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Rather than casting a wide net to generate more leads, marketers who use ABM will work closely with sales to identify key prospects and customize messaging to the buyers within the targeted accounts.

Why turn to Account Based Marketing?

82% of website leads are not potential customers
60% of website visitors bounce without interaction after one page.
79% of marketing leads never convert into sales

There is increasing pressure on marketers to impact organizational revenue growth. This pressure has made marketers look at the relationships and opportunities in their highest-value accounts.   Rather than blanketing a large demographic, ABM encourages you to focus on the accounts which have the highest need and budget.

buyer-personaMarketing and sales can efficiently engage and convert accounts by combining efforts and resources. Rather than working in silos, each department rushing to generate content for their next sales call or marketing campaign. ABM encourages teams to slow down, work together, and develop content that has a better chance of boosting engagement by the target accounts.

At a time when buyers are increasingly insistent on outreach tailored to their business, personal interest, and job within an organization. ABM encourages marketing and sales to engage each decision-maker and influencer in a personalized way.  Personalization is essential when aiming marketing and sales efforts at a few high-value accounts. When content is personalized well buyers will be more responsive and less likely to ignore your outreach and communications.

Benefits of Account Based Marketing

As more companies turn to Account Based Marketing as a foundation for their marketing efforts we are seeing an increase in success for companies of any size, as long as the focus is on high value accounts.

ABM is a win-win-win for your sales and marketing teams, but also for your customers.

Sales teams have been embracing account-based approaches for years.  With marketing technology allowing for a more sophisticated level of personalization sales teams are having greater success with their outreach.  This impacts the speed of the sales process and allows sales to improve closing rates and  deal size.

Marketing benefits when sales sees them as an ally rather than an obstacle in the sales process. When marketing is focused solely on lead generation there is a misalignment of goals between sales and marketing. Sales want leads with a higher potential to close, rather than a high volume of low opportunity leads. ABM allows marketing to deliver leads from a defined list that both teams agree will make the most promising targets.

A by-product of ABM for the marketing team is often a better understanding of the company’s target audience. Marketing can apply this new insight towards content and massaging fo other marketing campaigns.

The benefits of ABM to your customers comes from an improved buying experience. Buyers today want a more personal approach ABM delivers just that.  Targeted content and messaging which resonates with customers. Your customers will appreciate the fact you are not wasting their time.

Aligning Sales and Marketing

By now it should be clear that in order for account based marketing to be effective you must have sales and marketing working as a cohesive unit. Without alignment between the two, your target accounts will suffer through a fragmented experience, while sales and marketing trip over each other rather than paving the way for you to engage with key decision-makers.

Starting with clear communication between sales reps and marketers as both groups execute their strategy throughout the buyer’s journey. Agreement on the ultimate goal of your ABM strategy helps sales and marketing get in sync and figure out who are the best fit accounts, and what strategy to take for reach and engagement.

The primary objective is landing new accounts or expanding business with existing accounts, both departments should define smaller goals that align with the bigger goals.

Examples of smaller goals:

  • Identify decision-makers within target account
  • Secure appointments with senior-level decision-makers
  • Accelerating the sales cycle
  • Encourage higher loyalty or reduce churn
  • Close a higher percentage of large deals
  • Boost revenue within existing accounts

Account Based Marketing

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7 Steps to Creating an ABM strategy

Once sales and marketing are aligned with revenue-based goals, they can begin the process of building a strategy to reach and land target accounts. Co-developing the marketing strategy as a team.

The strategy will have your marketers focus their budget on the account sales deems most important. Both departments agree on common goal, messaging and content, execution and key performance indicators to measure success. Here are the steps required to develop an Account Based Marketing strategy.

Identifying High-Value accounts

You have spent a lot of time identifying your target customers, “best fit” clients, and buyer personas.  While all this information is valuable for defining and guiding your marketing strategy, it doesn’t specify which accounts you should be targeting. 

Analyze your existing customer base and identify which accounts were most profitable for the company, these are the accounts that should define your ideal customer. This often breaks down to the most profitable, long-term, happy customers who are a pleasure to work with.  They are a strong fit for your company, enjoy success with your solutions, and deliver the greatest lifetime value.  Armed with this information you can now go out and find look-a-like companies, these are companies with similar needs and budgets to your best fit accounts.


