What is account-based marketing (ABM)?
Many organizations search for ways to identify high-value accounts while also improving the customer journey and customer experience for those select clients. An approach proven effective for companies hoping to connect and convert those high-value clients successfully is account-based marketing (ABM). This particular marketing strategy allows companies to concentrate their resources on a specific set of accounts within a given market. By doing this, companies can tailor their outreach to individual accounts, thereby speaking directly to those specific issues and pain points while presenting solutions that are unique to that individual account.
ABM is not a one-size-fits-all approach, as it encourages long-term relationships akin to solution-based selling (where account executives engage customers specifically to address their particular issues, not to sell a product). Rather than a one-to-many approach associated with various other marketing strategies, ABM is best suited for one-to-one marketing approaches. ABM programs also account for greater ROI, allowing organizations to be more efficient with their marketing dollars and significantly reduce waste.
Why would you use ABM?
Account-based marketing is not necessarily a solution that every organization should engage in. Retailers, direct sellers, and wholesalers may not be suitable candidates for incorporating ABM. Organizations that sell more enterprise-level solutions and services, and engage in longer selling cycles, are prime candidates for incorporating ABM.
Organizations where ABM can be valuable
Because ABM strategies are not suited for every type of organization and selling opportunity, we can say it’s best suited for strategic accounts that add great individual value to organizations. Enterprise-level solution providers who sell long-term solutions to companies within the high-dollar category are well-suited for ABM. Examples would be enterprise software, heavy industrial equipment manufacturers and sellers, aircraft manufacturers, and multi-year service contracts. In each of these situations, sales can reach into the millions or hundreds of millions.
Situations where ABM can be valuable
Enterprise-level sales, where products and services are sold into the millions, ABM can be a very effective approach. There are longer, more complex sales cycles with multiple stakeholders within the client’s decision-making process in these scenarios.
Advantages of ABM
While ABM is not suited for every type of organization engaged in every type of sales cycle, it is very beneficial for other types. ABM offers organizations many valuable benefits.
Personalized Marketing Approach
An important aspect of ABM is the necessity of delivering personalized messaging to select accounts that represent high dollar value. Tailoring content and engagement within a campaign that addresses client pain points is a strong selling point of ABM.
Sales and Marketing Alignment
While sales and marketing teams are not always in sync in some companies, those that utilize ABM make a point to align sales and marketing efforts to ensure consistency of message and increase the likelihood of a sale/conversion.
Shorter Sales Cycles
ABM shortens the sales cycle for enterprise-level engagements. In these scenarios, client-side stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process and typically lengthen the process. ABM allows providers to nurture those stakeholders individually to ensure everyone moves along the buying journey at the same pace.
Organizations have multiple marketing strategies at their disposal. Incorporating ABM for longer-sales cycle opportunities results in a greater ROI when considering all B2B marketing approaches. Those who use ABM indicate greater ROI as being one of its benefits.
Fewer Wasted Resources
Because specific resources are focused on key stakeholders within the decision-making process, time, and resources are utilized more efficiently with little to no waste.
Disadvantages of ABM
There are some disadvantages when using an ABM approach.
Can be relatively expensive
Realigning your marketing efforts from a one-to-many approach to a one-to-one AMB approach can be more expensive. Because this approach is tailored to single clients and their specific needs, using marketing content and approaches suited for larger audiences is not possible. Special care should be taken to ensure engagement and messaging speak directly to the individual client. This, of course, requires more time and specialized attention and resources, which can cost much more than traditional marketing practices.
Potentially smaller target audience.
If your organization is small or mid-sized, your potential pool of customers may be smaller than what you’re used to. With this in mind, it might be worth expanding your target base initially and then narrow your focus once you have some wins under your belt.
Misalignment with the right target audience
Ensuring all stakeholders within an organization, such as marketing, sales, and product development, are properly aligned will result in laser focus that can pay huge dividends. Not being properly aligned can not only waste significant time and money, it can tarnish your brand among those potential clients that matter most. Departments must get on the same page and engage with high-value prospects in a consistent and meaningful way.
Data shared may be inaccurate
An important challenge when obtaining shared data about a targeted client is ensuring its accuracy. This is an ongoing issue for those organizations engaged in ABM. As indicated by B2B intelligence provider InsideView, 43% of sales and marketing professionals said a lack of accurate and shared data was a top challenge.
Expectations are unrealistic
Incorporating an ABM approach is a worthwhile endeavor that will take time. Expecting significant results immediately is unrealistic, as organizations should consider this approach a long-term proposition. While it’s likely to pay dividends beginning in 12 to 18 months, organizations should not anticipate results after two to four weeks.
ABM vs. inbound marketing: better together
Ideally, many organizations can benefit from account-based marketing as well as inbound marketing. Both approaches can provide results according to the types of customers being targeted and are worthwhile maintaining in the marketing toolbox.
