What is the Point of Account Based Marketing?
Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a focused growth strategy where marketing and sales teams align to create highly personalized experiences for high-valued target accounts. Essentially, your marketing and sales departments will collaborate to identify best-fit accounts that mirror an ideal customer profile based on historical data, current customers, and more. After identifying high-value accounts the rest of the process is spent crafting personalized buyer experiences for those target accounts — wasting no time or marketing budget on getting in front of unqualified leads who aren’t a good fit.
ABM is a newer strategy that hasn't been around in the field of marketing for very long — it emerged out of a natural evolution in the way budding start-ups shaped their marketing budgets and teams. According to the Terminus Trends Report: The State of ABM 2020-2021, only 13% of marketing and sales teams report having fully integrated ABM into their marketing strategy. However, 43% of respondents report being in the early stages of implementing ABM processes and technologies into their marketing plan. ABM is beginning to gain traction in marketing departments across enterprises and start-ups as it enables marketers and sales representatives to think beyond the immediate sales pitch and focus instead on real client needs. In this article, we’re providing you with an in-depth overview of Account Based Marketing and how it will save your business time, money, and ensure company growth.
Why is ABM an Important B2B Marketing Strategy?
Marketers are constantly fighting for the attention of potential customers — whether on social media, in email inboxes, or elsewhere on the web. But sometimes, trying to get your brand noticed by everyone, leaves you scratching your head wondering why only a fraction of your viewers are converting. Rather than spending time and resources marketing to a broad range of people where some might not be a good fit, ABM focuses on targeting the highest-value accounts with personalized marketing materials to make a positive and lasting impact on the decision-makers of a best-fit organization.
You’ve probably heard the saying “quality over quantity” right? Well, sometimes that message gets lost in trying to maximize ROIs and increase quarterly revenue. Account Based Marketing ties marketing spend directly to highly sought after accounts and is all about developing quality relationships with target accounts to augment business growth in the long term. Investing significant time and resources in engaging and delighting a group of carefully-chosen, high-value accounts increases win rates. Whereas trying to quickly close deals with less-qualified leads can leave your team feeling drained and misguided.
The Relationship Between Inbound Marketing and ABM
Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. A downloadable guide, for example, is an inbound marketing tactic. The prospect is directed to a landing page, presented with a form to fill out with their contact information (which gives sales and marketing teams valuable data to better target the prospect in the near future), and is then able to download the educational guide. Essentially, inbound marketing lays the foundation for a strong ABM strategy as it enables marketers to easily identify high-value prospects within target accounts.
Inbound marketing is a broad strategy that attracts buyers based on content creation whereas ABM is a much narrower plan of action that targets decision-makers within specific organizations through direct and personalized communication. Inbound marketing and ABM have the potential to achieve a common goal when working side-by-side.
Both strategies require having a strong understanding of your target audience. Researching and understanding the right keywords, buyer personas, communication channels, and content topics that attract your target audience is necessary for properly executing both marketing strategies. Another similarity between the two is the importance of a humanistic approach to creating a highly thoughtful and personalized customer experience. A humanistic approach to marketing places an emphasis on the buyer’s experience — infusing empathy and understanding, even through digital channels. This helps ensure that at each stage of their buyer’s journey, they are being met with content within the proper context that's relevant to their needs.
What are the Benefits of Account Based Marketing?
Keep Marketing and Sales Aligned
Account Based Strategies require input from both the sales and marketing teams because they benefit both departments. In organizations without ABM, sales teams may often be discouraged by the quality of leads marketing brings in. When sales and marketing teams are aligned, leads are 67% more likely to become clients.
Ensuring your marketing and sales teams are aligned and are working towards a common goal helps make sure all communications, interactions, and content are consistent for each target account — leading to a 36% higher customer retention rate for the marketing department and a 38% higher sales win rate.
Maximize Your Business’ Relevance Through Personalization
Personalization goes beyond adding a prospect’s first name to an email. Personalizing the buyer experience is the practice of creating attention-grabbing content that is specifically made for a target organization rather than one individual.
For example, Influitive sent target accounts a personal package that contained a detailed review about their company along with a handwritten note from one of their sales reps, positive reviews from the prospects’ customers, and an Influitive sticker. But here’s the kicker — all the materials were inside of a pinata filled with candy! The result? Influitive generated a 36% response rate along with a 3.4% sales-qualified opportunity rate. Providing your target accounts with exciting marketing tactics will no doubt catch their attention, but also sending relevant and personalized information will enable best-fits accounts to visualize the value of working with your brand.
Deliver Consistent Buyer Experiences at Every Touchpoint
Throughout the sales cycle, it’s imperative to make each account feel as if they’re your number one priority. From lead to customer, your target accounts should feel as though they take precedence over all other tasks. So, how can you consistently deliver valuable customer experiences in every interaction with your best-fit accounts?
Closing big deals doesn’t happen overnight or after the first interaction with marketing content. Closing deals takes time and a strategic plan that ensures each touchpoint is valuable to the target account. For instance, let’s say you send a personalized email that includes a CTA to a landing page. The content in both the email and landing page should be customized to meet the needs and expectations of the target organization. From here, any further phone calls or meetings with the sales team should reflect and build upon this distinctive messaging.
One of the biggest mistakes a business can make is to have the marketing team begin telling the brand narrative but not aligning with the sales team to continue the same messaging. With Account Based Marketing both teams work together to deliver consistent messaging throughout the entire buyer's journey.
