The Fundamentals of Account Based Marketing

At its core, Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a way of using hyper-tailored content pushed to extremely targeted prospects for the goals of driving awareness and interest in your business, and ultimately converting new customers. It's a long process with a lot of upfront investment, which is generally why it's found in B2B businesses. When your typical sales process involves long lead times, fostering trust, and high-value revenue opportunities, you can justify marketing activities that help close these types of deals. 

Doing ABM right means committing to a long-term campaign that's built on the idea that fostering credibility and adding value before asking for a biz dev conversation is an effective way to close deals you might otherwise not nab. And yes, it works. That's why it's been found that more than 70% of  of B2B companies are engaging in ABM-specific programs. 

How To Explain Account Based Marketing To Others

Selling others in your organization on the value of ABM starts with being able to explain it yourself.

ABM is a type of strategic marketing that treats organizations or accounts, rather than the individuals within it, as the core customer. ABM acknowledges that enterprise organizations have multiple stakeholders when making major purchase decisions. It connects them all by leveraging targeted content to engage them, educate them, and get them excited about your organization's ability to solve their challenges. 

What To Know Before You Get Started

ABM requires a commitment of time, money and resources. It's not something worth doing unless you're ready to commit to several investments first: 

  • Investment In Content: ABM is all about sharing relevant, targeted content that gets people interested in you. That means a serious investment in content (more about this later). A one-and-done approach won't cut it here. 
  • Investment In Long-Term Results: ABM requires you to have patience. After all, if it were easy and worked immediately, everybody would be doing it. This approach often requires months of planning and even more time in-market to begin impacting awareness and interest. If you're looking for a speedy silver bullet, this ain't it. 
  • Investments In Customer Focus: Doing ABM right means you know exactly who you want to target. You know the specific companies, the challenges they face organizationally as well as within their industry as a whole, and who within those organizations are key decision makers. If you can't (or won't) narrow in your company focus, don't do ABM!
  • Investments In Measurement: While ABM is content-based, it is also metrics-based. We don't expect you to commit to a 6+ month long program and not have any sense along the way if it's working. Get ready to measure each step of the way. 

A High-Level ACcount based marketing Roadmap

Select Your Key Accounts

ABM is not "spray and pray." Instead, it's about honing in on a few key accounts that you want to win. The honing-in process is critical to ensure that everyone in the organization, from the marketing team who will be beginning the process to the sales team who will be taking prospects to the finish line, are completely onboard with who you're going after.

How you select your customers can vary greatly. Perhaps you've seen particular macro-level trends that make your product or service uniquely beneficial to certain types of accounts. Or, perhaps you've recently acquired expertise in a particular industry and want to target more accounts within it. Regardless of your selection process, you will be making active decisions around who to include and, just as important, who not to include in your outreach. 

Understand Your Key Stakeholders

Yes, we just said ABM is about focusing on key accounts...but key accounts are comprised of unique individuals who will weigh in on the purchase decision. You'll want to establish who all the key decision makers are and then build a persona for each one to understand how they impact that key account's sales process. 

You can put together these profiles in a variety of ways: 

  • Interview Your Colleagues:  Pick the brains of your sales team and customer success reps or account execs, the folks on the front line of talking with prospects and keeping customers satisfied. They'll be able to offer you insight into who the core customer is, why they're buying your product, and the particular problems it's solving. 
  • Interview Your Customers or Prospects: It's always good to keep an open dialogue with customers or prospects. But, when it comes to ABM, this can be especially beneficial so that you can get first-hand feedback to build your account personas. Spend some time on the phone or in person interviewing your customers to get a direct download.
  • Survey Your Customers: Sometimes you need a lot of customer feedback, or talking in person or on the phone may not work for your customers. If that's the case, using quantitative surveys can be an easy to way to capture a lot of information quickly. 

Build Your Contact List

Once you know what accounts you want to reach, and the types of people within each account you want to reach, you'll need to build your list of contacts with contact information. If you have an existing contact database with these names, you're already well ahead of most organizations.

