According to Adam Sarner, Managing VP of Gartner, Account-based marketing (ABM) is "an approach to traditional B2B lead management and B2B relationship management that uses predictive lead scoring, personalized content, and programmatic advertising techniques to target and engage identified accounts and individuals across all stages of the buying process."
More simply, we at R2i see account-based marketing as the strategic alignment of marketing and sales to effectively segment, target, and deliver personalized marketing campaigns to high-potential and high-value accounts.
For lack of a better analogy, we can compare traditional broad-based inbound marketing strategies to fishing with a large net; it’s effective and will catch quite a bit, but not everything you catch will be what you were hoping for. Contrarily, we can compare account-based marketing to highly scalable spearfishing; it’s more targeted, more efficient, and more likely to yield the return you were aiming for.
Account-based marketing is far from breaking news. In fact, according to Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst, Laura Ramos, ABM hasn’t been new since 2004. What makes it buzz-worthy today is the fact that marketing technologies have made it much easier to scale this targeted approach and have given organizations more robust access to (and understanding of) customer data than they’ve ever had before.
B2B organizations seeking to improve ROI of their marketing campaigns are finding success by hypertargeting the business prospects that are most likely to produce higher value for their organization. In fact, “97% of marketers achieved a higher ROI with ABM than with any other marketing initiative”, according to the Alterra Group.
1. First and foremost, you need to become a customer-obsessed organization. At the heart of ABM strategy is the ability to live and breathe your customer data. A common misconception about ABM is that you need to always target specific singular business accounts. The actuality of this approach can indeed include singular business accounts, but it can also include account groups or niches – groups of businesses, business types, or verticals that share commonalities which can be segmented. To set your business up for ABM success, take the time to thoroughly understand the needs and challenges of your target audiences, using customer analytics and persona research to identify overarching patterns.
2. Gain organizational buy-in. For ABM to be successful, both sales and marketing teams need to be fully aligned on goals, objectives, and metrics. If the goal of sales is to spear a barracuda, the goal of marketing also needs to be spearing that barracuda, and vice versa. ABM resources will be allocated differently compared to an inbound marketing strategy, so the whole organization will need to be on board and ready to shift.
3. Identify the barracudas. If you’re already customer-obsessed, you know who your barracudas are. They’re the high-value accounts that are likely to have the highest propensity to buy your services, stay on as long-term customers, and become your greatest advocates. They deserve your personalized attention. Make sure that your marketing and sales teams are aligned on who these accounts are, and who the decision-makers are within them.
4. Deliver personalized campaigns. Personalization relies on sound customer data and your organization’s ability to tailor messaging, content, and experiences to target audiences on the channels (and in the moments) they wish to communicate. Odds are, you’re already working on a personalization strategy. To implement ABM, take your personalization strategy up a level by creating personalized content and multichannel engagements for each of the individual accounts—or segment of accounts—that you’ve identified.
5. “Measure, Analyze, and Optimize.” The saying goes, “if you’re not measuring, you’re practicing.” Establishing metrics, KPIs, and benchmarks for success will keep your organization on track to reach its goals and doing so will allow you to pivot your ABM strategy as needed to optimize results. Keep in mind that your revenue model for an ABM strategy will differ from that of a broad-based strategy, so your metrics for each stage of the funnel will also differ. A few key metrics for each stage of the funnel may include:
Lastly, don’t forget the MarTech Stack. As noted previously, ABM has taken flight in recent years due to the advancing capabilities of marketing technology. Choosing the right stack to complement your ABM personalization strategy is crucial to scalability. It’s easy to get distracted by the bells and whistles that some platforms provide, but stay focused. Be sure to consider how these ABM platforms integrate with your brand’s current technology landscape and directly contribute to your marketing objectives.
Good luck, and happy fishing!
No barracudas were harmed in the making of this article.