What if, in order to innovate, you used a marketing technique that was more than 30 years old? And what if, with the power of today’s marketing tools, you could rejuvenate this technique in order to make it more efficient than all the latest trendy B2B strategies?
This is exactly what Account-Based Marketing will let you do. Account-Based Marketing (which we will abbreviate to ABM for the rest of this article) is also known as Key Account Marketing. The principle is that, instead of defining a wide strategy, which aims to generate a maximum number of leads, the marketing teams, working side by side with the sales teams, select a series of key accounts that will represent the heart of their marketing strategy.
As mentioned above, ABM is a very old marketing strategy that was used by some very large B2B organisations to reach a few major customers. With the emergence of online marketing, and more recently of marketing automation, it is now possible for smaller-sized B2B companies, in very diverse business areas, to use this technique to reach mostly large targets.
Twenty years ago, ABM remained confined to companies such as reactor manufacturers for aviation, software developers for the pharmaceutical industry, etc. — companies whose products could only be bought by a restricted list of customers and leads. In such a case, it would be pointless to target the whole world with a mass marketing strategy.
Today, it is perfectly feasible for a medium-sized B2B company to venture into ABM by using the latest digital marketing tools at its disposal. Whether it operates in the industrial cleaning sector or sells fertilizer to agricultural product resellers. For this type of company, there are also some accounts that are more strategic than others and it is beneficial to target these as a priority.
What are the stages for implementing an ABM strategy?
1. Create a methodology to select the key accounts
What are the criteria, which, for your company, are going to define a key account? The first stage may be to think in terms of the accounts that you already have, and to try to crosscheck the criteria that keep your customers loyal in the long term and generate a good profit margin.
Another strategy may also be to find the criteria for leads that could be interested in a large part of your product catalogue at the same time.
2. Select the key accounts
By using the methodology developed in the previous stage, you will simultaneously consult your salespeople and marketing team in order to define the key accounts to be targeted. Again, the number of accounts selected will greatly depend on your activity and could be between around twenty and a hundred or so targets.
What is radically different in this approach is that we are no longer marketing according to personas, typical customers, products and solutions that we have to hand, but rather on real leads that have been identified in advance.
3. Increasingly align your marketing and sales teams
Marketing automation has already widely put this subject on the table; B2B sales teams must be increasingly close and aligned to the marketing teams. In an ABM strategy, this alignment is even more obvious insofar as the target is no longer a vague profile, defined according to the requirements of the entire market, but a target defined by concrete sales opportunities and leads.
While marketing automation and sales pipeline supply strategies are not always fully understood by sales staff, in an ABM strategy, they are asked to participate right from the very start of the marketing process. This is obviously very much appreciated by the sales staff.
In order to facilitate Account Management for your sales staff, a good way of cultivating the relationship between them and your marketing department is to offer them relevant solutions. A good way of doing this is by advising them to take a look at the Sparklane for Sales solution. This is a software platform that enables you to identify the business signals in your market, from an automatic analysis of your customers’ news. Your sales staff will thus be able to build on their customer knowledge detect new requirements for upselling or cross-selling, contextualise their sales approach, etc. Solutions of this type are quite rare on the French markets. This is an opportunity to please your sales staff!
4. Tailor your marketing strategy
Whether it is for the design or communication of your products, in an ABM strategy, everything is more logical. Your targets being those of your identified accounts, it is much simpler to get your priorities right.
Moreover, a first stage of an ABM strategy may actually be to ask the selected accounts their opinions in order to ascertain exactly what they need. This can be the subject of a “marketing” survey or be undertaken as part of a campaign conducted by the sales staff themselves. Triggering a first contact, an initial meeting, by telling a lead: “We have selected you as we would like to have your opinion on the brand-new product we’re putting on the market” (with a bit of flattery thrown in) could open the doors for you if your approach isn’t overly commercial.
5. Find the best customers and points of contact
Here too, ABM is very different to other B2B strategies. Even with an Inbound Marketing and automation strategy, most companies are used to casting a wide net so as to capture as many customers as possible, and too bad if certain leads generated are not at all qualitative. This is precisely the aim of marketing automation; to then refine the leads you caught in order to work with those that most interest you.
With ABM, we take things from a completely different perspective since we are going to target the selected accounts as a priority. Therefore, the buying of a contact list becomes primordial and can be done in a much more subtle manner. There’s no longer a need to cover certain sectors or job types in order to reach one’s targets.
6. Market your existing accounts
Be careful though; ABM is not just there to help you win new accounts. It is also an excellent opportunity to continue working on your existing accounts and increasing the number of products and solutions that you offer them.
Obviously, when you make up your list of key accounts, you need to include your existing customers. All too often, once a new customer has been found, B2B marketing stops investing in them in order to focus on new acquisitions. This is a mistake. You should continue to charm, even existing customers, with the final goal being to convert them into the prescribers of your solutions.
ABM means a very clear return on investment and resources oriented towards precise targets, making it possible to create even more personalised and optimised communication campaigns.
But be careful, this does not mean that ABM is going to prevent other leads from spontaneously showing an interest. Indeed, if your strategy is rolled out in the aim of winning certain key accounts, this does not mean that your content, emails, event, etc. are not going to trigger the interest of other leads. It would be a shame to pass them by.
To complement this article, I suggest that you take a look at this very interesting presentation on Account-Based Marketing by SiriusDecisions: