What is account-based marketing or ABM?

By |

If you’ve developed a strong strategy, compelling content and have executed consistently but are not capturing the clients that you want, Account-Based Marketing (ABM) might be an element to add into your marketing mix.

It might be that your marketing plan is too general and casting too wide a net, generating leads of all kinds-qualified, unqualified, too small, too big-rather than the leads your company wants and needs.

This is where an account-focused strategy can help.

For B2B companies, developing and implementing an account-driven strategy within a broader marketing strategy-or, in some cases, focusing only on this approach-can yield remarkable results with greater efficiency.

What is Account-Based Marketing?

Account-Based Marketing is a customized approach to specific, high-value account types that yield the most benefit to your business.

Instead of casting a wide net into a general vertical market like real estate, for example, your more focused account strategy might build customized content and campaigns targeting property management firms with revenues of $3 to $5 million and 1,000 or more units under development. That’s the heart of an account-focused marketing approach-streamlined, personalized campaigns that speak directly to the pain points and concerns of highly specific account profiles.

So, how do you start?

Identify Your Ideal Clients

You already know which verticals you’re targeting within a specific market. But do you know what accounts within a given vertical produce the most value for your business?

In order to effectively execute account specific strategies, you have to track accurately and be able to analyze performance, which is where developing, monitoring and adjusting key performance indicators (KPIs) for your business and its various functions is so important.

Your operations, marketing and sales teams need to do a deep dive on profit margins, customer lifetime value (CLV), referral production, repeat business and a host of other factors to determine which existing client types have the highest value.

Aligning marketing and sales-with help from other select functions-to hammer out ideal accounts and prioritize them is critical to account marketing success.

What’s more, you need to engage in some business intelligence gathering on subsets within your primary vertical target markets. Research account types via secondary research, online investigation and any other means you can use.

In order to effectively execute an account-based approach to marketing and sales, you must have a profoundly deep understanding of the ins-and-outs of specific, high-value accounts.

Think of this as a more micro-level persona development approach for high-yield accounts. Like the persona process, you need to clearly define pain points, motivations, buying tendencies and other factors that will enable your marketing team to reach these audiences and compel them to move through your funnel. However, instead of broad archetypes you'll need to develop more honed and focused profiles of both the specific account type and its key players/decision makers.

Customize Your Marketing and Sales Approach

Once your teams have identified a set of high-value account profiles, and documented their key demographics, pain points, business cycles, behaviors and key stakeholders, marketing and sales need to utilize this data to their mutual advantage.

For a given target account, marketing and sales should consider:

  • What types of content are most compelling?
  • What content vehicles are most likely to engage key players?
  • What are key pain points and sales obstacles for these account types and the stakeholders that make critical decisions?
  • How can you set up your website to better capture conversions for this account type?
  • What seasonal approach might work best?
    • For example, if you’re targeting CPAs, marketing to managing partners might not work during the crunch of tax season, so perhaps more budget dollars and activity should occur at the close of April
  • What kinds of webinars work best and when are they most highly attended?
  • What conferences should you attend to interact with the highest volume of target accounts?

There’s a long and varied list of items to consider when customizing your marketing and content approach to a specific, high-value account type.

The key is knowing this account-type inside and out and building personalized, well-timed and properly delivered content that propels key decision makers along your sales pipeline. It’s imperative to audit your existing content, locate any gaps and find ways to repurpose generalized content to be more account friendly.

Remember, building account-specific content doesn’t always have to be done from scratch. A great deal in your existing content library can be useful to your ABM approach.

Align Marketing and Sales

An account-focused marketing approach can only succeed if marketing and sales functions are aligned and working together.

Typically, inbound content driven by marketing will generate interest and fill the funnel. At some point, however, once a lead becomes a sales qualified lead (SQL), sales needs to take over. This approach works best when marketing and sales have clearly defined roles and understand how and when tailored content is to be delivered.

Think of it this way.

Inbound marketing and content targets broad personas or archetypes within general verticals. This is typically marketing’s key function-gain interest and some engagement from these broad personas and target verticals.

ABM is, by and large, about targeting specific elements within a more refined vertical sub-set. Your ABM might target c-suite decision makers at property management firms with revenues between $3 to $5 million and more than 1,000 units under management because that’s your company’s sweet spot for client value.

In this way, marketing and sales must work together on content creation (marketing to create it and sales to inform what to create), content organization (making sure sales and marketing have an organized library) and timely and segmented deployment of these content assets.

Is ABM Right for Your Business?

Yes, an account-based approach is right for every business.

It’s really a question of resources, team capacity and scope. Many businesses are likely using this approach already without even knowing it.

When done right, incorporating a full-fledged account-based marketing and sales approach, or even just utilizing elements of this approach, can help maximize your resources, improve return-on-investment, increase closing rates and produce new clients with higher profit margins and greater customer lifetime value.

Account-Based Marketing is a great complement to a solid inbound marketing approach and can - when done well - create the scenario every company longs for: a client portfolio comprised of fewer, high-value clients that produce large revenues and help a business reach new heights.

Connect with Illumine8