What is Account Based Marketing (ABM)?

Mackenzie | July 02, 2019 | Manufacturer Marketing

B2Bs are always looking for new, better ways to market to their prospects. And it makes sense. As a B2B, the sales cycle is long. You're marketing to multiple shareholders, and oftentimes, you don't have as many prospects out there to market to in the first place. If you've been looking for a successful way to market that is trackable and proven to deliver results at a high rate of return, then you might be interested to hear about ABM or account-based marketing. 

Here's a look at what we'll cover in this blog:


What is ABM?

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a marketing strategy that focuses on targeting marketing efforts to specific accounts, rather than to an entire group of prospects or a specific industry. 

ABM is an outbound marketing strategy because you're taking your content and your expertise and bringing it to an account you've identified as ideal, rather than having them come to you. 

Account-based marketing is a highly targeted method of marketing that's been proven to deliver quality ROI, especially for companies who don't have as many prospects to begin with, and who are focused on increasing customer retention and upselling. 

We love this analogy from the folks at Drift, who liken ABM to fishing with a spear, rather than a net. You're only fishing for the biggest, best, and most attractive fish in the pond.


Who Uses ABM?

ABM has proven the most useful for B2B companies. As a whole, business-to-business companies, especially those in niche markets, tend to have fewer prospects, many of whom are larger, high-value corporations. 

ABM offers B2B companies like this a better opportunity to engage and close those high-value prospects. By providing those clients with content and lead nurturing tactics that are tailored specifically to their company, and that touch multiple decision makers within that one account, you have the opportunity to shorten the sales cycle significantly, and close with just the very best clients in your industry.


How Does ABM Work?

Account-based marketing is similar to inbound marketing in many ways, except that it encourages that you seek out ideal accounts, rather than having those accounts find their way to your company organically. 

Account-based marketing starts with an Ideal Customer Profile, which is similar to inbound marketing's buyer personas. The Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) takes a look at specific accounts your company is already successfully working with and outlines what makes those accounts perfect for your company. 

An ICP often talks not about a single decision maker's pain points and challenges, but the goals of the account as a whole. It also details the unique internal structure of that ideal account, as well as the individual decision makers who must sign on before a sale can be closed. 

In this way, account-based marketing is very closely aligned with sales goals.

The sales team knows which prospects are the best fit, and are most likely to convert to a sale. The ICP gives the sales team a chance to tell marketing exactly which types of accounts they love, and it gives the marketing team a very specific account to market to. 

Unlike inbound marketing, where the goal is to draw in many prospects from a particular industry or target market, with ABM, your target market is often just one company. 

Your sales and marketing team will develop content that speaks directly to that company's pain points and challenges, and will develop a campaign that's directed towards that account's decision makers. 

This tactic of addressing the pain points of the five or six stakeholders in most B2B's ideal accounts helps to close the deal with larger, high-value corporations who can benefit from your product or service, but who otherwise might take quite a long time to make a decision. 


What Are Some Benefits of ABM?

Obviously, shortening the sales cycle and closing deals with your dream clients are some pretty great benefits. But ABM offers a few additional benefits that set it apart from other marketing strategies:


Clear ROI

The first, most attractive benefit to most B2B's is account-based marketing's ability to prove clear ROI. Where other marketing strategies can be difficult to quantify specifically, account-based marketing is fairly cut and dry. 

Since you're focusing your efforts on just one company, it's easy to see how much time and effort you're spending on this account, and it's immediately visible what your return is when that account does close a deal with you. 


Specific Tracking and Metrics

In a similar vein, account-based marketing offers very specific, measurable results. When you're looking at each of your pushes to market to a specific account, you have a small, measurable set of data to analyze. It's easy to see whether emails, ads, web content or events are helping you close the deal because you have such a small set of target accounts. 

This information not only helps inform your future account-based marketing campaigns, but it can give you greater insight into your ideal customers as a whole. You might discover that the majority of your ideal accounts prefer email marketing and Linkedin advertising over search engine ads or organic content. 

You can apply those findings to all of your other marketing campaigns in the future, whether they're account-based marketing tactics or inbound marketing tactics, helping you optimize your efforts for the greatest returns. 


Reduced Waste of Resources

Account-based marketing has also been called zero-waste marketing. Since the strategy is so targeted, your marketing team can focus and optimize their resources and tactics to just those specific accounts you're hoping to close. In that way, none of their efforts are wasted. They're spending time and resources only on potential clients and accounts that you know are quality leads. 


Can ABM Pair With Inbound Marketing?

Yes, and in fact, we really recommend that you don't use ABM without inbound marketing. Here's why:

ABM does a really great job of shortening the sales cycle and closing on some of those dream clients you've always wanted to land. But, that's all effort you're focusing on just one company. 

While ABM is effective, and a closed sales deal for that high-value corporation can help bring your company closer to your growth goals, it's important to launch ABM campaigns alongside inbound marketing campaigns to make sure your prospects don't feel like you're just pushing your product or service at them constantly. 

