Have you ever wondered how sometimes the smallest marketing team captures giants like Nike and Microsoft as customers?
The answer is account based marketing (ABM).
Marketers like Miranda Yan, Co-Founder of VinPit, say ABM increases revenue by around 65%.
“Every marketer knows that when you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. By mixing up modern technologies with proven marketing and sales techniques,
Account-Based Marketing makes customers feel like you’ve created something specifically for them.”
ABM targets a clearly defined audience with personalized campaigns. Rather than creating content or marketing messages for an ideal customer persona, you’re putting in marketing efforts for a real-life prospect. It aligns your sales and marketing teams, making marketing extremely personalized.
Account based marketing is a marketing strategy used to target specific businesses. Using personalized campaigns, a dedicated account manager can connect with key decision-makers by providing sales material and messages that are tailored to their company’s needs.
An account based approach to marketing is not new. What was originally called one-to-one marketing was coined in 1993 by two consultants, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers in their book The One to One Future.
They popularized the idea of marketing to the individual rather than the mass market approach that was popular in the day. They describe ABM in a 1999 Harvard Business Review article saying:
“The customer tells you of some need, and you customize your product or service to meet it. Every interaction and modification improves your ability to fit your product to this particular customer.
Eventually, even if a competitor offers the same type of customization and interaction, your customer won’t be able to enjoy the same level of convenience without taking the time to teach the competitor the lessons your company has already learned.”
The success of ABM has companies taking notice. A study by the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) found that account based marketing has a higher return on investment (ROI) than other marketing strategies, according to 84% of companies who implement ABM strategies. Additionally, companies are allocating over 28% of their budget to ABM according to the same ITSMA research.
You should implement account based marketing strategies when you’re targeting the Microsofts and Nikes of your industry. It’s not feasible to direct the amount of personalization ABM includes to prospects with tight margins.
Instead, account based marketers can nurture target accounts over longer sales cycles because their products or services are high ticket items and the relationships will last longer.
You probably don’t need account based marketing strategies to sell fancy shoes to teenagers, but you may consider ABM if you’re trying to win a contract to supply Nike with the cotton in those shoes.
Traditional B2B marketing comes in many different flavors. Let's break down the main differences between the two
Target accounts are those customers you wish to win.
Rather than focusing on a content marketing program that relies on search engine optimization (SEO) to bring in customers, ABM identifies key accounts, or the companies to serve, and crafts a tailored outbound sales strategy..
Miranda Yan, Co-Founder of VinPit, says target accounts step in when you focus the bulk of your energy and resources on best-fit accounts that have the highest revenue potential for your business.
“Target accounts require focused outreach from your sales and marketing teams to turn them into lifelong customers and advocates for your business. The best way which we used to do this is to develop an ideal customer profile or ICP.”
An ideal customer profile is the picture of your perfect customer. Your target accounts, then, are the actual representation of who you’re trying to reach. If a new prospect is a dead ringer for your ideal customer profile, you should probably put in a lot of effort to sell to them and offer a great customer experience.
There are three main reasons why account based marketing can lead to results like a revenue increase of 30% or more within five months.
The first is that you need fewer customers that generate revenue. The second is that ABM encourages better alignment between teams, and the third is that a personalized marketing approach is better suited to build long-term relationships.
Let’s explore each of these in more detail:
One of the most attractive benefits of starting an ABM program is that you set the opportunity size. Depending on the number of account executives or sales representatives you have you may pool efforts on creating sales resources like case studies or email sequences catered to attract a few large clients that can support your business.
For example, you might target an enterprise like Microsoft. You know Microsoft has thousands of employees across different continents. Winning them as a client or customer may transform your business and the caliber of customers you support in the future.
“9% of our revenue since implementing ABM has been won through this strategy. Getting a specific account's attention in this world of information bombardment is difficult, and ABM has us using every possible avenue to get the attention needed to outline the value of our designs.
The accounts we target with ABM are based on their growth. We are a growing company that will evolve along with our customers.”
-Keesjan (Case) Engelen, CEO of Titoma Email
Your business may be like Keesjan’s. As a growing company, you may position yourselves to grow with your customers. In another case, you may be at the size where you can prove you have the capacity to deliver on contracts with customers like Microsoft.
When pooling resources, or even getting approval for resources, a clear goal of your target accounts will be to secure them as customers.
Easier said than done.
It can be incredibly difficult to stand out and reach your target accounts that are bombarded with information and sales pitches on every platform they’re active on.
Matthew Reeves, the CEO of Together Software shares that being a CEO on LinkedIn invites relentless sales pitches.
