In essence, an account-based marketing methodology encourages you to define, attract and service key, high-value ‘perfect-fit’ accounts that your company was born to work with.
And it works, too. According to the Information Technology Services Marketing Association, 87% of B2B marketers agree that ABM delivers a higher ROI than any other strategy.
But before we get into detail on the benefits of ABM, let’s nail down its definition.
What is account-based marketing?
Account-based marketing is a B2B marketing strategy that focuses your efforts on winning a small number of clearly defined, high-value target accounts.
To attract such accounts, marketing teams create and deliver highly personalised content that resonates with specific industries, businesses or even certain people within that business. The more targeted the content, the more relevant and useful it will be to them.
More than 60% of companies plan to launch an account-based marketing campaign within the next year.
Account-based marketing is the antithesis of the traditional scatter-gun marketing approach, which sees businesses casting their net far and wide to haul in as many leads and customers as possible.
In contrast, ABM is a surgical approach – a fishing line that catches one or two juicy fish instead of a fishing net that catches a whole load of who knows what.
Why you should practice an account-based marketing methodology
It favours the personal approach
ABM is centred on cultivating relationships. Instead of sending mass emails destined for the trash bin, you contact a handful of carefully considered, thoroughly researched contacts.
This means your messaging is more personal, speaking directly to that individual’s challenges and requirements. It explains how you understand their situation, their pain points and how you make their lives easier.
This presents a great opportunity for you because personalised messaging is more effective than cookie-cutter content. It resonates more with your audience because you’re addressing their problems and showing how you can provide the solutions.
If you’re investing time and money into a campaign specific to one business and that business subsequently becomes one of your customers, you can easily attribute your marketing efforts to that client win.
With other marketing methodologies, you may target a certain location and win customers in that area, but you might not able to attribute those wins to your marketing campaigns. Who’s to say they didn’t just come from a word-of-mouth referral, for example? With ABM, you know if your efforts are working or not.
It plays to your strengths
If you’ve done it right, chances are you’ve developed your brand and service provision in a way that makes you attractive to specific audiences.
So it makes sense, then, to gear your sales and marketing efforts around attracting and servicing those audiences.
Only 22% of companies would confidently say that their sales and marketing teams are well aligned on company goals and objectives.
Adopting an account-based marketing approach forces you to do a rigorous self-audit of your own brand values and ambitions because it makes you ask the question: Who do I want to target?
Fully appreciating this question gives you a greater understanding of your own strengths and aspirations and, as a result, gives you a clear picture of the type of businesses you need to target.
This incredibly useful exercise can shape the sales and marketing operations of your entire business.
ABM improves your sales alignment
A typical KPI for marketing activity in a B2B environment is generating leads for the sales team. The more quality leads you create, the better the chance of your sales team sealing the deal.
By encouraging your marketing teams to target more suitable accounts and foster sales-driven conversations with them, ABM helps your marketers behave more like salespeople.
Target the key decision-makers within the company first. Anything else is a waste of effort.
A best-practice example of this is getting your marketing team to nurture key decision-makers within your target account, instead of dealing with semi-related stakeholders. This cuts back on the time-wasting and allows you to more quickly transition from interested lead to satisfied customer.
And because your aim is to engage with a pre-determined ‘type’ of account, you eliminate a swathe of unqualified prospects from the get-go. Which means your sales and marketing teams can focus their energies on leads more likely to be interested in what you have to offer.
It benefits your current clients
ABM also brings advantages to your existing clients.
It might not necessarily result in more business from them (although in some cases it could), but if you’re creating hyper-personalised content that helps them do their jobs better, then it will have a positive impact on your relationship with them and their loyalty to your business.
Account-based marketing meets inbound marketing
The other major benefit of account-based marketing is that it works hand-in-hand with inbound marketing.
A quick reminder: inbound marketing is where you create content that draws prospects to your business – that really useful blog post, the brand video that knocks people’s socks off, the social media account that shows off your expertise.
Essentially, inbound marketing is designed to position you as an industry thought leader and a trusted source of information and services.
(Our blog explains how to create an inbound marketing strategy.)
An inbound approach is perfect for an account-based marketing methodology. Why? Because inbound is all about creating content to specific audiences, answering their questions and helping them overcome their challenges – i.e., it shares the same ambitions as ABM.
The dual benefits of the content you create are clear: you write brilliant blogs, ebooks and infographics that, for example, advise property developers on how to sell homes.
And whilst this acts as a magnet to attract target audiences to you, it’s also a great outbound tool to send to your ideal ABM accounts.
On the flip side, if you cultivate a strong lead thanks to your account-based marketing methodology, you’ll have a ready-made trove of content to show them – proving that you know their industry and how to resolve their challenges.
How to implement an account-based marketing methodology
So, that’s why you should be adopting an account-based marketing strategy – let’s look at
Align sales and marketing
Successful account-based marekting starts with sales and marketing alignment.
As you hone in on your target accounts, you’ll shift to a mindset of quality over quantity – building fewer but stronger client relationships. With this improved connection with your clients comes a greater need for both marketing and sales teams to understand them.
Remember, you’re personalising your message now, so you need to know everything from their first name to the business challenges keeping them up at night.
