The Definitive Guide to Account-Based Marketing

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is the rising star of the B2B world. The rapid surge of marketing and sales tech has pushed forward the development and implementation of ABM at a scale. Left and right, companies are jumping on the ABM train, and they are doing it for a reason. A report from the Information Technology Services Marketing Association found that 84% of companies surveyed said that account-based marketing delivers higher ROI than other types of marketing. It looks like ABM is something worth considering, isn't it?

But what exactly is account-based marketing? And more importantly, is it right for your business?

What Is Account-Based Marketing?

Account-based marketing is a marketing method which concentrates on acquiring specific high-value customers with highly targeted, personalized campaigns, basing the targeting and marketing message on particular attributes of an account.

As a result, account-based marketing strives for effectiveness. It’s a strategic approach that targets only companies that are likely to buy your product or service rather than aiming at generating tons of leads and chasing them. Unlike the traditional inbound marketing funnel, with account-based marketing, your first step is to identify target companies (accounts) and then engage them with incredibly relevant content. You can think of ABM as a one-to-one approach rather than one-to-many. A wonderful combination of art and science.

Or you can think of Moby Dick. Traditional inbound marketing is fishing tuna with a net, whereas ABM is hunting the great big whale with a harpoon.

Table of Contents:

Why Does Account-Based Marketing Make Sense?

By now, you’ve probably realized that the fundamentals of ABM don’t differ much from the traditional marketing toolkit: sales and marketing teams collaboration, tailoring and personalizing your messaging content. So, if there isn’t much difference, why all this hype?

The secret sauce is specificity. Being a hyper-targeted strategy, ABM is science-based rather than a tactic that depends on luck. ABM pros can use specificity to create a personalized pitch that speaks directly to the pain points of an individual prospect.

Specificity is also what makes ABM ideal for B2B companies. In enterprise deals, there are multiple stakeholders involved in the decision-making process. ABM acknowledges the different people within one particular account and enables marketers and sellers to customize their messaging to take into account all the different perspectives.

The secret sauce of ABM is specificity. Being a hyper-targeted strategy, ABM is science-based rather than a tactic that depends on luck.

For instance, if you’re selling social media management software, you won’t win over an IT manager, a CFO and a marketing professional with the same messaging. On average 5.4 people now have to sign off formally on each purchase, and your sales process must cover every single angle.

In the B2B world, it quickly became difficult to resist the appeal of ABM tactics because it addresses significant pain points in the sales process such as a better use of resources and the creation of tailor-made messaging that resonates with the prospects. Whether you’re a Sales Director or a Marketing Manager, it’s a dream scenario. If you work in sales, you don’t waste time on leads that are not ready to buy, and if you’re in marketing, you can deliver your content to people genuinely interested in what you have to say.

5 Reasons to Develop an ABM Strategy

1. Efficiency — Better leads, less waste

By its very own nature, ABM strives for efficiency and aims at finding quality leads, rather than a large number of leads. With such narrow focus, marketers and salespeople can make better use of their time and resources to the best-fit accounts. Why spend time and money on prospects who might never be in the position of buying your product?

2. Knowledge — Quality leads, better conversions

Since ABM professionals focus on a smaller number of leads, they can dig deep on the prospects’ characteristics and motivations, allowing the use of extreme personalization. By the time the sales team comes into play, prospects have already been exposed to very relevant materials and are much more likely to convert. The insights and knowledge you can gather empower you to make informed decisions in every step of the sales process.

3. Sales marketing alignment — More collaboration, fewer silos

It’s a painful truth. More often than not, sales and marketing teams don’t get along. “I’m frustrated by the quality of the leads,” says the sales rep. “You don’t follow our strategy,” replies the marketing pro. Despite pursuing common objectives, different perspectives easily lead to conflict. Luckily, due to the focus on accounts, instead of markets or industries, ABM helps to build a bridge and organically leads to an incredible alignment between sales and marketing. Both teams must work closely together to identify target accounts, develop messaging and outreach tactics, and monitor the campaign’s progress. It’s working: Bizible’s 2017 State of Pipeline report found “that marketers doing 50% or more ABM see strong alignment with their sales teams.”

4. Better results — Higher return on investment

Because ABM concentrates most resources on the highest-value prospective customers possible, the return is likely to be higher compared to other more traditional tactics. A study from the Information Technology Services Marketing Association showed that “84% of companies surveyed said account-based marketing delivers higher ROI than other types of marketing.”

5. Clients like it — Yes, really

ABM is highly personalized, and buyers like personalized experiences. Thanks to personalized messages, you can create a direct connection and conversation with your prospects, addressing their needs without being intrusive.

