If you've been in the B2B marketing world for a hot minute, you may have come across the term Account-based marketing (ABM). It may seem like the trendiest word on the block, but ABM is more than a fad with an expiry date. In fact, a survey by Alterra Group found 97% of marketers said ABM creates a higher or much higher ROI than any other of their marketing initiatives. Wowzers. So what is this mysterious ABM and why should you care?
Account-Based marketing, or ABM, is a highly targeted, focused growth strategy that groups individual buyers within an organisation into an account as a "market for one" approach. ABM focuses marketing and sales forces with the goal of identifying specific prospects at a company and customises sales programs and personalised campaigns to engage those specific individuals. When put in place well and with intention, ABM creates a powerful channel and revenue predicability by allowing you to streamline your sales and marketing resources and deepen engagement with a select few group of stakeholders within an account.
Who’s a good fit for an ABM strategy?
If you are unsure whether or not your business should take on a ABM strategy, consider if one or more of the following are true to you:
Your product is costly. If buying your product typically requires approval of a finance department, an ABM plan is probs needed to streamline the process and get it approved quicker.
You have a small number of prospects. If your only viable customers are the biggest organisations in the world, or businesses within a super niche industry, ABM can help you target those companies.
You sell to buying committees. If you regularly sell to a buying committee of at least three members, ABM can help you assemble that committee and win them over.
You want to increase your deal size. ABM helps you focus on your biggest opportunities, which means you'll close bigger contracts.
You want to align your Sales and Marketing teams for better collaborations. ABM transforms Marketing and Sales from rivals to partners in crime because it forces collaboration between departments to build better buying experiences and drive better outcomes.
You want to increase your Sales Velocity. Not only do the deals get bigger, they close faster as an ABM plan ensures your team is more focused, better aligned and more competent at handling large deals.
What are the benefits?
An ABM approach offers companies many benefits, which, according to Optimizely, include;
Personalised Marketing Approach
Instead of a generic approach, marketers form personalised messaging for target accounts, taking what they know about their customer and tailoring the creative assets of their campaign to the customer’s specific attributes and needs.
Sales and Marketing Alignment
Normally, an ABM plan is first formalised in a collaboration with Marketing and Sales teams. Together, the teams choose a set of accounts to follow and work together to create marketing and sales strategies to attract the select accounts. Not only is this tactic a time saver for Marketing and Sales, it ensures a consistent buying experience across all accounts.
Shorter Sales Cycles
Major purchase decisions involve multiple stakeholders. This typically slows down the sales process, because it starts at a lower level level in the organisation and moves slowly towards the primary decision maker. In ABM, because all prospects are nurtured at once, the length of the cycle is shortened.
ABM is precise and measurable, providing the highest ROI of all B2B marketing tactics. In fact, 85% of marketers who measure ROI describe ABM as delivering higher returns than any other marketing approach.
Fewer Wasted Resources
As time and resources are narrowly focused on a small number of accounts that are most likely to close sales, resources that would've been wasted are freed up.
But hold the front door, What about Inbound marketing?
If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that we at Neighbourhood are all about Inbound Marketing, so you might be surprised that we’re mentioning Account Based Marketing. Don’t worry! Truth is, we see both marketing approaches as essential to your business' growth;
When it comes to Inbound, many think it’s only about volume based marketing techniques that focused primarily on attracting as many users as possible. This is only one part of the whole story. Inbound is a business growth method achieved by building relationships with people and helping them reach their goals. And to do this, you have to think of your company as a flywheel. The Flywheel model represents how marketing, sales and service offerings all have attract, engage and delight phases that customers move through consistently. The goal is to ensure your customers have a consistently delightful experience.
In ABM, you still have to attract, engage and delight stakeholders in the account you’re targeting, and the content marketing and search engine optimisation tactics famously associated with Inbound are key to making it happen. This means that rather than thinking that ABM is at odds with Inbound, you need to build your ABM strategy on top of an Inbound foundation. By doing so, you create a marketing strategy thats goes beyond just lead generation, but allows you to up-sell and cross-sell to your select accounts also.
How to build an ABM with Inbound principles
Since we've cleared that up, here are five steps to forming your own ABM, and how to integrate some Inbound goodness into the mix.
First task is to get Sales and Marketing identifying and selecting relevant accounts. To help decide which accounts are your best targets, you can weigh up information like prospect industry, organisations size, employee numbers, location, annual revenue or, if they're existing clientele, how much do they contribute to your revenue. Moreover, check out accounts' market influence, expected profit margin, likelihood of repeat purchase.
Similar to Inbound marketing, you can aggregate this data with the appropriate psychographics into buyer personas to determine the lives and challenges of your target buyers. This can also help you determine the right content and channels to use to approach and attract them. Stalking - ahem, researching - prospect companies on LinkedIn is a great way to get a feel for the company, their key players and give you some ideas on how to better market your product/service.
As said before, when it comes to larger businesses, buying decisions are made collectively by numerous individuals within an organisation. ABM helps form relationships with each potential buyer and engages them in the purchase decision via kick-ass, company-specific, unique content that interests each buyer. No matter if your product is for marketers, operations leaders, or anyone else, ensuring that you identify and engage with everyone in the buying decision is crucial to winning a customer. Once you know who you are targeting, you need to think about the challenges each of your stakeholders face in order to create compelling content. For instance, Finance may be concerned with pricing, while Operations might be focused on user access, usability and security. With these factors in mind, you can create targeted content and interactions that match each individual's concerns and challenges.
While content is all but essential, having the right channel to send that content through is equally vital. Figure out where your prospects are, what social or digital spaces are they using to communicate. For example, if you know one stakeholder is a sucker for emails, then if equipping salespeople to reach out to that person with a helpful and relevant message via email can get a conversation started. This is also where that sweet sweet marketing/sales alignment comes into play! Working together, Marketing and Sales can help identify the various channels their stakeholders are occupying and engage them with the right marketing material.
Nurture, baby, nurture! The Advocate stage is all about nurturing relationships with a few key stakeholders you reckon would most avidly advocate your brand within their organisation. The modern buyer can tune out information they don’t want to hear, so it’s up to both Marketing and Sales here to provide value, while also promoting your brand at the right moment at the right time.
Evaluate and Optimise
And last, but not least, review your ABM strategy so far. Use data at the accounting level to see what worked, what didn't and determine what you could improve over time.
So there you have it! A wee insight into Account-based marketing, how it can benefit you and how to create an ABM strategy with Inbound philosophy in the mix. Overall, ABM offers a meaningful and collaborative approach to marketing and sales. Moreover, what will really knock the ball out of the park in your ABM strategy is really investing in engaging and communicating with your account prospects in order to build invaluable relationships that will turn into sales.