Getting started with Account-Based Marketing (ABM)


No so long ago, I started working with a London based marketing agency who were after some marketing support. This agency needed support on delivering a brand-new marketing tactic. If you read the title before clicking, you’ll probably know that I’m talking about Account-based marketing. At the time, ABM was starting to take off and the agency in question wanted support delivering hyper-personalised, mobile-ready content (so not your run of a mill PDF). This was my first introduction to the ABM approach.

Since then I’ve been supporting companies all over the UK to deliver ABM marketing strategies. And with good reason. ABM is perfect for companies who have a high-value solution or a complex value proposition. By design, ABM works superbly in the B2B space and compared to the scattergun approach of other strategies, ABM’s targeted approach often leads to much higher returns over time.

What is ABM?

Marketing. The first thing that probably springs to mind when you hear that, is how to send a message to as many people as you can. ABM is the opposite. Instead of marketing to the masses, ABM focuses your marketing efforts on a select few accounts that you want new business from. As such, the structure of ABM campaigns changes from demographics and people, to firmographics and companies.

Account-based Marketing VS General marketingIn essence, high-value accounts and prospects are identified, stakeholders in these businesses (accounts) are targeted, and then marketing campaigns are run via a variety of channels to appeal to their specific needs and challenges (the persona). Think of it like personalised marketing on steroids.

Should you be using ABM?

Now that you have a basic understanding of what ABM is, you might be wondering if it’s for you. The most obvious reason to pursue account-based marketing is the much higher ROI it can deliver. In a research piece by Marketo – An Adobe Company, they found that 97% of respondents saw a “somewhat higher” or “much higher” ROI with ABM campaigns than any other marketing campaigns. 

But don’t think ABM is going to work with every business. Account-based marketing has generated a buzz, but it certainly isn’t the right approach for every business. In fact, ABM is usually only used in the B2B market, where large to enterprise-level companies are the target. And ABM works so well here due to the complex buying committee and, usually, a high number of stakeholders involved in the sale.

So, if you’re a small “mum & pop” corner store selling sweets, ABM isn’t going to work as you’d be selling low-value items in bulk to a wide audience. However, if you’re the sweet manufacturer and are looking to sell your sweets to a distributor (or vice-versa), then ABM would be perfect because of the lasting relationship built would turn into a high-value account.

If you do think ABM will work for you, you might be wondering why should you be using it? Well, we’ve already mentioned the higher ROI, but are there any other benefits? Yes, there are. Another core benefit of ABM is it’s internal align between sales, marketing and account management. ABM gives these departments a mutual goal to focus on, which can easily set your business up for longer-term success.

But don’t think it’ll be plain sailing. ABM can be tricky to implement, but, once you have gotten the strategy down the returns can be tremendous and well worth the effort invested.

6 steps to get started!

If you’ve been marketing for some time, taking a new approach like account-based marketing is like learning a new language. Instead of targeting persona’s and demographics, with ABM your targeting organisations and firmographics.

This simple change completely changes the playing field, and as such, your strategic and tactical approach needs to change too. Below we’ve outlined some simple steps to get you started on the right foot:

1. Identify your target accounts 🔎

With ABM you aren’t targeting people, demographics or even persona’s. With account-based marketing, your “Chatty Cathy” or “Enterprise Edward” persona takes a back seat in favour of targeting key companies or accounts that could become high-value clients. It’s a small, but vital distinction, and something you need to get your head around if you want to start on the right foot.

So, the first thing you’ll want to do is identify these accounts. Just like building a persona, you’ll want to figure out the common makeup of your current accounts that bring you the highest MMR (Monthly recurring revenue). Instead of looking at the people at these high-value companies, you want to look at the company itself. Things like the company’s industry, size, location, annual revenue, profit margin, upsell opportunity, etc. This will create an organisation persona if you like, which you can then use to identify similar companies to target.

This process will be a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research. You’ll want to speak to your employees who work on the front-line with customers and prospects as they’ll have the most insight into these accounts. You’ll then want to back up the information they provide you with data. This will ensure your heading in the right direction.

