Account-based marketing (ABM) is so popular that it’s been called the kale of marketing. But like kale, ABM has been around for a long time in one form or another. What’s new are the data, tools, and analytics to measure and optimize the process. Along with that comes big implications for the ever-evolving roles of sales and marketing.

In the beginning sales was in charge, and marketing was responsible for delivering leads and creating collateral to support them. Sales was in the driver’s seat, and marketing was just along for the ride. Then came content marketing and the recognition that buyers could get a long way through their own buying journey before flagging down anyone in sales. Suddenly marketing was in the lead, providing information to educate and guide the purchasing process.

Now comes ABM, and marketing is betting big on it. In a recent SiriusDecisions study, 92% of companies reported that ABM was extremely important or very important to their overall marketing efforts. Meanwhile, new ABM solutions continue to enter the already crowded marketing technology landscape.

But does the newfound popularity of ABM spell the end of content marketing? And – let’s be honest – does ABM mean marketers are again relegated to the backseat?

No, but the relationship between marketing and sales and the expectations for marketing content have changed again. Here are a few signposts in the new/old land of ABM and what it means for marketing.

Sales and marketing really, really have to work together.

We all agree about the value of sales and marketing alignment, but now we really do have to be in lockstep. And it all starts with the account list. Which organizations should the company target? And why? It’s not enough to know that you’re targeting a specific vertical or companies of a particular size. Successful ABM depends on a host of other factors that can include technology adoption rates, competitive threats, industry trends, expansion and contraction, executive leadership changes, and more.

It doesn’t stop at the organizational account level. All those buyer personas marketing has been going on and on about for the past few years? Now they have names and titles and faces. And sales needs to get to know them. Social sellers, in particular, have no excuse for not knowing all the individuals on a target account’s buying committee and their preferences, needs, and wants.

The implication: Sales and marketing need to assess and reassess their target list on a quarterly basis, audit the depth and breadth of knowledge they have on each account, and either fill the gaps or trim the list.

Marketing has to play the bad cop.

In ABM, marketing is responsible for keeping sales focused on the accounts. It’s not just about BANT and the deal just over the horizon, it’s about the sustainability of the effort and maximizing resources applied over the lifetime of the relationship. There’s no quick hit in ABM, no mercy for the promising lead that comes in unexpectedly, no time for random acts of marketing. ABM is a team effort, not a marketing project.

Is it possible to know every potential customer that meets the criteria for your target list? Perhaps not. But ABM means looking at marketing in terms of opportunity cost. Every detour from the agreed-upon list means taking something away from the concerted, sustained, integrated effort that ABM requires.

The implication: Sales and marketing need to agree on how they are going to manage outliers. Compensation built on growing business with target accounts, not just on revenue quotas, can help. And that goes for marketing, not just sales.

ABM requires laser-focus on the content that really matters.

With ABM, content marketers have an opportunity to curate and create not only personalized content, but contextualized content – information tailored to individuals and where they are at in the buying cycle that answers their specific needs, not an educated guess based on personas and digital tea leaves.

Content marketing for ABM shifts the focus from volume to influence. That’s good news for organizations that feel overwhelmed with the unrelenting demand for content and even better news for organizations that have invested in platforms and tools that measure content performance.

The implication: Content marketers need to be agile. They have to be able to think about content in terms of how it can be tailored to accounts and be able to change it up based on how it performs for those accounts. They need the tools to tell them what’s working on what’s not – at the account level.

All of which begs the question – who’s in the driver’s seat? It’s not marketing or sales. And you know the answer.