Account based marketing - Personalized marketing on steroids
Updated: Mar 9
“ABM is not just about getting quick results. It’s more like a marriage, and in this case, it’s with your account”
- Mike Green, Capita
Imagine a marketing process without the usual baggage that comes with it - time wasted to identify the right positioning and messaging, pitching to unqualified companies who aren’t the right fit for your product or service, figuring out ways to keep your audience engaged to your value proposition, and completely aligning sales, marketing, and customer success teams to achieve a substantial ROI.
Sounds too good to be true, does it?
The fundamental problem with this approach is probably the ‘hunter-gatherer’ approach lying deep inside human subconsciousness. It’s a spray and pray approach - you cast a net wide enough into the sea and keep your fingers crossed, hoping enough fish are bound to fall in the trap to justify all the effort that went into casting the net in the first place. And while the science of probabilities may favor you if you manage to cast a net wide-enough, more often than not you end up catching leads that aren’t likely to uptick your revenue - this holds especially true for B2B.
The engagement economy does come with its share of cons - which begs the question - is all this effort worth it?
Now imagine a marketing process, that is essentially reverse-engineered to solve these conundrums. An approach where your sales teams already know what motivated your customers, and they start with selling directly to sharks who are best suited to fall into your net!
Enter Account-Based Marketing
ITSMA provides us with a spot-on definition of ABM
“Treating individual accounts as a market in their own right”
ABM is essentially a hyper-focused growth strategy where the marketing, sales, and customer success teams combine to not only identify a bunch of sharks - high-value target accounts that fit in your ICP, but also execute a hyper-personalized buyer journey in an attempt to position your product or service in the consideration part of the funnel. When you treat these accounts as individual markets, not only do you restrict lesser valuable companies out of the funnel to improve efficiency - you also address the exact pain points of your ICP in a bid to influence their purchasing decisions.
A common misconception that is often made is to confuse ABM with traditional outbound marketing (which isn’t marketing in my opinion, it’s good old sales - but that’s a topic for another time). Outbound marketing (or sales) in essence is person-centric, while ABM on the other hand is more organization-centric. When dealing with enterprises or large-companies, while there may be a single person at the end of the day to make the purchasing decision, there is often an entire group of people who act as decision influencers that help them reach the buying decision. These people are the champions of your product, and in most cases the ones who will leverage your product to bring value to their organizations - they need to be appealed to, and won over before your product catches the ear of the decision-maker!
So how does it work exactly?
In a sense ABM is about reversing the traditional marketing process - instead of landing cold traffic on to a landing page, getting them to fill a form, and evaluating who to target, Account-based marketing is about identifying a bunch of high-value priority target companies who are sure to realize a positive ROI from your product. You cast a smaller, but much more focussed net over your high-value accounts in an attempt to nurture them through an omnichannel approach to reach a buying decision faster. With the advent of the MarTech boom that we’re living in, MQLs are dime a dozen - what this essentially does is create a huge misalignment between the marketing and sales teams. Not only the sales team have hard-time handling and qualifying an enormous amount of leads, they never seem to be closing enough accounts to keep the engine running - which can be incredibly demotivating for the entire organization. This is especially true for B2B.
ABM to the rescue!
Although the actual implementation of ABM is done by the marketing folks in the company, the “why” component of this strategy is often defined by the sales teams since they’re the front-line warriors in the trenches, who have a good idea about what the exact pain points of a customer are, what verbiage do they use to describe their predicament, what motivates or demotivates them and how to shape your message in a way it has maximum impact.
An approach of this nature completely aligns the sales, marketing, and customer success teams - in a sense that marketing only goes after accounts that are identified, vetted, and deemed closable by sales. And since the funnel is thus optimized for zero waste, the conversion rate from MQL ➤ SQL ➤ Opportunity ➤ Customer increases.
Since all accounts are engaged on a detailed level, and with the amount of information available for all these accounts, retention and customer experience takes a big jump, ensuring your ROI shoots up dramatically.
But when should you use ABM, and more importantly, when not to?
In order to determine if a proposed ABM marketing strategy would bear what kind of an impact, there are some fundamental questions you need the answers to:
Who exactly are you selling to? And what does your customer base look like?
