The Ultimate Guide to Account-Based Marketing
According to ITSMA, “Account-Based Marketing delivers the highest return on investment of any strategic B2B marketing approach. Period.” Account-based marketing, or “ABM”, is a powerhouse of a B2B marketing strategy.
Then why is it that the majority of B2Bs our agency meets have yet to implement an ABM program?
If you’re one of the companies that has yet to experience the high ROI of an effective ABM initiative, get ready for a powerful form of marketing that could be a game-changer for your business.
And with that, welcome to our guide to ABM. Read on to learn:
- What account-based marketing is
- The benefits of ABM
- How it compares to inbound marketing
- Keys to ABM success
- Real-world examples
What is Account-Based Marketing (ABM)?
Account-based marketing is a B2B marketing strategy that identifies your best-fit target accounts and treats them each like a market of their own. With ABM, you define and consistently market to a well-defined ideal customer profile (ICP). Marketing and sales teams work together to turn your dream list of prospects into new clients. These may be completely new logos, or they may be new departments within an existing enterprise account.
ABM is a form of marketing that some have called “flipping the funnel“. You start with your ideal prospects. This is in contrast to the traditional marketing funnel, in which you try to capture as many prospects as possible at the top of the funnel, with of course many of those not being well qualified.
In this way, ABM is laser-targeted and hyper-efficient. It’s a streamlined process for landing your next whale account. It’s a way to hit marketing home runs and grand slams, rather than singles and doubles.
The Benefits of Account-Based Marketing
There are many benefits to account-based marketing. So many, in fact, that it would be difficult to list them all here. To that end, here are some of the most critical benefits:
According to ITSMA, 84% of B2B marketers surveyed state that ABM has the highest ROI of any type of marketing strategy or program. As an example, Adobe achieved a 1,400% revenue increase over three years via its ABM program.
Seventy-six percent (76%) of respondents to an ITSMA and ABM Leadership Alliance Benchmark Study confirmed that ABM outperforms every other marketing investment. The same study found that nearly half of respondents achieve double the ROI from ABM compared to their other marketing investments.
On average, 91% of companies using ABM increase their deal sizes (SiriusDecisions, now Forrester). These larger deals naturally lead to longer engagements, which can easily compound into long-term clients.
Increased Lead Quality
It’s a case of “quality over quantity” with ABM. On top of better deals, ABM clearly showcases the benefits of having higher-quality leads, too.
Having better-quality leads saves your entire sales team time. Time that can then be invested back into your key accounts.
In fact, 85% of marketers say that ABM significantly benefited them in retaining and expanding their existing client relationships. Plus, with better lead targeting comes increased lead engagement, making sales calls infinitely easier for both parties. Who doesn’t love to casually close deals with high-value accounts (with whom trust has already been established over time)?
Sales & Marketing Alignment
Because account-based marketing is centered around a smaller pool of decision-makers, the strategy forces your sales and marketing teams to (finally) work together in order to reach those high-value accounts. Essentially, your entire company can transform with an ABM strategy.
According to a LinkedIn study of B2B marketers, eighty-two percent (82%) of respondents stated that ABM greatly improves the alignment between marketing and sales.
The more tightly your sales and marketing teams work together on your ABM strategy and program, the more qualified leads will be raising their hands. And the more high-value proposals your sales team will be spending their time on.
ABM naturally increases your marketing efficiency as you focus in on your most-desired accounts. Plus, by leveraging a range of software (as outlined below), you can reach thousands multiple times each month, engage with them, and track and report on all activities in a scalable manner.
What is the Difference between Account-Based Marketing and Inbound Marketing
Account-based marketing focuses on specific target accounts and the people within them first, rather than finding them at the end of your marketing funnel. ABM focuses on sending highly customized or personalized content that addresses the client’s specific pain points. The customization may be 1-to-many, or 1-to-some, or even 1-to-1 for VIP accounts.
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, aims to capture as many leads as possible at the top of the funnel. It’s focused on quantity more than quality. Typical types of inbound-style demand generation include:
- Content marketing, such as blogs, whitepapers, webinars, etc.
- Video marketing
- Social media marketing
- DIgital PR
One issue with this is that you have zero control over who enters your funnel. As a result, many of the contacts that wind up in your funnel are poor fits. If they wind up talking with your sales team, it’s a major waste of time and resources.
