Account-based marketing (ABM) is aptly named. The most basic description is that ABM turns traditional marketing practice on its head by starting with the end goal – the target accounts most likely to become good customers – rather than the lead generation activities that uncover and develop target accounts.
Specifically, ABM is a highly integrated growth strategy where marketing and sales teams collaborate to create personalized campaigns for high-value accounts, each of which is approached as if it’s an individual market. Since the pre-campaign exploratory research has determined which target accounts are ideal for your business, your teams can move straight to the relationship-building stage. ABM works because your chances for converting these accounts and retaining them in the long term are increased due to the profiling and personalization efforts of your sales and marketing teams.
What About Inbound and Outbound?
ABM isn’t outbound or inbound marketing – although it plays well with both. In fact, your outbound business development specialists will likely be important partners in your ABM efforts (see below), and your inbound marketing efforts will likely feed into your ABM profiling funnel, particularly if an inbound lead is employed at a target account.
Here’s how ABM and inbound interact. The strategy of inbound marketing is to develop prospects through the distribution of content that allows them to find just the information they want when they want it. This means your sales and marketing teams have a constantly updated pool of content from which to select and personalize the outreach for your ABM campaigns. In addition, content developed for an ABM strategy, such as a case study, can make a relevant piece in an inbound campaign. This combined approach not only attracts a broader group of prospects than either campaign would alone, it also means your content has a two-for-one value — and what content developer (or budget) doesn’t appreciate that?
Now let’s get to those ABCs of ABM.
A: Align sales and marketing
For years, sales teams have emphasized an account-based approach – and ABM finally applies the same approach to marketing, requiring the teams to work in tandem. Personalizing campaigns to appeal to certain accounts, or even to just one account, means sales and marketing must be in sync in every aspect, from background research to messaging to responsibilities to customer retention. The goal is to demonstrate to each account a thoughtful approach offering exactly the information that will drive engagement with each contact. Develop and direct this thoughtful approach by building an ABM team playbook that clarifies roles, responsibilities, tactics and timelines for each campaign. This will help
ensure the team stays focused on the same goals, sticks to the budget as mutually agreed on, and understands the specific role of each team member.
B: Build your list of accounts
Once sales and marketing have developed a rough framework for working together, it’s time to pool resources to mine existing customer and prospect data. The goal is to develop a profile of your company’s ideal customer: one that fits strongly with your company and its products, enjoys success with your solutions, and delivers the biggest value by remaining a loyal customer over time. Then you apply that profile to your data, looking for companies with the highest need as well as the required budget availability. You might find the resulting list includes existing accounts that are open to expanding their business operations with your company as well as new accounts that meet strategic criteria.
C: Choose marketing channels wisely
The key to translating your account list into your action list is to know where your prospects are most likely to be found, and where they will be receptive to your marketing message. For instance, we ran an insanely successful ABM campaign at the height of the shelter-in-place orders during the pandemic. We targeted executives of companies headquartered in affected states and got their attention on Facebook where many people were turning for information. Remember that some channels will be your primary routes while others will reinforce the message, so a multiple touch strategy is essential.
D: Develop relationships inside your target companies
It’s been said that, in today’s business climate, it’s hard to sell – but it’s even harder to buy. Gartner attributes this in part to the fact that six to 10 people are directly involved in any purchasing decision, particularly in enterprise deals. Hence ABM’s laser focus on treating each account like its own market and developing multiple relationships inside each account. By understanding each member of the buying committee, your ABM team can deliver a unique value proposition, supporting content and product information (through the most relevant channels) that can help speed up the sales process. The immediate goal is to connect the concerns and challenges of each key stakeholder back to the strategic fit between your two companies. The long-term goal is to establish your company as a trusted partner that will conscientiously do its homework and provide trustworthy guidance.
E: Examine your results
As you might expect by now, ABM can be a long process takes months or even years to see consistent results. It’s important to establish new criteria for determining success – not just closed deals and their value, but also incremental results like account engagement and opportunities created. By regularly reviewing and analyzing results, you can identify any parts of your strategy that need to be updated. As long as forward motion is maintained, and the process is consistently refined, you’re on the right track.
F: Finally, focus on clear, ongoing communication
ABM simply won’t work unless you achieve clear communication not only inside your marketing team, but between marketing and sales, between your ABM team and the rest of your organization, and between your organization and each member of the buying team at each targeted account. You must develop and consistently use internal channels that make campaign information available to everyone involved.
For instance, your outbound specialists aren’t part of the ABM team but may have developed relationships at target accounts that should be nurtured and expanded. It’s critical that they keep the rest of the team informed of any activities with these contacts. In another example, your social media team may not be part of the ABM team, but posts on LinkedIn could be part of the campaign; therefore, it’s important that the social media results be consistently made available to the ABM team.
Further, this emphasis on clear communication will make it easier to ensure that consistent messaging is always provided to your target accounts. The goal is that, no matter who an account contact interacts with at your company, they always receive the same information and the same seamless customer experience.
Think ABM might be a good fit for you? Talk to us about how we can kickstart or augment your ABM efforts.