3 Practical Ways of Using Company Data in ABM

Account-based marketing is a terrific combination of art and science. It’s data, more precisely, which brings the science to ABM. Because of ABM's reliance on data, this form of marketing can give a more accurate response to the needs and actions of specific companies, whereas traditional inbound marketing based on personas can turn into a guessing game.

So, bring out your data! Today, salespeople can access a tremendous amount of company data that goes beyond basic firmographic data, like location and number of employees. Knowing a company’s technology stack, their general web presence, and other technographic data can make all the difference when approaching a prospect. The sophistication and access to data give the laser-sharp focus that a bulletproof ABM strategy requires. The more you know about your prospects, the more efficiently you can implement an ABM strategy.

Therefore, it is not a surprise that account intelligence or sales intelligence platforms lie at the heart of ABM. These tools have the ability to make sense of the vast amounts of company data available these days. As a result, technology drives ABM because it allows:

    • Personalization to create bespoke content, messaging and customer journeys.
    • Predictions to interpret buying signals alerting when a company might need your product and services.
    • Account intelligence that helps make sense of the infinite data available.
    • Real-time targeting and retargeting of target accounts across different channels.

Data-driven insights directly influence which accounts receive what content and when, so the sales efforts are transformed into a time-based and need-based process.

ABM is a multichannel marketing strategy. In practice, ABM is about creating smart data-driven target groups regardless of the channel. Data answers key questions that will guide your messaging strategy and segmentation.

1. Advertising

Remarketing, retargeting and other online advertisement strategies require an initial interaction with your website. You need your prospects to visit your homepage so you can serve them ads when they leave your website. Even when this interaction happens, it does not guarantee you reach the key influencers in the buying committee of your targeted account. This way, your advertisement budget can quickly skyrocket without the right people seeing your ads.

When you add company data to the mix, you’ll be much wiser on how to plan your advertisement so you can determine which audience within your key accounts should see your ads. As you run an ABM program, you want to take a proactive approach to your online advertisement that allows you to reach an influential audience, even without previous contact. For example, you can run specific campaigns around data points such as the end of fiscal year.

2. Email Marketing

Email Marketing is one of the most valuable channels for ABM. No other channels can achieve the same degree of personalization and intimacy that one-to-one emails can. Email outreach ticks all the boxes of effective ABM campaigns: the right message at the right time to the right people.

Each individual at an account has different needs and pain points, so the success of your email program highly depends on a thorough understanding of who, when and what. Marketing automation platforms can help you determine when you need to reach your contacts, but the effectiveness of any email outreach starts with knowing well to whom you’re targeting. Good data, therefore, is essential for the success of any email program.

When planning your email strategy, you need to look into three essential data points. Understanding demographic data, such as title, role, and seniority, tell you who has influence within an account and who is the decision-maker. Firmographics, such as size and type of company, inform industry segmentation by revealing structures, revenues, and capabilities. Finally, the particular technology and tools a company use (technographic data) can indicate if your product is a good fit for your targeted account.

The more data points, the more attributes of your accounts you can unearth and use to craft personalized emails that will speak to the right people.

3. Website Personalization

With inbound marketing, you strive to drive traffic to your website and hope visitors will leave their contact details, whereas ABM campaigns don’t end there. Once visitors reach the website, you want to serve them messaging that speaks directly to them, creating a tailored experience. Remember you’re targeting a specific account so a generic website experience might be problematic. Websites usually service multiple industries and consumers, so you end up generalizing everything. Your message loses impact. This is why ABM pros are investing in web personalization, a tactic that lets you show different content to different visitors, and solves the problem of generic web experiences. A CEO will not be interested in consuming the same content as an IT Manager.

Techniques like reverse IP lookup help you identify if employees from one of your targeted accounts land on your homepage. Plus, with the use of company data, you can determine other attributes such as firmographics, intent, and behavior. This way, you can welcome them with the most relevant messaging, offers and solutions. For example, you can identify that a visitor belongs to the clothing industry, so you present him with a case study relevant to that industry. Relevant content leads to more time spent on site, increased content consumption, and better conversation rates.

New Call-to-action

5 Steps to Master Account-Based Marketing

Upon looking at the benefits above, you must be itching to try ABM tactics and see your sales figures skyrocket. Here’s the good news: it’s easy to get started. And, here’s the bad news: it’s going to take some time to see results. ABM is a marathon and not a sprint. It can be a complex strategy, which demands that you invest a considerable amount of time and money into a single account, so you definitely, can’t afford to start on the wrong foot.

First, take time to choose your tech stack. Jumping the gun and setting up the wrong tools can quickly leave you in ABM limbo, so make sure you cover these five must-have:

  1. Account Intelligence — to capitalize on prospects’ data and generate valuable insights.
  2. Lead and contact data automation — to craft tailor-made buying journeys.
  3. Integration with other systems — to automate and streamline your sales process.
  4. Company departments alignment — to get everyone onboard.
  5. Analytics and reporting — to understand the impact of your ABM tactics.