Another inherent issue with this approach is that the funnel gets smaller towards the bottom, so the vast majority of B2B leads — over 99%, according to Forrester Research — never become customers.
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Types of Account-Based Marketing
Now that you’re well-versed in what account-based marketing is, it’s time to take a closer look at how ABM programs are actually executed.
Strategic ABM is what all “done for you” companies want to be: a completely personalized customer experience, each and every time. Except with Strategic ABM, it can actually be achieved by limiting the number of target accounts.
Here at Stratabeat, we modeled our ABM program after Stratagic ABM, as we believe it’s the gold standard for ABM implementation. Here’s why:
- Strategic ABM is a highly customized and personalized approach to ABM.
- It requires the marketer to be more creative. And as we like to say at our agency, creativity is the only aspect of your business that cannot be commoditized. It’s your secret weapon. It’s your strategic advantage.
- True Strategic ABM is newer to B2B spaces.
- Strategic ABM involves deeper account insights, as that’s really the only way to achieve segment/account customization and personalization.
Instead of customization per account, ABM Lite groups target accounts by clusters of similarities including their industry, department, major problems, company size, etc.
If you’re interested in adding more target accounts to your ABM program, ABM Lite offers a fantastic way to increase your ABM database and potential revenue. We often mix Strategic ABM (for VIP prospects) with ABM Lite (for other prospects) for our clients, and the results are powerful.
For companies looking to scale their account-based marketing, ABM Lite can be effective
Programmatic ABM is a one-to-many approach to account-based marketing that uses ABM software for targeted advertising. It’s therefore the most ineffective of ABM marketing tactics.
It is the easiest to implement, though, since it relies heavily on automated tools to do the outreach and dynamic web personalization.
Programmatic ABM is often just as targeted as ABM Lite or Strategic ABM, but without the human touch or true personalization. In the end, programmatic ABM is little more than a focused version of traditional lead generation.
How to Develop an Effective ABM Strategy
To develop an account-based marketing strategy that’s highly effective, focus on the following core elements of ABM:
The entire ABM framework relies on building relationships over time with your ideal target accounts. The best-fit marketers are consistently communicating, involving, and re-engaging their accounts. It’s not selling; it’s a conversation.
Focus on always delivering value to your ABM contacts. And stand by your word. Always follow through on your commitments.
Make sure that the accounts you target have the budget and see the need for your solutions.
Creativity is the only aspect of your business that cannot be commoditized. Use it to your advantage. WOW them and differentiate your brand.
Tracking and Optimization
ABM is a process. It takes time to see results. Track performance and optimize your approach and messaging in order to generate even greater returns.
Account-Based Marketing Framework
The following ABM framework offers you a blueprint for ABM success. The step-by-step framework covers various aspects of ABM, ensuring you take a holistic approach to your ABM program.
Define Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
The first step to any effective marketing strategy is a clearly-defined target. Your target audience, in this case, is individual accounts, but your ideal customer profile is the same unnamed customer you’ve likely been marketing to for some time.
Identify Your Dream List of Accounts
If you asked your sales team to list their top 25 dream leads, would they be able to? (Can you list them?) We’re betting that they wouldn’t be able to. Not to worry, though, because that’s what this framework is for!
Partner your sales and marketing teams to tackle the question: If we could have ANY 25 clients (that fit within our ICP), who would they be?
Segment and Prioritize Your List
Typical segmentation might look like when a client signs up for your email newsletter or SQLs, but segmenting for ABM gets more granular. Some parameters we use to prioritize our ABM list are:
- Annual Company Revenue
- Employee Count
Organize Your Marketing Automation Platform
Even if you aren’t implementing programmatic ABM, a centralized location for your sales and marketing data to live is vital to the success of your campaigns (and not just your ABM campaigns, at that!).
You don’t just want to be set up for intaking data, though, but analyzing and improving upon it over time as well. Consider all the nitty-gritty like organizational structure, key decision makers, reporting structures, and departmental influencers.
CRMs like ActiveCampaign and HubSpot are great for housing all of this, but there are plenty of other options out there that’ll work just as well.
