What is Account-Based Marketing?
ABM (Account-Based Marketing) is a B2B marketing strategy that focuses on finding companies (accounts) that match ideal client profiles and then targeting the key decision makers in those companies with content and personalized messages through advertising and marketing campaigns.
Account-Based Marketing avoids the use of ‘spray and pray’ tactics that target the masses or that simply target individuals without the context of the companies that they work for. Instead, Account-Based Marketing uses laser-like focus to understand client needs and how to deploy the most effective marketing strategy that will nurture engagement and value addition with key stakeholders. As such, Account-Based Marketing is said to think of targeted companies/accounts as a market of one.
For ABM to work, sales and marketing must pull together to focus their efforts on identifying accounts and targeting common goals with a mutual understanding of what success will look like.
Although there is some quarrel about how much scale you can achieve through an ABM strategy that has an inherently highly-targeted approach and laser-like focus, today, with the use of technology, marketers can scale their Account-Based Marketing efforts more than ever before.
How Does Account-Based Marketing Differ from Inbound Marketing?
ABM uses a customer experience funnel or account-based approach, while inbound marketing uses a lead-based approach that utilizes a traditional demand generation funnel.
With the customer experience funnel or ABM-based approach:
- Companies that meet an ideal customer profile (ICP) based on technographic data, firmographic data, and predictive analytics are identified. An ICP is based purely on prospects that have the highest likelihood of making a purchase.
- Identification then expands to key influencers in the company that will be personally targeted.
- The key influencers in the company are engaged and nurtured
- The key influencers eventually become advocates for the marketer’s product/service
A traditional B2B lead generation or Inbound marketing strategy focuses on the conventional demand generation funnel where:
- Awareness for a product/service is created through marketing tactics that reach the masses
- Individuals that express interest in the product/service are then identified as marketing qualified leads (MQL) or sales qualified leads (SQL)
- The individuals are then engaged and nurtured
- Individuals that are ready to make the purchase become customers
Does Account-Based Marketing Work?
Before we can get to how ABM works, it’s essential to ask who is using ABM and find out whether it actually works.
According to the October 2018 ABM Benchmark Survey Report, most B2B companies are still in the early stages of implementing ABM strategies. Over 52% of respondents said that their companies have had a plan in place for up to a year. An additional 33% of respondents said that their companies have been using Account-Based Marketing strategies for over a year, with only 15% saying that they have not used any ABM strategies yet. Most of the companies that use ABM strategies were pleased with the overall results.
According to DEMANDBASE, 92% of B2B companies recognize the value of an ABM approach and say that it is a must-have for them. The main benefits that ABM delivers include:
- It creates a strong alignment between sales and marketing
- It has a highly-targeted or laser-like approach and is, therefore, efficient and optimized
- It uses a customer-driven strategy to only approach target audiences. This strategy allows ABM to create enhanced customer experiences
- ABM produces a higher ROI than other marketing activities
How Does Account-Based Marketing Work?
With all the optimism and success behind ABM, it is easy to take for granted the work that needs to be put behind a successful ABM campaign. Taking the right steps, measuring/optimizing campaigns, and aligning sales and marketing are all critical if you want your Account-Based Marketing strategy to work. With this in mind, some of the fundamental ideas that you must employ in your ABM strategy include the following:
Define Ideal Companies/Accounts
Inbound marketing strategies mostly target distinct personas by distinguishing those who are most likely to buy from those that are less likely to purchase. ABM is much the same just that it focuses on marketing to entire companies instead. The marketer, therefore, has to understand the makeup of the company that will generate the highest monthly recurring revenue (MMR) for them.
Account-Based Marketing uses firmographic and technographic data to identify target companies. Some of the data points that will be used include location, company size, annual revenue, industry, upsell opportunity, profit margin, etc. The process involves the use of qualitative and quantitative research and sometimes even predictive analytics to define the right companies to target.
Find Ideal Companies/Accounts
Once you define and understand who your target companies are, including their makeup, decide who you want to target and then research further to find the key stakeholders in those companies. Research into these companies should include who the key decision makers are and how decisions in the company are made. The information you gather should allow you to strategize on how you can influence each one of the stakeholders. Some of the useful tools that you can use to identify these individuals include your CRM and social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and especially LinkedIn.
Engaging key stakeholders is done through personalized messages and by creating customized content using all the research that you have gathered so far. Additionally, understanding specific pain points for different decision-makers and then addressing these pain points by offering solutions must be done.
Marketers should work with design teams and marketing teams to ensure that messages and content are audio/visually aligned to communicate a deliberate message to key stakeholders.
Choose the Best Channels to Reach Decision-Makers
It is crucial to ensure that you promote your content in the right channels that will ensure that you reach your targeted decision-makers. Understanding where these individuals spend most of their time online, at what time they prefer to use a specific online platform, their state of mind when using different platforms, etc. are all useful factors that you must consider.
For example, some executives may prefer to use LinkedIn when at work and Facebook during off-work hours. When they are using Facebook, they are more likely to be in a relaxed or laid-back mind-frame while on LinkedIn, they are more likely to be professional and tuned-in to their work.
Implement and Measure the Results of The Account-Based Marketing Campaign
When implementing your ABM campaign, you should ensure not to overwhelm your target audience by sending them a barrage of the same repeated message across multiple channels. Remember that your goal is to catch the attention of the organization and the decision-makers in the organization without turning them off and making them feel harassed by your approach.
The best way to ensure that your Account-Based Marketing campaign is effective at what it is supposed to do is by measuring and adjusting to ensure that you remain on course. Some of the questions that you should ask to determine whether your ABM campaign is on course include:
- Is your content engaging and why (or why not)?
- Are you reaching more stakeholders within targeted organizations?
- Have any of your targeted stakeholders/decision-makers moved down the funnel?
- Is there any growth in revenue and is your ROI net-positive?
- How can you improve going forward?
According to a study conducted by 2018 ABM Benchmark Survey Report, the top metrics that marketers use to track their ABM campaigns include, Contribution to Pipeline Revenue, Win Rate, and Net-New Accounts Engaged.
If you are not getting the Account-Based Marketing results you desire, don’t be disheartened. Understanding the right steps to take is just the first step on the road that will lead to success with your ABM campaigns. Through constant tweaking of your strategy using insights gathered from the right metrics, you will continuously evolve and improve the results that you seek.
If you are already getting the results that you are after, don’t forget that there is always room for improvement. Again, listening to your target audience and gathering insights from metrics will help you to grow beyond glass ceilings.