Account-based marketing is a buzzphrase right now in the B2B community. Even if you don’t know how ABM works, you have most likely heard of it. It's a revolutionary approach for how B2B marketers operate and generate leads.
Account based marketing is an emerging new strategy in the B2B industry that focuses on generating higher-value leads. In the 2000s, marketers were primarily concerned about volume of leads over anything; the more the better. Traditional inbound campaigns were commonly made up of click-bait topics aiming to drive as much traffic as possible. As leads moved through the funnel, eventually a few qualified targets remained. While many were successful with this methodology, contacts became more aware of how they were being targeted and started swimming through holes in the net.
Instead of this so-called mass marketing, ABM starts by identifying a much smaller pool of ideal customer profiles and works to reach that persona through multiple touch points, usually consisting of highly-targeted content. A fishing metaphor is often used to describe this concept.
First, there's the trawling approach, where you deploy a net (a marketing campaign) into the vast ocean (the internet for example), to try to capture as many fish (leads), no matter what type. This is an example of traditional mass marketing.
Then, there's the selective approach, where you drop a line into deeper parts of the ocean with hopes to get a bigger fish. This consists of making ads a bit less general and more targeted to your ideal persona.
Lastly, the spearfishing approach is when you dive down to visually hunt your trophy fish, fixating all efforts on landing “the big one”.
This approach represents ABM.At a high-level, account-based marketing is lead-centered; it targets ideal accounts with LinkedIn messages, phone calls, emails, direct mail, etc, to create a potential buyer. While traditional inbound marketing uses content to draw in leads, ABM focuses on singular accounts that are of much higher value.
Nonetheless, they can still compliment each other. Inbound marketing leads can potentially supplement target accounts with information about your product. They can shed a positive light on your product and provide third-party advertising. From the perspective of your target customers, hearing about your product from real customers is insight straight from the source; establishing relationships without directly advertising your product.
Account based marketing provides hyper-personalized experiences for potential customers. 87% of B2B marketers agree that ABM delivers a higher ROI. It's becoming the preferred framework in the enterprise B2B market because the value of these accounts need to be nurtured with a level of care and personalization that traditional campaigns lack.
This doesn’t mean scouring social media to establish a unique medium for contact - but rather treating each account as a market of one and engaging with them through multiple touch points. The Challenger Sale, published by CED, stated there's an average of 6.8 stakeholders in every B2B decision, meaning it is crucial to establish peer-to-peer relationships within this buying community.
VP of Marketing at Pendo, Joe Chernov, puts it this way: "ABM aspires to be ‘zero-waste’ marketing. It’s a model that targets only the companies and contacts that are likely to buy your product and that sales has pre-committed to try to close."
Back to the fishing metaphor, is trawling with nets a sustainable method of harvesting fish? Absolutely not! It captures everything from the target species to dolphins, sea turtles, and other protected marine life. In a sense, ABM provides a sustainable approach to generating leads while traditional marketing produces large quantities of unwanted by-catch.
1. Select Your Target Accounts
The shape of an ABM funnel is the polar opposite of traditional inbound marketing. Instead of countless leads of all origins entering the top of the funnel, ABM starts with a few selectively chosen and qualified accounts. One trick here is to note the characteristics of some of your best customers and then select target accounts based on similar qualities.
2. Research Them
This is the bread and butter of your content. Research gathered from target accounts are what will allow you to engage with them through personalization. LinkedIn can be a very useful resource at this stage. See if you have any shared connections with the person you are trying to reach. If so, chances are they'll be able to give you some inside information regarding if they are a good potential customer.
3. Create and Deliver Content
From there, accounts are engaged with the targeted and personalized content. Content should be curious yet insightful and explain exactly how the target account will benefit from a purchase decision. At this point, it's important not to push product features or functionality too hard but rather gain insight into exactly how your product can help.
4. Establish a Buying Committee
Once your target account starts showing some interest, you will be able to infer who exactly you need to get in touch with to close the deal. This is where a highly-targeted gift to each of these individuals may be a good idea. Don't overwhelm them with too much but try to keep your messaging aligned to point them in the right direction. Stakeholders are going to need time to discuss the implementation of your product so don't rush them to decide too quickly. Sales will take over once the buying committee shows intent to purchase. Once the sale is made and the account has benefitted, chances are the relationship with them will lead to new opportunities. The end goal is to establish a lasting and trustworthy relationship with every new customer account.
5. Measure the Results
Marketers need to have some way of measuring how effectively their campaign performed. According to HubSpot, 67% of CMOs have trouble proving the ROI of their endeavors. ABM campaigns, compared to inbound marketing, typically doesn't involve as many components. That being said, it's still easy to overlook certain aspects when evaluating. For instance, know how many individuals were actually interacted with in a target account. Most importantly, how much revenue was generated from the target account?
Account-based marketing has been proven to work in many B2B circumstances. However, it's not meant for everyone as it requires a considerable dedication of time and resources. Marketing for smaller B2C deals are better off taking a traditional inbound approach as they tend to target a much broader category of ideal personas. Here are some pros and cons of ABM.
Pros of ABM:
- The leads generated from ABM can be higher value than those of general marketing
- Trending in B2B markets and among B2B marketers
- Improved customer acquisition process
- Works in-sync with ABS strategies
- Personalized content provides higher engagement
- Utilizes an omnichannel approach to deliver personalized content
- Gains a deeper understanding of target accounts
- Establishes trust-based relationships that can lead to new opportunities
- Aligns sales and marketing teams
- Easier to track ROI because fewer accounts are targeted
- More cost efficient and efficient use of marketing resources
Cons of ABM:
- Finding and reaching the desired account profile can be difficult
- It requires a lot of due diligence, resources, and time
- Technology limitations - ABM technology is still in early development stages
- Attribution can be difficult to track in an omnichannel approach
- Content must differentiate across accounts to ensure personalization
Will it Work For You?
It really comes down to full departmental alignment and if your company can buy into the process. Most SMBs wouldn't benefit from an account-based approach because the size of the deals aren't worth the extra effort ABM requires.
Enterprise companies are going to be the ones using ABM more often than not. Author of The Sales Development Playbook, Trish Bertuzzi, recommends an account-based approach if your company's average deal size is greater than $50,000.
ABM is unique in that it requires a fully streamlined omnichannel approach to deliver content. Account-based execution software, for instance, accelerates how content is delivered and tracked in multiple channels.
Marketing teams have to be equipped with technology stacks that are sitting on the vanguard of the sales engagement industry. For instance, direct mail automation is an emerging technology that can deliver hyper-personalized physical pieces of content.
Buyers don’t want to see the same templated email anymore; it is statistically proven that they engage more with personalized content delivered to them through multiple channels. As a result, an effective sales engagement platform (SEP) is essential within the tech stack of a company looking to use ABM.
The technology available in the field of account-based execution software is expansive to say the least. If you are looking to ramp up your account-based approach, the options are endless. From revenue efficiency to automated direct mail, you can guarantee there's technology available that will give you the upper-hand.
The ABM revolution has begun and technologies are surfacing to help B2B marketers capitalize. It's time to ditch the nets and grab the speargun; deals are becoming harder to close as generalized emails and phone calls just won't yield the conversion rates you want. Hopefully after reading this you are equipped with new concepts you can implement in your marketing channels that will help you close deals you never thought possible.