What Is Account Based Marketing?

In traditional inbound marketing practices (demand gen), B2B marketers often implement a “one size fits all” approach with their campaigns in hopes of appealing to as many companies in their target market as they can. On the other end of the spectrum, Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a B2B marketing strategy that focuses on targeting high-value accounts (specific companies) with the use of personalized campaigns and outreach. In this process, sales and marketing teams work closely together in identifying and selecting individual companies to target and treat each of these accounts as its very own market.

ABM vs Inbound Marketing Structure

Inbound Marketing vs. Account Based Marketing Structure
Image by martechexec

5 Step Guide to Account Based Marketing

1. Create a Solid Foundation

First things first, it’s time to build your team. These individuals form the base of your ABM efforts, therefore it is essential that your team can work in a collaborative, collective manner. Most ABM teams involve marketing departments, sales, and consultants, but depending on the nature of your business you may even think about involving other roles such as product engineers, project managers, or account managers (to name a few). Although these individuals may not be as heavily involved in the ABM process as sales and marketing teams, they more than likely possess valuable insight on your target customers and/or can provide detailed knowledge on your product or service. Depending on the nature of your business, this abundance of information could help direct and enrich your overall ABM strategy.

One your team is established, next step is to set goals and metrics. Why is your company wanting to implement ABM? Are you looking to accelerate the sales cycle? Increase pipeline? Penetrate new verticals or go into a whole new market? Whatever the motive is, set clear and measurable benchmarks. Your ABM team should have a understanding of what the desired outcome and expectations are.

After establishing goals and benchmarks, start formulating and brainstorming an initial plan to deliver strategic, orchestrated campaigns. Create a timeline with your team on what the targeted launch dates are, decide how long these campaigns will last, and set a time for when your team will meet together to analyze and review results.  

Generating high quality leads is the #1 challenge for B2B marketers.

2. Identify Key Target Accounts

Selecting target accounts can be the most daunting and crucial step in creating a successful ABM strategy. The key is to meet as a team and identify these accounts as a collaborative effort. Combine forces and use internal knowledge as well as powerful ABM database tools to create a targeted list. Sales can usually identify 10-20 accounts based on their knowledge and previous interactions out in the field. In addition, marketing teams should utilize an ABM database tool to carefully research and build out a separate account list.

ABM database tools, such as Marketo, Demandforce, and Infer to name a few, segment companies based on “predictive account engagement scores”. These account scores (100 at best) are formulated using numerous factors including win rate, deal size, firmographic data, annual revenue, employee size, social media activity, funding, CRM platform, and other criteria that would deem important to client fit. Outside of internal knowledge and ABM database research, also consider the account’s likelihood to purchase from you, how their organization is structured, expected profit margin, and who their market influencers are.

Nearly 85% of marketers said ABM proved significant benefits to retain and expand existing client relationships.

3. Conduct Account Profiling

Once targeted accounts have been identified, becoming familiar with the nature of the organization by conducting account mapping and identifying buyer personas will help dictate how you deliver and relate your product or service to these accounts.

Account Mapping

First, gather research and become familiar with the economic standings of the organization. Some of these areas may include:

  • Financial wealth
  • Business initiatives
  • Personnel developments
  • Technologies
  • Organizational structure
  • SWOT analysis
  • Industry analysis

Identify Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customer and can be based off of market research and/or data pertaining to your existing client set. Personas are made up of various components including demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.

When relating buyer personas to ABM, think about who the decision makers and influencers are in the organization. These could be VPs, IT teams, C-Level executives, Marketing Directors, etc. Some of this information may be found in-house, otherwise more research and digging may need to be done. LinkedIn can be useful to uncover key players using simple advanced search.

Clearly understanding who your buyer personas are and mapping out their actions and behaviors will aid your team in effectively delivering targeted messaging.

On average, the number of people involved in a large technology purchase has increased from 5 to 7.

4. Create Personalized Content and Select Marketing Channels

ABM is centered on the idea that content must address clear and significant business challenges. With that being said, You targeted accounts are more likely to engage with content that is geared specifically to them, and is relevant to their business and stage in the buyer journey.

