According to a recent ITSMA benchmark study, only 17% of marketers have mature Account-Based Marketing strategies in place.
So, when ABM strategies have the potential to uplift marketing revenue by more than 200%, what’s stopping marketers from getting started?
In the recent workshop, ‘When and How to Invest in Account-Based Marketing’ we asked 3 ABM experts to share an introduction to ABM, why it matters, and more for your strategy.
In this article:
- An Introduction to Account-Based Marketing
- Why does ABM matter right now?
- Who is Account-Based Marketing right for?
- What do you need to be ‘ABM-ready’?
- Where should you activate Account-Based Marketing campaigns?
- When should you review your ABM strategy?
- Next steps - Investing in Account-Based Marketing
Account-Based Marketing – An Introduction
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach to B2B marketing, based on creating personalized buying experiences for a mutually identified set of targeted accounts – namely, those that represent significantly higher expansion or growth opportunities.
In fact, it's neither – ABM requires an integration and alignment across all the teams.”
Account-Based Marketing and Inbound
Inbound marketing essentially lays the foundations for a strong ABM strategy - with an 'always-on' approach casting a wider net to your audience, ABM can then drive more efficient resource allocation of high value accounts.
Graham Reed, Director of Ice Blue Sky says, “if customers have come in as a result of inbound, whether this is through valuable content or great customer experiences, building an ABM strategy is about getting to know them, and bringing them further down that buyer funnel.”
In this sense, where inbound drives wider brand interest and engagement, ABM drives targeted accounts through a dedicated pipeline.
The 5 W’s of Account-Based Marketing
Why does ABM matter right now?
Though relatively new, Account-Based Marketing strategies has seen a significant uptake in recent times, particularly with B2B organisations – and there are a few reasons for this.
Honing focus and resource in a turbulent climate
Graham argues that most marketing budgets from B2B companies are spent on ‘spray and pray’ strategies, where companies hope customers self-select and make the journey down the sale funnel after receiving a load of information.
However, as budgets are reduced for these companies, they look to refocus their strategy on ‘spending their money to target high-value customers that want to do business thus ABM is falling into this space perfectly.’
“It’s not about quantity, at this point, it’s about quality”.
Julia adds that ABM is “a more targeted, more effective, more efficient way for teams to generate more revenue”, allowing marketing, sales, and customer service teams to save time - and activity - on marketing to unqualified leads who aren’t their best fit customers.
The rise of personalisation and customer expectations
Upon the surge of digital behaviours raising the bar, personalisation matters more than ever. Research by McKinsey & Company found that 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalised interactions and 78% said that such content made them more likely to repurchase.
Alex Tucker, Strategy Director at Miramar Agency reiterates the importance of a great marketing experience, “particularly in how people buy. If people have a good marketing and sales experience with your brand, they’re not only more likely to buy, but to spend more.”
Therefore, companies must ensure they are gathering insights on their ideal customer and utilizing ABM to “focus on your best opportunities, and really deliver that customer centric experience”.
Who is Account-Based Marketing right for?
Julia states that “ABM is great for enterprise companies with longer sales cycles”, as it allows you to focus in on the high-value, high-priority accounts that can make all the difference to your pipeline, and bring them down the funnel as quickly as possible.
Though certain industries may see greater benefits from Account-Based Marketing at first glance, a successful strategy hinges less on your business sector, and more on what you already have in place.
Will ABM work for you? Key considerations
Alex shares a few key questions to determine if ABM will benefit your brand:
- Do I have a proper target audience profile?
- Are my MarTech and Data platforms sophisticated enough to drive in-depth insights?
- How aligned are my internal teams?
- Do we have the internal processes in place for seamless communication?
- Do I have access to subject matter experts and content that I need to resonate with the target profiles?
What do you need to be ‘ABM-ready’?
Account-Based Marketing takes time – and to see the benefits, there are a few foundations you’ll need before investing.
Brand Awareness in the Market
Graham says “To implement ABM effectively, you’ve got to have a good foundation out there.
Your brand needs to be known, it needs to be out in the marketplace, because it's very difficult to put a market in an ABM strategy from a cold base.”
Clear Audience Profiles (Seriously)
The core of ABM sits in targeting the most important accounts for your business – so, it’s no surprise that appropriate audience profiles are crucial. However, it’s more than just the company name, or the audience filters, that you need to think about.
As Julia says, “It’s not just demographic data that's important.
Nobody buys from your business just because they're living in Luton, for example, they buy because they're looking to solve their pain points, needs and challenges, they've got motivators.”
Alex also highlights the importance of building personas and Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) that incorporate the ever-growing ‘decision-making units’ within your target accounts.
“It wasn't that long ago that we were talking about seven or eight people being involved in the decision-making process, but that’s growing by the year - so that kind of account mapping piece is really important.”
Beyond this, Graham flags that you don’t just need your audience - you also need the collateral to support them.
“Ask yourself, ‘Do your case studies align to the expectations and requirements of that target audience?’.”
Building your ideal audience profiles
Beyond the standard targeting, here’s what an ABM-ready audience profile actually entails:
- Mutually agreed target profiles – validated by your sales teams
- Detailed audience personas based on core challenges, motivators, and behaviours
- Profiles of the average ‘decision-making unit’ within your target accounts
- Robust data to reflect the segmentation and personalization required for an effective ABM campaign
Internal Alignment and Buy-In
Furthermore, ABM uses the combined expertise of Marketing and Sales teams to select and target accounts that require tailored marketing.
So, to begin your ABM strategy, Julia highlights the significance of bringing that sales alignment for a full end-to-end service.
“With ABM, you’re looking at revenue performance across multiple teams. You need that alignment and integration across marketing, sales, your account teams, customer success – so everyone needs to be set to one common goal.”
Where should you activate Account-Based Marketing campaigns?
Account-Based Marketing is, for the most part, more about the audience than the actual execution.
Certain channels are often considered the most beneficial, for example:
- Social Platforms
- Events and Webinars
- Email Campaigns
- Paid Advertising
However, as Graham shares, when done right, almost any channel can work with ABM.
“Direct Mail is starting to have a massive impact – even yesterday we got any inbound lead from a DM piece. It worked because it was very creatively put together, and very targeted.
What I would say is to explore every single channel.
Find the best possible way of telling a story that’s human, and you’ll bring them down that funnel.”
When should you review your ABM strategy?
Though ABM isn’t a ‘quick fix’ by any means, Graham argues that you should be looking out for the performance of your campaign almost immediately.
“From day one, minute one, as soon as you start putting things out there, and you've got your measurement metrics in place, you should be reviewing the performance.”
If you're looking for specific timelines to review your work, Alex suggests breaking your strategy into core phases to define what you want to be measuring, for example:
- Initial Research - building insight into your target accounts
- Data Integrity - Populating your database with useful information
- Data Acquisition - Gaining new contacts within the accounts you're targeting
- Engagement - The level of account contact activity
- Awareness - Email and website metrics
- Conversions - Generating new pipelines
- And finally, Revenue Growth - i.e. the long-term value of your ABM strategy.
Next steps: Investing in Account-Based Marketing
As Julia shares, “It takes a while to set up an effective ABM strategy, never mind executing one.”
ABM takes time, and for many businesses, getting the foundations you need in place will require starting from scratch.
So, it can help to seek external specialists to provide guidance on developing this strategy, and start mapping out accounts. A strong agency partner can help lift the load, allowing you to comfortably begin extracting experience and expertise - and ultimately build a more meaningful campaign.
If you're investing in Account-Based Marketing this year, make sure you're getting the most from your time. GO! offer cost-free agency recommendations, pitch management, and more - get in touch to get started.