“When I changed my LinkedIn profile to say that I was the CEO of Together Software I almost immediately got over a dozen sales pitches every day.”
To stand out from the crowd, a single email or LinkedIn message is unlikely to do the trick. Instead, aligning your sales and marketing teams around the common goal of securing a few select customers can lead to ABM success.
For example, Liveramp, a data connectivity platform attributes a strong alignment of their sales and marketing teams to their ABM initiatives. They generate a 10x increase in year-on-year revenue by corralling their team around account based marketing strategies.
When your marketing campaigns are personalized, the customers you secure are more likely to stay with you for the long term.
Referring back to the example above from LiveRamp, their ABM efforts increased their lifetime value by 25x in two years. It’s because customers see the value in not only your product or service, but your customer service as well.
By ignoring the small fish you can free up the time and resources to really wow the customers that will support you well into the future.
Now that we’ve determined the benefits of an ABM campaign let’s break down how to structure your own account based marketing campaign.
“Your buyer wants, needs, and deserves you to know them. A more highly customized experience & a relevant elevator pitch of what you do that’s specific to their world based on research.”
-Becc Holland, CEO of Flip the Script
The structure of an account based marketing campaign for any company, big or small, begins with deciding who the target accounts are. When you’re building an account based marketing campaign you know the customers, verticals, or industries you’re going to try and win business from.
After determining your target account it’s time to reach them. Reaching your target accounts is what ABM campaigns are all about. But there are many different tactics to employ to get in front of the right decision makers.
You probably have accounts in mind that you’re trying to win business from. But identifying the key attributes, pain points, and opportunities to sell them is an important first step.
If you don’t know your future customer or client intimately, your account based marketing campaign will be generic and not reach the benchmark you’d hope for.
Here’s how to identify your target accounts:
Bring sales and marketing teams together to answer these questions when deciding on which key accounts to target.
When you have an audience of potential target accounts coming to your website from your efforts in phase two, it’s time to segment them based on the buyer’s stage. You can start to target them more intentionally using retargeting advertising like Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn ads.
For example, Andrei Zinkevich, Co-Founder of Fullfunnel.io uses direct mail to reach his middle-of-funnel target accounts. He reports a 100% reply rate for every direct mail outreach campaign his company is sending.
He also reports that his clients see positive reply rates of around 40%-60% per campaign.
Here is what Andrei outlines as three key reasons for this extreme success rate:
"One of the most common objections I hear from sales and executives is that this approach is not scalable. It takes a lot of time to do the account research, buy the gifts, personalize the pitch, and wrap up the parcel.
At the same time, everybody agrees that a highly personalized pitch and creative outreach outperform the best-automated follow-up cadence.”
-Andrei Zinkevich, Co-Founder of Fullfunnel.io
By this stage, you’ll have target accounts filling out contact or lead generation forms by using the tactics in previous phases. Now it’s time to make the sale by leveraging your sales team to book demos, follow up, answer questions, and get a contract sent over.
To continue nurturing leads after they know who you are and are considering what you have to offer use the tactics of retargeting advertising so they don’t forget about you. Nothing is more frustrating than losing a sale because the target account gets busy and forgets about you.
Pair these efforts with personalized outreach from sales with relevant case studies that show the ROI of working with you or purchasing your product. This way you’ll win over new business by continually nurturing them with relevant and convincing content.
Let’s look at two examples where ABM campaigns were a success:
Dmytro Kustov, CMO at Postindustria, on a podcast with Fullfunnel.io, shares how his team generated nine sales-qualified opportunities, three of which became closed deals with a 10x average customer value. In the advertising industry, their clients have big budgets and the sales cycles are long.
By employing tactics like LinkedIn lead generation ads and retargeting ads they were able to bring in high value customers.
Their process was as follows:
Dmytro shares that it was invigorating to see large brand name clients fill out his lead gen forms and invite them to start a sales conversation.
He admits that the customers, on the first call, wouldn’t know where they first heard about their company. That’s because their ads were so pervasive and well-targeted. They would see their ads but not register who they were. It was a subtle but effective marketing campaign.
The ads were successful in warming their audience before directly reaching out to them.
Rollworks provides account based marketers with a platform to build their campaigns. They wanted to improve their own account based marketing approach in 2017 after they learned that their “outbound opportunities that had a marketing touch were 2x more likely to close than outbound deals that did not have a marketing touch.”
They leaned heavily into display ads for their revamped strategy with the goal of getting more meetings and, more importantly, more signed contracts.
They started by running ads specifically to key decision makers at their target accounts with the headshot of the sales rep who was going after them in the ad.
