Updated April 8, 2023
Introduction to Account Based Marketing (ABM)
The following article provides an outline for Account Based Marketing. Normally, we associate an account with a banking – savings account, current account, loan account. In the advertising industry, this term was much common denoting a campaign handled by an ad agency for a particular client. Therefore, in ad agencies, you can find account executives, account managers who act as liaisons between the agency and the client on specific campaigns.
The term ‘account’ has now been borrowed by the Business-to-Business (B2B) industry to denote business with certain top clients that bring huge revenue to the company. It has evolved into a B2B strategy whereby a company targets a few big accounts to generate a major chunk of the business rather than having a diversified approach.
At the outset, it may seem easier to undertake but requires much planning, monitoring and ensuring proper renewal of accounts with major businesses. Ten decades after companies started focusing on Account-Based Marketing became a strategy adopted by businesses, many businesses are yet to implement it fully, having done only pilot initiatives.
Top 10 Steps for Successful Implementation of Account Based Marketing
Here are some steps to be adopted towards the successful implementation of Account-Based Marketing:
1. Identify Target Accounts
The first step into the Account-Based Marketing business is to identify the target businesses which can be roped in as clients. This is different from creating buyer personas or imaginary profiles of your potential customers. In ABM, there is no room for guesswork as you have to narrow into key targets to pitch for business. Secondary research using data in the public domain and utilizing paid services can be done as part of the exercise.
You can adopt multiple strategies to shortlist potential customers – use the power of your intuition too. The selection criterion can be based on company size, early adopters, or good performers in the stock market. The US-based ITSMA, which coined the term Account-Based Marketing helps companies market their solutions to other companies, has developed an Account-Based Marketing Account Selection tool that would be useful for B2B marketers. The account attractiveness can be evaluated based on financial metrics, annual growth rate, geographical location, and how it fares with respect to competition. Your company needs to evaluate its strength as a potential supplier to other businesses.
After identifying the targets, using predictive analysis on the existing customer database may help in developing a client list that has the name of the company, people to be contacted, and potential business from them. Once the process of gather account intelligence is over, you are ready to take the next step of marketing. The easiest way to get to targets is the list that you get from the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Model scoring helps you to choose targets that have a higher propensity to be your client as they match the qualities of the current customers. A combination of the two strategies will help achieve better results.
If you are new to Account Based Marketing, then prepare a name list, target list based on industry, turnover, nature of a business, strategic name list, and if you are already in the business, this process should generate the list of accounts due for renewal. This list helps to evolve different strategies for each set of clients.
2. Marketing Account Based Marketing
Once the data has been received with respect to target clients, potential name lists, and existing clients, the sales and marketing team should be geared up to devise strategies to reach. It can happen through social media, websites, and direct one-to-one or group meetings with key personalities in target companies.
You need to evolve an account-based marketing plan that is unique to each client for which the primary and secondary research done could be useful. Timing is also important with respect to social media marketing– such as when to post a blog, a company update, video, or article.
The first step in the process is to have semi-structured interviews with the accounts team to know how much they know about the clients identified. The idea behind Account Based Marketing should be communicated to key people in the target company; primary and secondary research will give valuable insights on how to present your account-based marketing plan to the target company.
Marketing success with Account-Based Marketing depends on how well your key employees are connected to the target company, using those contacts with decision-makers to gain business. This makes pitching easier. It is very important to keep communication open, keeping them updated throughout the sales process.
Make a distinction between the prospective customers- those with a low level of buying activity related to your product or solutions and those with higher levels of activity. Those accounts that seem to be less active should be delivered with low-level awareness campaigns while those accounts with intense activity can be given more targeted messages through emails, social media and so on.
3. Marketing through Social Media
Even as Account-Based Marketing is more about direct marketing, developing contacts in the target industry and using influencers to get across to potential companies, social media platforms can be effectively utilized along with other strategies. The LinkedIn ad promotion allows the user to only target 100 companies and 1000 contacts in each campaign. The targeting can be done based on a company name, job levels, seniority, job titles, skill sets, etc.
4. Lead-to-account Matching is very Important
In B2B business, a lot of data is generated in the case of both existing customers and potential customers. The marketing team may develop leads, but when it is handed over to the sales force, very little information may be made available to them. Some of the leads may belong to one company, and therefore matching the lead to a personal account is very important.
It is possible that they were an existing customer or somebody has already contacted them, but no details are available on its status. When there is a lack of coordination and communication between the marketing and sales team, fifty percent of the productive time is lost for the sales team with no conversion taking place. If there is proper lead-to-account matching, the sales team will be better positioned to know if the prospect presents a new opportunity for business. It is also important to measure success based on not the number of leads generated but a number of accounts created.
