Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy, usually used in B2B marketing, that focuses your marketing, sales, and customer service resources on very specific accounts in your industry. Instead of casting your lead generation net wide, you get to pick your targets carefully and communicate in a highly targeted personalized manner.
But what the heck does that mean?
Let’s see if this clears it up: “ABM is implemented with the needs of a specific target prospect at a specific target account in mind. The research required to get this type of marketing up and running means that your prospects will know you’ve done your homework—and they’ll love you for it.” – Alp Mimaroglu, neilpatel.com
Account-based marketing focuses your limited resources on accounts with the best chance of a return on investment. As a result, the resources you spend have a clear impact on your ROI. Each account has its own resource flow from input to output, rather than the broad marketing to sales funnel. ABM is a model that specifically targets companies and leads that are expected to acquire your product, and “ABM aspires to be ‘zero-waste’ marketing,” as described by Joe Chernov.
Account-Based Marketing Best Practices
Build your team with what you have
To shift to ABM, there is no need to hire a completely new team. Instead, build your team with what resources you have.
Create a flow from Marketing to Sales for each account. If your Marketing and Sales teams are separate, set up an ABM workflow for them. Instead of Marketing simply passing their leads to Sales for them to close the deal, Marketing should work with Sales to choose which accounts to target. From there, Marketing and Sales can create a flow that takes the account from connection to closing.
Involve Customer Service in the discussion. Your Customer Service team most probably has a set of protocols to follow in interacting with accounts. With Account-based marketing, the idea is to personalize the experience for each account. Include your Customer Service team in the discussion of the accounts, who they are, and any special details about them. That way, Customer Service can confidently provide personalized responses to the accounts without the need to consult other teams.
I have to note that large companies may have to go through a reorganization. At a minimum, there needs to be an oversight function, such as a growth officer or such leadership role. Successful account-based marketing requires a change in mindset. And culture is fundamental to change. Creating a digital-minded culture across organizations, gaining buy-in from multiple functions can be difficult without proper oversight.
For those who don’t want big change all at once (although most change happens in stages), agreeing to a test period before a bigger transformation can be a great first step. Just be careful that if the test doesn’t also have oversight and buy-in from all stakeholders, your test may fail.
Develop criteria for finding target accounts
Encourage all of the involved teams, from Marketing to Sales to Customer Service, to keep their eyes open for target accounts and their indicators of need. Develop criteria that your different teams can use to shortlist target accounts. Are you a tire shop that targets only off-road vehicle businesses? Are you an upholstery business that specializes in providing leather covers to furniture shops? Has the covid crisis led to unique needs in areas where your services weren’t needed?
Let your teams know what industry players and contexts to target. Tire shops can sell other off-roader gear. Upholstery shops can have clients that work with other kinds of leather covers. With set criteria, you allow your entire Account-based marketing sector to find target accounts for your company.
Treat each account as its own market
As mentioned earlier, each account should be treated with special and personalized attention. Each account should have its own flow from connection to closing, from Marketing to Sales. The strategy is extremely focused per account. How can your business do this?
Know the pain point of each client. To close a sale, you need to meet your client’s needs. The industries cannot just be related. Look carefully into the client and see what need you can meet, in a unique way that another business cannot. If your business does not meet a specific need, it may not be the client for you.
Personalize and customize each account campaign through content syndication. When you reach out to an account, strive to meet a need without the promise of any return from that client. Share a blog or a video from your content that helps support your target account’s product and vision. Here, digital marketing, in particular inbound marketing, are your best friends. If those elements are missing from your marketing strategy, now it’s time to build the functions as well.
Make it clear that you have done your research, and that you are fully confident in a possible partnership because you have already produced content that confirms you can meet their need.
Ensure consistent experiences for each client. Even though every account is treated differently, with a different campaign and action plan, each account must have a consistent experience. Lay down principles of how to interact with clients regardless of which account flow they belong to. Encourage a consistent culture of personalized responses and insightful research on each account.
Have a long-term goal for each account relationship. The relationship does not end when the sale is closed. For each account, present a plan and a vision that goes beyond the first sale. Look at how your partnership can deepen, or at the sectors and industries you can reach together.
Examples of Account-Based Marketing Done Well
EnterpriseDB, a software services company, passed over 200 possible connections after shifting to an ABM strategy. However, their ROI went up by almost $3 million in the same time period. By engaging with possible accounts only when they were sure a sale could be closed, their time, energy, and resources were used most effectively.
An account engagement company, 6sense, also used ABM to target buyers at whatever stage of the buyer journey they were at. With analytics, 6sense observed client engagement and targeted only individuals likely to make a purchase. Page views increased by 31%, increasing the possible purchase rate.
Expect Slower Growth
It might be intimidating to grow slowly rather than casting a wide net and connecting with everyone who responds. However, if you lock your resources into partnerships with any account you can get, you will not have resources to divert to high value accounts.
One good account experience will invite more and better accounts. You may be growing seemingly slower than other business counterparts, but in the long run, your resource expenditure will be matched and overtaken by the ROI of account-based marketing. Do not be discouraged by a seemingly limited range of clients. Your personalization and commitment will lead other clients to open different opportunities to you.
Where Do You Go from Here?
If you’re researching Account-Based Marketing best practices before developing your next stage growth strategies, you’re already off to a good start. Any resources you spend will be targeted and personalized. However, if you haven’t and your sales are lagging, you need to look into what can shift. Picking one account and shifting the strategy with intention will give you a good practice run. You also see what you might need to build upon or improve in your strategy. But we want to hear from you! Without restarting your whole business, how can you begin your shift to account-based marketing?