A Complete Guide to Account-Based Marketing

Mark Huber

Account-based marketing may (or may not) be what your company needs — here’s why.

If you’re a B2B marketer, you’ve probably heard of account-based marketing. When you focus your efforts on a small group of highly targeted accounts instead of going after a large, broad audience.

But as more marketers try to use this as some sort of silver bullet, one thing quickly becomes clear:

Not everyone needs to do account-based marketing.

In fact, it may not be the right fit for your business at all.

So below you’ll get a crash course in ABM. You’ll learn what it is, its benefits, its challenges, and if it’s right for your business.

And at the end, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to creating an effective ABM strategy that generates leads and boosts your organization’s long-term revenue potential.

What's account-based marketing?

What’s account-based marketing?

A lot of B2B marketers tend to focus on attracting lots of leads. You’re a fisherman standing on a boat, casting a wide net, hoping to pull in as many fish as possible. But pulling together a quality catch turns out to be much harder than it looks.

Some fish might show a little interest but swim away. Others may not be the type of fish you’re looking for at all. It’s like getting a lot of email sign-ups or newsletter requests but ending up with a smaller-than-expected sales haul.

Account-based marketing is more like using a spear. Forget about all the smaller fish milling around. Instead, you focus on the big tuna floating just out of reach. Getting those big fish to move closer means you need to figure out what makes them tick.

With ABM, if you can determine the right bait, the greater your chances of reeling in big accounts in your target audience and generating demand for your products and services. It’s why the ABM market is expected to grow to $1.6 billion by 2027.

The many benefits of account-based marketing

The many benefits of account-based marketing

Combining sales and marketing resources improves efficiency and lets businesses take a more thoughtful approach to engagement. Customers have to believe they’re your top priority when they see your marketing efforts. 

An account-based marketing strategy can fuel your B2B marketing by creating a pipeline to facilitate ongoing collaboration between sales and marketing. Let’s jump into a few of the benefits of implementing an ABM strategy.

Brings people together to create a dream team

Usually, marketing teams go all out by placing ads and setting up content to attract a bunch of clients. Then they step back and let the sales team take over. ABM turns that around by focusing on a smaller list of target accounts.

Fostering collaboration from the get-go helps marketing generate more demand and allows sales teams to take a more personalized approach to lead outreach. Sales and marketing put the list together by deciding which potential customers fit their ideal customer profile (ICP). 

And you can’t forget about the executive suite and your technology stack. 

Bring in key decision-makers from those areas to give their opinion through each step of your marketing approach. Pick software that’s powerful enough to support every step of your ABM strategy — including supplying data to help narrow down your account choices.

Executive buy-in increases your ABM program’s chance of success. Use IT feedback to guide your purchasing decisions for ABM tools and software needed to support your efforts. Make sure to account for how that technology integrates with your current marketing technology (martech) stack — and helps you get the most out of it.

Provides detailed reports and analytics

Analytics are an essential part of your ABM efforts. Predictive real-time analytics help you figure out where to focus marketing activities. You can look at the information within your customer relationship management (CRM) platform to see who makes the most purchases, who engages the most with businesses, or who provides the most responses to email outreach.

Use that info to create reports that break down potential clients by details like:

  • Job title
  • Buying history
  • Industry
  • Location
  • Company size
  • Influencer potential

Don’t limit the analytical capabilities of your martech stack to pulling in customers. Look for signs that B2B customers may be unhappy and looking to jump ship. That way, you can step in to resolve issues leading to their restlessness before losing them to a competitor.

Use the same info to spot what new problems customers may be looking to solve. Target them with content pointing to solutions from your brand. You can also find existing customers who are prime retargeting candidates.

The more you’re willing to invest in quality analytics tools, the more you can get out of your CRM. Understanding buyer behavior is key to figuring out their intent and setting up more successful prospecting endeavors.

Sets up automation to scale team efforts

Automating your ABM helps you target the right buyers with personalized content. Getting them to engage lets you influence their final purchasing decision. Another benefit of automation is increasing the bandwidth among team members. Instead of getting bogged down in manual research, they can focus on moving customers through your sales channels.

Dealing with fewer accounts means sales reps can give more attention to each one. Each team member gets to decide which prospects need further nurturing and when to target those leads.

Automation helps marketing produce content at scale and track the sales generated through those efforts. You can also avoid burnout within your team — which happens a lot when manually developing email and campaign material. 

As a result, marketing can generate more leads while salespeople can form relationships with buyers and close more deals.

Reduces the sales cycle

ABM inverts the traditional sales funnel. Instead of fitting as many prospects as possible at the top, you want to bring in a smaller number of individual accounts. The metrics pulled from your ABM analytics tools help you spot where things are working well and where there might be issues.

If things progress nicely with specific prospects, your team can focus its efforts there. Aligning your account research gives sales teams the info they need to make targeted pitches for potential buyers. For example, if a prospect seems receptive to phone calls, the rep can figure out the best time to contact the buyer.

