In this guide, we simplify account-based marketing, explain how it works, highlight the benefits, and teach you how to implement an ABM strategy. Along the way, we will clarify whether this strategy is suitable for your business or not.
Every marketer who has been around long enough agrees that marketing is highly dynamic. At the beginning of the millennium, for example, TV, radio, and newspaper adverts were sufficient to attract a trophy client. Then came the internet, e-commerce, and social media, which lead to marketing strategies such as content marketing, digital marketing, and reputation management.
Even before some marketers get ready to aboard the digital marketing train, another trend is slowly looming over the horizon. Those who have had the guts to try it out are telling their war stories already. It is called account-based marketing.
We really wish that this was the last trend you need to adapt to, but years of experience pout in disagreement. Even more, it is possible for marketers to compete effectively without changing to the latest strategy, especially if it has the benefits account-based marketing has.
What is Account-Based Marketing?
Account-based marketing is a highly specialised marketing strategy that focuses its campaigns to specific customers. With this strategy, you treat the prospect or customer as the market itself. Your marketing team organises events, creates content, run audience based ad campaigns and arrange campaigns solely for the people in your target organisation instead of the entire industry.
Flipping Traditional Marketing
In B2B marketing, you can actualise this through persona marketing, where you sell to individuals based on your customer personas. Though it increases the chances of landing your specific client, it still has high miss levels. ABM marketing flips traditional marketing upside down. With ABM, instead of ending with the best company after removing all unprofitable leads, you start by identifying your trophy client. You then design your campaign to reach out to that client.
Account-Based Marketing focuses on quality outreach and building relationships. For example, instead of blog posts and long email lists with content for the mass audience, you focus only on creating experiences and content that target specific people in the target company.
You probably think that this requires a lot of customised content. Well, it is true, especially when you remember that the average number of decision-makers on enterprise deals is 17! However, it is worth it because as you acknowledge each of them and present content from their perspective, it becomes easier for them to agree on your product during decision time.
Who Can Use Account-Based Marketing Strategy?
Companies that seek to win high-value businesses where there are many decision makers are the primary beneficiaries of this strategy.
Irrespective of how brilliant the strategy is, it is not optimal for every business. Account-based marketing is a B2B marketing approach suitable for enterprise-level sales companies. Therefore, first, if you are not in the B2B industry, then it is not for you.
Some have stated a thousand as the bare minimum number of employees for your target account before you consider going ABM. We believe it is inaccurate to use the number of employees as a sole determinant on whether to adopt ABM, especially given the level of automation in today’s industry. Plus, you may want to target multiple mid-sized accounts at the same time.
Irrespective of the size of your business or how you implement your account-based marketing strategy, the return on investment is always worth it. According to the findings of a research by the ITSMA, 97% of the respondents reported that they received higher returns on investments using this campaign model than the others.
Benefits of ABM to B2B Marketing
1. Highly Personalised
The primary limitation of the Inbound approach of marketing is that it is challenging to cater for the specific needs of individuals in the audience.
ABM, on the other hand, is dedicated to communicating to the needs and perspectives of decision-makers. Since you do not have a large number of unfiltered leads to deal with, you can personalise your content to a small and tightly-knight group of people.
2. Saves Resources Used on Unprofitable Leads
ABM not only makes sure you reach the right people; it also helps you cut down on unprofitable leads. Wide-net marketing spends a lot of time and money, reaching out to people who will never become customers. In fact, research shows that 82% of visitors to B2B websites are not prospective customers.
Account-based marketing ensures that you are only spending time and other resources where there are likely to bear fruits. It also keeps your marketing team engaged in times when there is no activity from the wider audience.
3. Alignment of the Sales and Marketing Departments
Every manager knows of the challenges between the sales and marketing departments. They are like two Siamese twins who don’t always get along with each other but cannot live apart.
Traditional marketing that focuses on lead generation leaves salespeople in a wild chase of geese that they might never catch. Also, it often leads to conflicting communication from the two departments, which usually works against the business.
Account-based marketing ensures that both sections are focused on the same account. It results in a constant, close, and laser-focused collaboration between the two departments.
A research by Forrester Research showed that organisations that have such alignment experience up to 32% annual growth. Less aligned businesses have a 7% decline in growth annually.
4. Shortens Sales Cycle
The other benefit of Account-based marketing strategy besides removing the fence between the sales and marketing department is the shortening of the sale cycle. Since the focus is on one qualified prospect, it saves the sales team from spending time after leads that will never materialise. The effect is a shorter time between the first call from the sales department and the closing of the deal.
5. Improved Attribution
Attribution in marketing is the ability to associate a marketing campaign with sales revenue during that period. It is one of the biggest challenges in marketing departments. ABM makes it easier as you will be marketing to buyers with whom you have created a relationship, making it easy to know when they make a purchase.
With Account-based marketing, you know how much you are spending, where you are spending it, and the expected returns. It boosts the confidence of the decision makers in your business in your marketing efforts. As a result, they will be more willing to provide the resources that will help you deliver your best.