Personalization only works when creating genuine connections. What Rollworks did right was only letting their target accounts see their dedicated sales rep.
When the sales rep launched their direct mail campaign on LinkedIn they would already subconsciously recognize their picture from the ads.
Rollworks was able to decrease their cost per acquisition by 42% with their hyper targeted ads.
By this point, you’re ready to launch your own account based marketing campaign. Having a playbook is invaluable for when you inevitably get in the weeds of identifying your target accounts or building personalized ads.
Use this step-by-step implementation plan to make sure you don’t miss anything when building your ABM campaign.
The first step in your ABM campaign is preparation. ABM requires organized effort from different parts of marketing and sales and at different points. Getting everyone on board and on the same page is necessary if you want a successful account based marketing campaign.
Go to your leadership team with all your data and strategy organized in an easy-to-understand way. Show how ABM is different from other marketing strategies and why it’s worth it.
Get their buy-in for your ABM campaign by sharing stats like “97% of b2b marketers achieved higher ROI with ABM than with any other marketing initiatives.” Or share examples of successful sales and marketing alignment campaigns like the two mentioned in the previous section.
After you have leadership buy-in get your organization on the same page with the plan.
Take the same deck or presentation you put together for leadership and other key stakeholders and present it to the relevant sales and marketing teams. Identify where each stakeholder comes into the campaign and why their role is important.
It’s essential in any ABM campaign that sales know what marketing is doing and vice-versa for ABM success. In this way, your campaigns will seamlessly connect with target accounts without any friction.
Allocation of resources from different teams
When your teams are onboard with your plan, you can then move to get the resources you’ll need to launch your ABM campaign.
Make sure you have:
Having the right resources in place is non-negotiable for a successful ABM campaign.
When you have the tech and tools in place to build your account based marketing strategy, you’ll need the right people on your team that can execute. Find an expert in display ads who can create the comprehensive targeting of your target accounts.
Likewise, prepare your sales reps with their target accounts by getting them to study up on who they are and how to reach them through a structured sales process.
Finally, find a graphic designer who can make display ads that stand out and stick with your prospects so they remember you.
After you have your team and resources in place, it’s time to create your strategic plan for each target account.
You need to know how to reach your individual accounts or everything else in your ABM campaign is useless.
Display ads are common in account based marketing, but success is found in creative approaches to stand out from your competition and get the attention of your target customers.
Display ads are common in account based marketing, but success is found in creative approaches to stand out from your competition and get the attention of your target customers.
Account based marketing owes a lot of its success to the ability to personalize the campaigns. With that in mind, don’t deliver the same approach to each target account.
Segment your target audience to run hyper-personalized campaigns with context to drive more sales.
You can segment them based on user properties like demography, geography, and behavior, to target the right set of customers, and improve conversion opportunities for your ABM campaigns.
You’ve personalized your campaign; now personalize the offer. Will you send them mugs and post-it notes to claim some real estate on their desk? Maybe a gift card to a renowned local restaurant?
Add these “cherry on top” gifts to your customized offer and they’ll have a hard time passing you up to a competitor. You can always offer a discount if all else fails.
When you do get the leads and calls booked, enable your sales team to close by providing sales collateral.
For example, you can produce case studies to give them a sense of FOMO by showing how many customers like them are already experiencing wild success.
As you create assets for your sales team keep in mind that each piece of content should be for a specific target account.
Send the custom content you create, like the case studies mentioned, or customized landing pages to each corresponding target account. Include their logo and how your features and value prop specifically relate to their business.
When your target accounts inevitably reach out to you to respond to your personalized ABM campaigns keep track of them and all the emails that are nurturing them in your CRM.
What gets measured gets managed. Don’t build your account based marketing strategy without a plan to keep track of how successful each tactic is.
Did you move any of these targeted leads down the funnel? Where are the bottlenecks? Are sales closing? Are calls being booked? Are emails being opened? An important metric to keep in mind is your account level penetration data which you can keep track of in your CRM.
Keep a finger on the pulse to make sure your ABM campaign is as efficient as possible.
After each campaign, celebrate your wins but learn from your losses. Talk to your sales team to understand why some customers were lost and others won. Use what you learn in your next campaign.
Account based marketing campaigns are one of the few strategies that cover all areas of the sales cycle. Use personalized outreach campaigns designed to reach specific target accounts made up of the customers you want.
With the right marketing software, it’s easy to track all your touchpoints and share valuable insights across the different teams targeting each account. The visibility of information frees up your team to spend less time gathering context and more time nurturing accounts and making sales.
With this step-by-step guide, you’ll build an account based marketing strategy that gets you the Microsoft and Nike’s of your industry.
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