Jan
24

The business-to-business (B2B) strategy known as Account Based Marketing has existed for more than a decade now…but still; it seems widely misunderstood and under-utilised by many.

This is a great shame.

Perhaps we are just tiring of all the marketing buzzwords constantly flung around (which I completely appreciate!) or maybe ABM seems too ‘traditional’ to those unfamiliar with the approach – but uncovering its true meaning and the modern methods behind ABM should certainly widen a few eyes.

An account (or ‘named account’, as it is commonly known) is simply a company that is identified as a valuable prospect.

Think of ABM like this:

Aside from incredibly-optimized search engine or social ads, typical B2B marketing is spray and pray compared to Account Based Marketing. Instead of a large net flung aimlessly over the entire sea, ABM is like launching a laser-targeted harpoon to catch the prize fish.

I can sense your eyes widening.

ABM is the process of discovering and targeting highly-desirable potential prospects, before pushing ultra-personalised communications their way…until you gain them as a client.


“92% of B2B brands focusing on ABM say it is either
‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important to their marketing efforts”

(Source: Sirius Decisions)

 

By targeting only the most promising prospects, you avoid wasting heaps of money on ‘leads’ that are unlikely to buy.

The question of whether or not you should be applying ABM could be a no-brainer.

Let’s dive into ABM and discover how it can outperform and/or complement your current B2B marketing campaigns:

 

Who Should Use Account Based Marketing?

Many B2B marketers focus on generating leads or better still: qualified leads. In scenarios where target markets are vast, deal sizes are lower in value and sales cycles relatively short; this can of course, be a very successful approach.

But, if your target market is much smaller, your deal sizes significant and your sales cycles span many months…mass-market demand generation is less likely to work for you.

This is where ABM comes into play.

A lead is just one person within a company, whereas an account comprises of all relevant decision-makers. Account Based Marketing allows you to target multiple members of the same organisation for much greater impact. You will become first-in-mind and your chances of acquisition..? Proliferated.


(Source: Pixabay)
 

The Benefits Of ABM

#1: Obvious ROI

It’s not too difficult to measure results when you are targeting specific companies…you either win them as clients, or you don’t. With such a clearly defined ROI, studies have found Account Based Marketing to deliver the highest ROI out of any B2B marketing strategy!

#2: Streamlined processes

Greater precision = less wasted resource. That means no man hours allocated to ineffective marketing and no money spent on unnecessary software.

#3: Personalisation creates loyalty

ABM requires ultra-personal communications that are very likely to attract and encourage target accounts. With such a degree of personalisation, targeted prospects are much more inclined to pay attention to you, enjoy a delightful brand experience and become long-term customers.


“75% of customers say they prefer personalised offers.”

(Source: MarketingProfs)

 

You can bet that trend is the same for B2B marketing, too.

Ensure you are nurturing your prospects at every stage of their buying cycle through accurate personalisation and highly-relevant content.

#4: Smarketing takes place

Because Account Based Marketing strategies blur the lines between sales and marketing, they force internal teams to work even more closely together. This not only produces results in terms of specific revenue – but improves overall business performance as a whole.

Organisations with solid alignment between sales and marketing teams gain 20% revenue growth on average, each and every year. Companies with poor internal alliance actually see revenue decline by 4%!

 

How To ‘Do’ Account Based Marketing?

You know the facts – now, here are the simplified steps you need to take to carry out an effective ABM strategy.

First, it’s important to understand there are multiple types of Account Based Marketing. You must select the most fitting type for your business in terms of resource, tier of account targets and your teams’ experience.

ITSMA were the first to coin the term ‘ABM’ and here is their definition of the varying strategies:

  • 1:1 ABM – Marketing is specifically aligned with only a single, very high-value account
  • ABM Lite – Marketing is highly targeted toward a researched list of companies (usually between 10 and 100) that have major similarities in terms of pain points and other criteria. Here’s a solution to automate the discovery of B2B prospects.
  • Programmatic ABM – Marketing targets a much broader segment of accounts, such as certain buyer personas within one vertical


(Source: eMarketer)

 

From the diagram above, you can see that each strategy demands diverse levels of investment in return for parallel levels of revenue.

Here is an actionable ABM strategy broken down into 7 steps:

 

#1: Discover & Classify Accounts

The key here is firmographic data – basically, that just means the demographics of companies. Use all available Sales Intelligence tools to help prioritise accounts – do not rush this stage or you will pay for it later!