6. Strengthens Your Relationship with Customers
Customer retention is vital for business survival and growth. Small Business Trends’ statistics show that 68% of customers leave because they feel you are indifferent to their needs. It also shows that a 5% increase in retention can lead to a 25% to 95% increase in profits.
In the traditional model, retention is the role of the customer service department. ABM brings both the marketing and the sales team on board. Even though this might not increase your ROI with the customer on the first deal, it increases their chance of renewing their contract.
Account-Based Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing
Most people who learn about account-based marketing think it is an improvement over inbound marketing. Some even go ahead to propose an entire shift from inbound to ABM. Unfortunately, this is the result of a misunderstanding of ABM and the role of marketing as a whole.
However, before we explain this further, let us first point out the difference between the two.
Difference between ABM and Inbound
Starting point: ABM is laser-focused on an individual vetted prospect or customer from the beginning. In Inbound, the focus on a target company comes near the end of the process.
Suitability: ABM is suitable for enterprise-level deals, whereas Inbound is suitable for small to medium-sized businesses.
Level of focus: Account-based marketing focus solely on the customer. Inbound marketing campaigns, on the other hand, focuses on the entire industry, with no particular customer in mind.
Dual role: ABM targets both existing customers and prospects, whereas Inbound specialises mostly on creating new leads.
ABM and Inbound marketing, though different in principles, are complementary marketing strategies. You need both for a successful marketing campaign.
One strategy does what the other cannot do. Typically, inbound marketing reaches out to the audience and then selects the most promising client from the leads. Once the process is done, ABM takes over.
Besides, you cannot put the entire effort of the team, reaching to a new client. In fishing, anglers sometimes opt for the net to take care of immediate survival needs as he works on catching the trophy fish. The same is true for business. You can continue attracting and converting other customers using Inbound marketing as you work on winning the target client with ABM.
Once you have decided to implement ABM in your marketing campaign, it is time to know how to do it well. Today’s customer does not like being sold. Here are six steps of planning and executing account-based marketing.
How to Launch and Execute an ABM Strategy
1. Identify Your Target
The first step to successful ABM is to identify your target company. The focus of this strategy is marketing to the entire organisation. It is worth remembering, even though in the next stage, you will be targeting individuals.
Selecting the prospective B2B sales customer should be a collaborative effort of both the sales and marketing departments. Both departments will provide essential data on the target, such as the company size, industry, location, and its net worth. Information on strategic marketing factors like market influence, the possibility of repeat purchase, and the expected ROI is also essential.
2. Do Your Research
Irrespective of how good your market research team is, some aspects will require intuition and experience. Here is where other stakeholders outside the two departments come in handy. In account-based marketing, it involves doing in-depth research on the target company. Determine the structure of the business and the key decision makers.
The goal is not to create buyer personas. Instead, it helps you understand how you should package and deliver your product to the target business.
LinkedIn provides a fast way of doing research with its Account Targeting marketing solutions. Check it out for more details.
3. Design Your Content
Once you know how your target organisation works, it is time to create content that meets its specific needs. It is essential, again, to keep in mind that the content is not for some employees but to the entire organisation. For instance, instead of explaining how the HR guy will benefit from outsourcing your recruitment services, address the company.
You might not need to create new content if you already have content from your past inbound marketing strategies. Simply ask your marketing designers to revamp them in a way that communicates to the organisation rather than individuals.
4. Select a Suitable Channel
Your content is worthless, irrespective of how well it is written if you cannot get it to the targeted people. Choosing the right channel of communication ensures that your content reaches the intended stakeholders.
At this point, it is essential to understand where the targeted stakeholder “hangs out” online and on social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, among others. Some of the information that can help you figure this out is their hobbies and active online pages.
You should have captured this information during your research stage. Facebook and LinkedIn have ways of helping with this. Demographic profiling of social media users by the Pew Research Centre might also be useful.
5. Execute Your Strategy
The groundwork is done, now it is time for the real play. Congratulations on getting this far. However, do not celebrate just yet; below are two issues you need to consider carefully.
1. No bombarding: You have studied your target, and you know all the channels to use to find them. Do not destroy your chances of creating a relationship by totally bombarding them with your content online.
2. Remarketing moderation: Account-based marketing offers you immense remarketing powers. Just ensure you do not keep sending the same message to the same person constantly. Be creative and create a library of insight material that is useful.
6. Review the Performance of Your Campaign
Review your campaign strategy after a month or two. Measure the effectiveness of your efforts and make the necessary changes. Some of the important questions to ask include:
- What is the engagement level of your personalised content?
- Has the engagement of the target with your company changed? If yes, how? Otherwise, why?
- How many decision makers have you reached out to? What is their response or reaction?
- Have you generated any revenue?
- What aspect of the campaign requires improvement?
Sometimes, the answers to these questions might not be as positive as you anticipated. Instead of giving up, figure out what needs changing or improvement, and do it. Besides, who said spearfishing is often successful in the first trial? Yet it is still worth every effort!