What is account-based marketing? As Demandbase defines ABM: “It’s a set of principles that range from…
- trying to engage large, named customers at a deeper level,
- to pursuing new, high-value accounts that share similar size, industry or geographical characteristics with existing top-tier customers.”
It’s a very logical response to the growing number of people involved in making a B2B buying decision. The main common characteristic of different aspects and applications of ABM is the focus on accounts, instead of on individual job titles or job descriptions alone.
Although account-based marketing has been getting a lot of attention in recent years, it’s not actually a new strategy. ABM was developed in the mid-1990s as a way for (mostly enterprise) marketers to distance themselves from mass marketing tactics and begin a more targeted approach.
As the strategy slowly gained traction, it became better-known and more likely to be employed in companies that don’t rank as enterprise. By 2015, SiriusDecisions reported that over 90% of B2B marketers believe that an account-based marketing strategy is a must-have; it also noted that only 20% of companies had actually implemented a strategy for longer than a year. Which begs the question:
Is ABM a fleeting buzzword, or is it here to stay?
Well, the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), a B2B industry expert for all things marketing, reports that ABM delivers the highest return on investment (ROI) of any B2B marketing strategy or tactic. Demand Metric also found that 60% of those who have employed ABM for at least one year attribute a revenue increase of 10% or more to its use.
Megan Heuer, Vice President and Group Director at SiriusDecisions said, “We’re in the early days of an important change in how B2B companies go about delivering on their revenue goals, and ABM is a critical aspect of this shift.” She added:
“What makes ABM so attractive right now is the way it combines insights for strategy and technology for execution. Marketing teams who understand ABM are in a powerful position to better align to what sales needs, and to make smart choices about the right actions to take and the right time to take them to grow high-potential accounts.”
Ready to take a closer look? Here’s a high-level overview of the five steps to plan and implement a successful account-based marketing strategy, and start creating more marketing-sourced leads.
1. Pick and Choose Your Highest-Value Accounts
Account-based marketing, in some sense, is the brainchild of sales and marketing alignment. The strategy is most successful when you choose high-value accounts that tie to key business initiatives and company goals.
Typical initiatives might be expanding into a new market, increasing market or wallet share, landing a major brand, etc. When you’re choosing your target accounts you’ll want to analyze factors such as industry, location, revenue, similarity to your best customers, technology stack, early-adopter tendencies, financial habits, and so on. You’ll need to target different buyers within an account, so take the time to build buyer personas, which will help you speak directly to those different buyers accurately.
“ABM is fast becoming the B2B strategy of choice because it truly aligns sales and marketing while focusing their teams on the highest value accounts,” says Peter Isaacson, Chief Marketing Officer at Demandbase. “I expect adoption to grow rapidly as companies that have made this switch have seen tremendous results by focusing their efforts on attracting, engaging, converting and measuring the accounts that are most likely to buy.”
ITSMA defines ABM as simply “treating individual accounts as a market in their own right.” Account-based marketing is highly productive partly because it’s highly focused attention. There is an attendant opportunity cost, which means it’s important to choose your accounts carefully. Don’t rush the process of choosing – and don’t make final decisions without input from sales.
2. Define Your Messages and Targeted Content
The secret sauce within any successful ABM strategy is highly customized messaging. To make things easier for yourself, start by taking an inventory of all of your existing content and mapping it to buyers’ profiles. By understanding which pieces of content benefit individual audiences, you’ll be able to fill in critical gaps and avoid creating excess content for your new ABM strategy. You can correlate your content directly to buyer personas, firmographics, and customer journey position, and use your content to speak directly to the targeted accounts’ needs, wants, struggles, and goals.
In some cases, the new research and persona creation may lead you to discover a new value proposition. You may find brand new ways that you can help your prospects – good for you!
3. Determine Which Channels Are Best to Reach Your People
For most companies, the sales cycle is getting longer. ABM strategies work best when you use a combination of channels to market to your targeted accounts. Treat each touch as an ongoing and continuing conversation with your prospect. The single most important thing: Keep your messaging consistent across all platforms. This buffs your trustworthiness and underscores your value proposition.
The channels to consider vary with your target accounts, but ones you might consider include:
- Targeted display ads (this is a whole category unto itself; you can advertise to a range of named roles at a named company, and get one-off ads).
- Email marketing campaigns
- Live events
- Social media
4. Get it Done
Before deploying your new strategy, make sure you set up measurements of success. This might be an increase in conversions from marketing-sourced leads, improved alignment between sales and marketing, or a higher response rate to campaigns. Remember that account-based marketing is all about quality, not quantity.
Once the pieces are in place, launch your new ABM strategy and take a vacation. (Just kidding, you’re not absolved of all of your marketing responsibilities … yet.)
5. Analyze and Adjust
This may be the most important piece – and next to targeting the correct accounts, it’s the one that will lead you to the most success.
It’s all about the data.
I can’t stress this enough. Make sure that you are leveraging tools that help you track your marketing efforts; measure the impact of each of your touches; and see which of your marketing activities are responsible for moving a lead down the funnel. The more data you can gather, the more you can adjust your strategy to optimize your success rates. Make sure you share these insights with your sales team!
Last, but not least
Your target accounts’ needs and priorities will always be changing, just as yours are. Make sure that you continuously check the pulse on your messaging. This is not a one-size-fits-all kind of marketing strategy – quite the opposite. You’ll need to closely monitor the successes (and failures) of your ABM campaigns. The good news is, you’ll be able to measure real, tangible success.
If your ABM strategy is successful, you’ll see meaningful increases in website traffic from your targeted accounts, with more conversions and opportunities. These things translate directly into increased revenue. And, as marketers, doesn’t it feel good when that revenue increase can be tied directly to your marketing efforts? We think so.