Targeting specialized accounts that might bring significant ROI can go hand in hand with a more generalized approach around content and an online presence. Assets used for inbound marketing can act as reinforcements of your tailored messaging and engagement with high-value clients. It’s also possible that the material used for inbound marketing will attract an ABM candidate that may have been previously overlooked.
ABM vs. lead generation
Account-based marketing differs from lead generation in terms of approach and target. ABM utilized more outbound marketing practices while lead generation leverages inbound practices. ABM also takes a more holistic approach in aligning marketing and sales teams to engage on multiple fronts within a target customer. In contrast, lead generation usually involves the marketing team targeting a list of people to bring them, or their organization, into the sales funnel.
Account-based marketing examples can be found within the toolbox of approaches typically associated with traditional marketing efforts. The difference is how they are used.
Inviting key prospects to coveted events, VIP dinners, and other special gatherings can make the right impression on important decision-makers and ensure they are made to feel special, and their needs are your needs as well.
Leveraging direct mail in an era dominated by email, especially if specifically tailored to those key contacts within your prospective customer audience, can further the impression that they have a special, one-on-one relationship with your organization.
Personalizing the Website Experience
Using account base marketing techniques to reach your intended audience is only the beginning. Leveraging technology that allows your company to create a tailored, online journey for your intended contact(s) can result in a unique, account-specific online experience different from the journey general prospects experience.
While email provides enormous potential for one-to-many engagements, sending limited, tailored messages to key decision-makers that addresses specific issues unique to their situation will go a long way, much further than email messages typically written for a larger audience.
The ability to customize webinars offers opportunities to address any issues unique to a prospective client in a one-to-one setting. Standard webinars are often utilized to speak to audiences of 25, 50, 100, or more. For account-based marketing, this approach can help make your prospect feel that much more important and give them the freedom to share more detail about their specific dilemma.
How to implement ABM
Implementing an account-based marketing approach for select prospects requires identifying and following specific steps designed to bring those prospects along in a way that makes them feel they are the only prospect your company is speaking with.
1. Identify your ideal accounts
Any account-based marketing approach begins with properly defining your high-value accounts. Leveraging the intelligence and data gathered by different stakeholders, a consensus can be determined that identifies which accounts and individuals fit the persona of your target audience. Also, identifying an average contract value that warrants an ABM approach should be incorporated.
2. Identify key players
Once your specific accounts have been identified, the key decision-makers within each organization should be identified, followed by reasons why they are ripe for targeting.
3. Tailor content and messaging
Your company’s content should convey clear business challenges being faced by your target audience and your understanding of how they can be successfully addressed.
4. Select communications channels
Understanding the best methods for conveying your message is as important as the message itself. Knowing whether your prospect prefers email, social media, phone calls, or face-to-face engagements is important. You can then implement those approaches and expect optimum exposure.
5. Coordinate across multiple channels
Once your messaging, channels, and messengers are determined, coordinate your outreach to your target audience to ensure ongoing, consistent, and compelling messaging that addresses their pain points.
6. Process assessment
Once implementation begins, it’s important to continually measure and assess the results of your account-based marketing efforts and course-correct when necessary.
Measuring ABM success
When determining whether your account-based marketing approach is successful, there are several issues to consider.
Average contract value
The average contract value of those accounts targeted with an ABM approach should be significantly larger than accounts engaged using other marketing methods. Determining a target range of contract value should be an early step in the process (as discussed in the implementation section).
How many prospects you engage with your ABM approach compared to how many actually become paying customers should be relatively high, especially compared to other marketing approaches. Unlike inbound marketing prospects that find their way into your sales funnel, there should be a high expectation that every prospective client engaged via your account-based marketing approach should offer a high chance of being converted. 30% to 50% should be the norm, rather than 5% to 10%.
Sales cycle length
Since the time and effort needed to close a prospect with ABM is much longer than other accounts, there should be no expectation the process will be completed quickly. In fact, placing a specific end date on when the ABM process ends for a prospect should be replaced with an ongoing assessment of an overall sales cycle length for ideal customers engaged through ABM.
The rate at which your company can retain customers won through ABM should be measurably higher than those obtained through other methods, such as inbound marketing and those won with shorter sales cycles. While no organization likes to lose a client, those secured through ABM are reluctant to walk away, especially after the time and effort spent arriving at a sale.
Net promoter score
Measuring your high-valued customer’s perception of your organization’s performance is crucial in successfully maintaining the relationship. Using a net promoter score approach can be more effective than a simple satisfaction score, as it considers other things when determining their happiness with your product or service.
High powered tools and metrics
Leveraging the tools of a solution provider, like LeadsRx, adds additional elements to your ABM arsenal. Incorporating cross-channel, full-funnel, and customer journey mapping tools can accurately track the progress of your engagements with high-level decision-makers as well as more accurately measure and determine what works and what does not. Making sure you’re attributing wins to specific touchpoints compliments your ABM program and allows you to repeat those things that brought you those new, strategic clients.