By CHRIS FINCH

Co-Founder / Chief Strategy Officer

Apr 15, 2020

Account Based Marketing delivered with a 2020 Vision

Account Based Marketing (ABM) is not a brand-new concept but, like Content Marketing, it’s popularity has exploded recently, driven by technologies that allow it to be implemented more efficiently and produce better results.

In a survey of 350 B2B marketers released early last year, ABM was identified as the second most important priority, second only to “video marketing” and just ahead of developing an “on demand content strategy,” and is now estimated to be a $1.19 billion dollar industry. In addition to its being a hot topic, there is real evidence that ABM delivers the highest return on investment in B2B marketing and those companies choosing to make it a core component of their marketing strategy are out-performing their competitors.

Companies that invest in ABM have 38% higher win rates and 91% large deal sizes.

What is Account Based Marketing?

At its core, ABM is an approach that align the efforts of everyone in your company to develop and sell solutions to a defined set of accounts using customized marketing programs. It recognizes the current expectation held by all customers, that a brand should speak to them in a personalized way, like it knows them, and markets to their specific needs and interests.

Traditional marketing uses a broad-based approach to targeting, casting a wide net to interrupt the consumer’s experience with a marketing message. Inbound marketing takes a more customized approach and is designed to attract a specific audience by providing content that is uniquely valuable to them. ABM takes targeting to the next level by creating content of value, not just for an audience of prospective customers, but for a specific company, or even an individual within that company.

In the best-case scenario, this hyper-personalized approach to customer engagement is not limited to sales and marketing. R&D and product teams should also be part of this process, keeping customer’s front and center throughout the product research, ideation and production process.

What Are The Benefits of Account Based Marketing?

Adopting an ABM strategy has wide-ranging benefits that improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of your marketing dollars. Here are a few examples.

Getting your voice heard – When done correctly, ABM produces a type of personalized attention that is extremely effective in cutting through all the noise that your target audiences are constantly bombarded with. By targeting companies, or even individuals, with information that has been custom designed just for them you significantly increase the chances that your audience will engage with your content and your messaging will resonate with your audience.

Targeting your marketing dollars – ABM also drives efficiency by ensuring you are only allocating marketing dollars to efforts that have a clear business value. This level of personalization can actually make it easier to develop an effective messaging strategy, since you are creating content designed to resonate with a very specific set of individuals all working for the same company. If you have gathered the needed intel on your targeted accounts you can be confident that the time your marketing department is spending on developing account-specific campaigns is going to generate a return.

Better ROI tracking – It is also easier to calculate the ROI of your ABM initiatives vs more broad-based efforts. Knowing what’s working, and to what degree, in traditional marketing is a challenge. Attribution models are still part art, part science and a lot of guesswork. When you are building a marketing campaign, with a specific goal, for a specific buyer, you will be able to calculate the actual ROI much more accurately because you will know exactly what you invested and what results you generated.

Higher client retention rates – In addition to ABM driving new business it is also a very effective strategy for client retention as it is extremely effective at strengthening existing relationships. Leverage your sales and customer service teams to build a knowledge base around each client that captures insights into historical challenges they have faced and how they resolved them and current issues that they may need support for. Over time, you may even be in a position to help them anticipate potential problems and proactively address them.

Shortening sales cycles – Just like Content Marketing, ABM is effective at decreasing sales cycles. You are only delivering leads to sales that consist of buyers that have responded to your outreach. This reduces the time your sales teams have to spend nurturing leads that will never convert, and reduces their efforts by lowering the time between first touch and close, freeing up time for pursuing other leads.

Aligning Sales and Marketing – Taking an ABM approach puts marketing in a position of having to think like sales, being account-focused, emphasizing value-delivery and measuring results in actual sales. Sales reps know that they are only going to get qualified leads because they have been involved in the process of selecting which accounts to target. Targeting high-value accounts that have been jointly identified by sales and marketing results in marketing working more efficiently and sales working more highly qualified leads. Sounds like a win/win!