Streamline the Sales Cycle
In most cases, B2B enterprise sales cycles are incredibly complex and can take anywhere from three to six months to complete. According to research from The Rain Group, the average win rate for B2B salespeople is only 47%. That means 53% of sales efforts lead to a failure to close deals even after weeks and months of selling. Account Based Marketing helps shorten this cycle and is a great way for marketing teams to better support enterprise sales reps by helping to prioritize which accounts they're reaching out to — leading to a greater opportunity to close deals and increase win rates. Typically, the average sales cycle looks something like the following:
1) Prospect → 2) Connect → 3) Research → 4) Present → 5) Close → 6) Delight
The above cycle is often an extremely long and tedious process spanning months at a time. Account Based Marketing simplifies the sales process into just four steps:
By focusing your efforts on specific high-value target accounts, you save time and resources and are enabled to spend more time on the stages of the cycle that positively impact your top line.
Expand Business Through Account Relationships
Delighting customers is something that marketers and sales teams cannot overlook. With an ABM strategy in place and providing excellent personalized experiences at every touchpoint, you’ll be able to retain valuable customers longer and expand your brand reach. Qualtrics XMInstitute’s 2020 ROI of Customer Experience Report, states consumers who rate a company’s service as “good” are 38% more likely to recommend that company. Delighted customers want to share their positive experience with your brand among their network and will become your most valuable marketers.
How to Implement Account Based Marketing into Your Marketing Strategy
Step 1: Discover and Define Your High-Value Accounts
To begin identifying your high-value accounts, think about who your target accounts are. What industry are they a part of? Who is the best person for you to speak with? Now think about how you can connect with these people. There are many ways to engage with target accounts such as obtaining high-value contact information through an inbound marketing lead, connecting with major decision-makers on LinkedIn, and reimplementing techniques that have been proven to work for you previously. These tactics will help you understand who within a target account you should most focus on. But, how do you compile a list of target accounts to begin with?
One way to define an ideal customer profile is based on firmographic data. Firmographic data helps ABM professionals identify target accounts based on the following company information: industry type, organization size, annual revenue, current location, ownership framework such as private or public, NGO or nonprofit, and growth trends. This data narrows down best-fit organizations with a high propensity to buy.
Another way to discover high-value accounts is by investigating engagement data on current or past customers. A 2017 Harvard Business Review report states, less than half of an organization’s customer data is actively used in making business growth decisions. Through your CRM or sales enablement platform, find your current and past highest-value accounts. Take note of their firmographics and interactions with your company. What products or services did they purchase? What were the most pivotal moments or pieces of content that prompted them to buy-in? Take this data and use it as an opportunity to begin the Account Based Marketing journey with similar accounts.
Using historical data is also a great way to identify who in your current database is NOT a target account. For example, if you’ve been trying to get the attention of an account and they haven't shown engagement up to this point, or none of their firmographics align with your best-fit accounts, it’s time to remove them from your target segments and move on to more high-value accounts.
Step 2: Map Accounts and Identify Key Internal Players
Mapping target accounts is the process of identifying how your target accounts are internally structured (C-level executives, directors in each department, etc.), how decisions are made, and who the decision-makers and influencers are. Keep in mind, job titles are not the same as buyer roles. Large organizations have influencers throughout multiple departments and some people may even have multiple buying roles. Ultimately, you want to track and manage contact information related to each decision-maker and influence. Tracking this information will enable you to create extraordinary experiences for each buyer role.
So which buyer roles should you be on the lookout for? Buyer roles to be considered include:
- Budget Holder
- Legal & Compliance
Finding these integral decision-makers isn’t always easy – not every organization lists all of their employees on the website. A great resource that helps you identify major internal players in any organization is LinkedIn. LinkedIn allows you to research the company and its employees by simply clicking on the “People” tab within an organization's profile. Here, you can find a list of every employee that is present on LinkedIn, including C-suite executives and other paramount stakeholders of an organization. This is a great way to start identifying key players.
Step 3: Define Content and Personalized Messaging
Okay, you have the contact information of your target account. So what now? Begin to create personalized content, whether it be emails, sales presentations, downloadable resources, or other sales collateral. 56% of marketers strongly agree that personalized content is key to ABM success. In order to create positive buyer experiences, it’s imperative to create content that revolves around the specific challenges that the target account faces and explain how and why your company is the solution. In doing so, your target account will feel seen and understood, making your business the best solution. 65% of B2B buyers report that they would actually switch brands if a company didn’t make an effort to personalize communications with their business.
Step 4: Determine Optimal Channels
Next, you need to determine the best ways to get in touch with your target accounts. Through analytics, make data-driven decisions that tell you where your best-fit accounts spend their time. Do they spend their time on LinkedIn or other social platforms? Is the best way to reach them via email or phone? This may differ depending on the account and industry — making data-driven decisions will guarantee that you are targeting your accounts in the right place at the right time with relevant and valuable content.
Step 5: Execute Targeted and Coordinated Campaigns
Don’t forget! ABM calls for an alignment between marketing and sales teams. In order to create campaigns that maximize impact across all channels, the marketing and sales teams need to be on the same page when developing the messaging for each campaign. Sales enablement technology allows marketers to coordinate and execute ABM campaigns at a much greater scale and efficiency. This innovative technology provides both teams with insight into the other’s customer data and tracking, enabling both parties to seamlessly collaborate.
Step 6: Measure, Learn, and Optimize
The rapidly developing and evolving digital marketing world warrants constant improvements on even your best ABM campaigns and strategies. Continuously using analytics to improve upon your campaign strategies is essential for business success. Analytics can provide insight on which pieces of content are hitting it out of the park and which pieces of content are getting little to zero traction. Knowing what works well and what doesn’t positions your marketing and sales teams to improve upon not only their content, but their strategies and pitches as well. Being able to adapt in the right direction will increase win rates and ensure company growth.