5. Commitment of the Team
The Account-Based Marketing strategy will not work unless there is a commitment on the part of the account team and coordination with marketing. This will ensure that the company shortlists optimal accounts to work with and get a better return on investment (ROI). Ensure that sales and marketing speak the same language. They should have the same success metrics to prevent each other’s efforts from becoming counter-productive.
There should be a leader in sales who can coordinate the efforts and utilize the opportunities to engage with customers, including attending trade shows and events. Exposure to such account-based marketing events enables team leaders, account executive members to interact and build relationships.
6. Account-Based Marketing is about Sustaining Relationships
The success with Account-Based Marketing (ABM) lies in sustaining relationships and think beyond closing deals. Each communication in the Account-Based Marketing campaign should have consistency with respect to design, message, logo, which represent your brand.
When dealing with a small and medium business with budget constraints, have a helpful attitude than a marketing attitude. Small businesses tend to do business with people who can be trusted. It is better to understand their pain points and refer to a person who could help them. This helps foster relationships and lasting business prospects.
In Account-Based Marketing, the strategy should be to partner and collaborate rather than develop a solution and deliver. The sales team should be told that Account-Based Marketing (ABM) works to support their target account plan.
7. Have the Right Technologies in Place
It wouldn’t work effectively if there are no proper technology systems in place. It is important to identify tools and resources to automate the processes. Look for account-based marketing solutions that can integrate lead and contact information. It will ensure that contact information is updated and aligned to appropriate accounts. The solutions provider should provide real-time support with a help desk and follow-up services. The Account-Based Marketing automation solution should integrate with existing solutions in sales and marketing.
Some of the popular Account-Based Marketing solution providers are Engagio, LeanData, and DemandBase. Engagio integrates well with the sales and marketing solutions, website, marketing programs, and activity of website visitors.
For small and medium companies with budget constraints, the right Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can be programmed to do some Account-Based Marketing chores such as account-level metrics and create new opportunities.
8. Focus on no Strings Attached Offers and Build Credibility
B2B buyers are not just looking at discounted prices but good offers that deliver value. Apart from product quality and relevance, offers such as free assessment and audits. You can build credibility with the customer only when you understand their business and pain points. One way of understanding it is through dialogue, but small and medium business players will be busy with issues in their business and industry. One way to understand them is through social media and secondary data.
9. Focus on Big Size
It works best with big accounts, which can give you the returns to give each account more attention, time, and resource. There is no point in pitching for small accounts and end up wasting a lot of time and effort with poor ROI.
10. Measure Account Coverage and Account-Based Marketing Engagement
As with every campaign strategy, it is important to evaluate the performance of Account-Based Marketing. The reason is to find out the extent of engagement and by how much. Leads and the number of accounts are other measurements to be analyzed. If both the figures are rising, it is a good sign. Taking stock of coverage of Account-Based Marketing is vital for a sustainable program. Account-Based Marketing engagement measurements help to find how much of the campaign persuaded the target to act upon them. An increase in the engagement of sales and marketing assets is a good indicator of performance.
In 2004, Xerox was among the first companies to implement Account-Based Marketing witnessing 200% growth in service opportunities and 400% growth in new executive meetings. After a decade, many companies recognize the value of Account-Based Marketing but about one-fifth of them have a full Account-Based Marketing strategy in place as per a 2015 survey result given by SiriusDecisions.
Many companies believe they don’t have the support required to implement an account-based marketing strategy. There is no doubt that it gives a much better return on investment (ROI) than other strategies, but results may not be visible before six months.
ABM is not a single department initiative but a collaborative program involving sales, marketing, and account management. Most often, ABM initiatives fail because they can’t meet the expansion expectations or don’t have the support to execute them. When ABM is seen as a business initiative and not just a marketing effort, results are better, analysts said.
In B2B business, it makes sense to focus on a few key customers rather than putting entire marketing effort on a large number of customers whose business value to the company may be small.
It is important to keep the processes simple with a mission statement, company strategy, objectives, goals, and targets, which don’t require a 120-page document that will look complex for the team. It is important to have simple account-based marketing plans that are understood by the entire team and the motivations behind them. Many account-based marketing campaigns fail due to a lack of persistent or consistent effort and follow-up.
There should be measurement and benchmarking with companies that don’t implement Account-Based Marketing as it is vital to quantify the success of your efforts.
Despite the obvious advantages Account-Based Marketing has with B2B marketing, is it right for your company? Naturally, Account-Based Marketing is not for all companies. It depends on the average deal size, players in the industry, how the competition is doing with Account-Based Marketing, and several other factors. It also depends on the competence of your accounts, marketing, and sales teams, who need to understand the objectives and work for it as a team. Once you have decided on Account-Based Marketing, the firm need not go all out but start with small pilot projects or use it in association with other strategies such as awareness building, inbound marketing.
This has been a guide to Account Based Marketing. Here we discussed the basic concept and top 10 steps of account-based marketing. You can also go through our other suggested articles to learn more –