Hierarchy Mapping

When a business is making a significant purchase or investment in your products and services, there are often multiple people involved in the decision. These individuals are known as stakeholders. Your sales and marketing team will need to help drive consensus among the key stakeholders throughout the decision-making process. Identify those individuals who can wield influence on the final buying decision. These are the people you need to engage and pursued to take action.

Stakeholders can include members of the Executive branch, Management, and Staff. Your job is to identify who the decision-makers are vs those who hold influence.

Individual contacts are important, but in the context of the entire account. You need to connect the concerns and needs of each stakeholder back to their objectives within the target account.


Targeted Campaigns

When building a targeting campaign within your ABM strategy it is important to think about the account’s buying cycle.  You want to create personalized campaigns to nurture relationships.  It is paramount that you offer educational materials and consultation at the appropriate times in the account’s buying cycle.

Start by aligning your content and messaging to the interest, needs, and challenges of each account stakeholder. Ideally, you will have valuable content for each stakeholder.

For example:

  • CEO - How does your solutions solve problems while reducing friction in your target accounts current process?
  • Manager - How does your solution align with their budget and goals?
  • User - How does your solution help with their jobs to be done?

You probably already have a terrific message to the user, the features and benefits of your solution are ideal for their situation, this is “preaching to the choir”.  If the other key stakeholders do not have the same objectives then this messaging will not resonate with them, and they are less likely to consider your solutions.

How to create personalized content?

  1. Understand what stakeholders believe. Research the existing content related to your solution and look for an opportunity to inject yourself as an expert.
  2. Develop a well-informed point of view. Position yourself as an expert in the field and make it clear you have the authority to take a definitive stand on the subject.
  3. Deliver value by example. Support your viewpoint with demonstrations of your solution in action.

Personalizing your message goes beyond adding {insert name here} to an email or document. Present your solutions as they relate to solving your target account’s needs at each stakeholder level.


Identify Optimal Channels

This is where your marketing team will step up and deliver the content you have so carefully created to the stakeholders in the places where they are most likely to see it.  This is going to vary by role and industry. There is no single channel to reach all stakeholders so do not assume you can apply a one-size-fits-all strategy.


Develop the Playbook

Like any great team, your sales and marketing department will need clear guidance on roles and responsibilities.  Creating a playbook that outlines who does what and when will help define these roles and responsibilities. Identify the tactics that both sales and marketing will use to engage contacts within the target accounts in order to engage. Design a cadence for your campaigns which maps out each touchpoint with the appropriate channel, messaging, and content. 


Execute Campaigns

Your sales and marketing teams engage with the target accounts on a stakeholder level implementing your personalized strategy.  Campaigns will include a variety of tactics including: email, special events, direct mail, ads, social media, and more. Keeping in mind that relationships drive a successful ABM strategy, look for opportunity to present your message and introduce your solutions to individual contacts within the target account.


Measure and Optimize

Measuring the success of ABM requires a more holistic approach.  In other marketing strategies, you can measure ROI with simple formulas. A lead generation campaign would measure success based on the number of leads generated, but not necessarily the revenue generated by those leads.

Depending on the revenue-based goals you established in the early stages of your ABM strategy you will measure the success of your strategy by your pipeline, not your funnel. You care about moving accounts through the purchasing process, not the individual stakeholder.

Track account engagement, tally opportunities created and deals won along with their value. Commit to the strategy long enough to get measurable results and then adjust your strategy accordingly.  Identify successful tactics, and messaging - what made them successful compared to tactics and messaging that failed to generate results?

Harmony at last

Because sales and marketing are in this together you can remove the traditional finger-pointing and scapegoat excuses. In the past sales and marketing have been positioned opposite each other marketing provides leads and sales closes the deals, if sales couldn’t close the deal then it was easy to throw marketing “under the bus” and say the leads were no good.  Marketing teams would often say “we generated ___ leads for sales, they just couldn’t close the deal.”.

Account based marketing unifies your sales and marketing team with a common goal, and strategy they can both be accountable for.