Once you’ve procured the necessary tools and tech, it’s time to get hands-on with ABM. The following framework will guide your actions to develop the critical elements of your ABM strategy.

1) Find the target accounts that fit your ideal customer profile

ABM is a collaborative piece of work between different parts of your organization, so your first step should be to call a meeting between sales and marketing to prioritize your company’s prospects and create your list of target accounts (maybe based on some account scoring models).

Ignore your gut feeling; effective prioritization requires a more structured approach. At Vainu we trust the ideal customer profile (ICP) model to enable us to find our target accounts. An ICP is a description of a fictitious account which tells who is most likely to buy your product or service and what makes a satisfied customer that will stay with you for a long time. Thanks to a well-defined ICP, you’ll find it much easier to identify your top three to five target accounts. Remember these will be the prospects to which you’ll devote much of your time and resources, so making the right decision at this stage is crucial.

2) Research and planning phase

What do you know about your top accounts? How do you monitor them? After deciding on your top accounts, enter the research and planning phase and dig deep into your strategic accounts. Creating a successful ABM strategy hinges on your ability to understand your prospects and how they make buying decisions. With ABM knowledge is power.

This is the phase when account intelligence and sales intelligence tools excel as they provide the means to track many buying signals and any company-specific information about your targeted organization. Find out how decisions are made and who the influencers are.

3) Start creating conversation

This is the most creative step of the ABM process. You know who you want to talk to and have acquired ample insights on your key accounts, now it’s time to persuade them with a bespoke message rooted in that knowledge. Refine your proposition and marketing to create valuable, personalized content that addresses the challenges the target accounts face, so your approach becomes meaningful.

However, don’t forget that the sales process can be tedious, especially in B2B sales. As a result, ABM is all about building a close dialogue with your accounts, developing a conversation across different channels.

4) Target the right people at the right time

As consumers have become more selective, salespeople have to become smarter as well. When it comes to ABM, being smarter equals being more efficient. Since this method of marketing is highly-targeted, bombarding prospects with the same message will not work.

Capitalize on the insights you’ve gathered to send your message to the right people at the right time.

5) Analyze, learn, optimize. Repeat

In this regard, ABM is no different than any other form of marketing. Before initiating any individual campaigns, choose the right metrics to evaluate your ABM strategy. The list of KPIs you want to look at includes: engagement rate, in-funnel conversion rates, reach within an account, and pipeline velocity. One benefit of the strong sales and marketing alignment within an ABM strategy is the possibility of sharing the same metrics and KPIs across both teams.

Conclusion

Account-based marketing is a game changer for B2B marketing and sales, but getting started with it is no small feat and might face certain resistance within your organization. After all, betting many resources on a few accounts sounds daring. When you plan your strategy to gain executive buy-in, consider these three fundamental principles.

    • ABM is about identifying who your most important accounts are. Instead of appealing to the masses, a well-thought ABM strategy concentrates only on a few target accounts and not on markets or industries. To identify those prospects, marketing professionals and salespeople build ideal customer profiles.
    • ABM requires as much insight on your accounts as possible. This information allows ABM pros to craft content and campaigns optimized for the target accounts. There's no one-size-fits-all.
    • ABM does not replace other Marketing activities. As sophisticated as ABM can get, it is not meant to replace, but add. ABM must co-exist with other more traditional forms of marketing geared toward driving awareness and traffic. Yes, ABM and inbound marketing can —and most of the time, must, work in parallel.

The popularity of ABM steams from the ability of effectively combining data-driven insights, technology, and creativity to deliver an incredibly personalized marketing message. A precise combination of art and science.

And it's the methodical approach what makes accurate data, or more precisely, the lack of it, a major roadblock that many organizations face when trying to implement ABM. There’s so much business information coming from multiple sources that you can drown in it faster than stumbling into quicksand.

Account-based marketing is consuming and demanding. Accurate data, or more precisely, the lack of it, is the major roadblock that many organizations face when trying to implement ABM.

Therefore, choosing the right ABM technology is the first step you need to take if you want to run the ABM marathon. Fortunately, sales tech is developing at a terrific speed! Each day, more and more apps and platforms are helping you make sense of the data and put it into good use as you implement your ABM strategy.

Vainu is one of these platforms. We collect an enormous amount of information from millions of open data sources, and our machine learning algorithms analyze it so you can implement it into your sales and marketing process. If you want to know more about Vainu, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Topics: Account-Based Marketing

Eduardo Alonso

Scribbler at Vainu’s Marketing team. Taco enthusiast and obsessive record collector. Straight outta Madrid.