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Account-based marketing, or ABM, is a unique and effective strategy used by many B2B organizations to win the business of their dream clients. With a vastly different approach and execution to traditional B2B marketing ventures, it’s time to discover a world of ABM and what it can offer your business. View one of our chapters below, or read on for an overview of account-based marketing and why your business should consider the approach.

 

Chapters:

1. Discovering ABM

2. Key ABM strategies

3. Website personalization and ABM

4. Preparing for ABM

5. Your team and ABM

What is account-based marketing?

Account-based marketing is a heavily personalized marketing approach, focusing on one-to-one, individual communications constructed for that specific person or business. Marketing teams select their chosen “accounts” (distinct businesses or decision makers they want to work with) and offer them a brand experience customized to meet their precise needs and requirements, hoping to win their business through attentive and detailed campaigns.

Unlike normal marketing approaches, where a blanket campaign is used to win over part of a larger audience, ABM views each account as a market in their own right, constructing a specific strategy, approach and funnel for each. Conducting an ABM approach has brought about incredible results for many businesses; more than 80% of marketers using an ABM strategy says it outperforms all other channels.

Different types of ABM

There are three key types of ABM approach, all differing slightly in their execution, but each is more targeted than traditional inbound B2B marketing approaches.

  • Strategic ABM- The core focus for this strand of ABM is relationship building, focusing on specific accounts that are of high-value to your business. This approach is built upon heavily personalized, individual campaigns fuelled with detailed knowledge of the account’s business, their needs and current pain-points.
  • ABM Lite- This is a scalable approach to ABM, creating lightly personalized communications sent to a small set or group of like accounts. This approach is aimed at a selection of businesses who may be facing the same challenges, or who will respond well to a specific form of product messaging. As a form of ABM, this approach is far more targeted than normal marketing ventures, but not as intricate as strategic ABM.
  • Programmatic ABM- This strand blends both strategic and Lite ABM together, using the most advanced software to fully customize marketing communications to individual businesses within a set of like organizations. This is often used for marketing to specific accounts within a segment such as industry; for example, the user creates a marketing campaign for investment banking firms with a $50-100 million annual turnover, and the software will conduct this campaign, personalizing specific details (such as name, logo etc) to the key desirable accounts.

Many businesses only pursue one form of ABM marketing to best suit both their resource, and their target audience, though some have been known to vary their ABM mix with all three.

Why start an account-based marketing strategy?

Win dream clients

ABM offers your team a unique chance to win your absolute dream clients. Account-based marketing is an effective way to target enterprise businesses (or organizations much larger than your own) with a genuine chance of starting a conversation and gaining a successful result. Those conducting an ABM strategy have won highly valuable clients, gaining increased revenue, impactful client testimonials and improved retention success.

Speed up your sales process

An average of seven different decision makers are involved in an average B2B sales process. When conducting an ABM strategy, you’re in direct contact with the precise decision maker you want to impress; and with such an intricate and detailed approach, they’ll do the hard work of convincing others for you. The individual focus of an ABM strategy has proven to drastically decrease the length of sale, and increase sales team efficiency.

Increase revenue generated

Focusing on high-value accounts offers your business a selection of ways to increase revenue generation. As these accounts are large, well established organizations, they are prepared to invest more in your product and services. This increases the initial sales worth of the account. The continually personalized approach of ABM also offers your team an increased chance of gaining valuable referrals from these accounts, which offers an increased probability of closing (9 in 10 purchasing decisions are made with peer recommendation). It also offers your team a valuable opportunity to focus on high-value retention, continuing the detailed ABM approach to win larger upsell and cross sell success.

Stand out as the experts

Such a focused and targeted approach offers your brand the chance to stand out far above the crowd, showing key accounts you’re keen to devote time and effort to approach them with care and expertise. The advanced knowledge you display through an ABM approach enables your team to consistently appear industry experts; instead of spending time convincing organizations you have experience in their sector, organizations will now actively seek your advice about how they should conduct themselves.

