What is Account Based Marketing? We Reveal the Truth

September 1, 2016, Gil Allouche

In 2004 the Server Marketing team at Unisys found itself with a problem. Its marketing campaigns were increasingly clouded by the efforts of other product lines within the company. Potential Unisys customers interested in servers received collateral from Unisys’s IT Services department. Servers’ customers were hounded by the Outsourcing sales team. A Senior Marketing Manager summed the issue as: ‘When you’re trying to sell enterprise solutions to senior-level decision makers within customer organizations, a disjointed view and lack of understanding about everything the company has to offer hurts your ability to gain mindshare.’

Unisys solved this problem with a herculean effort they called The Integrated Marketing Plan. The Unisys IMP consisted of, ‘concentrating on smaller events, more customized communications, and more marketing through the sales team.’ According to the Unisys VP, ‘The Integrated Marketing Plan has served the company incredibly well.’ Unisys evolved as a shining example of what Account Based Marketing is today.

Account-Based Marketing represents a new model of thinking about B2B lead generation. Traditional B2B lead generation was, and often still is, treated the same way as B2C lead gen. Historically, most B2B Marketing departments simply focused on targeting as wide an audience as possible. The problem with this scattershot methodology is that when the Sales department follows up on a lead, the quality of that lead is often poor.

The ITSMA attempted to find a remedy for this in 2003. Building on the work of Don Pepper and Martha Rogers as well as Customer Centric Marketing insights from Accenture, the ITSMA conceptualized “Account Based Marketing.” ABM’s basic tenants are:

  • For Marketing to consciously identify prospective customers from the start rather than focus on a non-specific generalized audience.
  • After the target customer has been identified, focus on marketing to everyone involved with this “account” rather than a single decision maker.
  • Encourage Marketing, Sales, and Management to work together cohesively rather than in siloed departments.

So how do you actually get started with Account Based Marketing in today’s environment? Fortunately, we have more databases, lists, predictive technologies, and promotional channels than we did 13 year ago. Here’s just a sample of how you might approach ABM in 2017:

  • Secure leadership buy-in for ABM at all levels. This could mean not only aligning communication between Marketing and Sales but also overlapping compensation structures.
  • Find an ABM solutions provider. We prefer Metadata.io. But there are a few others out there such as Terminus, Demandbase, Everstring, Engagio and YesPath
  • Choose which companies to market to in your ABM provider’s databases.
  • For New Businesses: If you’re a new business or startup you probably don’t have many accounts/customers to model a customer profile on. In that case you could pick a list of target accounts manually. This could mean choosing companies by vertical, revenue, location, age, or employee count.With even just a few sample domains we can target “look-a-like” audiences by backend technology, front end technology, competition, and professional associations.At a personal level you could target influencers & decision-makers with certain skills sets, social group affiliation, job satisfaction, family status, hobbies, languages spoken, or plethora of other variables.
  • Preexisting relationships: Talk to your Marketing, Sales and Management folks. Are there any pre existing relationships or contacts that you haven’t explored yet? If so manually add that to your target list. That forgotten contact might be a hidden gem that will make your year.
  • Seasoned Businesses: If you’ve been in business a while or have many different client accounts, you’d be a candidate for our predictive analytics solutions. Essentially ABM providers like Metadata use predictive analytics to assess your current customer demographics. From that analysis we develop algorithms to target other accounts with similar demographics.
  • Create experiences that resonate with your customers. ABM philosophy advocates winning over your prospects rather than simply advertising AT them. Learn what problems your customers have and what experiences they find valuable. For example, you can create content for them (white papers, infographics, videos, webinars, surveys, etc) and earn their appreciation.
  • Choose your distribution channels. Are you going to promote your content on Linkedin or Facebook? Maybe you want to hold a conference and invite select people from your key account; email would be great tool for that. Do you have some promotional SWAG? Target your customer’s office IP address and offer your SWAG on a display network. One of these channels will deliver a better ROI for you than the others. You won’t know which one ahead of time. That’s why Metadata runs a/b tests to help you determine which one of your efforts is delivering the best Return.
  • Lastly you’ll need to measure all your efforts.
  • Click Through Rate: This is the most basic measurement. If you’re seeing a poor click through rate it’s possible you need to refine your messaging or creative.
  • Engagement: Do viewers leave your webinar after 2 minutes? Are people bouncing off your infographic landing pages after 20 seconds? Are people by-passing your booth at an industry conference event? If so, you need to go back to the drawing board and test another idea.
  • Conversions: Conversion measurement is where the rubber meets the road for ABM Marketers. Marketing Qualified Leads(MQL) and Sales Qualified Leads(SQL) are the key metrics B2B marketers need to keep their eye on. For example, has your prospective account consumed enough of your content marketing to signify a readiness to “buy?” Are they frequently signing up for and/or watching webinars that showcase your products’ features and benefits. If so, you’d upgrade them to an SQL, from a MQL, and hand them off to your Sales folks to “close.”

Ignoring Account Based Marketing is no longer an option for B2B marketers. As far back as 2004, Unisys concluded that ‘mass marketing is no longer effective’ for reaching new customers. To make your B2B marketing efforts effective, Account Based Marketing requires the cooperation of everyone in your organization. As a first step in your ABM journey I encourage you to open up the lines of communication with different Product Heads and different departments. See how you can start unifying your efforts to onboard the right customers, not just more. Account Based Marketing isn’t just a set of tactics but shift in mindset.

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