What is account-based marketing (ABM)?
Account based marketing (ABM) is a business marketing strategy that concentrates resources on a set of target accounts within a market. It uses personalized campaigns designed to engage each account, basing the marketing message on the specific attributes and needs of the account.
ABM strategies also take a more holistic view of marketing, beyond just lead generation. Marketing to existing customer accounts to encourage upselling and cross-selling is one of the keys to getting the most value from your largest accounts. That’s why 92% of companies with mature ABM programs report it drives more ROI than any other marketing tactic.
The benefits of account-based marketing strategy
ABM is an increasingly popular approach for B2B companies that target enterprises or other large accounts, like governments. For companies that are trying to sell into large accounts with long sales cycles and large deal sizes, account-based marketing offers many benefits over other marketing approaches:
Personalized marketing approach
Your customers don’t like feeling like they’ve been caught up in a wide net. The proof? McKinsey research found that 71% of consumers expected personalized interactions. They don’t just expect it: 76% get frustrated when that doesn’t happen. And those are general consumers: executives and decision-makers have even greater expectations.
ABM solves this problem and creates a smooth transition from MQL to a closed-won deal. Instead of casting a wider net to appeal to everyone, marketers create personalized messaging for target accounts, taking what they know about both the individual customer and the buyer at that customer and tailoring the creative assets and information of their campaign to the customer’s specific attributes and needs.
In short, ABM strategies can lead to improved customer experiences that run from the top of the sales funnel right through to retention.
Sales & marketing alignment
Account-based marketing encourages marketing teams and sales organizations to work together across the buyer journey. They work hand-in-hand to identify target accounts, craft customized campaigns for them, and stay aligned as they move individual accounts through the pipeline.
Working together reigns in resources and reduces friction, making it easier to tie marketing’s impact directly to winning high-value accounts.
Shorter sales cycles
Major purchase decisions involve multiple stakeholders. This typically slows down the sales process, because it starts at a lower level in the organization and moves slowly toward the primary decision maker. In account-based marketing, the length of the cycle is shortened as all prospects are nurtured simultaneously.
According to a report from Cyance, their customers experienced a 30% reduction in ‘time to opportunity’ after implementing ABM strategies. They also reduced their ‘opportunity to close’ time by a month and generated a correlated 8-10% increase in revenue.
Because it is so targeted, account-based marketing is precise and measurable, providing the highest ROI of all B2B marketing tactics.
Companies can measure ABM success through KPIs like revenue growth and metrics like deal size and customer retention. Demand Metric’s ABM adoption report found that after a year, 19% of survey respondents reported a 30% increase in revenue growth. And
Fewer wasted resources
Time and resources are narrowly focused on a small number of accounts that are most likely to close sales. Mature ABM programs add in data sources, like intent data, to help marketers identify and gauge pre-existing and current interest, which makes it even easier to prune account lists for targeting and retargeting.
Account-based marketing tactics for B2B marketing:
Account based-marketing begins with building an ideal customer profile and then creating meaningful segments to identify marketing programs that can be personalized to those segments on the channels that are most impactful to them (events, website, email). Each company’s strategy will employ its particular mix of tactics based on the industry and vertical served and the category of products they sell.
According to Engagio, the top five ABM tactics in use in 2019 were:
- sales development rep outreach
- digital advertising
- direct mail
- marketing email
Your approach to targeting a specific account will depend on the particular attributes of that account, meaningful segments for that account, and its relevant marketing channels. The target segments you choose to ABM programs around will be the ones that can add the most value to your organization.
Let's dive into how some of these tactics are used on the ground:
In-person events have always been one of the most successful opportunities for sales teams to reach decision-makers who fall within their ideal customer profile. An ABM approach to events can include personalized invitations to key prospects from target accounts, special VIP dinners, personalized gifts and swag for target accounts, as well as personalized follow-up after the event.
Similar to events, webinars can be customized to be relevant and timely for a specific target account. Plus, buyers like them. According to the 2023 BrightTalk LeadGen report, 97% of respondents preferred webinar content as their primary form of learning about a vendor.
