Account-based marketing (ABM) is an approach to marketing that flips traditional marketing on its head. Rather than developing buyer personas and then casting a wide net to attract those personas to your brand, ABM focuses on finding ways to engage with people from targeted accounts based on your ideal customer profile (ICP).
What Is Account-Based Marketing?
Account-based marketing (ABM) is all about sending tailored messages to targeted accounts. Essentially, ABM creates a path in which marketing and sales can align and support one-another: Marketing will fuel the strategies behind a successful ABM approach, and sales will provide insight regarding the impact of the interactions marketing is having with the targeted accounts.
In a regular marketing campaign, you'll still invest some time into developing educational, persuasive content, but that content will be targeted toward your buyer personas and will inherently be designed to reach a much larger audience than ABM. With ABM, you're investing more calories into creating tailored content for your ideal customers and then sending it to a smaller group of people. Because you’re focused on a select few target accounts, you’re going to have a much larger upfront investment. You’re going to need to do a lot of research, put in a lot of time and optimize your resources.
At first glance, this may give you a smaller ROI, but what’s important to keep in mind is the optimization of the sales cycle. While your inbound marketing strategy may not always attract qualified leads to your content, an ABM approach focuses on improving your win rates by bringing in high-quality leads and optimizing the process that takes place during a sales cycle.
When Should You Take Advantage of Account-Based Marketing?
First, your company should take advantage of account-based marketing if it has an inherently smaller Total Addressable Market (TAM) or a smaller audience who could buy your product or service. This may happen if you're in a niche market with fewer net-new customers, but larger contract sizes.
By rolling out account-based marketing, you can find and target the handful of accounts who are a high-fit for your offering and get them into your marketing and sales funnel.
Because your organization has a smaller TAM to begin with, you're not wasting time and resources by implementing a targeted strategy, and the alignment of your sales and marketing funnels will optimize your resources.
Second, you should take advantage of an ABM strategy if you’re ready to deploy conversational marketing techniques. Once you’ve begun to develop your target accounts based on your ICP, it’s time to figure out the most effective way to engage with them.
At New Breed, we utilize a tool called Drift which coined the term “Conversational Marketing.” Drift focuses on a different aspect of marketing by prioritizing the human-to-human interaction of sales, which in turn, provides a number of opportunities for ABM. Within Drift, companies can develop custom playbooks that target prospects depending on their lifecycle stage. This then allows sales reps to make the direct connections necessary to convert prospects to leads.
Before you get started and take advantage of this strategy, be sure that your marketing and sales funnel is fully optimized. You should have established:
- Inbound marketing best practices
- A sales-ready website
- A properly configured marketing automation platform
- Successful lifecycle marketing campaigns
- Helpful sales enablement tools
Your inbound strategy is meant to sustain you and carry you through periods of times where oddities occur in the market that may affect your industry. As a result, without a strong inbound backbone to fuel your marketing strategies, you won’t have a foundation to rely on if your ABM techniques fall short. You shouldn't take advantage of an ABM strategy if you're not able to justify the shift in the risks versus rewards.
While an account-based strategy can still be successful, you want your inbound marketing efforts to be operating efficiently before investing energy into such a targeted approach when a traditional inbound methodology could attract a much larger audience.
In general, don't start using ABM just for the sake of using ABM — you really want to ensure everything is working correctly before adding a new layer onto your system, and you don’t want to forego your inbound strategy in the pursuit of ABM.
How do you start Implementing an Account-Based Marketing Strategy?
1. Identify a set of companies you believe are a high-fit for your product or service
This is where your ideal customer profile (ICP) comes into play. If you haven’t yet developed an ICP, your buyer personas can inform you and assist in the process. While your buyer personas are based on a singular person (for example, a manufacturer named Mark), your ICP is going to be based on the companies your solution can most benefit (Size, revenue and stage of growth of the company your buyer personas work at).
Your ICP is going to dictate the narrowed approach you tackle with an ABM. Ideally, you want to choose companies that you will be able to utilize as case studies in the future and build the framework of your strategy from. An ICP will assist in the alignment of your marketing and sales team by providing targeted information. When marketers and sales reps know exactly who their message is catered for and how to cater their messages, their efforts to generate leads are that much more successful.
2. Define the overarching strategy you want to deploy in order to target these accounts
Develop the specific messaging for each account and identify all of the associated content that you plan on using to engage with your prospects. We recommend reviewing any existing clients who are similar to these target accounts to see which marketing strategies worked for them and what you've solved for them since starting the partnership.
Knowing what worked successfully with your current customers can help inform your marketing strategy and leveraging case studies proving you successfully solved challenges similar to what the targeted company is experiencing can build credibility.
Once you have the content strategy in place, you will have to decide on the account-based marketing tactics you'll want to use in order to get your newly developed content in front of these accounts.
3. Lastly, you'll need to design a strategy for measuring success.
What results would mean it's worthwhile for you to expand this strategy to a larger set of accounts? Ask questions like:
- Did you optimize your sales cycle?
- Have your win rates improved?
- Did any of the target accounts create opportunities or book meetings?
While formulating your definition of success, remember to consider the length of your average sales cycle.
If your average sales cycle takes three months, it's not realistic to expect an accurate insight into the success of your account-based marketing campaign after only one. Especially since companies with smaller TAMs tend to have longer sales cycles, you need to be practical about your timeframe for measuring your return on this investment.
Since an account-based marketing approach requires a much larger upfront investment, it's important to ensure the alignment of your sales and marketing teams before getting started.
Marketing’s role is to set up the sales team for success, and ABM provides the perfect opportunity for marketing and sales to operate hand-in-hand. By identifying similarities between your target accounts, ABM will allow you to develop a content strategy that will engage with prospects and humanize the marketing process.
Instead of marketing broadly, this narrow approach will facilitate direct communication and ultimately lead to accelerated growth, more qualified leads and larger customer lifetime value.
In order to successfully integrate an account-based marketing strategy into your existing inbound marketing campaigns, download our Guide to Marketing and Sales Alignment to ensure you're optimizing your resources:
This post was originally posted on July 31, 2018.
Montserrat is a former New Breeder.