For many years now, account-based marketing has been a buzz word in B2B marketing. Many organisations are implementing ABM or want to get started with ABM in the near future. But what exactly is ABM and what is the importance of an account-based approach for your organization?
- What is account-based marketing?
- ABM vs. inbound marketing
- When and why use ABM?
- Advantages of ABM
- Is ABM the right choice for us?
- Sales and ABM
- Create an account-based marketing plan
- ABM framework
- Successfully measure account-based marketing
- Examples of account-based marketing
- Account-based marketing software
- How to use LinkedIn for ABM
- Starting with ABM?
What is account-based marketing?
Let’s start with a definition:
Account-based marketing is a strategic approach that coordinates personalised marketing and sales efforts to open doors and deepen engagement at specific accounts.
—Jon Miller, CMO of Demandbase (former CEO of Engagio and Co-Founder of Marketo)
Need help with Account-based marketing?
Personal approach for your largest customers, we help you.
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a B2B strategy in which you engage with a predefined group of target accounts using tailor-made sales and marketing campaigns. When using ABM campaigns, you focus on the personal needs of your key (potential) customer.
You might have heard this quote from marketing guru Dan Ogilvy: “Don’t count the people you reach; reach the people that count”. And that is precisely the marketing approach of account-based marketing (ABM); you focus your activities on a selected group of accounts which you know can add value to your organisation.
ABM vs. inbound marketing
First, you define your goals when you’re getting started with account-based marketing. For example, do you have a target list of 3 accounts, a more extensive list, or even an industry in mind? Marketing and Sales define this scope together. Then, you select the target accounts and identify the relevant personas within these accounts. Next, you gather account insights such as business drivers, challenges and purchasing motives.
These insights give the team valuable input to create personalised content for each account. As a result, account-based marketing is an extremely focused, almost microscopic strategic way of inbound and outbound marketing.
When and why use ABM?
Account-based marketing is often used by organisations looking for big (international) customers with a high deal value or those who provide a significant part of the total revenue and profit.
Account-based marketing is also a great approach when dealing with complex purchasing processes. In B2B, this is often the case. Buyers in different roles can be responsible for purchasing your product or service, and you need to cater to multiple interests. In short, ABM focuses on influencing the buying group. Is ABM right for you? Seven questions and seven tips to help you decide.
Advantages of ABM
Compared to traditional marketing campaigns, account-based marketing campaigns offer some important advantages to you:
- Better insight into the buyer and buyer journey
Personal customer experience is increasingly important in B2B. Account-based marketing plays into this trend. Creating specific content for a specific account increases your relevance to the buyer and/or customer.
- Better collaboration between marketing and sales
For a successful ABM campaign, you need input from sales and marketing. Consider account plans and data, market developments, existing contacts, history, intent data, etc. You start together by defining the scope before creating and rolling out a campaign using relevant content. Stakeholder management is a key aspect of ABM.
- A more strategic go-to-market approach
In ABM, you focus on target accounts that could add real or substantial value. You invest time, money and resources in accounts that really matter. This will give you a head start on your competitors who do not implement an ABM strategy.
- Better results with ABM
Research from the ABM Leadership Alliance and ITSMA (2021) shows that 76% of B2B organisations that use ABM get a higher Return on Investment (ROI). The average deal size is higher because you only focus on accounts that can add a lot of value, and ABM also enables you to create more buy-in within the DMU of your target account.
Is ABM the right choice for us?
Whether your market and/or organisation is the right choice for ABM depends on the market and internal organisation. For example, would a 1-1 or 1-few account approach work in your industry? And what about the collaboration between Sales and Marketing? With the help of this infographic, you can assess whether ABM fits you. Or you can read this article: Is ABM right for you? Seven questions and seven tips to help you decide.
Sales and ABM
To make ABM successful, it is essential to establish good collaboration between the marketing and sales department. Together, you gather interesting and relevant information on the market and the key target accounts. Sales can share insights and knowledge regarding contacts that they have already. Sometimes Sales can share inside knowledge from other similar customers. Based on that, Marketing can find intent data and use first and third-party data to drive successful account targeting and build engagement.
Create an account-based marketing plan
An ABM plan is the foundation for successful campaigning and growth. A well-structured ABM plan means a bigger chance of success during the actual execution and optimisation. At SPOTONVISION, we use the following 5 steps.
Step 1. Getting to know your accounts
Together with the sales team, define which accounts you want to focus on. Choose the target accounts with high value that fit your organisation. Define the goals and determine your KPIs.
Step 2. Look for account insights
Gather as much information as possible in order to understand your accounts and stakeholders better. Look at the personas of decision makers and influencers. Map your contacts and map the purchasing process.
Step 3. Create account-relevant content
Get started with the creation of personalized and account-relevant communication. Specifically, creating appealing content for your ABM campaign.
E-book Account-based marketing in 5 steps
In this e-book we take you in 5 steps into the world of account-based marketing
Step 4. Build and launch your campaign
Combine different online and offline marketing tactics. Make sure there is close collaboration between Marketing and Sales and work on a consistent message together. Listen to the story of ABM expert Karin Schaff Glazier on how to build an ABM programme and what ABM pitfalls to avoid. In an earlier interview, she also gives us some tips to get started with ABM quickly.
Step 5. Measure and optimize
Measure the result of your account-based marketing activities. Share successes and search for ways to optimise your campaign where needed.
The rollout of an account-based marketing programme requires a coordinated and personalised approach from Marketing, Sales and other commercial teams. So, once your plan is ready and before you start executing, make sure there’s a sales playbook available.
