What Is Account-Based Marketing? A Complete Guide To ABM

Every sales rep knows the frustration of sorting through piles of prospective leads, and then still having to do all the work of actually attracting those leads and convincing them to buy.

Well, imagine a universe where every lead is high-quality and you can start the sales process focused on the best fitting accounts with high value. How much time could be saved on making every sale? The potential would be endless.

This is exactly what account based marketing (ABM) makes possible. By aligning sales and marketing, ABM can promote long-term growth to compliment the more old school sales values of short-term lead generation.

Studies have found that now over 70% of B2B marketers use ABM focused strategies. So now is the perfect time to jump aboard the ABM ship.

In this guide we're going to give you a complete understanding of the fundamentals of account based marketing, and help you understand how to successfully use it for your own business.

What is account based marketing?

ABM is a focused marketing strategy that implements heavily personalised marketing campaigns, targeting specific companies, rather than larger groups.

Essentially this reverses the traditional methods of lead-generation. By starting at the other end of the sales 'funnel', you first identify the highest-value and most suitable accounts and target them on a personal level. There is a far greater focus on identifying your ideal customer, and trying to suit their needs on a one-to-one basis.

How is account based marketing different to old-school marketing?

Most marketers will be familiar with the more classic methods of marketing to businesses, which involves making a generalised campaign to appeal to a large number of prospective accounts, then designing more specific content to few that you have deemed ideal.

With ABM however, the strategy is implemented by spending considerable time identifying and researching your ideal accounts. Once you've done this, you then launch a campaign with the goal of appealing to and influencing the key decision makers at that organisation. By working on such a personal basis, ABM often leads to far higher rates of customer satisfaction.

This drives an increase in return on investment (ROI) and can lead to long-lasting connections and brand loyalty from satisfied clients.

What are the benefits of using account based marketing?

At its core, ABM is all about building relationships with the accounts that offer the most value to you.

But ABM has a number of other benefits that will help any business. We're going to take you through 5 of the most significant benefits ABM has to offer.

1. Increase in return on investment (ROI)

ROI is important in every aspect of business, but for marketing it is an absolute essential. If a business is going to invest in marketing, it will want to see a return.

Well, this is where ABM comes in. Recent research has shown that 87% of marketers for B2B companies found an increase in ROI when using ABM over any other technique.

These kinds of numbers are exactly what's driving the boom in use of ABM.

It can also become easier to identify and measure your ROI, since you target fewer accounts. Another benefit of this is you can tell whether a particular account you chose to invest time and resources into is right for your business.

2. Develop lasting relationships with valuable accounts to expand your business

The key to successful ABM is focus. Focusing significant time, effort and resources into each and every high-value account you identify. And one effect of this is that you tend to develop deeper, longer lasting relationships.

You can then expand your business by retaining those valuable customers for even longer, making every sale more worthwhile.

The close relationships that develop as a result of the personalised nature of ABM also lead businesses to become loyal to your company, which in itself is a great source of marketing and promotion.

3. Properly aligning sales and marketing

It's essential that for ABM to work, the sales and marketing teams of your company must be well aligned. This ensures that all interactions with your target account are consistent, and regardless of how long you do business with an account, team members from either department can easily pick up where others left off. This helps create a flawless customer experience.

This new alignment will also benefit your company in other ways. It's always beneficial to have improved communication and collaboration across different teams in an organisation. According to new research from Forrester, organisations with well aligned sales and marketing teams will see, on average, a 32% increase in annual revenue growth. And this is simply a by-product of ABM.

4. Improved customer experience

As we mentioned before, a large part of successful ABM is about delivering a personalised experience to the highest-value customers. But it is also important that the relationship is consistent.

This is due to the fact that relationships born out of ABM tend to last far longer than other B2B relationships. Often they will last several months, and sometimes even years. So it's important that once you find a working formula, that you continue delivering it consistently, to avoid losing the loyalty of the account.

What you want to achieve with ABM is to give customers the impression that they are your only client, because every interaction and communication is so tailor-made to suit them. If you manage this, why would they ever want to stop doing business with you?

5. More efficient sales cycles

A traditional sales cycle tends to look something like the following:

  1. Prospect for leads
  2. Connect with a business
  3. Research the business
  4. Present your product
  5. Overcome any customer objections
  6. Close the sale
  7. Satisfy the business

This is a fairly long process and can be time-consuming. It will also often only lead to shallow, short-lasting relationships.

With ABM, the cycle is stream-lined and made more efficient, by focusing entirely on high-quality accounts. This way you spend less time on the aspects of the cycle that only result in a few, low-value leads, and more time pleasing clients that will actually increase your revenue.

A sales cycle using ABM looks like this:

  1. Identify high-quality target accounts
  2. Present to target accounts
  3. Close the sale
  4. Satisfy accounts

It's also notable that closing a sale and retaining customers with ABM is typically far easier due to the work done in identifying suitable accounts and the alignment of sales and marketing.

All in all, this far more efficient method will bring in better accounts and help you to avoid wasted time and resources. There really is no downside.

How to implement account based marketing?

So, now you know what ABM is, and you understand the great benefits it can have for your business, you're probably wondering: how do I implement ABM at my company?