Improve marketing efforts

An ABM approach shows your marketing team what’s possible with an effective, targeted communication. This doesn’t just improve your marketing efficiency, gaining increased return from more focused work, but also educates your team about how to win new business opportunities across other channels. Knowing how to manage an ABM approach can help your team to effectively convert leads through social media platforms, at events and on the phone.

Clear ROI

As an ABM approach targets such specific accounts, linking up return to ABM investment is easy- either the account you’re marketing to purchases from you, or they don’t. There are no concerns over multi-touch attribution and sales pipeline dilution, which is a struggle for over 80% of traditional marketing campaigns. Across all marketing efforts, account-based marketing provides the highest ROI, with less risk and failure- it’s a winning addition to any B2B marketing mix.

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Chapter 1: Discovering ABM

With a broader understanding of account-based marketing, and why businesses pursue the approach as part of a detailed strategy, let’s discover how account-based marketing started and how it differs from traditional inbound marketing approaches. Let’s also weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of adopting an ABM strategy, so you can be sure it’s a good fit for your business.

The beginnings of ABM

Whilst ABM may seem new to many of us, the idea of conducting research into specific business accounts for a more personalized marketing approach is a well-established part of the marketing sphere, but it hasn’t always been known as ABM. In the early 90s, list-based marketing was a popular approach for many larger organizations looking to target equally large enterprise businesses. Teams would invest extensive amounts of time conducting research into specific organizations they considered dream clients, creating an intricate profile for each one. From here, specialist campaigns such as direct mail or structured telemarketing would occur, with the aim of winning their business.

From list-based marketing, lead-based marketing was born alongside ever-changing technological advancements and early automation processes. This strategy surrounded sales teams gaining lead data for desired accounts, and carefully nurturing these leads via phone calls, emails and content promotion, working them into high-value opportunities and on to become clients.

In the world of today, with our continually expanding digital capabilities, account-based marketing has seen B2B teams provide the ultimate in personalized approaches, customizing every touchpoint, from email communications to webpage content. This approach is both advanced in its strategic makeup and detailed execution; for 91% of marketers, undertaking an ABM approach has become a priority.

Traditional inbound marketing vs ABM

Most traditional B2B marketing aims to promote your brand to a large audience whilst conveying a compelling call to action, hoping to convert a section of that audience into new business opportunities. Each business chooses different channels to include as part of their marketing mix, but a majority of this process is done through online means such as website conversion, email marketing and content nurture. The key difference between this form of marketing and account-based marketing lies in the outreach, specifically the amount of businesses you aim to make aware of your brand and convert. An ABM approach looks to entice a small, very specific group of prospects, whereas traditional marketing aims to reach as many as possible.

This leads to another key difference between these approaches. Traditional marketing produces a high lead quantity, providing a large amount of opportunities for your sales team to successfully grow your client base. ABM however, aims to provide fewer leads that are high in quality; by the time they speak with your sales team, they are fully aware of your services and have a clear understanding of why they want to use them.

This highlights an eye-opening, but very important fact separating these two marketing approaches. With traditional marketing, a 100% conversion from lead to a sale is almost impossible; the likelihood of gaining this success is slim to none. However, for an ABM approach, the complete opposite is true. There is no reason an ABM strategy can’t achieve a 100% sale success rate; if anything, it’s a target many conducting the approach can realistically aim for.

Advantages and disadvantages of an ABM approach

Undertaking an account-based marketing approach can seriously benefit your business, providing exceptional results and revolutionizing the way you set targets, but it’s not all plain sailing. Let’s break ABM down into the key benefits and the common challenges this approach brings:

Advantages

  • It gets personal– Those on the receiving end of an ABM approach love it because they gain a genuinely unique experience. 75% of buyers enjoy receiving personalized offers and communications, especially when they’re a busy decision maker working to a strict timetable. An ABM marketing approach provides decision makers with the exact information they need, cutting through the noise and showing them how much their potential business means to you. It’s flattering and highly effective.
  • There’s less waste and less risk– When properly planned out, B2B marketers working with an ABM approach can do more with less. Instead of sending emails to 500,000 pieces of data in the hope you’ll gain 50 qualifying replies, an ABM approach produces the same result with just 100 account contacts (sometimes less!). The focus on a personalized approach also produces results that pack a better revenue punch, loaded with more value and increased opportunity.
  • It brings teams together– We’ll delve into this fully in Chapter five, but an ABM approach can do wonders for your team morale, efficiency and alignment. As marketers need to work closely with sales to better understand ABM and successfully nurture accounts with an advanced end-to-end journey, ABM helps your team perform 67% better.

