How to Use Account-Based Marketing to Boost Your Bottom Line

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Account-based marketing or ABM is also referred to as the key account marketing. It may seem like a new buzzword, but account-based marketing has been around awhile. It's basically targeted account marketing.

You identify exactly the key accounts that you want to work with and then you get very specific with your marketing. Account-based marketing is a strategy that focuses on a defined set of accounts. The marketing campaign that is used to reach these target accounts is a personalized campaign which is designed with the intent to close deals. The marketing team works closely with the sales team to identify key prospects and then work to customize a marketing program and messages that target key decision makers at those targeted accounts.   

Account-based marketing requires the alignment of marketing and sales for it to be effective. ABM will often bring the sales and marketing teams together because they have a common goal — secure that account. It's a strategic approach that coordinates personalized marketing and sales efforts. The key to account-based marketing is delivering the right message to the right individual at just the right time. Research shows that account-based marketing is working; over 50% of B2B marketers are testing an account-based pilot.

How Does Account-Based Marketing Work? 

Account-based marketing focuses on one-to-one marketing at the account level versus the lead level. The steps for ABM looks like the following:

  • Identify and target key customer accounts.
  • Reach out using targeted advertising via channels that Your Buyers are Actively Using (e.g.: mobile, video, social, display.)
  • The objective is to reach as many decision makers as you can within an account.  

How do you target the identified account? ABM works by using digital targeting such as an IP Address or cookie-based technology to reach the identified account. You will gain greater value by an ABM Platform that is integrated into your CRM or marketing automation tool. Popular ABM platforms include Demandbase and Terminus.

The integration enables you to choose the ads you want, and it runs multi-channel campaigns across several platforms like mobile, social, video, and display. This provides an excellent opportunity to not only let them engage with you on their terms but to also test what messages work and which ones don’t. 

What’s the Difference Between Account-based Marketing and Content Marketing?

Account-based marketing and content marketing are two of the most effective marketing strategies that companies are using.   

  • Content marketing is a marketing strategy that pulls in prospects that are interested in a particular topic that is related to the services or products that you offer. Content can consist of whitepapers, graphics, infographics, blogs, etc. It requires little effort but can reap great rewards if done correctly. It builds an influencer reputation for the business and authority over time. However, it can also be difficult to predict the quality of leads, if any, that your content will pull in. You must be consistent with content marketing, and it's not a one-and-done approach. Don't create awesome rockstar content and then let the quality of that content drop because you run out of time or you are bored with the strategy. Content marketing is not as easy as it used to be since everyone is producing and providing free content, so you'll have to find a way to impress and stand out from the crowd when it comes to your content. 
  • Account-based marketing focuses on creating content and marketing strategies that are focused on specific accounts and customers that have been identified as key to your business. With account-based marketing, you specifically target the companies you are after with your campaign and messaging. This approach will help to align your sales and marketing teams and drive better quality leads to your business. The content is easier to produce because it's specific and you can use technology to target those key accounts specifically. Specific target means your message has to be right on point, and there is no room for error.

Is one better than the other? They are both important when it comes to your marketing strategies. You can also re-purpose the content within each strategy with a few tweaks, so it's not necessarily double the work to integrate both within your marketing efforts. 

Sounds Complicated, What About the Small Business? 

In the past, account-based marketing was only entertained and adopted by mid-size to large businesses because of the required technology and resources. Is that still the case today? Not if you are a small business that can later focus on the accounts you want to target. If you can do that, just follow these steps, and you'll be on your way to implementing account-based marketing:

  • Build Your ABM Strategy: You'll need a strategy and a clear goal. What do you want to gain from account-based marketing? You need to identify your objectives because a mission unknown is one you will never achieve. 
  • Identify Your Key Accounts: Who are the key accounts you want to target? Don't just focus on the new business; consider existing customers that you may have lost touch with. Start small; perhaps 5 - 10 key accounts, to begin with, call this your beta and use 1 or 2 to fine-tune your process. As you get better, expand.
  • Align Your Team: One of the great benefits of ABM is that it aligns your marketing and sales teams. Identify the roles and chart the timelines from start to follow-up. Involve marketing in the sales process and get collaboration from your sales team on content strategy.
  • Prime Them on Social: While you're working on messaging, get social with your key accounts. Follow them on social media channels and engage, share content, and interact. Your goal is to build a relationship and show that you are human.
  • Craft the Message and Identify the Channels: Your content has to speak to the key accounts you've identified, and there is no room for generic fluff here. If you don't grab their attention, you'll annoy them. You can re-purpose old content, but you'll need to customize it for the key accounts you've identified. Identify the content and the channel. Value is not optional here; it's a requirement. You've got one shot, make it worth their time. Use a variety of channels and use a variety of messages, but just remember the key is that every message is about them.
  • Qualify and Manage Accounts: Determine how you will qualify and manage the account. Set the criteria for when a key account becomes a marketing qualified account (MQA). Identify when an account becomes MQA and when it will be handed off to sales.

Monitor and Measure

With any marketing strategy, monitoring and measuring results are the keys to the success of a campaign. Focus on the following metrics:

  • Reach: Are your campaigns reaching the right accounts and people? Track new accounts reached and generated from your ABM campaign.
  • Conversion: Is your campaign driving action? Are they clicking on your ad, completing forms, requesting demos, or visiting your website? Dig into your web analytics, do a reverse IP lookup and see if there is any web traffic from your key accounts. Use your conversion metrics to optimize your campaign. If your conversion metrics are low, your message may not be making the impact that you desire, and it may be time to do some A/B testing.
  • Engagement: How is the engagement level of your key accounts? Where are they engaging with you? Has the engagement gone up over time? Measure the activity of key accounts and their engagement with you. This will help to determine if your campaign is driving your objective and overall goal. Just a side note; businesses will often determine a marketing qualified account based on engagement levels.
  • Deal Influence: Using ABM, you should be able to shorten the awareness and research phase of the buyer's journey. In return, this should shorten your overall sales cycle. How many interactions did it take to secure a meeting or contract? Your sales cycle length can serve as an impact gauge for your account-based marketing campaigns. 

Marketing Technology Tools that Help

As you can see, many details go into account-based marketing; it can seem overwhelming at first, and while you can do it manually, there are a variety of tools you can look into. For example, most companies running an account-based marketing strategy have the following in their marketing toolbox:

  • Predictive sales analytics and sales intelligence: Using this tool, you can gather data regarding demographics, web data about users, accounts, and the prioritization of the account.
  • Lead management and marketing automation: This tool bridges the gap between a lead and an account. You can use them to build lists of targeted accounts, nurture accounts on multiple channels, and report on the overall impact of your account-based marketing campaign.
  • Content Marketing and Personalization: This is the tool you'll depend on if you need help targeting accounts that are interested in your content, or how to determine what content is relevant to a particular account. 
  • Ad Serving and Retargeting: It displays and segment advertising at the account level, and it's based on the engagement of the account.