2018: the year of Account Based Marketing (ABM)
Marketers’ options to deploy account-based marketing strategies will continue to evolve, improve and get more accurate.
As one of the most talked-about strategies in B2B marketing, account-based marketing is rapidly changing the way we think about marketing at scale. But what is it? And why is it driving so much conversation?
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy that uses a suite of tools and processes to create personalised campaigns around target accounts. So instead of a single campaign with many targets, there are multiple campaigns, each targeting just one account. True ABM strategies have four components: identifying the right accounts, improving customer engagement, aligning sales and marketing, and measuring and optimizing your campaign performance.
As for its recent popularity, ABM is not a new strategy. ITSMA, a B2B marketing community dedicated to researching the latest technology and marketing strategies, coined the term “account-based marketing” in 2004. In the years since, tools like CRM platforms and marketing automation have become more powerful, more accessible, and more intuitive, making it easier and more effective to practice account-based marketing.
Historically, larger businesses have used an account-based marketing strategy to target a small percentage of their most important accounts. Now, technology has made it possible for businesses of all sizes and industries to leverage an ABM strategy with the right tools and processes, and they’re getting some impressive results.
Account-based marketing is powerful. Companies that have implemented ABM have seen their ACV increase by 171% (ABM Leadership Alliance), and 84% of marketers are seeing a higher ROI with ABM than with other marketing programs (ITSMA). Ultimately, ABM brings your marketing and sales teams together to create a seamless customer journey.
Technology makes ABM accessible, allowing marketing and sales teams to automate time-consuming tasks like measuring engagement, identifying sales-ready leads, and establishing regular touchpoints with prospects. Before software, only large, finely tuned teams could manage the scale of an ABM campaign. Today, integrated technologies provide a full suite of tools to help you attract, engage, and target accounts while maintaining the deep commitment to personalization and customization that is a hallmark of a true ABM strategy, and it all begins with your CRM.
Account, Contact, and Lead Records
Your CRM platform houses key information about the accounts and individual prospects that you’re currently working with, or will want to work within the future. When you’re planning your ABM strategy, this account data will help you identify the right accounts to target.
Dashboards and Reporting
The native analytics tools in your CRM platform are not only important for measuring deals and tracking sales activities. You can also use these features for both the initial analysis and planning stages of your ABM strategy as well as the measurement and tracking of results. Use reporting to create and distribute your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) to keep your sales and marketing teams synchronized.
While the idea behind an account-based approach is to prequalify specific accounts, you will still need to make sure your lead process is airtight. CRM features for recording, scoring, and routing leads to the right queue, team, or rep, are critical. Productivity Tools You can use CRM features to maintain a keen focus on the accounts that are most likely to close. Console views help inside sales or sales development teams organize the most relevant data, having it front and center. Opportunity Collaboration Tools for collaborating on deals are critical for ensuring a high-quality, personalized experience for your accounts.
The customer experience is being transformed by AI, and ABM is a perfect case for applying machine learning and data-driven insights. Whether it’s used up front to score leads and prioritize them, or during a deal cycle to recommend next best steps, AI can help improve win rates and productivity
Account-based marketing is ultimately a customer-centric strategy. It puts a heavy emphasis on content and regular communications to help create personalised experiences. It takes time to build the relationships that ABM thrives on, and that’s where marketing automation can help. It gives you the power to automate and manage campaign elements like lead generation, lead nurturing, and lead management, so you can spend more time connecting with your prospects. Both marketing and sales will need to work together to ensure that your branding and positioning remains consistent, and marketing automation is key to bridging the gap between the teams. It gives sales direct access to marketing-approved campaigns and content and gives marketers a clearer understanding of their impact on the business.
Data Analytics Software
Being able to measure your success and optimize your campaigns is critical at this scale. Data analytics software connects your marketing and sales goals around metrics in common, such as ROI and revenue.
In account-based marketing, engagement matters. Understanding how your prospects interact with your campaigns will help you assign values for sales readiness. To do this, your data analytics software should be able to pull engagement data as well as other information from your CRM and marketing automation platforms. A good data analytics software can give you a single view of your business, making it easier to keep your teams synchronized with overarching goals and track collective progress as you work to engage new accounts.
Marketers working within an ABM strategy need to be able to create and promote highly targeted and personalized content using Google Similar Audiences or Facebook Lookalike Audiences to generate leads.
Brands that use Facebook Lookalike Audiences, for example, can find new leads that look identical to (or have similar characteristics as) their current best or highest-value customers. You can also target specific groups of existing customers or prospects that you are already nurturing with your ABM strategy, giving you the flexibility to create more nuanced campaigns that align with your campaign goals. Finally, you can suppress or exclude existing accounts from new customer acquisition campaigns to both save you money on your campaigns and improve your customer experience when they see (or don’t see) your ads.
With an ABM strategy in place, it’s even more important to tailor your advertising to your target audience so that you’re putting your budget to use where it will generate the greatest return. Software that handles digital advertising can help you coordinate the flow of data from your advertising campaigns to your marketing automation and CRM platforms.
Account-Based Marketing in Company organisation
Aligning your sales and marketing teams is as central to building an ABM strategy as having the right tools. To be successful with ABM, both sales and marketing must be fully in alignment on:
- Which accounts to target
- What determines engagement
- Which metrics to measure
- How to build relationships with buyers
- What success looks like
At each level your sales and marketing teams will need to work together to identify the most high-value accounts, set measurable goals for engaging the internal stakeholders, and track progress as each account moves into the sales funnel.
Main Benefits of Account-Based Marketing
- Identify the right accounts
- Structure company strategy
- Analyse key accounts engagement metrics
- Leverage data from your analytics software and marketing automation integration to create a strategy for each of your target accounts that will offer the right depth of personalisation.
- Build robust, personalised campaigns for each of the key accounts.
- Create content that’s the best fit for a target audience.
As technology continues to evolve, account-based marketing will become smarter, more intuitive, and more streamlined. Working effortlessly with your data to provide advanced insights into the potential of your strategy, account-based marketing is primed for AI. AI and predictive analytics will ultimately make it possible to determine the optimal audience, channels, timing, and content for each campaign. With these and other emerging technologies poised to change the way we connect with customers and prospects, marketing will continue to become smarter and more intuitive.