Disadvantages

  • Gaining the right information and data– Of course, a truly effective ABM approach requires the ultimate in campaign personalization, which is only possible with the right information and data. This can cause your team to spend time conducting vast research into dream accounts which is intensely valuable but can be time consuming too. Sometimes, gaining the specific data you need for an effective campaign can be almost impossible to find, putting your ABM plans back to square one.
  • Creating the appropriate content– To meet the needs of every individual account you choose to target, you may need to recreate a vast amount of current (and new) content to suit specific individuals or industries. Depending on how your content is currently created, this could put a strain on your resource and hinder your ABM progress.
  • Giving it 100% commitment– The best ABM results come from those who are wholly devoted to nurturing their accounts, building product value and working them ever-closer to the sale. This requires full commitment from your team, and many businesses aren’t able to spare a pro-active, committed team member to work on an ABM approach when they start out. You may need to evaluate your current team and run a trial with a high-performing member, so they are able to devote their full attention to an ABM approach and understand possible return.

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Chapter 2: Key ABM strategies

There are a number of different ways you can conduct an effective ABM approach; there’s no single right answer to creating a fully targeted and personalized marketing experience. However, the best ABM approaches all use these key strategies, helping them secure the large business opportunities offered by dream clients. No matter what form of ABM you choose, strategic, Lite or programmatic (or all three), your team need to incorporate these vital elements into their planning and execution, to ensure ABM success.

Creating a pipeline

Account-based marketing provides the best results when your team guide key accounts through a pre-planned journey, made to maximize your business strengths and meet the account’s needs. As the ABM approach is so specific in its personalized communications and customized campaigns, it needs to be just as precise in its execution. Planning how you will raise brand awareness with key target accounts, build product value and convert them into genuine new business opportunities sets your ABM pipeline up for success.

Conduct research into your target accounts and how they interact within the world of business, then select the best suiting campaigns and discuss what order will be most effective for each account. Some may respond best to a direct mail engagement bringing them onto your website, followed up with an email. Others may prefer to speak to brand representatives on social media, engaging in a more flexible and personable platform before engaging in telecommunications or a face-to-face meeting.

Plan a timescale for your pipeline, understanding how much time should stand between each company communication; you want your brand and product to stay front of mind, but you don’t want to bombard these high-value accounts with too much marketing communication. Before starting out with an ABM prospect, ensure you have their personal engagement pipeline fully mapped out. This doesn’t just help prevent lead loss and stagnation, it increases conversion, as your accounts have multiple and varied opportunities to contact your team. Those working with an ABM pipeline generate 208% more revenue from their marketing efforts- the numbers speak for themselves!

Customizing communications

This may seem like a given for an ABM approach- the whole idea surrounds creating bespoke messaging for individual accounts, however, many ABM strategies don’t commit fully to customization. Writing the decision makers name at the start of an email is one step- though 86% of us already expect that from marketing communications. True customization is more than just adding a name, business name or industry to a pre-written copy.

The best ABM tactics involve a deeper form of customization, whereby each message is written specifically for each individual receiving it. Though they will follow a similar format, each email, social media message or direct mail shot is written separately, from scratch, perfectly matched to the receiving account. Mentioning recent business news, industry pain-points and company specific goals, these communications stand out far above the crowd of usual “personalized” messages, engaging businesses fully.

To get the best results from your ABM approach, you need to ensure every time a key account engages with your brand, their experience is fully customized to their specific business. Why not head to Chapter three and discover more about website personalization? It’s a great place to start…

Creating a sense of luxury

ABM approaches aim to target your biggest and most valuable dream clients. These accounts are important to your organization; winning their business provides a turning point, offering your company a springboard to success and a fast-track to business growth. For this reason, many organizations want to create a high-end look and feel to their ABM communications, going to extra mile to prove how much the business of these key accounts means to them and their team.