Well, we're going to walk you through the key steps to successfully implement ABM at your own business. So read on to see how you can use the most effective B2B marketing strategy around.

Step 1: Define and identify target accounts

The first step is to identify your ideal customers. Forget the more traditional marketing methods of targeting specific personas and individuals, and instead think about marketing to entire organisation. In many ways, this is the most critical thing to learn, and also the most difficult, as for some it can feel like re-learning marketing from scratch.

Once you've been able to make this distinction, you'll want to begin your marketing. Start out by defining your ideal accounts. Think about criteria such as:

  • Size of organisation
  • Location of organisation
  • Whether you're targeting a specific industry
  • Annual revenue

These are just a few ideas. You'll want to go into as much detail as you can to identify what makes an account perfect for your business.

Once you've done this, you'll know what kind of accounts you need to go after to maximise your profits.

This process will take significant research and should not be taken for granted. If you don't do this properly, then it's unlikely that the strategy will succeed.

Remember to take advantage of your front-line employees, usually in sales, during this process. They have the best experience when it comes to dealing with clients. Then try to find data that can back-up what those employees are saying. If you're able to do this, it's a good sign you're on the right track.

Step 2: Research target accounts

So now you have an outline of what your ideal customer looks like, it's time to go and find the real-world companies that fit those criteria.

You'll want to get your best sales strategists focusing on this, because doing this step right will make everything else so much easier.

Once you identify an organisation that fits your definition, you'll want to dig deeper. You're going to be building a personalised campaign designed to convince this company to do business with you, so you need to know who the key decision makers are within those companies.

You'll really have to get to know these organisations inside out, so make sure to utilise social networks and anyone within your company who has had dealings with the target accounts before.

Once you've gathered all the knowledge possible about the company, you can start to strategise about what will appeal to them and how you can influence the key decision makers that work there.

Step 3: Create a personalised campaign

Let's take stock of where we are. You've defined your ideal customer, identified them, done thorough research into what makes them tick and strategised on how to influence their key stakeholders. Now is the time to make use of all that research and put your plan into action.

Forget everyone else and design content that will appeal specifically to the target account. With all the research you've done, you should now know what will influence them most.

Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself: how do we solve their problems better than anyone else?

The content should be heavily personalised, giving the impression that your company is the absolute perfect fit for this client. At this stage, your entire business needs to be collaborating effectively. Content creators, designers, sales and marketing all need to be working together to ensure that the content and messaging that's going out will engage with the account.

For ABM to be a success, you need to launch your campaign through the best channels. Of course, the target accounts have to actually see your content in order for it to appeal to them. So, make sure you know where those key stakeholders are most likely to spend their time online. Will it be on LinkedIn or Facebook? Or are they more likely to see you in Google ads on specific websites?

Despite this you'll still want a broad range of channels for your campaign. You're not only targeting the individuals within the organisation but also the organisation as a whole. Don't limit yourself unnecessarily and think strategically.

All of this will need to be well researched in order for the campaign to go off without a hitch.

Step 4: Run your campaign

At this point, most of the hard work has already been done. Now it's time to sit back and run the campaign.

One thing you'll need to learn is to find a balance with how to release your content. You don't want to start off too slow, so that the content is just trickling out and the targets don't take notice. But you also don't want to be releasing it so fast that you're overwhelming your audience. Perfecting this balance might take a couple of attempts.

The campaign needs to feel natural. You don't want your prospect feeling like they are being harassed. Striking the right chord can be tricky, but this is the job of good marketers.

Step 5: Analyse your campaign

So, the campaign has been run. How did it go? Be honest with yourself, there's no point in trying to convince yourself it was a success if you didn't satisfy the prospects' needs. But at the same time give yourself credit for the things you did right: at least you can use those skills again, in future campaigns.

There are many ways to measure the success of the campaign, some of which can be answered by the following questions:

  • Did the campaign generate revenue? If so, how much?
  • Did the target client engage with you during the campaign? Did any other organisations engage as a result of the campaign?
  • If the target client engaged, were you then able to close a sale?
  • What was the strongest aspect of your campaign? Will you be able to repeat this in all future campaigns?
  • What was the weakest aspect of your campaign? Can you improve this for future campaigns?
  • Did you correctly identify an ideal account?
  • Did the content you created appeal to the prospect? Was any of the content a waste of time?

Don't give up if the campaign wasn't as successful as you'd hoped. One of the great things about ABM is that it is easy to see how well you optimised it, so use this to your advantage. Identify what went wrong and fix it for next time. No one is going to perfect the formula with their first try.

On the other hand, if you fully engaged the client and closed a sale then you can consider your campaign a success. Congratulations! You've made your first big step into the future of marketing.

Summary

Account based marketing is changing the game when it comes to B2B relationships. Gone are the days of sifting through mountains of prospective leads, just to find one, low-value client, that you have a short and shallow relationship with.

With ABM, the name of the game is focus. Focusing on the right accounts, with the right ideals. This is the way to build successful, profitable and personal connections with high-quality organisations, and expand your own business in the process.

So embrace the modern way of marketing, with ABM.

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