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Go for the Big Fish | Key Elements of Account Based Marketing (ABM)

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Nikki Peroutka

Director of Account Services

Nearly every sales team has a list of potential customers they’d love to win over. They’re the top prospects your organization dreams of working with, but sales can’t close the deal until you get your business noticed and set up that first meeting.

So, the sales team turns to the marketing department for some creative ideas on reaching their dream clients and converting them into customers.

The problem is, some marketing tactics can cast a fairly wide net. Inbound marketing is ideal for drawing in a large amount of qualified organic traffic to a website, and traditional outbound marketing has the ability to reach a mass audience. Content marketing attracts and nurtures prospects, but not all of them will be the right fit for your business.

When Element works with internal sales and marketing teams, the challenge of generating quality leads comes up regularly. Marketing often involves strategizing to lead prospects down the path to purchase, starting with generating awareness. Sales on the other hand, is mostly interested in those who are further along in a buyer’s journey and represent top prospects who are worthy of their time and attention.

What if you focused your marketing strategy on these leads? What if, instead of casting a net, you took out a harpoon gun and went after Moby Dick?  What if you used that list of top prospects from sales and created very specific marketing plans just for those companies and the people who work there?

That’s account based marketing, or ABM, and it can be an extremely effective and efficient way to generate new business.

Defining Account Based Marketing (ABM)

ABM is primarily a B2B marketing strategy that customizes the experience for a targeted group of potential clients and customers. Essentially, the businesses you view as top prospects become “markets of one.”

You tailor your approach to their specific needs, opportunities, personalities, and preferences.

For example, instead of marketing your toy packaging solution to all toy manufacturers, you create a plan for one top toymaker at a time. That plan targets influencers and decision-makers within the organization while addressing what’s important to them.

You may have elements of an account based marketing strategy that are relevant to your entire list of top prospects and hot leads. However, there will also be highly-personalized components for individualized outreach and awareness efforts.

5 Benefits of Account Based Marketing

benefits of abm sales

According to a survey from Alterra Group, 97 percent of marketers say they achieved a higher return on investment (ROI) by using an ABM strategy.

Here are some reasons why ABM is effective:

1.  ABM Aligns Sales and Marketing

Breaking down sales and marketing silos is a challenge in many organizations. ABM helps get these teams on the same page. They’ve always been working towards a similar goal, but they have different ways of reaching that goal and different ways of measuring success.

If sales and marketing were like relationships, the sales reps would want to put a ring on it after a few dates and marketing would prefer to take it slow and see where things lead. ABM finds a happy medium between the two.

Sales reps already take an account-based approach to their work, so marketing this way brings everyone into alignment. The specificity of ABM leaves no confusion, making it easier for sales and marketing to unite under a common cause. “We want to reach these people at this organization, and this is how marketing will help us do it.”

2.  ABM Reduces Marketing Waste

Marketers certainly need the freedom to experiment, and even to fail when trying new things. Yet, there is usually an element of unnecessary waste associated with many marketing tactics.

Let’s say you sell widgets to a certain industry in a certain area of the U.S. When you log into Google Analytics and see a bunch of blog traffic from Australia, that’s not of much value to your organization. Or, you could buy a print ad in a trade magazine, but only some of those eyeballs are your target customers. Plus, you have no way of knowing if your top prospects saw anything at all.

ABM reduces that spillover because everything you do and create matters. It serves a very distinct purpose and is meant for particular people.

3. Personalization Grabs Prospects’ Attention

A good salesperson knows that building relationships is key. Personalized marketing makes it feel like there’s a relationship between you and a top prospect –  even before a meeting ever takes place.

Marketing automation is one way to add personalization to tactics such as email. But sales teams can also make everything more authentic by personalizing marketing materials for the individuals they want to speak with. That human touch will definitely up your likability factor.

Personalizing materials in an ABM strategy goes further than using first names and adding a note. Marketers should be considering an individual’s pain points, too. The CFO will care about different things than the Operations Manager, HR Director, or Procurement Specialist.

Personalization is effective with current customers as well. If you aren’t using it, you could be losing business. The 2018 State of Marketing Report from Salesforce indicates nearly two-thirds of B2B buyers would consider switching brands if communications were not personalized.

4. ABM Encourages Unanimous Decision-Making

While there may be only one or two people who make the final B2B purchasing decision, there are most likely several others involved in evaluating and influencing that decision.