Once these business needs have been identified, sales and marketing teams’ must align themselves in their efforts when coordinating campaigns for maximum impact. Creating highly valuable, relatable content isn’t enough and won’t yield a return unless the right spread of channels are being used to deliver it. Think about your buyer personas and key influencers. What mix of marketing channels do they use on a regular basis or what channels would most relate to their business? Email, blogs, social media, display ads, direct mail, events, and video are just a few of many marketing channels that could be utilized to deliver content.

Once you’ve created personalized content and selected marketing channels to drive your messaging, it’s also important to determine what phase each account is at in the buyer journey. We’ve simplified this to 3 simple phases: awareness, consideration, and decision. The goal is to take your content and build relationships and trust with your target accounts at each stage in the buyer journey.

Here is an example of a marketing channel cadence:

Awareness

  • Opt. in offers
  • Social media targeted posts
  • Tradeshows
  • Low value direct mail

Consideration

  • Retargeting ads
  • Webinars
  • Email
    • Personalized with account’s unique objectives/challenges. Include a case study to a similar company that you’ve had success with, blog article, or any other material that would be relevant and useful.
  • Seminars or Lunch and Learns
    • Aim to drive target account attendance or C-Level executives
  • Appointment setting

Decision

  • Onsite meetings
  • Executive outreach
  • High value direct mail
  • White papers and personalized letters
  • Field events

Note that every business is different. Some marketing channels will work for some, but not all industries. You may already know what channels typically yield a higher response; Moreover, the key is to utilize a multi-channel, systematic approach and leverage different marketing tactics with personalized, relevant messaging.

ABM had higher ROI than other marketing activities, according to 97% of marketers in a survey.

5. Measure and Analyze

When it comes time to measure campaign results, compiling data from multiple channels will help your team hone in on what ones proved to be most effective. Look at the results of individual campaigns as well as trends at the account level and in total (all target accounts) to get a more accurate picture if goals and benchmarks were met.

Individual Account Analysis Report

  • New leads engaged, and to what level
  • New names identified, and their level of influence
  • Total cost of campaigns
  • New pipeline created
  • Pipeline to cost ratio (5x or more return on investment is ideal!)

Engagement Activity Report

  • Unique visits to website
  • Pages visited
  • Time spent on website
  • Open and click through rates
  • Call to actions being utilized (filling out web form, signing up for blog or newsletter, email, call, etc.)

Sales Metrics

  • Sales cycle lengths
  • Conversion rates
  • Deal sizes

Prioritize MQL Follow Up

  • Sales enablement → prioritize follow up starting with top target accounts

Other questions to consider when analyzing campaign performance:

  • Have these accounts changed the way they engage with your brand and its content?
  • Which channels are you investing the most money in? Is the ROI profitable? Should you be focusing your efforts on different channels that may be performing better at a lower cost?

Whether metrics are being analyzed daily, weekly, or monthly, make sure that progress is being made and that goals are being met. If there is little ROI resulting from your campaigns, your ABM strategy will need some adjustment. This could include increasing budget,  refreshing content, adding different marketing channels, or even selecting new accounts. Perhaps your marketing efforts are bringing prospective clients in, but deals keep falling through. In that case, what in your sales process is causing this to happen?

Analyzing all of this data and modifying your strategy may take some trial and error, but that’s the beauty of ABM. The goal is to find the right rhythm to effectively connect and convert your targeted accounts into clients.

More than 60% of B2B marketers surveyed said they plan to implement an ABM program within the next year.

Final Thoughts

Is ABM right for your business?

Companies seeking to attract high-value clients find that an ABM strategy is much more effective than a broad based inbound marketing approach. You need to understand the different approaches you can take, and it might not be the right fit. Are you trying to target specific accounts? Or are you just trying to generate interest at the top of your sales funnel? Understanding the nature of your industry, what your main objectives and goals are, and what resources you currently have will help you decide if ABM strategy is right for your business.

There are various options when it comes to integrating different marketing services and technologies with your existing marketing process to make ABM work. As you try demos of different ABM software and tools, look for options that complement your current process and system. Keep in mind that that ABM needs significant ongoing effort and analysis to get it right. Your own marketing resources, including your team and your external marketing partners, can make a huge difference in making ABM successful at your company. Check out this useful article by Technology Advice, reviewing some of the best ABM platforms out there!