Conduct Competitive Landscape Analysis
Conduct a competitive landscape analysis. Understand the positioning, differentiation, and messaging of each major competitor in the market, and clarify your USP with these in mind.
Engage in Creative Brainstorming
This is where creativity comes into play — and why Strategic ABM is our preferred strategy. Brainstorm creative and innovative ideas for your marketing campaigns. Strategize how to cut through all the noise and attract their attention. Determine how to be truly helpful in solving their problems. Create engagement opportunities. Be unique and memorable.
Craft Your ABM Calendar
Based on your audience insight, competitive analysis, and creative brainstorming, build a structured ABM calendar so that the plan for content creation and deployment are clearly documented. This will help to ensure that you have the right team members in place for your many ABM initiatives.
Carry Out Your ABM Execution
Once you have your database and your ABM calendar, it’s time to rock and roll! Get your ABM tech stack configured, and start conducting outreach to your ABM target contacts. Make sure that sales and marketing are aligned throughout.
And, of course, above all else, maintain your consistency with high-value account communications, too.
Monitor Company News
One of the easiest “in”s for ABM is company news. Company CEO just announce something exciting in the news? Marketing Director publish a successful article on LinkedIn? Company just make its first acquisition? Or did they expand into a new region? Or launch a new product?
Capitalize on these opportunities to reach out and start a contextually relevant conversation.
Tracking and Reporting
At the end of the day, what is marketing without tracking and optimization?
Doubling down on what works and eliminating what’s ineffective are imperative to how fast you see results with ABM.
Here are a few metrics to consider for your ABM campaigns:
- Email open rate
- Click-through rate (CTR)
- Video views via specific links
- Website traffic via specific links
- Engagement (downloads, questions, executive briefing registrations, etc.)
- Sales meetings
- New revenue
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Ready to conduct an ABM program that generates qualified leads from the accounts you prize the most? Let’s Talk!
Account-Based Marketing Tools
While there are platforms on the market specifically for ABM such as Terminus or Demandbase, they tend to focus on advertising. They were not built for Strategic ABM.
Instead, we suggest you consider a hybrid approach, where your tools can be used for ABM and other functions in your business, like CRM, marketing automation, LinkedIn, and email marketing. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Marketing automation & email platform, like ActiveCampaign or HubSpot
- A CRM such as Salesforce (or ActiveCampaign and HubSpot both have their own CRM database)
- Dedicated IP detection software, such as Leadfeeder or Lead Forensics
- Landing page builder
- Video production tools
- And somewhere to compile all your data. For example, Google Data Studio, DashThis, TapClicks, or Grow.com.
Account-Based Marketing Examples
- For one ABM client with a highly technical sale, Stratabeat launched roughly 100 knowledge hubs, with each one customized per target account. This approach was completely focused on client education. As such, representatives from the accounts repeatedly visited their respective knowledge hub, keeping our client top of mind over time.
- For another client, we promoted a roadshow in multiple cities around the U.S. In each city, target C-level executives were invited to dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant, hosted by our client. The roadshow sold out across the country.
- We launched a podcast for a different client, securing interviews with contacts at their ABM target accounts. This resulted in interviews with approximately 40 billion-dollar brands.
- Engagio (prior to their acquisition by Demandbase) conducted a multi-tiered ABM campaign at particular attendees of Dreamforce. As a result, they booked 30 pre-event meetings and 105 additional events during the event. This resulted in more than $2.3 million in new pipeline within two months of the conference.
- The video production company Rewatchable sent out custom videos to its ABM target accounts during the pandemic (when companies had essentially stopped doing video shoots), and brought in an incremental $500,000 in revenue within one year of its initial ABM outreach.
With ABM, there are always opportunities to enhance your knowledge and strengthen your strategies. To that end, here are a number of ABM resources to help you get started on your ABM journey or to take your established ABM program to the next level:
- Lead Generation through Account-Based Marketing & Extreme Personalization
- Beyond the Basics: Building an Exceptional ABM Program
- ITSMA Resources
- ABM Leadership Alliance Blog
- Terminus Resource Hub
- DB Central
- Drift’s Guide to Account-Based Marketing
Ready to generate higher ROI through an effective ABM program? Give us a shout and let’s start the conversation!