According to research from the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) published by the Harvard Business Review, on average, it takes nearly seven people within an organization to make a B2B solution purchase.

You could focus on persuading someone near the top of the organizational chart. But that person might be more likely to trust the opinions and preferences of trustworthy staff working under them. They’re probably the people who’ll use what you’re selling.

An interesting aspect of ABM is how much it humanizes B2B marketing efforts. You’re no longer thinking about industries or organizations, you’re thinking about the actual people involved and what it will take to earn their approval and their business.

Often, Element utilizes persona development in our client strategies, including for web development projects, recruitment efforts, and content marketing programs. With ABM, instead of creating those imaginary personas based on the ideal customer, you can create individual profiles around the real-life people you want to reach.

5. ABM Makes it Easy to Measure Success

When it’s time to evaluate what’s working and what needs to be adjusted, measuring the results of ABM efforts is cut-and-dry.

There’s a ton of data that comes with wide-reaching digital marketing campaigns, and it takes an experienced analyst to tell an accurate story using those numbers. Are visitors spending more than 15-minutes on your website because they’re highly engaged or because they can’t find what they need?

With account based marketing, the increased focus makes success or failure crystal clear. You don’t care about search impressions, Facebook likes, or the bounce rate on your blog. Vanity metrics go out the window with ABM. Those numbers will be small, but they matter more. A comment on social media from a top prospect is way better than one from your Aunt Judy.

You know ABM tactics are working when they effectively move contacts within the prospect organization along a path to purchase, ultimately leading to the opportunity for sales to generate new business and create a loyal customer. The simplest way to measure the success of ABM is to look at how many of those top prospects end up working with you.

Developing an Effective ABM Strategy

Like any marketing plan, your strategy should start with research. Of course, there are differences between research for ABM as opposed to a broader B2B digital marketing strategy. Mainly, when you’re targeting a “market of one,” your audience becomes much more defined. Instead of creating content for someone with a job title in a certain industry, you are considering unique organizations and people.

This is an area where sales can help, using their network of connections and existing knowledge of the prospect to help the marketing team determine the right approach. You can also do some online sleuthing. For example, can you tell from social media accounts how a certain person spends their leisure time, what teams they root for, or what kind of music they like? That kind of information helps you customize the ABM strategy.

Once you understand your audience, you can develop the right ABM tactics. Here are just a few possibilities:

Customizable sales material: Create media that the sales team can easily personalize before sending to their contacts. This creates efficiency while preserving authenticity.

Personalize web pages: Develop landing pages designed for specific organizations you’re trying to reach. Make it extra relevant to them and only provide the right people with the link/URL.

Demand generation: These campaigns often involve a unique direct mail piece coupled with an exclusive landing page designed only for its recipients. The mailer should be eye-catching and could include a fun or valuable gift that gets your company noticed. The landing page helps you measure the response to the mailer and turn contacts into leads.

Targeted paid digital ads: Opportunities to reach specific people in the digital age are impressive. Google Ads offers Customer Match advertising. Facebook and Twitter allow marketers to create custom audiences. And, LinkedIn lets you target people working for certain organizations or with certain job titles. Use these tactics wisely. Send people to content that provides value and earns their trust.

Social media mentions: A good way to get prospects to notice your company is to mention or tag them on social media. Engage with them by commenting or reshare their posts with your followers. You can also write about and link to top prospects in your blog content when it makes sense. Just don’t over do it. You don’t want to look desperate.

Event marketing and networking: If top prospects are attending the same tradeshows as your company, send personalized invites for them to visit your booth, or meet you somewhere during the show. Better yet, host your own event and invite all your most-wanted customers.

1-to-1 C-level outreach: Trying to get in touch with the C-suite? Consider having leadership from your company be the name and face behind outreach efforts. A CEO may be more likely to respond to another CEO. Likewise, there may be people outside of the sales department who’d be more relatable and approachable to those working for prospective clients. In fact, it’s possible that employees in your company already have valuable connections with prospects that you don’t know about.

While there are many advantages to adopting account based marketing strategies, it does require a great deal of time and effort. Just because you’re focusing on a smaller potential audience doesn’t mean it gets easier. In fact, the opposite may be true. What you could gain, however, will make the extra time and effort worthwhile.

If you want help developing an ABM strategy for your business, reach out to Element and let’s talk about how we can partner with you by filling gaps in your marketing team and creating the right plan. Contact Element today and ask about seeing some examples of effective demand generation campaigns we’ve developed for our clients.