Webinar events and follow-ups can be tailored for specific companies, and unique webinar content can be created with the target audience in mind.
In an age where everyone is overloaded with email, direct mail initiatives have once again increasingly become a popular method of reaching prospects within a company.
Because ABM is more targeted, gifts and marketing sent through direct mail can be higher value since the revenue potential is much higher.
Direct mail ideas?
Even with the popularity of direct mail, email is still a valuable marketing channel for ABM. Whereas a volume-based marketing approach might use templates and marketing automation, account based marketing involves crafting tailored email messages for each company and individual.
PPC and paid social media ads are a common way of reaching out to target accounts on the web. Social platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook allow you to target specific companies and personas, and using technology such as IP targeting and retargeting, your display campaigns can be tailored to focus on a handful of target accounts rather than casting a wide net.
In ABM, PPC initiatives typically take the form of focused advertising around an event or webinar. They can also serve a halo campaign after submitting an RFP.
ABM campaigns on the web don't end with driving traffic through personalized SEM and inbound marketing campaigns. Once visitors reach the website, website personalization technology can be used to create a tailored, account-specific experience for target prospects vs the generic website experience.
How to implement an ABM strategy
Below is a step-by-step guide to getting started with account-based marketing.
Step 1: Identify your high-value target accounts
High-value target accounts are the key accounts that have the potential to contribute the most to the revenue of your company.
These accounts are based on your ideal customer profile, which is the customer type who is both most likely to benefit from your products and services and most likely to benefit your company. In other words, these are customers you can currently service and who will also see business value from your product.
DemandBase put together a guide to selecting target accounts that is worth a read for first-timers.
Step 2: Research those accounts
Get a good snapshot of their customer needs and pain points, as well as where they are in their customer journey. The firmographic data in your ICP and target account list only tells you who your customers are: they don’t tell you how to market to them.
Your research should give you an overview of their:
Why those solutions aren’t working
Taken together with your data-driven approach, you can start to develop the targeted messaging and campaigns that are so important to a successful ABM strategy.
Step 3: Segment and prioritize your target account list
Although ABM is about personalization, outreach rarely happens on a 1:1 basis with very few exceptions.
Segmenting your target account list and then templatizing your content and outreach will help your salespeople focus their efforts and will help you better parse your data.
A few ways you can segment your list include:
Company size (revenue, employee count)
Industry or vertical
Triggering events (expansion, closure, IPO, leadership changes)
Segmentation isn’t done for the sake of putting customers in neat little boxes. It should align with your go to market strategy and sales strategy, ultimately allowing your salespeople to reach those most likely to convert and do so at the right time.
Step 4: Develop customized marketing campaigns
Using the information you learned in the research phase to inform your strategy, develop creative assets that will resonate with the target account.
These campaigns’ foundation is personalized content. When creating this content, you’re doing more than using their name or referring to mutual partners or past transactions. You’re taking their data and your understanding of their problem and how they’ve tried to solve it and combined it with your segmentation.
Step 5: Measure your customized marketing campaigns
Measuring the success of your ABM campaigns looks different than a demand generation campaign. Yes, you want to look at typical digital marketing metrics like impressions, open rates, and conversions. However, you’re better able to tie your marketing metrics to sales metrics to get a fuller picture of the success of your campaign.
Some of the most important ABM metrics include:
Sales velocity (sales cycle length)
Target account coverage
Customer acquisition cost
Customer lifetime value
Personalization is the heart of account-based marketing
Yet, according to Hubspot, it’s also the most common challenge marketers face when bringing their strategy to life.
Personalization requires the right data strategy and tech stack. At a minimum, this means having a tool for intent data and a tool to help you scale your personalization by building the right resources.
What are some of the ways you’ll personalize your content?
Hero images and headlines segmented by industry
First name or company greeting
Variations in content like testimonials, use cases, case studies, statistics, etc.
You can expect that different variations will perform better for different segments.
That’s why experimentation tools are an important part of your ABM marketing tech stack. Optimizely Web Experimentation
Are you ready to learn more? Check out Optimizely’s round-up of 12 account-based marketing tactics that really work over on our blog.