In an industry loaded with buzzwords, it can be tough to determine which ones will fade into obscurity and which will shake up the whole B2B world. In case you haven’t noticed by now, account-based marketing, or ABM, falls into the latter category.
While it’s been a go-to strategy for quite some time, it’s picked up a lot of steam in recent years. In 2018, the ABM Leadership Alliance reported that 80% of survey respondents were less than two years into their ABM implementation. And 99% of marketers reported more significant ROI from their ABM programs than their other marketing strategies.
This strategy takes a B2B company’s marketing resources and applies them to its target accounts, rather than an all-encompassing marketing strategy. Information Technology Services Marketing Association, or ITSMA, coined the phrase in 2004, defining it merely as “treating individual accounts as markets in their own right.”
How ABM works the Inbound Methodology
Fundamentally, the inbound methodology is about adding value and helping buyers identify and solve problems. This methodology can be used with ABM, taking a highly targeted approach. It can be very content-focused, creating highly personalized content for a very defined market segment. Its main objective is to create high-quality content that’ll have prospects seeking you out. ABM, however, is focused on targeting specific prospects and existing accounts. Its purpose isn’t to replace your overall, broader marketing strategy—it supplements it.
Sam Balter, a senior marketing manager at HubSpot, points out that many aspects of ABM incorporate inbound marketing—that ABM can be used to build better relationships with target accounts.
Account-based marketing can have a significant impact on businesses targeting niche markets with a high average deal size. HubSpot’s nailed down six of ABM’s huge benefits:
Personalization yields better return on marketing efforts
One of the biggest struggles for marketers is the attempt to appeal to such a wide range of potential buyers. When it comes to ABM, though, you’re narrowing the pool down. Then, you’re able to tailor the experience to each lead.
It’s easier to see the return on investment
The optimistic ROI is such a massive draw to ABM, and it makes sense that you want to see the results. When you’re implementing an ABM campaign, you’re able to determine how much new business is a result of that campaign specifically, and whether it’s worth continuing.
You spend less time on marketing campaigns that don’t yield new business
An asset of seeing that ROI in cold hard numbers is that you quickly learn what’s worthy of your time, money, and energy. According to HubSpot, “ABM is like an insurance policy for your team!”
With the right targeting, sales cycles should decrease
The sales cycle is a necessary evil in marketing, but we all wish it could be a little shorter, right? Well, in ABM, you’re targeting prospects that are more likely to cruise through the process. So then, you can focus that energy that you would typically spend nurturing, pursuing new leads.
It fortifies your relationship with existing clients
A good relationship with a client is the unsung hero of the marketing world. It’s no secret that people want to feel a more personal connection with people with whom they’re working. Not only does this keep you in tune with their ever-changing needs, but it’s also how you get renewals and referrals.
It quickly aligns your sales and marketing teams
Have we told you how much we love a proper alignment between sales and marketing yet? Read on!
Sales and marketing alignment
An essential tenet of ABM is creating alignment between sales and marketing. The process of creating an ABM strategy itself is likely to develop a bond between the two teams working on it. After all, it’s beneficial for both sides—as well as the client!
In the words of Megan Golden on LinkedIn:
“At a more granular level, ABM is a win-win-win for sales, marketing, and customers. ABM perfectly complements the account-based approach sales teams have embraced for years. With the dedicated involvement of marketing, sales teams can better personalize their outreach. Nurturing targeted members of the buying committee with appropriate marketing messages tends to speed up the sales process, allowing sales to achieve better close rates while closing bigger deals faster.”
The adoption of account-based marketing
Marketing Land suggests a big reason that a lot of B2B companies are dragging their feet when it comes to implementing an ABM strategy is the fear that doing so will require a giant restructuring of the organization’s marketing strategy and team.
Sure, change is scary, especially when it disrupts something you’ve been doing for years that’s been working fine. But why stick with something that works fine when you can try a strategy that’s known to produce better results?
If you’re in marketing or sales, odds are you’ve heard of account-based marketing (ABM). It’s a method that’s been gaining popularity in the marketing industry because of its ability to deliver high levels of ROI. In fact, “companies with ABM in place generate 208% more revenue for their marketing efforts,” according to Marketing Profs. This type of marketing involves honing in on a few accounts and targeting them with a highly-personalized strategy.
