Account-based marketing (Acronym: ABM) is quickly becoming a must have for B2B companies. Based on its surveys of B2B marketers, the ITSMA concludes:
ABM delivers the highest return on investment of any B2B marketing strategy or tactic. Period.
According to Megan Heuer, Vice President and Group Director at SiriusDecisions:
What makes ABM so attractive right now is the way it combines insights for strategy and technology for execution. Marketing teams who understand ABM are in a powerful position to better align to what sales needs, and to make smart choices about the right actions to take and the right time to take them to grow high-potential accounts.
Account-based marketing may be taking the B2B world by storm, but what does it actually involve and why all the excitement? Let’s take a deeper look.
Wikipedia calls ABM a strategic approach to business marketing in which an organization considers and communicates with individual prospect or customer accounts as markets of one. Jon Miller of Engagio says ABM coordinates personalized marketing and sales efforts to open doors and deepen engagement at specific accounts.
While there are many ways to describe ABM, most practitioners agree on a few fundamentals. ABM campaigns:
- Focus on all key decision influencers inside a company (account), not just one key decision maker (or persona),
- Look at each account as a “market of one,” with messaging and value propositions customized to the needs of the individual company as a whole,
- Use custom content and messaging aimed at addressing the company’s specific business problems and opportunities
- Consider not just the one-time sale but the lifetime value of each customer when setting priorities,
- Value quality over quantity when it comes to leads.
Familiar Tactics, More Effective Targeting
The good news for any marketer wanting to try an ABM approach is that the tools and tactics aren’t strange and new; they’re based on the proven methods B2B marketers have used for years:
- Outbound prospecting with email, phone, social media and direct mail
- Inbound marketing with top-of-funnel content, blogging, webinars and social media engagement
- Digital tactics like IP-based ads and retargeting, social media advertising, web personalization and paid lead gen
- Events, trade shows, partner and third-party events
The big difference is in the way these tools and tactics are targeted. As Miller says:
It’s not about any one tactic; it’s the mix of touches that drives success.
Shifting the Focus from Persona to Account
Traditional B2B marketing approaches are based on identifying the right type of decision-maker (or persona) and creating marketing campaigns to attract their attention. ABM is driving a shift from finding generalized personas to identifying groups of specific influencers. According to a 2014 IDG survey, a typical enterprise purchase is influenced by 17 people (up from 10 in 2011). An ABM approach recognizes that when selling a particular product or solution to an enterprise-level company, you might need to get your message in front of a host of people at different levels of authority with different job functions.
The Right Tools Make ABM Easier
Since ABM is a personalized approach, it depends on good lead data. If you don’t have an up-to-date, accurate database to rely on, reaching all the people in the decision-making chain inside an organization can be hit-or-miss. So can efforts to target custom display ads and other online outreach by company IP address.
Successful ABM marketers have learned that predictive analytics platforms designed for B2B lead generation provide accurate and complete lead data to make ABM possible. Advanced predictive analytics solutions can also help identify the right companies to target based on how ready they are to buy, saving time and increasing the chances of success
Most also integrate with marketing automation platforms like Marketo and Eloqua, and CRM tools like Salesforce. Integration with marketing automation and CRM allows companies to plan, implement, measure and optimize ABM campaigns using their existing marketing stack.
Target, Market, Measure
Now that you understand the fundamentals, how do you actually get started? The first step of implementing an ABM campaign is to identify your target accounts. Maybe you already know who you most want to target. If so, go to it. If you don’t, or if you’re looking to start a new business, new product line or drive new leads for an existing business, you need a prospect list.
Since ABM focuses on the companies most likely to become your best customers, you need to know what your ideal prospect company looks like. This means prospects who are not only likely to convert, but also to generate long-term value.
Your ideal customer profiles should include demographic, as well as firmographic data, and factor in behavior, fit and intent. What is the ideal business size? How much is their annual revenue? What industries do they work in? Where are they located? In addition, an ideal customer profile should look for behavioral clues from prospects, such as how many times they visited your site, as well as an understanding of what other products and services they use in their purchasing process.
Organize and Prioritize
Once you have identified quality prospects, the next step is to organize and prioritize the list, and make a marketing plan for engaging the strongest leads. As mentioned above, you are not trying to target an individual, but rather all the decision-makers within that company. This requires a more comprehensive marketing approach that expands the reach of messaging across multiple channels. This approach can include dynamic display advertising, outbound marketing, social media and more. The key is for marketing and sales teams to work closely together to achieve their shared goals.
The fact that ABM brings sales and marketing together is huge. Marketo reports that 50 percent of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting Tweet This! and thatsales reps ignore 50 percent of marketing leads Tweet This!. Misalignment not only results in lost productivity, but also lost business opportunities. According to MarketingProfs,organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing functions experience 36 percent higher customer retention rates and 38 percent higher sales win rates Tweet This!.
Focus on Lifetime Value
With ABM, closing a deal is not the culmination of a relationship, but its beginning. Once a prospect becomes a customer, it is essential to keep them satisfied. This requires data. B2B organizations need to know what happens after a customer buys, what they use and don’t use, and what makes a customer successful. A customer is not valuable if you can’t retain their business. How engaged are they with the product? Are they at risk of leaving? Are they a good candidate for an upsell or cross sell?
With ABM Leads, It’s Quality Over Quantity
The number of leads and opportunities is not enough to measure ABM. The strategy does not operate on the traditional definition of a lead, and values quality over quantity. In the past, ABM was primarily used by large, well-resourced enterprise companies who could invest significant time and money into a high-touch process. Today, technology is helping automate and scale ABM, which brings the costs down and makes ABM more accessible to enterprises of all sizes. Research clearly shows that the B2B marketing is moving towards ABM. It’s just a matter of how fast.