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Account-based marketing (ABM) defined

Traditional B2B marketing casts a wide net over a large group of prospective customers to generate leads and drive revenue. Account-based marketing takes a much more targeted approach.

ABM is a focused strategic approach to B2B marketing that brings sales and marketing together. It’s about focusing on the right leads, instead of more leads. With ABM, marketing resources are dedicated to a specific set of target accounts and the contacts within them. This highly targeted strategy requires marketing and sales teams to align to align to deliver the right message and content to the right person in an account.

 

“60% of those companies who have employed an ABM strategy for at least one year attribute a revenue increase to its use.”

Demand Metric: “ABM Adoption Benchmark Report,” September 2015

How does account-based marketing work?

Essentially, ABM narrows your focus to the highest opportunity accounts, viewing each as a market of one and then targeting specific people at each targeted account. While a typical inbound B2B marketing campaign includes relevant and intriguing content that would resonate with the largest possible group of potential customers, an ABM campaign targets a few high-value accounts (and their key decision-makers) with personalized content and messaging.

Some examples include relevant and highly personalized emails and content for each account, making them aware of events and offers that interest them the most. ABM allows marketers to narrow and sharpen their approach by marketing straight to key decision-makers. From there, marketers can begin to build a strong, ongoing business relationship with them.

You need to be careful in choosing which clients and prospects are your key accounts. Not everyone will meet the criteria to be a strategic account, and you need to concentrate your ABM efforts on only those that do.

What makes for a good ABM account?

Many sales and marketing professionals struggle to target the right accounts for their ABM campaign.

While the criteria could change depending on the marketplace or industry, the ideal strategic account should be one that has the most revenue potential. ABM campaigns cost more to execute; so the revenue potential needs to be there in order to make the effort profitable.

Other factors to consider include the account’s:

  • past purchase history as well as any previous relationship with you or your competitors
  • position within your sales funnel
  • alignment to your ideal customer profile

Finally, you should make sure that the account can help you meet your goals. Do you need to acquire more highly recognizable brands/logos? Re-engage with accounts that have been lost? Expand your footprint, either geographically or within an industry?

The difference between account-based marketing and lead generation

In simple terms, lead generation is a component—and goal—of account-based marketing.

Lead generation is the process of generating interest in your company’s products, services, or brand with the ultimate goal of converting prospects into customers through a variety of marketing strategies. Leads can be generated across various channels including email, social media, content syndication, and events. As leads are generated, they should be assigned a lead score to prioritize all incoming leads and provide the sales team with a place to focus.

While lead generation can be broadly applied to audiences across multiple industries, ABM shifts the focus towards generating leads that exist within a few specific accounts. The goal is to expand your footprint within these targeted accounts to engage with different stakeholders effectively.

Lead scoring and account-based marketing

Lead scoring plays a significant role in account-based marketing. As your ABM campaigns generate leads, it’s essential to understand which prospect is the best one to engage. A lead score is often created using a person’s behavioral and engagement data. With a score, you can prioritize leads within the account and gain a better understanding of who is most interested, engaged, and willing/able to purchase.

What are the benefits of account-based marketing?

There are many benefits to implementing an ABM strategy. These include:

1

Marketing and sales alignment

ABM requires a focus from both marketing and sales teams, which can be a challenge for many. Which means that sales and marketing must be aligned at the beginning of the ABM campaign to ensure the right data-driven decisions are made throughout the sales cycle.

2

Higher ROI

ABM is more precise, targeted, personalized, and accurate than traditional inbound and outbound B2B marketing campaigns. Which is why it generates the highest ROI among B2B marketing tactics while also driving more efficiency. A typical ABM campaign has fewer opt-outs and higher response rates.

3

Shorter sales cycles

ABM speeds up the sales process since unqualified prospects are eliminated very early in the process. Marketing and sales teams can focus on the accounts that are most likely to convert and provide those accounts with the most personalized experience to help them to convert quickly.

How to develop a successful ABM campaign

Most ABM campaigns follow these basic guidelines:

  • 1. Define your goals and devise a plan of action across marketing and sales. At the end of this step, you should have—at a minimum—a timeline, budget, and the key performance indicators (KPIs) you will use to gauge your success.
  • 2. Select the targeted accounts you want to market to and decide how to move forward with those engagements. Ensure you have the right data, the right marketing channels, and have developed the right insights into how to communicate with these accounts.
  • 3. Expand your footprint within an account by identifying key stakeholders. Create stakeholder specific content and messaging tailored to your targets.
  • 4. Provide timely and personalized messaging to the right influencers within an account.
  • 5. Measure your efforts. Leverage insights to grow advocates for cross- and up-sell opportunities.
  • 6. Review ABM campaign metrics, make adjustments, and optimize.