Although ABM is an excellent tool for any company, small businesses stand to benefit the most. This is because “SMBs can’t afford to scatter their money across various marketing tactics and a huge pool of prospects and just hope to generate enough qualified leads to make a profit,” says Niraj Ranjan Rout, Founder of Hiver. Unlike traditional lead-based marketing, ABM enables small businesses to focus all their resources on a few high-value prospects that are likely to buy.
Besides, small businesses are likely to gain internal buy-in across departments with ABM. It can be pricey due to personalization and a multi-channel approach. With more buy-in across the company, the budget for an ABM program can come from multiple departments.
Sound like something interesting to you? Here’s our account-based marketing guide to get you started:
Develop your ICP
First, you’ll want to develop your Ideal Client Profile (ICP). An ICP is different from a buyer persona because it focuses on a company rather than an individual. It should include firmographic data such as company size, industry, number of employees, and estimated revenue plus unique characteristics such as technologies used, hiring trends, or external industry events. Doing this will help you determine the criteria for your target accounts. Take advantage of your CRM or marketing automation platform to begin searching for target accounts.
ABM is different than most marketing methods because the content and messaging revolve around the specific needs of the targeted account. It offers a highly personalized approach. For example, you could send a detailed analysis report to a company that is specific to their business. Avoid sending generic emails at all costs. Ask yourself, who am I creating content for? What content do I already have? This way, you’ll be able to find out where any gaps exist and create content accordingly.
If you’re not sure how to break the ice with a target account, it helps to mention them on a blog or social media post. Compliment them on a recent win and highlight what they did well. They’ll appreciate the praise, and you’ll be on their radar because of it.
Set your targets
After you’ve created your content, it’s time to figure out the best way to reach your target accounts. There are a plethora of options, such as email, social media, video, website, blogs, webinars, infographics, and white papers. If you’re targeting a company that values creativity, you may want to take advantage of video to grab their attention. Or, if you’re looking to reach a tech company, a white paper may be the best way to connect with them.
Your sales and marketing teams need to be aligned for your ABM strategy to be successful. ABM relies on the perspective of a sales team who understands the importance of relationship building, knows how to address a business’s pain points, and has experience working to resolve them. According to Sirius Decisions, “B2B businesses with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth.”
Measure your results
Additionally, be sure to measure the results of your ABM campaign. Hubspot recommends focusing on coverage, awareness, engagement, reach, and influence. Here are some metrics you should pay attention to for each:
- Coverage: take a look at the number of target accounts you’ve identified and reached, how much custom content you’ve sent out, the number of stakeholders or key decision-makers you’ve made contact with, the amount of account information you’ve gained
- Awareness: check the number of critical accounts visiting your website, opening emails, reading blog posts, attending events, subscribing to a podcast or newsletter
- Engagement: focus on the amount of time key accounts are spending with your brand and whether they’re responding to marketing activities (click-through-rates, content downloads, email response rates)
- Reach: track how successful each channel was in reaching target accounts, check what percentage of campaign success is coming from your target accounts
- Influence: review how fast you were able to move target accounts through the funnel and close deals with your ABM campaign compared to previous marketing campaigns
Use this data to continue optimizing your campaigns for the highest ROI.
We hope this account-based marketing guide gave you a better idea of how to implement ABM for your small business. When it comes to ABM, it’s all about targeting high-value accounts with highly-personalized content. If you’re looking for help with your ABM strategy, contact us.
Account-based marketing (ABM) is taking the industry by storm. In fact, according to a SiriusDecisions study, 93% of B2B marketing leaders say ABM is imperative to their strategy. Tired of creating content that no one reads and stepping on one another’s toes, marketing and sales teams have finally begun to focus on accounts they would like to win rather than single leads or general audiences.
Of course, ABM wasn’t always the rage. This type of marketing was started in 1993, when the landmark publication The One-to-One Future pushed for personalized marketing. After its introduction, audience-targeted marketing was used more and more until the phrase “account-based marketing” was finally coined in 2004 by ITSMA. As the need for inbound marketing grew (and continues to grow), ABM gained steam and vendors offering ABM solutions became more common.