Successfully measure account-based marketing
In ABM you don’t try to generate as many leads as possible, but you build as much engagement as possible within your selected accounts. To measure success and progress, look at the information on the account level. Think of:
- Engagement – All activities that are part of your ABM approach are aimed at having valuable interactions with the contacts in your target account. You want to measure this.
- Reach and impact – Are your ABM activities actually reaching the right people?
- Influence – A good way to measure your actual impact and influence, is to compare results between different accounts.
Also, read ‘How to measure ABM and its success‘.
Three account-based marketing examples
Example 1: Account-focused content
Personalised and customised content can be a powerful base for your ABM strategy. Think of blogs, infographics, e-books, and whitepapers you can make account or industry-specific. You can use a personalised title or subtitle or a front page adjusted to a segment or industry. Or you can share customer cases that fit your target accounts.
Example 2: Out-of-the-box 1-1 actions
In order to close big accounts and stand out from all commercial actions of your competitors, you can develop a special and personalised action for one account.
To raise interest, it is important to play into the needs and challenges of this specific account. Make it even more personal by using the same language and words your target account uses.
This example is from GumGum, a software company that wants to close Mcdonald’s as a new customer. They developed a special kit of a Big Mac containing different ‘ingredients’, each explaining a part of their services.
Example 3: Web personalisation for specific accounts
You can apply web personalisation for account-based marketing in different ways. Dynamic content can be used to personalise websites for different accounts or persons within the DMU of an account.
You can change images and texts on a specific landing page. Or go the extra mile and even show different content (e.g. blogs, e-books, and infographics).
These examples show that ABM can be executed in an approachable or a more labour-intensive way. Of course, this also depends on your budget and available time. Yet, with a lot of creativity, originality, and guts you can come a long way. And don’t forget; ‘One swallow doesn’t make a summer’. With one successful action, you’re not there yet. In order to build long-term engagement with your accounts, you need multiple moments of contact, spread out over a longer period of time.
For more account-based marketing examples, have a look at some of our customers who implemented ABM:
- How Ultimo successfully started with ABM
- How Unit4 scaled ABM
- Cyclomedia from Lead Gen to ABM
- T-Mobile: from outbound to inbound and starting ABM
Account-based marketing software
Even though you can execute and monitor your account-based marketing campaigns using an excel sheet, our advice is to at least have access to a CRM and marketing automation platform. Per phase, we explain how other ABM tools could also help you.
Determining target accounts
To determine your target accounts your CRM system is leading. Your CRM helps you determine your target accounts. Who is your ideal customer? In ABM terms, what is your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). The goal is two-sided:
- Determine what the characteristics of the ICP are.
- Select accounts within your CRM that meet the ICP.
It could well be that the account data in your CRM is not sufficient due to missing data, such as the number of employees, revenue, etc. In this case, you can enrich your CRM data using an external source such as the Chamber of Commerce or Clearbit.
Collecting relevant contacts
The next step is to get insight into the DMU on a contact level. Which people are involved in the purchasing process of your product or service? Also, think about influencers here. You take these roles or functions from buyer persona research.
Gathering insights into target accounts
Within your organisation, much is known about the target accounts. Gather this information and enrich it with information from the website and by monitoring social channels and news about the accounts. You can use Google Alerts for this.
There are also tools you can use to grasp ‘intent’. There are plenty of product and service comparison tools that offer visitor information. This way you immediately know which accounts show an interest in your product or service.
You use the insights you found for your content creation. Personalisation plays an important role here. Think of adding a company logo to a whitepaper for a specific account. Or personalising web pages based on which account views the page. This way you can provide each target account a super relevant experience on your website tool.
There are plenty of tools that offer personalisation. Most important is that these are linked to your marketing automation platform (MAP). Many MAPs have this functionality already, such as Hubspot, Eloqua, Pardot and Marketo. For stand-alone personalisation tools, you can have a look at Evergage, Rightmessage en Google Optimize.
In order to reach and engage persons within your target accounts, you use different tactics:
- LinkedIn – You may already be connected, otherwise you can use InMails or LinkedIn Ads
- Account-based advertising – Tools that recognise the IP addresses of target accounts and have these available for online advertising
- Website personalisation (see above)
- E-mail marketing via marketing automation
- Chat functionality via website or messenger platform
- Physical post (Direct Mail)
- Face-to-face (online) events
Measure and optimise
Your CRM and marketing automation are the basis for measuring and optimising. In addition, there are cloud solutions specifically developed for the execution of ABM programmes. Examples are Engagio, Demandbase, Terminus, Triblio or 6sense for account engagement. Existing marketing automation platforms are also enhancing their systems for ABM functionality.
How to use LinkedIn for ABM
For ABM, you want to focus on your key accounts and nurture your DMU. You can use LinkedIn in a couple of ways. LinkedIn as a branding tool or LinkedIn for targeted reach, and/or build out your account list. Read more in ‘How to leverage LinkedIn for your ABM strategy’.
Getting started with ABM?
Do you want to get started with account-based marketing and are you looking for practical step-by-step guidance? At SPOTONVISION we make ABM easy, whether we collaborate face-to-face or online. The most important ingredient for success is close co-operation between your Marketing and Sales. So, when you are ready to work together, SPOTONVISION can facilitate and support with impact. We work in pre-defined sprints, with no surprises in the process.
Start today with account-based marketing!
Do you need help with your ABM plan?