Get creative and think about how you can bring a sense of luxury and opulence to each stage of your ABM pipeline. When we look to purchase something for our business, we appreciate marketing teams who invest a little extra time and care, to provide a memorable and exciting experience. Remember this in your efforts for ABM; whether you’re sending an email, or offering a customized website experience, always ask what more you can do to create real impact for your key accounts.

Though simple, these three strategies are the backbone of a successful AMB programme; they are the elements that help this approach stand out from traditional marketing and plow the field of advanced Martech forward . All buyers want to feel special; they want you to read their mind, providing exactly what they need when they need it. With account-based marketing, this becomes more possible than it’s ever been before.

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Chapter 3: Website personalization and ABM

We’ve mentioned the importance of truly customized communications as part of an effective ABM approach, but there remains a problem with many account-based marketing strategies- they forget to customize their website experience. The online world is paramount to the everyday actions of nearly every decision maker; it doesn’t matter how much time, effort and budget you put behind an ABM approach, if you neglect to customize your website, it’s all been for nothing.

What is website personalization in an ABM approach?

Website personalization outlines the process of creating bespoke, individual website experiences meeting the needs of your website visitors. From recommending products based on previous purchases, offering industry specific content or welcoming businesses by name, the opportunities a website personalization approach offers are endless. This focus on presenting a high-end, customized online experience has proven more than just an increase in online conversion; it promotes an improved average order value thanks to the caliber of opportunity and revolutionizes online ROI.

As part of an ABM approach, your website can be customized with the key account’s logo and business name, offering bespoke products and services based on their specific business requirements and pain-points. You can reference the previous ABM contact they’ve received and display highly targeted calls to action, encouraging key accounts to move swiftly down your pipeline with increased engagement and a full understanding of product value. This is all possible, with an advanced website personalization software.

Why is it important for ABM?

So why pump so much personalization attention into your website experience to improve an ABM strategy? The reasons are plenty:

Meeting our online reliance

Did you know that 94% of buyer journeys start online? This highlights something very important- the reliance we have on the online world. The average person conducts seven separate online searches per day, as the internet becomes readily more available on a myriad of devices. As so many buyers (including those you’re targeting with an ABM approach) will actively visit your website, personalizing it is paramount.

You have no control over when key accounts will visit your website; they could do it at any moment, as often as they like. Personalizing your website to key accounts ensures you always make an impressive and impactful impression, whether it’s their first visit or their fiftieth. It allows you to run a continual ABM strategy, even when your office is closed.

We rely on the online world to fuel our purchase research, feed our curiosity and help inform buying decisions. But this can work in your favor- if you prepare your website to offer the ultimate ABM experience.

Creating a consistent approach

Imagine receiving a beautifully personalized, handwritten letter in the post, accompanied by a free gift and special offer for your business. You learn the name of the organization who sent this delightful gift and access their website, only to find it’s rather bland. You struggle to navigate through webpages, searching for the specific services mentioned in the letter, and you soon get frustrated and leave.

This is the ABM experience many businesses currently offer; providing exceptionally personalized campaigns but failing to bring that approach through to their online experience. Personalizing your website helps your business produce a consistently high-end, tailored experience across every touch-point, ensuring there are no weaknesses in your ABM pipeline. When chasing such high-value accounts, you can’t afford to be let down by your website.

Making more than a first impression

There is no limit to how often a key account will visit your site. They’ll likely view it repeatedly throughout your ABM and sales pipeline, and if you successfully convert them into a client, they’ll continue to engage with your online hub further down the line. Customizing your website to meet their exact needs and make continued recommendations after the initial sale is closed helps your team maximize on every account.

From increasing product value during your ABM and sales approach, to benefitting later retention whilst increasing the likelihood of upsell and cross sell opportunities, your personalized website experience could be the secret to achieving the ultimate return from one single, valuable account.