2. Become Sherlock Holmes! 🕵️

Now that you know what these whale organisations look like, it’s time to gather some strategic thinkers to hunt them down. Your objective here is to identify companies that match the makeup of the ones you looked at earlier. Once you have them in your sights, you’ll want to keep digging to find out who the stakeholders are. 

From here it’s time to get your head around the company’s internal structure and decision making. You’ll want to figure out how the decisions are made, who is involved, who has the final say. This will allow you to identify the “decision-maker”.

It’s also worthwhile identifying the decision influencers. These are people who work at your target account and influence the decision-maker’s choice. The decision-influencers will often work for the decision-maker and are usually easier to engage.

As a part of your research, we suggest gathering contact information for these contacts where possible as well as social profiles. Effective ABM uses a whole collection of marketing channels to engage with contacts, so gathering this intelligence now will save you time and money later. 

Once you have a clear pitch of your target account, you’ll want to consolidate all of that information together, so it is easy for everyone to see. This is what is referred to as a Firmographic. To get you started, we’ve created a customisable Firmographic template which you can download here!

3. Turn up your personalisation game to the max ❤️

Now it’s time to put the intelligence you’ve gathered to good use, by creating content that speaks directly to these stakeholders and organisations. During your research phase, you’ll have discovered what pain points the decision-makers are facing. That knowledge now needs to be used so you can create tailored content which showcases how you can solve these pains.

Keep in mind that account-based marketing is all about personalisation and making your content resonate with your end audience. Make sure it speaks specifically to them.

You’ll want to work with your design and sales teams to ensure the content is visually engaging, as well as delivering the right message to these key stakeholders.

4. Identify where your audience is. 🗺️

Marketing 101 teaches us we need to be where our audience is. This is still true with account-based marketing. You need to promote your ABM content like any other content, but this time instead of going to the masses, you want it to be in front of the stakeholders. The better your research was, the better you’ll be able to target the stakeholders, which means cheaper advertising costs. This is something to keep in mind when creating an ABM campaign.

As a part of your research, you should have identified where these stakeholders engage with content. You’ll want to use this knowledge to focus your effort on those specific channels or mediums.

Something to remember here is ABM is a powerful strategy for both digital channels and more traditional ones. Telemarketing/Inside Sales, Print Media (Newspapers, Magazines etc) and even Direct Mail are all very powerful channels to use in an ABM campaign. Most companies instantly hop at email and social media, but this isn’t always the best approach. It all depends on your audience.

When it does come to social media, however, Facebook and LinkedIn are the two most powerful social media networks for ABM campaigns as they allow you to target organisation, as well as specific titles in those organisations.

5. He shoots… ⚽

All the preparation work should now be completed. So now it’s time to run your campaign! Hoorah!

And like any marketing campaign, don’t just let it run without monitoring it. When it comes to ABM, it’s more crucial to keep a close eye on it as the costs can very quickly spiral out of control if not properly managed. 

It’s also worth remembering, you’re targeting specific accounts with limited numbers of people there. Don’t overwhelm them by bombarding them with content over and over. Make sure you don’t abuse your remarketing powers, as all you’ll end up doing more harm than good.

6. …He scores?! 🥅

Once your campaign has been running for some time, roughly 30-60 days, it is time to measure and evaluate your account-based marketing effectiveness. You’ll want to ask critical questions like:

  • Was our personalised content engaging enough? If so, how?
  • Are we gathering more stakeholder intelligence?
  • Are our target accounts becoming more engaged with us?
  • Did you move any of the target accounts down the funnel?
  • What could we do better going forward?

Just like everything in life, if the result you got on your first time around isn’t what you wanted, don’t give up. Try it again! ABM still has an element of trial and error, and the only way to get it to work properly is experimenting to see what works and that sometimes means failing and sometimes winning.

To get started with your ABM campaign, check out our Firmographic template:

Firmographic Template CTA

Joe Green

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