From what we’ve seen in the past, we predict that ABM will go on to become more prominent as businesses work to streamline and further customize marketing tactics. That’s why we’ve compiled an extensive list of helpful account-based marketing tactics that will take you from planning to execution to measurement.
Arguably the most important step in your ABM strategy is planning your approach. With a strong foundation based on these account-based marketing planning tactics, your ABM strategy is far more likely to succeed.
Define your Ideal Client Profile
Choosing your ideal customer profile (ICP) is your most important task. Your sales and marketing teams must collaborate to ensure that the companies you will be targeting fit your solution. You’ll need to consider the firm’s firmographics data and business needs to make the right decision.
Align sales and marketing teams
Ensuring your sales and marketing teams are on the same page is the key to your entire strategy. Read Agent3 CEO Clive Armitage’s steps to ensure alignment, which includes allowing both teams to contribute ideas, choosing target accounts together, and setting up a communications process for sharing project progress as well as results.
Choose an executive sponsor
Every account-based marketing strategy needs an executive sponsor. This team member champions and guides the project in a big-picture way, ensuring that both sales and marketing teams are on board and happy. Your executive sponsor can also sweep in and mediate an issue, close a deal, or offer valuable advice about any tough decisions you may need to make.
Organize account data in your CRM solution
Before you begin your ABM execution plan, your CRM data is probably lead-based or has some serious coverage gaps. You’ll need to change from lead-based reporting to a measurement structure based on accounts and contacts. This process will take some work, but there are some hacks you can use, courtesy of industry professional Lauren Frye.
Gather and maintain clean data
Companies now have access to a lot of data—but if it isn’t clean, it’s worthless. Review existing data, checking for duplication and old data, and updating mission-critical fields like company name, email address, contact name, and title. Communicate standardized data entry requirements to your teams to avoid the need for cleanups in the future.
Identify buying signals and other data
Determine the signs that indicate a company might be in the market for your product. These triggers will mark the addition of a company to your target list or the start of a new phase in your ABM marketing campaign. Depending on your product, triggers range from office moves to leadership change, and can be automated.
Commit to target account pursuit channels
Once you lock in on target companies, decide which channels you’ll use to reach them. Consider various factors, like company culture and buyer personas. For technology startups, try Twitter mentions and targeted blog posts. For established corporations, segmented email campaigns and personalized direct mail may be more helpful.
Targeting and Engagement Tactics
Now we get to the bread and butter of account-based marketing tactics: engagement. This is the stuff marketers love—creating innovative content that strikes a chord with targeted accounts.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
Tag target accounts on social
Ninety percent of businesses use social media for marketing, meaning your target accounts are probably on a few channels themselves. Monitor social channels carefully, retweeting articles created by or mentioning the target account and tagging them when appropriate. Your target account is sure to notice and appreciate the amplification.
Feature target accounts within content
Everyone likes to be heralded as an expert. Next time you’re writing a blog post, use a target account as an example of an innovative industry leader. Once you have released the blog post, tag them on social channels to be sure they—and their extended network—get a look at your work.
Conduct a mini-survey
Ask a target account employee or leader to answer a mini-survey or interview for a blog post you’re creating. This win-win-win account-based marketing tactic will draw attention to your business, flatter your target, and provide you with research for a blog post.
Create a “State of” report or case study
In a similar vein, you can create an extended report about a target customer’s industry. You may either use the target account as an example, asking for interviews or advice, or you can use the report as a way to let your target account know that you’re an expert in their field who knows exactly what product might help them out.
Host a podcast series
If you’re looking for other content formats that will draw your target accounts in, branch out with a podcast. Create a specific theme and invite guests from your target accounts to weigh in with their industry tips and tricks. Be sure to follow up with the finished product—in shareable format so the interviewee will forward it to his or her boss.
Send personalized direct mail
Direct mail has a bad rap, but actually, it has a response rate thirty-six times higher than that of email. For the best results, personalize your direct mail (a classic account-based marketing tactic) and make sure the image is out-of-the-box and fun. This guide from direct mail guru enthusem will get you started.