Proven to convert target accounts

Those using website personalization as part of their ABM approaches have seen drastic increases in their conversion success. From reducing bounce rates to gaining 150% more opportunities for new business, customizing the online experience is proven to increase results. For ABM strategies, this is especially true. The attention to detail shown in a full webpage customization grabs the attention of valuable accounts; presenting the precise, tailored content and calls to action needed for conversion has proven so effective for ABM approaches, those using website personalization software like webeo have seen ROI as high as 12,000%!

Without customizing your website, your ABM approach is incomplete. For more about website personalization, check out this free guide!

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Chapter 4: Preparing for ABM

We know how successful an ABM strategy can be for your business results, but the thought behind setting up and executing a marketing channel so intricate seems daunting, and for some businesses, near impossible. To help your team get started on the ultimate ABM approach, let’s discover the steps involved in conducting this effective strategy, understanding every detail for maximum results.

Identify key accounts

To run a successful account-based marketing strategy, you need some accounts to prospect! Start by identifying the key industries you currently target with traditional marketing approaches, then discover valuable players and dream clients within those industries, who could have a need for your product or use for your services. Remember to dream big- ABM is there to help you win your biggest and best clients, don’t be scared to shoot for the stars! Start with a short list of around 10-30 key businesses you want to target and win as clients, then as your strategy takes off, you can increase your focus on key accounts.

Research

With the accounts organized, you need to conduct research into each of them to gather specific data. Firstly- which decision maker do you want to specifically target and why? Understand who you’re targeting, and gather the necessary data needed to conduct successful marketing communications tailored to that decision maker and their departmental needs.

Look also to research their business requirements, their processes and pain-points, their future plans and current developments. This all feeds into an understanding of how to successfully market your product to fully grab their attention, offering them something they genuinely need and want to invest in.

Channel selection

With your key accounts and research completed, you can start constructing your ABM pipeline for each account. What marketing channels will you use to raise their brand awareness, nurture their business needs and get them in contact with your sales team? How many communications do you want to make? How much time will be left between each one? Carefully select the best channels to engage each target account and plan the full end-to-end journey your team will guide each account through. The more intricate, the better! A well-constructed campaign pipeline is the backbone of ABM success.

Creating personalized content

You’re now ready to get creative! With your pipeline mapped out, you can start constructing the highly personalized communications valuable accounts will receive. From enticing email copy to customized webpages and detailed direct mail communications, your team can discover fresh and exciting ways to share your brand message and promote your unique product offering.

This can be a lengthy process; giving each element the attention to detail required to produce a high-end, luxury ABM approach can drain resources for many businesses, so plan ahead. How will you create a vast amount of specifically designed content, and how long will it take you?

Campaign execution

You’re now ready to start your campaign! But be careful- this isn’t just a matter of clicking “Go”. Depending upon the ABM pipeline you’ve designed, this may involve intricately co-ordinating a number of channels and factors. You don’t want to send mixed messages so be 100% sure everything is ready to go before starting your campaign execution.

Ensure your webpages are customized before the email is sent out. Ensure the direct mail shot is posted before sending the follow-up LinkedIn communication. Be careful also to ensure your messages aren’t conflicting or repeated. If you plan on using follow-up approaches through the same channel, ensure the first execution was successfully received before conducting the second to avoid duplicates and bombarding your target account. It’s a delicate game that requires a measured hand.

Measurement

Though 80% of marketers say they’re driven by data, 67% of CMOs have admitted a struggle in recording campaign results and correctly attributing ROI. Like any form of B2B marketing, ABM approaches need to be properly measured and analyzed. Be sure to ask the right questions of ABM, which unsurprisingly delves deeper than normal reporting functions. Aim to uncover if there are distinctive differences in the brand engagement shown after each campaign. Measure how quickly different target accounts come forward to know more and keep a firm eye on how your sales team continue the ABM approach to generate revenue and calculate ROI.

