I believe it was last fall when a colleague of mine told me that account-based marketing was “trending” in the digital marketing world. And according to a study done by Sirius Decisions in 2016, she was correct. They found that more than 70% of B2B marketers are ramping up ABM specific programs, with having staff dedicated to account-based marketing. In 2015, only 20% of companies had AMB programs in place.
And according to ITSMA, about 85% of marketers who measure ROI describe account-based marketing as delivering higher returns than any other marketing approach!
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Working in customer success at the time, but also having a background in marketing, I was instantly intrigued. A constant issue I’ve seen at different places of employment is the ability to properly align sales, success, and marketing. Could account-based marketing be the magic fix?
Marketing to specific high-value accounts seemed promising, but challenging. How can we really do this effectively over a 40-50 hour work-week? But before pondering this, a critical question must be answered: What exactly is account-based marketing?
Account-based marketing is a strategic marketing strategy where key business accounts are marketed to directly, as units of one (compared to the typical one-to-many approach). In essence, high-value accounts or prospects are identified, key stakeholders in these businesses are targeted, and then marketing strategies are implemented through various channels to appeal to their specific personas and needs. Account-based marketing is like personalized marketing on steroids.
“Account-based marketing focuses on a few large and important accounts or those potential accounts that hold the greatest promise of adding to your bottom line,” says Elyse Flynn Meyer, President and founder of Prism Global Marketing Solutions. “That’s why it’s so critical to have a high-touch and highly targeted message to these individuals, because of their revenue potential and impact to sales and marketing.”
Now that you’ve learned a bit more about what ABM actually is, you might be wondering if it’s actually worth losing sleep over. One clear reason to pursue account-based marketing is that studies show it appears to be effective in delivering ROI. In fact, research from the Altera group found that 97% of respondents reported that ABM had a somewhat higher or much higher ROI than other marketing campaigns.
But is ABM right for you? While “account-based marketing” is a buzzworthy phrase, it isn’t an optimal strategy for every business. In fact, ABM is typically a B2B marketing approach involving enterprise-level sales organizations with over 1,000 employees.
This is due to the fact that there are usually multiple stakeholders involved in the sale. If your employee count is under 1,000 and you’re not in the B2B sector, this doesn’t necessarily rule your out, but you should consider if it makes sense for your business model and sales/marketing cycles. It might not be realistic to tackle marketing to specific accounts if you’re a small business with limited time and resources for marketing.
If you’re intrigued and want to try pursuing this strategy, you absolutely should! Why? Account-based marketing seeks to kick-off the sales process with higher-value opportunities earlier, get the highest ROI possible from marketing campaigns, as well as align marketing, sales, and account management for longer-term success.
Sounds pretty great, am I right? So while it may seem a bit tricky to implement, once you’ve gotten the strategy down the payoff can be tremendously valuable and well worth the effort invested.
One other thing to mention is that there are ways to automate account-based marketing as long as you have the right data and a system to communicate between sales and marketing. For instance, Terminus is a SaaS platform that gracefully brings together account-based marketing and automation.
For those of you who feel like ABM could yield huge returns for your company, follow these six steps to get things going!
Account-based marketing is like learning a new language. You’re no longer targeting demographics or personas, but rather specific organizations.
The playing field changes a bit, and it requires a strategic and tactical approach to perfect. Following the below steps will ensure you start off on the right foot with ABM.
Marketers are used to defining personas, but account-based marketing isn’t about distinguishing between “Chatty Cathy” and “Enterprise Eric.” Rather ABM is about marketing to a whole organization rather than an individual. This is a critical distinction, and the starting point to kicking things off on the right foot.
Start your account-based marketing efforts by determining the common makeup of organizations that bring in the largest MRR (monthly recurring revenue) at your organization. For instance, define the industry, company size, location, annual revenue, upsell opportunity, profit margin, etc. for the accounts that are yielding your business the highest long-term profits. Those are the types of accounts you want to go after.