Ship out gift boxes
If you have the cash to spare, personalized gifts are an excellent way to establish a connection with your target account. Since your gift recipients will almost certainly read your note to see who the gift is from, take the opportunity to include a personal note that shows you know their business needs. (Just make sure the gift is one they will really enjoy.)
Deploy retargeted social ads
Retargeted social ads allow you to send your ads directly to a list of targets—as long as those targets are connected to their social accounts by their work emails or company. Given that the click-through rate (CTR) of a retargeted ad is 10 times higher than the CTR of a typical display ad, it’s worth the risk. Check out this HubSpot guide for pointers.
Create personalized landing pages
We all know that personalized content yields better results. Personalized landing pages are a great way to drive even more leads. You can customize based on company—or the individual—level, using information from past visits, browsing history, in-session behavior, and third-party data to encourage more clicks.
Host sales dinners
Whether you’re hosting a one-on-one dinner or a small network cocktail gathering, you’ll find that salespeople rarely turn down free food and drinks. One thing: make sure your event is unique. Steak dinners are ordinary, but dinner at a cinema and restaurant combo? Legendary.
Run a roadshow
Personally contact target accounts to arrange your stops and before the event, ramp up excitement with hashtags and email campaigns so you’ll have a sizeable audience. Combine your spectacular roadshow presentation with a less salesy account-based marketing tactic, like a dinner, to even out the pitch. You’ll prove your product’s value and create a strong, trust-based relationship with your target account, ultimately encouraging future engagement.
Source: B2B Marketing
Sponsor an event
Sponsoring an event that a target account cares about or will be attending is a sure way to gain entry into their hearts (and wallets). Whether you choose to make a public donation to their favorite nonprofit or provide free DJs for their rockin’ holiday party, you’ll catch their attention and their admiration, which might lead to a sale.
Participate in or host a roundtable
Most companies makes it public knowledge which industry conferences they’ll be attending. Once you know some of your target accounts will be at a certain location, try to attend a roundtable featuring one of your targets. There’s a good chance you’ll make strong connections and that other target accounts may be in the audience listening.
Measurement and Reporting Tactics
Measurement and reporting are vital to your ABM strategy. After all, how will you know whether your strategy is succeeding if you don’t measure your results? Here are the top measurement and reporting account-based marketing tactics for post-engagement use.
Track account coverage
You need to ensure all your target accounts are being engaged, and engaged thoroughly. Track factors such as the amount of research done on accounts, the number of accounts that have been engaged, and the number of contacts engaged within an account. Bizible offers a simple chart that may help guide your definition of success.
Trace account awareness
This metric can be measured by the amount of web traffic from targeted accounts, as brand Integrate notes, or views on social media ads. Though simple, account awareness is an important metric. Awareness is the first step in the customer journey—and an immediate precursor to engagement.
Measure account engagement
Ensure you track all relevant engagement metrics, including items like responses to personalized webpages, CTR on social ads, and event attendance. Though there are many opinions about ideal metrics, Engagio suggests that teams measure an account’s total minutes responding to marketing activities and engaging with sales teams.
Review conversion rates
In the planning stages, you will have determined what counts as “account conversion.” This is a vital item to measure, as it will determine your ultimate success. Because it is such an important metric, conversion rate is certainly one to review with your executive sponsor, who may have pointers regarding the best definition of this critical metric.
Gather results in regular reports
With ABM, regular reports are vital. Reports should be short and simple—something that employees can skim through and comprehend. The more obvious it is which areas need improvement, the more quickly your teams can take action. As B2B software brand Bizible notes, ABM measurement software can simplify the reporting process.
Communicate your results
At the end of the day, communication is key. Be sure that sales and marketing teams are sharing reports, making constant changes to improve their strategy, and keeping their eyes on the goals ahead.
Whether you are planning your ABM strategy or preparing a final report, we hope this list of account-based marketing tactics will be helpful well into 2019. And if you need help setting up any part of your strategy, we’re here to help.
Interested in learning more about ABM? Check out our blog post 5 Effective Account-Based Marketing Strategies For B2B Companies.