What's more, inbound marketing helps you cast a slightly wider net, while still drawing in qualified leads. 

It's true that inbound marketing isn't as targeted as ABM, but inbound marketing brings in qualified leads, rather than your sales and marketing teams having to go out and find them. 

Running both inbound marketing and ABM together helps set up a system of safety nets

If you're having a slow quarter, ABM can help your team really zero in on a high-value prospect. If a deal with a high-value prospect falls through, your inbound marketing strategy has still been working for you to draw in qualified prospects that you can refocus your efforts on. 


How Do You Know if ABM is Right For You?

Not sure if ABM is for you? Take a look at these questions:


  • Do you feel like there are a limited number of companies who can benefit from your product or service?
  • Does your company generate more revenue from upselling and retaining long-term clients than it does from bringing in new business?
  • Are you often marketing to companies and prospects where you need buy-in from several stakeholders:


If you answered yes to these questions, then you should give ABM a try! Account-based marketing is one of the most proven tactics to shorten the sales cycle and close deals for some of those ideal accounts you've been eyeing for a while now. 

And if you think about it, it makes sense. 

While your inbound marketing content is tailored to a specific industry or type of prospect, whether it's through job title, company size, or pain point, it's still somewhat general. 

ABM content, however, is hyper-specific. That content is written directly for that account that you know is the perfect fit for your company. 

And who doesn't love content that's written specifically for them? In today's world of general, non-specific blogs that don't always answer the questions you're asking, the extremely personalized content that ABM uses is a breath of fresh air. 

It shows those prospects that you're dedicated to solving their problems and helping their company grow better. And content like that is what closes deals. 


What Do You Need to Make an ABM Campaign Work?

If you're thinking that an ABM campaign sounds right for your company, you're probably wondering where to start. Even if your company is fully on board to start an ABM campaign, it's not going to go very far if you don't have these three integral components of a successful ABM campaign. 


#1 Aligned Sales and Marketing Teams

ABM won't work if your sales and marketing teams aren't on the same page. Luckily, the nature of account-based marketing tends to bring the two teams together. Sales and marketing have historically been at odds. 

Sales always wants better, more qualified leads. Marketing always wants to get the company in front of as many qualified prospects as possible. Account-based marketing solves this power struggle by bringing the sales team more closely into the marketing process. 

The sales team starts by identifying the ideal account. They tell your marketing team who is the perfect account. 

From there, your marketing team does what they do best, which is get to know how that account thinks — what their pain points are, what their challenges are, what their goals are, and who all they need to get on board before they can pass that prospect along to the sales team. 

Account-based marketing encourages marketers to think a bit more like the sales team. Instead of focusing on just getting the best message out to the right people, the marketing team has to consider what information will contribute to closing this lead. They have to think more like your sales team, which helps bring those two teams a little closer. 

That said, if your marketing team is on Mars and your sales team is on Jupiter, account-based marketing isn't going to work for you right away. You have to have some alignment between the two teams before you can see any sort of forward progress. 


#2 Clearly Outlined Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

When your sales and marketing teams are on the same page, you can define your ideal customer profile. Like we mentioned earlier, an ICP is similar to a buyer persona, except that instead of being centered on a person, it's centered on a specific company or account. 

Your ICP should identify what type of company you're working with, how many decision makers there are, and what each of those decision maker's biggest pain points and questions are about your product or service. 

It's good to know that account-based marketing doesn't just focus on new business, either. You can easily create account-based marketing campaigns that are centered on extending service with an existing company, upselling or even cross-selling. 

Most B2Bs find that's it's more cost-effective to focus on customer retention than it is to constantly seek new business, and account-based marketing is a great way to do that. 


#3 Specifically Targeted Content That Speaks to Your ICP

With an aligned sales and marketing team, and your ICP set in place, the last thing you need is content. Like we've said before, the key to successful account-based marketing is hyper-specific content. 

When we say hyper-specific, we mean you're creating content for that company, and each of its decision makers, specifically. The content you develop should answer questions those decision makers are asking and should speak (in no uncertain terms) to the unique situation and needs of that company.

While this might seem like a lot of effort for one company, you're only making that effort for a company or account that you know is an ideal fit for your product or service. Account-based marketing is proven to deliver the highest return on investment of any marketing strategy, especially for B2Bs. 

And let's remember, all of that effort you put into an ABM campaign is highly targeted and optimized. Nothing you do in a proper ABM campaign is wasted effort, which is why your ROI is going to be so high when you close a deal. 

Account-based marketing is a great marketing strategy, especially for B2Bs who struggle shortening the sales cycle, or who have a relatively small number of prospects. ABM helps you speak directly to those ideal prospects to grow your company strategically, and without wasting many resources. 

Interested to see how ABM could work for you or your B2B? Let's talk. We'd love to work as an extension of your team to target those ideal accounts and help your sales team close high-return deals.

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