teams have been so focused on their campaigns that they had not considered connecting with events teams to coordinate. But according to research from Demand Gen Report, events remain the “top engagement tactic for generating qualified leads for 76 percent of B2B brands,” so there is significant value in ensuring the ABM accounts are getting invitations.

If this is the position you find your company in, here are a few tips that the ABM-forward companies advise to get started:

  • At the very least, prepare an event calendar with topics that you can share with your ABM and field marketing teams to have them help drive audience acquisition among their accounts when the topics are relevant.

  • Run regular registration reports and if more than 3 participants are from the same account, alert the ABM and sales teams to their presence so they can craft a personalized outreach or onsite experience for their account – as a bonus, this pre-event outreach will help minimize attrition on the day of the event.

  • Take a look at the personas across your ABM accounts when creating new events. Many ABM programs span verticals and share personas. Knowing that you have 4 ABM teams all targeting cybersecurity professionals will help you craft content that will attract more of your targets to those events.

  • Keep ABM-focused events small. Fewer than 30 participants is ideal for virtual and in-person events, and experiences should be crafted around conversation and the ability for your company to uncover new opportunities and make new contacts within the account.

  • Don’t be afraid to gather a larger audience together for core messages and then break them up into ABM breakout sessions for targeted, relevant content for their business.

As in-person events return in 2022 some companies are exploring a new approach to the old roadshow. T&E budgets may come back slowly, so a more regional event plan could draw the “drive-in” crowd.


“We’re looking at creating an experience space that would be in one location for a week or two and coordinating with the ABM and sales teams in that geography to bring clients in by account at specific times,” one global event director told us. “This lets us continue to be a little “COVID-safe” by not throwing a big event, but also driving the relationship-building aspect of an ABM approach.”

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