This knowledge comes from both marketing and sales, so you’re going to want reps from both sides joining in on the research and planning of your ABM strategy. This gives you a better chance of hitting the right people with your message.
Your sales and marketing teams should be best buddies. If they’re not, get them into relationship counselling immediately.
Also, the more aligned these teams are, the better you can transition the prospective customer from one discipline to the other.
Traditionally, marketing sparked initial interest and sales moved in to seal the deal. But it will aid your chances of closing the deal if both teams learn how they can help the other in achieving this.
Can sales report back about what annoyed a certain customer in any unclear or misleading messaging they read? Can marketing provide more detailed information about the customer to make the sales job easier?
And, crucially, do both teams use the same CRM (such as HubSpot) to feed back to one another on a continual basis?
In an account-based marketing world, marketing and sales are best friends that share a common goal and take joint responsibility for hitting targets. So if your teams aren’t aligned before you begin, it’s vital that you start building bridges between the two.
The success of your ABM strategy largely depends on how aligned your sales and marketing teams are.
Research and segment
Get your new-best-buddies in your sales and marketing teams together to understand and agree as to who the ideal customers are they want to win and why.
Don’t scrimp on this step, by the way, because time spent doing this will inform everything that comes after. If the information that falls out of your research is wrong, your subsequent efforts will suffer. Failing to plan really is planning to fail when it comes to inbound and ABM.
A big part of this research should consist of formulating accurate, in-depth buyer personas that detail your ideal customers’ demographics, lifestyles, salaries, paint points and so forth.
Robust research is all-important. Without it, your strategy is based on nothing, reducing it to mere guesswork.
From this data-rich information, you create personalised messaging that speaks directly to their ambitions, solves their challenges and lets them know you’re a voice to trust.
Formulate a wishlist of companies you want to work with and then research them further quantitatively and qualitatively (focus groups, questionnaires, Google Analytics) to help you find the key accounts you’re going to feel most confident in closing.
It’s important to identify the area or service in which your business will bring them the most value.
Tools to use when researching:
- Industry news sites
- Industry awards
- Careers pages
Plan your content
Once you’ve found the customers to concentrate on, the next task is to think about what the content is going to be.
Armed with your research, you can now map out the specific content themes you’re going to focus on and how you’re going to get the attention of those prospects.
To ensure your content is attention-grabbing and positions your business as the one they should be using, consider offering something for free, like a trial or a free audit.
If your product is accountancy software, for example, and you’ve identified that a small business is going through a period of growth, consider creating a new customer checklist your prospects can use internally to ensure they’re onboarding their new customers in the most efficient way.
Using industry terminology that’s specific to their product or service will set your content apart from others and assure your target audience that you know their industry inside out.
In measuring the effectiveness of your content and campaigns, be sure to set SMART objectives – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. You won’t know how successful your content is without first defining what success looks like.
87% of B2B marketers agree that ABM delivers higher ROI than any other form of marketing.
Plan how you’ll reach your desired accounts
Create a channel map of how you’re going to reach and communicate with your desired accounts. Through your research, you’ll have established where they’re most likely to engage with your communications. It might be email but it might also be on a specific social-network such as LinkedIn.
Don’t ignore print, either. Consider taking out an ad in their favoured monthly publications. Or think different and put up a billboard ad in locations close to their office.
Try your hand at a bit of guerilla marketing, too, by creating a stunning brand book and leaving it in your target audience’s reception space. Or by subverting modern communication methods and posting them a beautifully handwritten letter introducing them to you.
Sod it, why not send them a singing telegram. You’re guaranteed they’ll remember you…
Remember, being creative isn’t the preserve of your designers and copywriters; it should exist across all areas of your business, so you can get your message out there in ways that will stick in the memory and make your competition look bland by comparison.
Run your campaign
Now you have your content and you know where you’re going to put it, it’s time to launch your campaign. This is as much about logistics and planning as anything else, ensuring your adverts are going out at the right time, have the right budget set for them and are hitting the right audiences.
When running your campaign, you’ll have to coordinate your messaging across your various channels – you don’t want to send different signals to the same person within a target account.
Measure and optimise
As with any marketing campaign, you’ll need to measure the results. This will come in two stages – during and after.
These days, thanks to A/B testing and the immediate feedback loops generated by digital marketing, you can optimise your messaging as you go.
Want to change an image, a line of copy or the position of a call to action? No problem.
67% of CMOs agreed they have trouble proving the ROI of their marketing efforts. ABM and digital marketing helps you see where your marketing budget is going.
If a prospect isn’t taking the bait of your initial contact or offer, consider strengthening that offer or improving the delivery of that message. You’ll have invested a lot of time and expense in researching and creating your bespoke content, so it’s important to plan how you’ll adapt and improve it once it’s live.
67% of CMOs agreed they have trouble proving the ROI of their marketing efforts, so don’t forget to put a lot of value on this last phase – and don’t be one of the 67%.
And remember those SMART objectives? Once your campaign has run, this is where they come in.
Measure your outputs against your pre-campaign goals and see how you fared. Did you win those three clients you wanted to? Did you achieve those 250 sign-ups to your newsletter? Did you grow your social followers by 25%?
If so, congratulations.
If not, work out where things fell down so you can improve them for the next time.