What is Account based marketing? Where have you been…?!
Account-based marketing, ABM, or key account marketing (whatever you want to call it) is a business marketing strategy that has grown significant momentum over recent years. It’s all about focusing your efforts towards the best-fit customers that provide the most attractive opportunities for you business.
Why does it get marketers excited? Because it’s highly effective (if executed well) and can be leveraged by companies of all sizes. In fact over 80% say ABM outperforms other marketing initiatives (ITSMA).
But it’s not just the strategic focus that makes ABM advantageous, it’s the impact it has on unifying the entire buyer journey whilst also bringing together your sales and marketing divisions into one combined effort. After all, businesses are 67% more successful at closing deals when sales and marketing are in sync (Marketo).
If you think ABM is one of the marketing strategies your business should be utilizing but you’re not quite sure how to set it up or what is involved, look no further. This article will tell you everything you need to know to set up B2B account-based marketing from scratch…
How does ABM work?
From marketing to sales and even to client services, account based marketing activities give you the chance to take a highly personalized, bespoke approach to communicating to your specific high-value prospects or existing clients. In an age where buyers are connected to an abundance of information via a whole plethora of channels, ABM gives marketers a fighting chance of sustaining the interest and loyalty of their most attractive prospect segments.
In stark contrast to traditional broad-based B2B marketing practices that spread their demand generation efforts across a wide sweep of organizations, an ABM strategy concentrates on targeting corporations or business accounts individually as a standalone market in and of itself. As anyone involved in marketing will already know, the more you can personalize your marketing for each individual prospect, the more effective it is likely to be – as borne out by research that indicates nearly 60% of consumers are significantly swayed by personalization(Infosys).
This does involve taking something of a gamble in terms of dedicating what may potentially be a lot of effort and marketing spend on one account or prospect – but when it pays off, the correlating ROI is invariably well worth it – as much as 208% as some stats report (marketing profs).
What do we mean by Account?
They may be the key client accounts that form the basis of your revenue, or highly relevant prospects that your business can provide superior value to, whichever way, ABM focuses your efforts on the core accounts that demonstrate the most value to you. Typically these accounts fall under 2 camps:
- A small quantity of large key accounts
- Accounts segmented through shared characteristics and similar need criteria
With this in mind, it’s time to get super-focused…
How to set up account-based marketing from scratch in 5 easy steps
1. Identify and understand your prospects
Step one is dedicated to identifying your potential prospects and developing a deeper understanding of them. This may be the most challenging and time-consuming aspect of the whole endeavor; however, it is also the most important. After all, there’s no point in bringing out all of your best moves and trying to wow a prospect who hasn’t got the funds or the inclination to spend them.
Start with your existing CRM. Identify the strategic accounts that provide the most revenue for your business. How well do you currently serve this accounts? How well are your internal capabilities (think of the 7 Marketing ‘P’s) organized to provide superior value to these clients?
Take into account your general impressions of the business and your interactions with it, as well as hard data and business analytics to identify high-value prospects and those that are on the up and who may be perfectly positioned for a persuasive approach.
Look at things like:
- Potential revenue
- Market influence
- Potential for ongoing or repeat custom
You also need to find out who the decision makers and influencers are within the company and what their decision-making unit (DMU) looks like. Nearly two-thirds of B2B marketers find engaging key decision makers their top challenge (Forester). This exercise will help you gain the knowledge to help you more effectively pin point who you need to target, with which message to drive better outcomes.
Once you identify who your key accounts are, you can use this as a basis for your ‘look-a-like’ strategy for attracting new prospects who share their same salient characteristics.
2. Personalize your message
Think of account-based marketing as a little like dating – you might be casting your net wide and courting a number of different businesses at the same time, but if you can’t make each of them feel special, heard and understood, you’ll be going home alone (or without that big account in the bag).
Look for your prospect’s key challenges, pain points and opportunities to solve a problem that they might not even realize they’re facing, and work on presenting your solutions in such a way as to answer them in a persuasive, convincing and authentic manner. Remember, the more you empathize with your target prospects the more accurately you can tailor your message to powerfully resonate.
In order to craft compelling messages, it’s critical you leverage all the audience insight you have at your disposal. Building up an understanding of content consumption patterns can significantly improve your communication mix by establishing reader preferences such as:
- Purchase intent
- Trusted authors and brands
- Reading frequency
If you don’t hold this knowledge within your own customer database, it may be worth exploring how to gain access to b2b business communities such as Insight for Professionals (IFP).
3. Opening the channels of communication
When you’re ready to make your move, you need to ascertain how best to reach out to your prospect:
- Where can you catch their attention?
- What type of approach is the most appropriate and likely to yield a result?
Determining which channels to use is something you should consider carefully, factoring in things like industry norms, regional differences, and the best time to make your approach.
Email, phone and even social media channels are all options to consider, and if you can get a face-to-face with the person or team you have identified as the decision makers to target, so much the better. Use your knowledge you gathered from Step 1 to help you select the most relevant channels. This will help ensure you get the right message, to the right person, using the right channels, in the right way – the foundations of effective content marketing.
4. Execute your battle plan
Before you reach out – going back to the dating analogy – make sure you’re looking sharp, professional and approachable. Your online and offline collateral should be cohesive, slick and support your messaging, because the first thing your prospect is going to do if they are interested is check you out.
You also need to make sure that you can follow through on your promises. If not, you run the risk of seriously damaging the credibility of your brand, and that is something really hard to win back.
5. Assess, improve and develop
The ROI of account-based marketing can make it highly lucrative, but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to get lucky straight away. Whilst account-based marketing hinges on personalizing the approach you take for each prospect, you will need to target several of them in order to give yourself the best chance of getting a result.
It can be disheartening and frustrating to put a lot of time and effort into courting a business that you don’t ultimately get on side, but that doesn’t mean that the next one is also doomed to failure too.
Use hard and soft analytic metrics to measure the success of your account-based marketing campaigns just as you would for any other campaign, and use this information to build up a picture of what works and what doesn’t to inform your future approaches.
Account based marketing strategies may take some time and effort to get right initially but once you do, you could achieve so much more from your digital marketing strategy. As more businesses are using it to gain competitive advantage, it’s also worth considering the long term loses you may suffer if you lag behind, especially as your prospects get used to interacting more intelligently with brands…
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