How Do I Run An Account Based Marketing Campaign?

Take two minutes to run a search on “How To” for ABM and you’ll find thousands of perspectives and hundreds of companies, from consultancies to software providers, offering solutions but there is a generally agreed upon set of steps to follow when it comes to running ABM campaigns.

  1. Identify your high-value accounts – Data from both sales and marketing should show you which of your current clients are your most valuable. Market research can shed light on what companies you want to target for new business based on industry, size, growth history/projections, opportunity for repeat purchasing and estimated profit margins.
  2. Map key decision-makers and relevant stakeholders to accounts – Pinpoint the individuals you want to target and identify their role, e.g. are they the decision-maker, a key influencer or participating in a more supportive role such as compiling data to build a list of solution options.
  3. Apply Insights – Using intelligence from your sales and customer service teams, as well as publicly available information, build personas for the individuals you want to target that include their unique and specific informational needs and their preferences for gathering this data. You can also do this for companies, following the same guidelines you would when creating personas for individuals.
  4. Custom Content – If you’ve built your personas correctly you should have a clear idea of what content is most relevant to whom. Ideally, content should be created for specific pursuits within each company you are targeting.
  5. Pinpoint the optimal channels to reach the targeted individuals – Depending on the quality of the relationships your sales teams have developed, they may be able to provide insight here. If not, there are various resources that have data on what social platforms individuals prefer that can be sorted by industry, title and role.
  6. Execute – This isn’t quite so simple but if you’ve planned correctly, and completed the previous steps, it’s quite doable. The key here is to move carefully. It’s better to over-deliver than under-deliver. If they appreciate what they do get from you, and find it relevant and credible, there’s a very good chance they’ll come to you looking for more.
  7. Measure & Optimize – As previously mentioned, measuring the ROI on ABM is easier than with traditional, broad-based marketing campaigns but you still need to have a set of KPIs that are mapped to your strategy and tactics. Monitor each one, looking for reasons for under-performance and over-performance and experiment with applying these learnings across campaigns to improve ROI.

How Do I Know If Account Based Marketing Is Right For Me?

Before committing yourself or your team to a big strategic shift you want to identify all the potential hurdles and areas where you might encounter friction, including:

●     It Takes Time – If your company is focused on driving short-term revenue it may not be the right time to pursue an ABM strategy.

●     Sales & Marketing – an adversarial relationship and getting them to cooperate seems unlikely, if not impossible.

●     Which Accounts – It is unclear which accounts are high-value and should be targeted.

●     Who Do I Target – You know which of your accounts are the most valuable, but you don’t know who to target within each account.

●     How I Do I Deliver Good Content – You don’t have the capabilities to produce and deliver high-quality, relevant content to your target audience.

ABM is particularly beneficial for organizations that sell to companies with multiple buyers or stakeholders. It is a very efficient approach to meeting the needs of a group of individuals who are tasked with jointly making purchasing decisions, connecting with them and connecting them with each other. If this sounds like the accounts that your company sells to, then ABM is probably worth looking into, but take the time to do some due diligence before you take the leap.

Set expectations with leadership on what it will take and how much time they should anticipate before seeing results. Check in with your sales team and make sure you’ll have their support. Do a health check on your data and validate that you have what you need to get started, that what you have is accurate and that you have a methodology to continue to collect clean data from your accounts. Once you know you have the right pieces in place and support from where you need it, go ahead and push that button.

How does Account Based Marketing work as part of your overall Content Marketing strategy?

In the most recent version of our podcast, The Violin Club – Thought Leadership Content Marketing we discuss the relationship between Content MarketingWebinars and Account Based Marketing and take a deeper dive into what makes for a great ABM campaign. I also discuss, with some detail, the most effective ABM program that I’ve worked on.

If you want to jump straight to the example, that part of the conversation can be found at 36:20 of the podcast.

The Violin Club Podcast is available on most major podcast players including: