Imagine a world where you could start the sales process by selling directly to your best-fit, highest-value accounts. Don’t try to market your business to leads that are unqualified and not a good fit for your company. This is a waste of time. This means that you can move on to the next stages, which are engaging and delighting your target accounts.
Talk about efficiency, right?
Account Based Marketing allows you to get rid of companies that aren’t worth your time early on, and makes sure that Marketing and Sales are always on the same page. As a result, your team can spend more time focusing on the important task of making sure your best customers are happy.
ABM helps you to focus your business’ attention on high-value accounts and treat them as if they were separate markets. If you want to see a greater ROI and a boost in customer loyalty, you need to personalize the buyer’s journey and tailor all communications, content, and campaigns to those specific accounts.
What is account-based marketing?
ABM is a strategy where Marketing and Sales work together to create unique experiences for a set of high-value accounts that have been mutually agreed upon.
ABM is outbound with marketing support
What is account based marketing?
At the core—ABM is smart outbound.
Signals that a prospect is in-market for a solution include things like visiting relevant websites, downloading relevant content, or attending relevant events. The process of ABM is to try and figure out which accounts could be potential customers that are currently in the market. This is done by looking at various factors, such as whether they have visited specific websites or if they have been researching solutions.
The book does not say it explicitly, but the signals you capture during the AMB feed can be used to create an email sequence or advertisement that will lead someone to your website, where they can fill out a form.
Prospects who are in-market for a solution are not guaranteed to buy your particular solution. In order to be successful, you need to email, call, and ‘spam’ prospects. No one is going to show up and give you a check for $100,000. Any marketing strategy worth its salt will begin with finding the right target customers.
Who does ABM make sense for?
If you are in the business of selling to other businesses, you are aware that the market is large and has a lot of competition. You can sell a straightforward piece of technology to small businesses who will pay for it. If that is the case, you sell more because the amount of money per customer is low, but because you sell a high volume, the total amount of money you make is still high.
The way you sell & market will be different. Selling software to large enterprise companies is much more complex than selling it to smaller businesses.
The software may be used by multiple departments and the person who buys it may not be the only one using it today. The people paying for the software may not be the users or the buyers.
In this situation, the customer is paying a significant amount of money for a product or service that is not widely available and may have additional features or benefits. The way large companies purchase software is very different than how individuals or small businesses do. This distinction is something many marketers often mix.
In most cases, ABM should not be the primary GTM strategy. Sorry, but ABM is not B2B, nor is it right for all markets, business models, or companies (just like every company should not be running freemium aka PLG for acquisition.) Which brings us to our next question:
Is ABM right for your business?
Is ABM right for you? The rule of thumb I follow is:
In this range, it’s likely that account-based marketing will work because there’s a narrow set of accounts you can go after. For example, Guestlogix sells to a limited number of high-value customers who are likely to stay with the company for a long time. A higher ACV or value of a customer means that it is justified to spend more money on a campaign to convert the customer. For example, buying billboards around airline offices and conferences.
If the TAM (total available market) is large and the ACV (average contract value) is small, then the company should focus on inbound and demand generation. This is because there is likely already a demand for the product that can be tapped into through SEO, social media, and content marketing.
This means that it costs less to switch to a different provider, that customers are more likely to leave, and that each customer is worth less in the long run. You should deploy low-touch campaigns in order to convert a higher volume of customers.
That’s a high level view, now let’s walk through an example scenario for each:
Most B2B sales cycles are account-based and not end-user-based. For SMB buying cycles, the customer value is lower and the complexity and requirements are less sophisticated. In this case, you can do high-velocity sales or self-service— and let customers self educate & self onboard without the need to talk to sales because it’s straightforward enough no additional help is needed.
Typically, this model is also advantageous for the company because a lower price leaves less room to support a costly sales and marketing process–which leaves more room for profit margins. Many companies in this market use inbound/freemium strategies to acquire customers.
The needs of a customer with a F500 are much more complex than a regular customer, and thus they are worth more to the company on a yearly and lifetime basis.
Since the buying cycle is more complicated, this means that more time and effort is required to sell and market the product. When thinking about the various elements that make up a company’s sales infrastructure (such as a long sales cycle or the need for marketing teams to generate interest), it’s easy to see how complex it can be.
The company has more room to support post-sales activities because each customer pays a significant amount of money. This helps cover the company’s overhead and cost of goods. It’s more economically beneficial to invest more to acquire a customer because the customer is worth more in the long run.
This is where you’ll see more ABM plays. Selling into a larger organization involves different stakeholders. If you want to be successful in selling to a particular account, you need to find a way to get your foot in the door with that account. This may involve targeting a specific individual or department within the account.
Marketers can be self-centric
I find that marketers tend to overestimate their own abilities. We like to think that we have a greater impact on the business than we actually do. There are many different aspects to running a business, and marketing is just one of them. In the case of ABM, it is more accurate to say that ‘outbound sales’ is the main function, with marketing playing a supporting role.
ABM tech vendors want to win awards to sell more customers and create a sense of fear of missing out. Technology has enabled us to create better and more relevant experiences for prospects and allow us to target people very specifically. This text is talking about Facebook ads that are targeted at specific demographics and interests, and how these ads have better attribution than ads that are not targeted. Although it can be beneficial to work hard, there is a point where it is no longer effective and can actually start to have negative consequences.
The main challenge with ABM is finding the right accounts to target. Sounds simple.
The part of the practice that does not get attention is unfortunate. It is the work that is not glamorous – finding common patterns among your customers such as industry revenue, location, and finding more companies that fit into a similar category.
ABM Technologies Landscape
There are a lot of vendors that provide ABM tech, just like there are a lot of vendors that provide martech. There are both traditional CRM / MAP tools that can be used for ABM and new-age solutions that need to be integrated into your CRM to be valuable. They have an ambitious roadmap, but their development is spread too thin. There are also systems that try to be the all-in-one solution, but their development is spread too thin to be successful.
Although you may believe that you do not need a CRM or MAP to sales automation, the irony is that you actually do. Always in addition to your tech stack and at an additional cost on top of everything else.
Here’s a breakdown of a few:
DemandBase: More of an all-in-one tool, DemandBase is trying to become the CRM / MAP for ABM teams
Here’s what it does account for:
- Lookalike modeling [give it a set of accounts & it’ll find more accounts like it]
- IP lookup
- Intent data [who’s in the market]
- Lead & company data [zoominfo]
- Display ****advertising
- Lead to account matching [route & auto-convert lead to contact under the right account in your salesforce]
- Personalization for websites
6Sense – same as DemandBase, in-fact they might just be direct competitors.
Terminus is more focused on the ads side and helps to deliver display ads to the right accounts through a mix of 1st & 3rd party cookies & IP. They’ve recently added the ability to create lists & manage accounts inside the platform but you still need to plug it into a CRM.
Account-Based Marketing Strategy
You’ll need a sound strategy in place to get the most out of an account-based marketing approach. Consider following these steps to create and implement an effective account-based marketing strategy.
1. Create alignment between your sales and marketing teams.
Marketing-sales alignment is crucial for successful account-based marketing implementation. A customer’s buying experience will be more seamless if they are acquired as a lead and then transition to the final sale without any issues.
To improve communication and collaboration between marketing and sales, both teams need to agree on a common goal and work together to ensure that the marketing team is acquiring leads that the sales team can successfully sell to.
2. Conduct research to determine account personas.
If marketing and sales teams work together, they can make sure that your company’s target audience is the right one.
The first step is usually to do some research to figure out which accounts to go after. When identifying customer personas for an account-based marketing approach, marketers should consider:
- The mission, vision, and business objectives of their ideal customer.
- If any high-value accounts are currently engaging with your company’s Inbound approach.
- The current stage of business maturity, company size, and growth trajectory.
- Revenue model, and spending patterns.
- The tools and platforms their ideal customer is currently using.
3. Create account plans.
After figuring out which accounts to target, the next step is to create account plans. The marketing and sales teams need to work together to map out the potential leads they need to attract to reach their target accounts and produce the content they need to engage with this audience.
When creating an account plan for your ABM strategy, keep these best practices in mind:
- Though account plans for different customers can have some similarities, each plan should be tailored to the needs of that particular account.
- Each account plan should be able to address these two questions: Who is included in the buying decision for this sale (e.g. decision maker, influencer, Legal, blockers, end-users)? What content is needed for each member of this buying committee?
4. Attract contacts associated with target accounts.
If you use Inbound methodology, you will ideally be able to attract contacts from your target accounts. Your next step, if you need additional contacts, is to find out where your ideal contacts go to find solutions to the problems you can help them with, and make sure your company is visible in these places.
Getting in front of your contacts through events, industry publications, and targeted ad placements is a great way to build relationships and grow your business. Although it might be appealing to try to get exposure for your business through all the channels that are available to you, it is more important to focus on the channels that would be most interested in your company.
5. Get the buying committee involved.
Make sure to build relationships with key contacts from both sales and marketing, as they will be involved in the buying decision.
At this point in the buying process, sales typically takes the lead, but marketing should be ready to support by creating relevant materials that reinforce the message.
To measure the health of an ABM strategy, marketing and sales teams can use the following metrics:
- Identifying the buyers associated with target accounts and tracking interactions with these buyers.
- Data points related to the health of the deal—creation date, velocity, and close rate.
- Revenue attributed to target accounts.
This strategy can be used by your marketing and sales organizations to attract and retain high-value customers.
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