You should look at many factors in order to whittle down your target prospects. Think: revenue potential, likelihood of recurring revenue, their current expenditure, brand partners, influence, market share, future plans and all company history.

Categorise your targets and draw up a hit list.

 

#2: Dissect Accounts And Identify Decision-Makers

Drill-down into your target accounts to see how they are structured and managed. Along with Business Intelligence (BI) software, you also have free tools like Social Media (particularly LinkedIn) and Company Check at your disposal.

It’s a good idea to recognise the account members who are socially active (and on which platforms) so you can primarily engage on platforms they consider to have least resistance…

 

#3: Establish Your Channels

Cross-channel communication is imperative…you need to own presence on all channels that your accounts leverage. The more touchpoints your account experiences across channels – the closer they become to you.

Think about it…put yourself in the accounts’ shoes:

You receive a tweet from somebody, all conversation soon gets forgotten. But – that person connects with you on LinkedIn a day later.

On LinkedIn, you see their content tailored to you. After clicking through to their website, you see ads specific to the content you saw, and that also aligns with your current business challenges.

Next, they comment on your blog content…and then email you with conversation relating directly to that content.

The power of these multiple touches is not to be underestimated.

For effective ABM, you must break down initial communication barriers – combining inbound with outbound marketing to always be first in mind.

 

#4: Launch Personalised Content & Communication

Your content needs to cater for the accounts’ specific pain points. It should be timely, helpful, stand-out and personalised…geared up for maximum conversion rates.

This can only be achieved through sufficient research.

It’s all about positive brand experiences. The more refined and honed you can make your messaging; the greater your chance of landing clients.

ABM effectively flips the typical sales funnel onto its head:


(Source: FlipMyFunnel)

 

#5: Coordinate Your Teams

Internal communication and process is just as important as your output. If your sales and marketing teams aren’t in sync, you could waste valuable resource and even discourage prospects completely with misaligned engagements.

And it’s not just sales and marketing departments that matter. You should utilise your CEO to contact the CEOs of your target accounts, and your Marketing Director to contact theirs…and so on.

This status-matching greatly increases the likelihood of positive (or any) responses. Familiarity goes a long way.

Utilise Business and Sales Intelligence, Marketing Automation, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Project Management software to manage your ABM communications effectively. Thankfully, many of the available tools integrate with each other…

If you need advice on which types of software to purchase, you can ask the specialist team at Sparklane.

 

#6: Measure & Optimize

This one goes without saying…but here are some less-obvious points to focus on:

  • Are you measuring the right data – and have you enough data?
  • How much awareness have you generated across your targeted account/s?
  • Have you gained the attention of key decision-makers?
  • Is the engagement increasing over time – and is the timeframe efficient?
  • Are there any other unforeseen effects being generated from your ABM strategies?
  • Are you progressively improving touchpoints, close rates and retention?
  • Is your ABM working in sync with other marketing campaigns?

 

#7: Nurture

Just because you haven’t won an account in a certain timeframe, it doesn’t at all mean that’s the end. Sometimes, prospects take years to make big decisions…

If that’s the case, funnel them into a gradual and low-intensity nurturing campaign.

Better yet – if you win an account, you should then place them in a dedicated upsell nurturing funnel which aims to acquire even more business from them in the near future.

Again, personalisation is critical for success.


(Source: Vidyard)
 

How To Automate & Scale ABM

Due to its ultra-personalised nature, Account Based Marketing was typically quite heavy on the wallets of brands just a few years ago…

Now, advances in marketing tech have enabled businesses to deploy effective ABM at scale for a fraction of the cost it once was.

Marketing and Sales Automation software such as Sparklane, Marketo, Salesforce and Pardot have made ABM a viable and very profitable option for many B2B brands.

These applications range from specialised ABM services to all-in-one B2B solutions on a single dashboard. Very clever – and it’s the future for sure.

 

Conclusion

If you sell to other businesses and you’re not already applying or researching the opportunity of Account Based Marketing – your competitors will be.

Don’t miss out on the chance to literally select your desired clients…a solid strategy that returns optimal revenue and fosters tightly-knit relationships.

 

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Sam Hurley
About the Author
Sam Hurley is a lateral-thinking digital marketer holding 6+ years’ self-expedited experience in both agency and client-side settings before launching his own digital consultancy venture: OPTIM-EYEZ. He is ranked as the world’s #1 digital influencer by Webinale and #2 most influential digital marketer by Onalytica. He was also recently commended as one of the top 3 content marketing influencers of 2016 by ScribbleLive.