It feels like everyone is talking about ABM these days. According to a survey by LeanData, 85% of respondents are beginning or continuing to invest in account-based marketing initiatives. So maybe everyone actually is talking about it!
Account-based marketing (ABM) is both new and not so new. B2B companies that sell to large enterprises have long been using it as an important marketing approach. They are selective about which events to sponsor, what titles and companies to target with email, and how to invest their advertising dollars. Yet technology has advanced in recent years to allow a more scalable approach to ABM.
While growing in popularity, many of the marketers we’ve spoken to are still trying to wrap their heads around what ABM is, decide if it is an appropriate strategy for their businesses, and determine how to get started. Books like Sangram Vajre’s Account-Based Marketing for Dummies, events like #FlipMyFunnel, and a host of explanatory blog posts and articles have stepped in to help answer these questions.
We’ve compiled some insights from a number of experts in the space to help get you started in a brief ABM 101 lesson.
How is ABM different from inbound marketing?
Traditional demand generation is like fishing with a net: you put your campaign out there, e.g. a whitepaper or webinar or search campaign, and you start catching “fish.” You don’t care which specific fish you catch, as long as you catch enough fish in total. From there, you use nurturing and scoring to run them through the funnel with the goal that opportunities and customers come out the end. This is the model I’ve been using (and preaching) for years at Marketo, and when done well it can be remarkably effective.
But, there is another type of marketer out there, one who is going after “big fish” with spears and harpoons. These marketers are supporting sales teams that are closing six- and seven-figure deals (or more), focusing on a specific list of named accounts (often selected based on revenue potential and industry fit). Account-based marketing is all about supporting this kind of marketing.
Why is ABM gaining traction now?
Three things: technology; data and analytics; and the willingness of sales to collaborate with marketing. All of these are a whole lot better than they used to be. From the technology angle, there are great tools available to enable scalable, targeted outreach to specific accounts and the right people in them, via both inbound and outbound interactions. These tools are designed to integrate with typical sales force and marketing automation platforms, and still more solutions are delivering the ability to link a broader set of tools and processes across the complete customer experience spectrum.
Technology developments are erasing concerns that ABM must be a manual, resource-intensive effort that can’t scale. We see more tools being purpose-built for ABM, and services companies are expanding their ABM capabilities to meet market demand.
How should marketers get started with an ABM strategy?
The best way to roll out, in my opinion, is by doing pilot campaigns with buy-in from sales leadership. Imagine running a campaign, targeting accounts the sales team cares about—and then marketing executes an air-cover campaign on those accounts with advertising, direct mail, personalized content, and customized webinars to create both engagement and excitement in those accounts.
You are guaranteed to win the sales team over, and in turn win over your customers. Start by showing account-by-account engagement and drop the vanity metrics like leads, impressions, and clicks as success metrics.
What is the most important ABM tactic?
What’s new about ABM is the ability to deliver highly personalized marketing to key accounts. For example, online advertising can now be directed at specific companies and even specific people within those companies.
But after working so hard to gain the attention of potential buyers, what happens next? As much as we would love it, they’re not likely to send you an email or give you a call. If they’re interested, they will visit your site. So the most important ABM tactic we can deploy – and the one that will maximize the odds of marketing putting a target account lead into the hands of a sales rep – is to deliver personalized messaging and information to each website visitor based on his company, industry and/or individual identity.
What does the future of ABM look like?
What’s so exciting about the future of Account-Based Marketing is that technology is now a lot closer to creating truly personalized messaging at a scale that was impossible even a few years ago. The systems are becoming so sophisticated that we’re getting close to having machines help us create personal messages in our B2B marketing campaigns. B2C marketing is much further along at this point.
The experts are all in agreement that ABM allows marketers to work more closely with sales and achieve a more targeted approach to their efforts. Before you get started with an ABM approach, make sure that you’ve assessed whether it’s the right move for your business, rather than throw your team into a new strategy based on hype alone.
Once you’ve decided that it is right for you, turn your attention to the technology you’ll need to implement it. The good news is that B2B marketers can actually leverage the same technology that B2C marketers do (like Evergage, for example) to provide one-to-one messaging to their key accounts.