ABM KPI’s

  • 1. Marketing qualified leads/marketing qualified accounts
  • 2. Cost per lead
  • 3. Time on page (for engagement of digital assets)
  • 4. Email open rate/reply rate
  • 5. Number of additional contacts per account
  • 6. Engagement (rate) by account
  • 7. Pipeline velocity
  • 8. Marketing influence rate
  • 9. In-funnel conversion rate
  • 10. Number of sales meetings/appointments per account
  • 11. Number of proposals sent
  • 12. Close rate /churn rate
  • 13. Average selling price/average selling point

How BMC engages top accounts with targeted B2B marketing

BMC Software shares how they used a robust account-based marketing (ABM) strategy to expand top-tier account engagements with targeted B2B marketing and Oracle solutions.

What role does customer data have with ABM?

Account-based marketing is not effective unless you target the right accounts. Customer data management plays a crucial role in ABM.

Successful ABM campaigns start by assessing customer data to create an ideal customer profile (ICP). With that profile, you can prioritize your accounts and decide which ones to target in your ABM campaign. Having an ideal customer can help in two ways:

  • 1. You can filter account lists by company and run more targeted campaigns to known contacts to drive engagement and ROI. You might power these campaigns using additional customer/account segmented by revenue or geography.
  • 2. You can also engage with anonymous users within your accounts who have visited your digital properties and assets. Activating their data through a data management platform (DMP) through look-alike modeling, act-alike marketing, or audience profile analysis, you can develop an outreach program to begin engaging with them. For example, when these anonymous users click on a digital ad, they will arrive at a customized landing page. Since the experience has been personalized specifically for them, they will be more likely to engage in the desired activity, which will turn those anonymous visitors into known prospects viewable in your CRM. You then have more opportunities to build out their profile to see if they are a sales lead fit.
 

“70% of ABM users report that their sales and marketing teams are mostly or completely aligned, compared to 51% for non-ABM users.”

Demand Metric: “ABM Adoption Benchmark Report,” September 2015

How does content marketing work with ABM?

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach that focuses on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and nurture prospects on their journeys.

Content plays a huge role in ABM, and the management of that content becomes more important as everything in ABM is highly personalized. For example, you may need to create industry-specific content (not having any for your more generic inbound campaigns) and then manage that content across marketing and sales efforts so that the customer experience (CX) is consistent within the sales cycle.

Content goals for account-based marketing

To create content that makes an impact, define precise goals. While soft metrics, such as shares, more followers, or increased traffic are all legitimate measures for most marketing content, the targeted nature of ABM requires more concrete metrics, such as increased pipeline velocity, lead generation, and revenue.

Sales and marketing alignment and ABM

If marketing and sales aren’t fully aligned, an ABM campaign won’t work. Typically, marketing and sales operate in silos, which can cause conflict. Both teams forget they are working toward the same goal—sales—and may be only focused on their specific KPIs. Marketing is responsible for all activities that persuade targeted customers to take the desired action, while sales works to build personal connections and close deals.

In an ABM campaign, each team’s role must be clearly defined. For example, marketing can’t develop content for key prospects without first getting key insights from sales. No one knows the targeted customer(s) better, and this input will ensure that the generated leads are strong leads.

To break it down further, the marketing team can focus on:

  • Developing high-quality content and then manage that content so that sales can easily access needed pieces
  • Spend time educating the sales team on how the campaign will work
  • Use a reliable lead scoring system and send high-quality leads to sales in a timely fashion

The sales team can focus on:

  • Working on the leads sent over from the marketing team in a timely fashion
  • Communicate any customer objections or messaging gaps with the marketing team
  • Be transparent about why and how sales deals are won and lost

How to optimize an ABM strategy

Adopting an ABM strategy is not a unilateral change for an business. It is a transformation that requires a commitment to the way you operate technically, tactically, and culturally.

Technically, you have to set up your company’s sales and marketing systems so that marketers can target specific accounts and tailor both the campaign and the assets to route sales leads efficiently to the sales teams. Tactically, accounts must be scored against an ideal customer profile. Culturally, your sales and marketing teams need to be committed to this working as one, unified team.

How to optimize an ABM strategy

How does a marketing cloud solution help with account-based marketing?

With a marketing automation platform at the core, a marketing cloud solution will help you implement your ABM strategy. Ideally, the solution would let you build marketing campaigns, score and manage leads, create and manage content, and measure the campaigns' success.

How does a sales cloud solution help with account-based marketing?

A sales cloud centered around a CRM will help your sales team get a better view of prospects as they engage with them through the sales cycle. A sales rep can gain insight into who are the most engaged stakeholders at an account and see who has interacted with what content, emails, or landing pages.