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This process will likely consist of both quantitative and qualitative research. For example, partnering up with strategic leaders, as well as customer-facing employees in your sales and customer success teams to learn from their experiences, while also finding the data you have on hand to support these assumptions. The information you can gather from employees who work on the front-line with prospects and customers is extremely valuable during this process, because who knows your leads and customers better then they do? Having the data to back it up will only ensure you’re heading directly to money-ville.
This step shouldn’t be taken lightly because if you don’t thoroughly define your target, moving onto the next step won’t be feasible.
Next it’s time to go whale hunting with some strategic thinkers within your sales organization. Once you understand the makeup of the organizations you’re pursuing you need to find the ones that match, and dig in even deeper to determine who the key stakeholders are.
Once you’ve identified some target organizations, learning more about how decisions are made at these target accounts, determining who the decision makers are, and learning more about how decisions are made are the key components to this step. With account-based marketing knowledge really is power. Put your investigation goggles on and learn about the intricate makings of these organizations, and start to strategize on how you can influence the stakeholders at each one.
Some helpful tools to do this can be your own CRM (and the people within your company that have had contact with these organizations in the past), as well as social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook.
Now it’s time to put your investigational knowledge to use with content that speaks directly to these stakeholders and organizations. You should understand these stakeholders’ specific pain points and appeal to how you can solve them with your messaging and imagery.
Keep in mind that the beauty of account-based marketing is that it’s personalized to these organizations; this is why your content needs to speak specifically to them.
Work together with your design team, as well as sales, to ensure your content is visually engaging, but also communicating the right messages to these key stakeholders. Also check out this Seriously Comprehensive Guide to B2B Content Marketing for some awesome examples of companies that are killing it with B2B content.
Your research and content will be useless if you’re not promoting your campaigns and creative in the right places. You need to understand where these stakeholders spend their time online, and what their state of mind is when they’re on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
For instance, if you are targeting someone within a graphic design organization, perhaps you know that these individuals spend time on Pinterest from your initial research. Or maybe you’re targeting financial executives, in which you’d be better off showing them targeted Google Display ads on Bloomberg, Market Watch, and Motely Fool.
Facebook and LinkedIn can be powerful platforms to target these stakeholders because you can actually run campaigns to appeal to specific organizations, as well as titles within those organizations. For instance, if I wanted to target Google employees on Facebook, I could do so by using the specific demographic filters of “Work” > “Employers” and then search for Google.
I can then take this to the next level by adding in their specific job title. For example, if I was selling HR software I could target “HR Managers” who work for Google. Pretty cool, huh?
LinkedIn also has powerful ways to help you run account-based campaigns. For more, check out their resources here.
The hard preparation work has been completed, and it is finally time to actually run your campaign! Hoorah!
However, you shouldn’t just let your content run wild. A few things to keep in mind: Since this method of marketing is so targeted, it’s important to not overwhelm these prospects by bombarding them with repeat messages across multiple channels. Be sure that you aren’t abusing your remarketing powers, and hitting the same people with the same message time and time again.
Also, ensure your channels aren’t set up to just speak to one or two individuals within these organizations. Remember that you’re targeting an organization and the stakeholders within it rather then a single person. You need to strike the right balance of catching your prospect’s attention without turning them off. No one likes to be harassed by a sales person!
Once your campaign has been running for 30 to 60 days, it is time to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of your account-based marketing efforts. Ask some critical questions like:
If your results are not as great as you predicted the first time around, don’t be discouraged. The best thing about online marketing is how measurable the results are, which helps you see exactly where you need to evolve and improve.
On the other hand, you may find that ABM is yielding huge returns for your business. If so, keep it up!
Want more help with account-based marketing? Check out Marketo’s ABM resources and AdAge’s account-based marketing best practices.
Margot is a content marketing specialist at WordStream and nutrition graduate student at Framingham State. She loves all things digital, learning about nutrition, running, traveling, and cooking.
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