If you’re implementing ABM for organizations with less than 500 headcount, it may not be very effective (not to say that it won’t work). It just works better if your target accounts are >1000 headcount (preferably enterprise customers).
How much data do you have on your target accounts?
The key to ABM is to treat each account as a separate market, therefore it is important to have an abundance of data for each of these accounts that you’re going after. Lesser the data, the less informed are ABM marketing efforts and more the difficulty of implementation.
But more importantly, this is when you should not use ABM
When strategically choosing accounts most likely to respond to your value proposition, if your target accounts are not enterprises, or if the organization headcount is <500 - implementing ABM may not be the most ROI positive growth strategy.
If you do not have enough data on all the target audiences to make an informed pitch about what you’re selling - not just to decision-makers but decision influencers as well.
The key to ABM is personalization, so if the research is not deep enough, chances are there will be a disconnect in the message you are trying to send across.
If you’ve made it this far, chances are you are now aware if ABM is a strategy that promises potential for your organization. If you’re curious about the best practices around ABM, read on!
“When you’re trying to create change, you also need to change the mindset of the organizations you’re going after because they’re used to doing things their way”
- Gemma Davies, ServiceNow
Define what qualifies as a high-value account for you:
Gather data from all possible sources you can to identify, analyze and prioritize which accounts do you want to go after first - use pointers such as revenue potential, profit margins, how established are they in their market, if their purchase is likely to influence other similar companies to follow suit, and if they could potentially make repeat purchases.
Speak the language of the prospect
The backbone of any marketing messaging is context and personalization - and the same holds true for ABM as well. Since there will probably be a small number of prospects in your ABM campaign, you need to ensure your conversion rates are super high for the campaign to be of value. You could also try coming up with custom offers for each target account on your list.
Offer value upfront
This is probably the most important part of the process - always lead with a value bomb. If you’re selling a product to an enterprise, what better way to demonstrate potential gains than by using your product to identify, analyze and solve a problem that already exists for them. Do this for them, and watch them ease into the process without any friction.
Choose your channels
All the research and well-thought-out content in the world will not help you if you’re distributing it the wrong way. It’s best if you use social intelligence to get an in-depth understanding of what matters to your prospects and understand where they spend their time online. Consequently, this will help you craft the perfect messaging for each social platform your target accounts hang out on. What they discuss on Facebook may be different than what their LinkedIn activity is, so you need to ensure the right distribution in the right places at the right time for maximum impact.
Keep retargeting to maintain brand recall
It's important to figure out the right avenues of digital real-estate to repeatedly engage a specific account when they consume online content. Retargeting is critical in order to establish your brand in the hearts and minds of people you’re targeting, and stay on top until such a time they decide to take action for the pain point you’re trying to solve. Guess who they think of first?
Measure, Learn, Share and Optimize your results
Right from individual campaigns to the account level, constantly evaluate the impact of your ABM efforts - do prospects engage with personalized content? Are more people from a given account joining the bandwagon? Are they moving down the funnel fast enough? Is the ROI satisfactory? What loopholes could you plug? What process can you automate?
These are just some best-practices that will go a long way in optimizing your ABM campaigns for revenue.
Now that you have a fair idea of who to target and how to realize value from an ABM campaign, let’s take a look at some tools you can leverage to get the most juice out of your efforts:
A full-stack platform for account-based marketers, Engagio allows users to seamlessly run multi-channel, multi-person sales and marketing plays for your targeted accounts. Leverage it for everything from the conception of marketing strategies to reviewing campaign impact, and everything in between!
With a full suite of ABM tools and engagement insights with personalized targeting on accounts, Terminus is an end-to-end solution for dynamic, unified, and engaged multi-channel account-based marketing campaigns!
Their account-based orchestration platform will empower your ABM team with quality intent data to know just about everything they need to know about their target accounts, with specific intelligence on who is actively buying, what is it that they’re contemplating to buy, and where they are in their buying journey.
Their platform offers tons of different modules for each function within your ABM team - advertising, marketing, sales, analytics, and customer success. Built with a focus on B2B, Demandbase also empowers your ABM team to personalize both website and content using quality intent data. And finally,
Their ABM solution unifies both inbound and outbound marketing with your sales teams to drive revenue uptick. You can leverage targeted ads, sales triggers, web personalization, and powerful analytics tools to execute a carefully crafted strategy unique to each target account.