Types of ABM strategy

In the past 20 years as CRM technology has revolutionized the traditional sales process, we have seen three distinct types of ABM strategy evolve. Commonly referred to as: strategic, lite, and programmatic, each strategy has its own unique style.

Strategic ABM

This approach is executed on a one-one basis. Often reserved for a highly targeted account with a specific goal.  Relationship building is the core focus of a strategic ABM strategy. This approach relies heavily on personalized marketing and an in-depth understanding of the target account. 

A strategic ABM strategy can be outlined with the following statement.

In order to sell to {company name} we must reach out to {stakeholder name} and demonstrate {value proposition}.

ABM Lite

The Lite approach will allow your organization to execute an ABM strategy at scale. Unlike the strategic approach, this type of ABM strategy focuses on lightly personalized campaigns aimed at a group of similar target accounts. Accounts of similar size facing comparable challenges might get the same messaging and content from your campaign.

ABM Lite strategy can be outlined with the following positioning statement.

We help {stakeholders} in the {insert industry name} industry by {value proposition}.

Programmatic ABM Strategy

Combining the personalization of strategic ABM and the grouping of targeted accounts presented in Lite ABM requires calling upon the latest technologies to tailor marketing campaigns at scale. The programmatic ABM strategy typically goes hand in hand with a vertical or horizontal marketing strategy. 

A vertical strategy being a top to bottom solution for a specific group or industry, where a horizontal strategy offers a common solution to a single problem across many industries.   

Programmatic ABM strategy will use the same type of grouping as Lite ABM, and the individual personalization of strategic ABM. This requires careful monitoring of each stakeholder's interaction with your organization to ensure they are receiving the correct messaging at the correct time.

Integrating Account Based Marketing with the Inbound Methodology

When presented with both ABM and Inbound as a marketing strategy it would be easy to assume you must decide on one or the other. However, it is not an either-or decision. Both methods are a core practice in modern marketing toolbox. The two methods complement each other in many ways.

While you are engaging stakeholders within target accounts with personalized content and interactions through outbound methods presented as part of an ABM strategy, you will want to reinforce your messaging and digital presence by using best practices for inbound marketing. Attracting your target accounts through inbound marketing helps you identify your ideal customer, and will keep your program dynamic enough to add new target accounts to your list.  Business is fluid, ever-changing, with new players coming into the market every day, while your ABM strategy is focused on those businesses you already know Inbound can be identifying the ones you didn’t know existed.

Advertising to target accounts

Advancements in digital tools and social technology have created an opportunity to digitally advertise directly to targeted accounts. No longer relying solely on demographics to find your target audience, you can now identify the individual stakeholders you need to reach in order for your ABM strategy to work.  You can get in front of stakeholders across your target accounts with ads tailored to their role and stage of the buyer’s journey. This type of advertising is particularly effective for engaging stakeholders who are not actively involved in conducting purchasing research for your solution but do have influence over the final decisions, for example, a CFO or CEO is rarely involved in deciding what software to use, but a well-timed ad addressing a specific pain point could help them sign off on the presented software solution.

Barriers to ABM Success

Maybe you have tried similar approaches outlined in this page without success, this can leave you with the feeling that ABM is not right for your company or solution. Yet, many businesses are demonstrating success with ABM strategy every day and it is a growing trend in all B2B categories. Here are a couple of things that might negatively impact your account based marketing results.

Failure to align on Target Accounts

If your sales and Marketing team are unable to agree on the same target accounts, account based marketing does not work. ABM is successful when sales and marketing can agree on the accounts with the highest potential. Failure to agree on these accounts and all your ABM tactics will be for nothing.

False Data and Reporting

Not that one group would intentionally deceive another within your organization, but if your sales and marketing teams are not looking at the same data from the same source then they might not see the target account through the same lens. Causing them to apply different tactics from the playbook, metaphorically they are not on the same page.

Keep sales and marketing on the same page by integrating your sales CRM with your Marketing software.

Unrealistic expectations

If you are looking at ABM as the magic button that will transform your revenue overnight, prepare to be disappointed.   ABM should not be the “Hail Mary” strategy to solve your problems.  Set SMART goals as they relate to your strategy, and give them enough time to be effective.   Kicking off an ABM strategy will require incremental improvements as your measure and optimize your strategy.