When constructing your pipeline, ensure you understand the measurements for ABM success. Once the first figures have been added, you can use data to influence future decisions when targeting key accounts in similar industries or with a similar ABM pipeline plan. This is especially important for this type of approach, where campaigns can be more creative and unusual; understanding exactly how they were received and what impact they have shapes your ABM future.

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Chapter 5: Your team and ABM

An ABM approach is so effective for many reasons, it continues to stand out as a front runner for effective B2B marketing. However, there is another aspect of the ABM strategy we need to address- what does it mean for your team? A happy and healthy team always produce better results, so take time to understand what account-based marketing means for them, and how it will affect their daily processes.

Aligning sales and marketing

You can’t run a successful ABM strategy without including ABS- account-based sales. Whilst some organizations use the strategy to prospect specific, high value accounts with sales tactics, a majority aim to use the technique as a continuation of ABM. Once an account-based marketing approach has won a valuable account over and gained their interest in your product or service, they are ready to speak to your sales team. After so much hard work on personalization has gone into gaining this accounts attention, it makes sense to continue the high-end, customized experience on into the sales pipeline. Producing fully customized business proposals written for each individual account and dropping rehearsed sales pitches to open up genuine conversations is what will secure those key accounts as valuable clients.

This, of course, means your marketing and sales teams managing high-value accounts will need to team up and work together, gaining the necessary data and research to conduct effective tactics, planning a strategy that offers a seamless experience from the first brand engagement through to the sale. Not only has ABM proven to align sales and marketing teams together (something traditional inbound marketing has struggled for with some time), but those who have achieved successful alignment are 67% more successful. This is a huge benefit for every team member.

Reduced resource waste

Currently, 50% of the leads in your sales pipeline are a bad fit for your product and shouldn’t be in your pipeline at all. This causes a vast amount of wasted resources; as every lead costs money, it’s important to ensure they all offer a genuine chance of return. This also produces a pipeline stuffed with leads that distract your team from working on their best opportunities. With an ABM approach, instead of casting a wide net to gather 20 fish, of which just a few will sell, you focus on just those few.

This intense focus reduces the amount of leads wasted and provides your team with a small set of valuable lead accounts, each offering a possible sale. This doesn’t just improve your ROI, it improves everyone’s results; your marketing team will see increased conversion, without the need to gather huge sets of data, and your sales team have a clear pipeline to work, growing your client base by offering each lead full commitment.

Process efficiency

As an account-based marketing strategy plans the end-to-end journey before starting any marketing activity, it’s easier for your team to know the next step, and what they need to coordinate and action. Whilst nailing the timing of intricate campaigns can be difficult, your overall team efficiency benefits hugely from an ABM approach. With a full pipeline mapped out, your team can seamlessly work their accounts through their brand journey, whilst gathering the vital data they need to measure campaign success and plan their next move. Whilst an ABM approach can take time to perfect; selecting key accounts, creating personalized content and setting up reports may be a little time consuming, but with the leg work complete, your campaign can run easily without a hitch.

Account-based management

Managing key accounts for an ABM approach requires a different skillset to normal marketing management. Whilst you need to be apt at designing campaigns, organizing their execution and measuring results, you need to have additional attention to detail and the ability to fully commit to a single account (or a select few) without generalizing their needs with blanket strategies. These are skills your team can learn, and for those who have struggled to master large email campaigns to generate numerous business leads, ABM management may be the perfect fit. ABM celebrates a new way of marketing, where those who can offer an outlook of “customer service” in alignment with keen marketing strategy can produce results of significant value into your business.

Handling key account clients

A key element of an ABM approach is known as “land and expand”; once you have successfully converted your ABM account into a valuable client, you are offered an exceptional opportunity to retain their business by continuing to expertly handle their account. Whether you organize this to be part of your customer service team or continue to approach them via marketing channels, your team will need to be prepared to handle these key accounts for a long time.

Sending regular, personalized content and campaigns to keep the accounts engaged and supporting your product or services is a vital part of successful ABM, continually boosting ROI and retaining key account business. Work with your team to construct a process for handling key accounts after the sale, ensuring they’re able to manage valuable clients for their full lifetime cycle with your brand.

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