If you're like almost everyone else out there, you will need to build these lists from scratch. If you have deeper pockets, leverage a firm like Discover Org or Zoom Info for extremely accurate and complete contact information. If you need to go the frugal route, you can work with freelancers on Upwork to build your lists. These lists will likely not be as complete, and they will have some inaccurate information. But it will be much more cost-effective. 

Create & Distribute Content

Once you know who you're going to reach, you'll need great content. This can take the form of whitepapers, e-guides, infographics, how-to one-pagers, postcards, and much more. Just remember: it must be hyper-tailored. Every piece of content you produce and distribute should be developed with your key account(s) and recipients in mind. 

Armed with great content, you'll need to establish a distribution process. As you can guess, there are a lot of ways to distribute your content: 

  • Email Marketing: Generally the most-used channel, send your targeted content direct to prospects' inbox. You can send it in the email itself, or direct prospects to a landing page to download the content. If you choose this second option, it makes campaign tracking even better (more on that below)! 
  • Social Media: Follow key accounts and their employees on core social media channels. Engage with them to learn more about what interests them and share content that's relevant to them.
  • Digital Advertising: Ad platforms like Facebook and Google Ads let you target ads based on lists of uploaded contacts. Additionally, you can target individuals within companies with ad services that target based on a user's unique IP address. 
  • Direct Mail: Snail mail is not dead. Taking the effort to print and mail relevant pieces is not something key account personnel are used to, and it can be a great way to get in front of your desired audience.

You'll want to try a variety of content and content distribution channels. When you're in the early stages of any campaign, you never know what will work and what won't. You'll need lots of shots at the goal before scoring points. 

Measure Performance Because ABM spans many, many months, you'll want to measure the impact of your campaign throughout the process. 

  • Short-Term Measurements: Begin by measuring if individuals are engaging with your content. You can track if your emails are getting opened or clicked on. If your content is gated (i.e. you're requiring people to give you their contact info before downloading the content), track who is downloading what. This will start giving you initial impressions about who is engaging and what content is most resonating with your audience.
  • Mid-Term MeasurementOver the course of several months, your leads will begin to raise their hands and request more information. You'll want to record the conversion in life-stage from Lead to Qualified Lead, and the potential revenue these accounts represent.
  • Long-Term Measurement: As your Qualified Leads convert, you'll want to track which accounts are converting, how long the sales cycle takes, and any unique trends about those accounts that are converting. 

Refine & Repeat The measurement stage is important not just to track your campaign progress but also to learn how to improve your ABM campaigns moving forward.

Did any content really resonate with your contacts? Make more along the same lines. Meanwhile, any content that fell on deaf ears should be booted from your campaign. Relatedly, if individuals with certain titles or responsibilities were more likely to engage with your content, make sure that subsequent account targeting includes similar individuals. 

Is Your Organization Ready For Account based marketing?

If you can answer "yes" to the following questions, there's a good chance ABM makes sense for your organization:

"My organization sells a product or service that takes many months, if not years, to sell in." 
"Our sales process is complex, and often requires multiple decision makers and significant time educating prospective customers." 
"I'm confident I can get my marketing, sales, and executive team aligned around the target accounts we want to go after."
"My organization has a very strong understanding of who are target customer is. We can tell you all about their job function, their everyday responsibilities, their KPI's and major hurdles standing in the way of getting their job done well."
"My organization can commit to a long-term campaign and won't give up after 1-2 months of being in-market with a program." 
"We have the resources, or can find the resources, to create engaging, thoughtful content that we would be proud to showcase." 

ABM takes time. But it pays off! The effort goes a long way to gaining the trust and credibility of prospective customers. By the time you get them on the phone, not only do they know who you are but they're bought in that you're the subject-matter experts in their field. If you're interested in how ABM can be applied to your organization, let's talk more about your particular business and the key accounts you'd love to convert into paying customers.