There are products and occasions when the scattergun sales approach works. Generic marketing campaigns raise brand awareness but rarely fill your pipeline or significantly impact your bottom line. Account-based marketing (ABM) is an alternative B2B marketing approach that concentrates sales and marketing activity and resources on a set of clearly defined target accounts and deploys personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each target account.
ABM is based on identifying the specific needs of your target account and delivering personalized marketing to meet these needs. The personalized approach resonates with target accounts, improving lead generation, particularly when targeting high-value customers.
We should point out, at this stage, that ABM isn’t anything new. Targeted marketing has been around for decades. The big difference is technology and cost. And the best bit about ABM? It doesn’t cost the earth.
Traditionally, highly personalized, and targeted marketing could be costly but marketing automation technology and sophisticated data management capabilities enable the deployment of an ABM strategy on a larger scale for lower investment. Executing ABM campaigns is now more scalable and can return significant ROI.
Research shows that customers want to be kept up to date on new products or technology updates by their suppliers. It also shows that customers are more likely to buy from existing suppliers than look elsewhere. Using this knowledge and by treating each account individually, ABM activity can be targeted more accurately to address the audience. It is more likely to be considered relevant than untargeted direct marketing activity.
IT organisations and services/consulting companies appear to be experiencing great benefits with ABM. With complex propositions, long sales cycles and large customers, these organizations are ideal candidates for the approach.
ABM isn’t a solution for all marketing situations. The level at which you deploy ABM and marketing resources should be dependent on what level of revenue and profit potential the target company represents.
- High potential revenue/profit … undertake a high level of research and a high level of personalization; treat each account as a market of one. Deliver custom, technology specific content designed to inspire.
- Intermediate potential … not completely customized, perhaps a piece of industry-specific content but still send it to them as a highly personalized message.
- Low potential … the most basic level of ABM which can be completely automated, still personalized but probably only at the generic industry level.
Jon Miller, founder of Engagio, states “If marketing is putting its energy into a group of accounts that aren’t accounts that Sales wants, that’s waste. And if marketing is generating engagement activity at the account that Sales doesn’t want, that’s waste,” declares Miller. “What happens in that world is then sales reps waste time trying to go after the accounts they want by themselves without the support of marketing. When you agree on the desired accounts and you get everybody aligned on that focus, you’re ultimately just going be more efficient, which usually makes you more effective.”
5 Steps to ABM success
In an ABM world, you’ll need a different mindset to analyse results focusing on quality, not quantity. It’s not about how many leads you generated; it’s about whether you are engaging and building relationships with the right people at the right accounts.
Qualify your available data to identify your target accounts and their specific needs
Get sales and marketing functions to work together to agreed strategic objectives, markets, and target audience
Develop the right content and offers to address these needs
Send relevant, personalized communications
Follow up with multi-touch marketing and nurture your prospects
Key factors to a successful ABM strategy:
- Intelligence – marketing’s role in profiling the target account and contacts within it to identify relevant propositions and communication preferences
- Awareness – in target accounts where awareness of the supplier is low, regular communications have a role to play in creating a more favourable perception
- Campaigning – in large target accounts, lead generation campaigns can be run to uncover opportunities and appoint meetings. This can also be combined with a digital targeted marketing campaign to the chosen companies.
- Sales – marketing has a role to play in supporting sales bids to improve conversion rates and shorten the sales cycle
- Advocacy – the cycle is completed when customers become advocates and are used to drive further incremental business
Putting an ABM strategy will be relatively simple. Your existing marketing approaches simply need tweaking to deliver the personalized ABM approach that will set you apart from your competition. ABM will help you build long term, fruitful relationships with your target audience and improve ROI.