Can deliver a higher ROI 

Focusing on high-value accounts with your marketing programs helps maximize ROI and increase your chances of long-term ABM success. You’re no longer chasing multiple leads that go nowhere. Targeting fewer accounts lets salespeople put their attention on prospects capable of returning a higher lifetime value. 

As a result, you deal with less waste and fewer risks while boosting their bottom line.

Common ABM campaign challenges

Common ABM campaign challenges

While marketers gain a lot from pursuing ABM strategies, it does take a lot of commitment. 

You can’t approach it as a quick fix designed to generate more profits quickly. 

The longer you invest in ABM, the greater the returns. This means taking the time to conduct the research necessary to set up ICP profiles for your ideal accounts. 

Let’s break down some of the most common challenges that crop up when setting up ABM programs to help you get ahead of the game.

Creating unique and personalized content

Trying to come up with innovative and engaging content consistently can be a drain. It’s why automation is so crucial to ABM success. With the right automation tools, you can quickly locate new topics of interest, cutting down on the time you spend doing manual research for content marketing ideas.

Tracking and monitoring the correct metrics

Keeping up with metrics is another area where it pays to invest in the right technology. The more information your team has to sort through manually, the harder it is to keep up with your ABM strategies. 

Remember that not all metrics are created equal — some may not be relevant to your ABM goals at all. Instead, rely on your ABM technology to track essential metrics like:

  • Target account reach
  • Traffic generated by each account
  • Speed of closing deals
  • Account engagement
  • Lead contract value

Juggling too many campaign tools

ABM is something you do, not something you buy. And you can absolutely do ABM without an “ABM platform.” 

You don’t always have to buy the fanciest software suites with all the bells and whistles to handle your marketing campaigns. That being said, you still need technologies to run ABM, but every company’s go-to-market strategy is unique and the technologies you use will vary.

So, look at what’s important in supporting your ABM needs, then use that criteria to understand what technology you need.

Overwhelming sales teams with too much data

There is such a thing as too much information. Keep your sales team from getting swamped in data by going back to your research. Eliminate unnecessary data points that don’t contribute to the metrics you value.

account based marketing strategy steps

8 steps to create a legit ABM strategy

Getting buy-in from your decision-makers is key to setting up effective ABM campaigns. But once you get it, then you’ve got other things to think about: your available resources, making data available to all team members, and how to generate the highest ROI. 

Ready to start building your ABM strategy? Here are eight steps to help you create a solid program:

1. Build chemistry between your sales and marketing teams

As mentioned earlier, you can overcome a lot by setting up a foundation of collaboration from the start. Encourage all team members to offer their input on supporting the buyer journey and collect the most promising ideas. 

The more invested everyone feels in the process, the more likely they are to commit to seeing ABM strategies to fruition. It helps to have a strategic template available to help you outline key initiatives.

2. Perform thorough research to inform buyer personas

Use your ABM tools to filter through buyer data based on specific criteria. Categorize target accounts based on factors like industry and location. Focus on those companies most likely to engage with your inbound marketing efforts.

3. Develop account plans

After creating an account list based on ideal customer profiles, have marketing and sales go through each potential candidate and narrow the list down with questions like:

  • Who are the key stakeholders and buying committee members?
  • What kind of contact will attract the buyer’s attention?
  • Which marketing channels do target accounts frequent?
  • How can marketing and sales support each other through the buying process?

4. Use inbound marketing to attract potential customers

Take a look at your ICP profiles to determine what appeals to individual key accounts. Funnel the content through marketing channels most visited by your stakeholders. Then engage by sharing relevant content designed to address the potential buyer’s pain points. 

5. Loop in the buying committee

Setting up a relationship with buying committees can take a while. Take the opportunity to educate members about available products and services. Keep generating and sharing personalized content to show your industry expertise and continue building bonds of trust with key stakeholders.

6. Add a personal touch to your content

Keep up with what’s at the top of mind of your named accounts. Enhance your communications by referencing topics of interest, passing on info about upcoming events, and offering to set up one-on-one communications (phone calls, demos, video chat, etc.). 

Those one-on-ones are another touchpoint that give your reps the opportunity to provide a great customer experience. 

7. Launch your targeted campaign

When it’s ready, unleash the latest version of your ABM program. Keep refining your workflows until you find one that gives you consistent, effective results.

8. Track and monitor your performance for future campaign improvement

Use marketing automation to track essential metrics. Look for ways to refine your approach with specific accounts, including sending out direct mail or optimizing your website landing pages.

Improve your ABM approach with Metadata

ABM strategies combine your marketing efforts with your sales processes. From lead generation to nurturing and closing deals (and even retargeting), a solid ABM campaign can help your teams go after the right accounts — and waste less time in the process.

Metadata helps organizations streamline and optimize their ABM campaigns. Find out how your company can benefit by touring our platform.

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