June 21, 2019

How to Use Account Based Marketing to Drive Business Success in 2019

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Now that technology has allowed virtually every consumer experience to become more personalized, it’s not surprising that marketing has become more customized, too. Just as inbound marketers create a buyer’s journey that gives individual buyers the kind of content they're actively searching for, account based marketing, or ABM, is creating a better way for marketers to target an account or company.

More than 80% of marketers say that their ABM initiatives outperform other types of marketing investments. The key word here is “investment.” ABM requires a much different approach than traditional marketing services, and, in order to be successful, it’s critical to put the work in up front before you pull the trigger.

What Is Account Based Marketing (and How Does It Work)?

To get into the specifics of ABM, think about the reality TV show, "The Bachelor." The bachelorettes on the show are using an approach similar to ABM: Rather than trying to date a whole bunch of guys and find one they think might be a good fit, they focus all of their energy and efforts on just one candidate.

After identifying his interests (and chugging gallons of champagne), they’re able to tailor their approach to catch his attention and, hopefully, close the deal.

ABM uses a similar strategy, albeit with a lot less champagne. After determining what companies you want to approach, you’ll identify the key decision-makers within those companies. Just like you created buyer personas for inbound marketing, you’ll look at an organization’s pain points, what delights them (and what doesn’t) and identify how you can help them achieve their objectives. Then, you’ll develop content and messaging designed to capture their interest and attention.

If you’re already relying on inbound marketing or an inbound marketing agency, you’ll notice that it shares some of the same principles and strategies as ABM. Both approaches attract customers by engaging them with personalized, relevant content. However, the tools they use to accomplish their goals differ greatly.

ABM is an outbound form of marketing that leverages completely different channels, such as targeted advertising and email. Because of that, it has to be done well, or it can start to look like an updated version of spam. When done properly, however, such customized campaigns can open the door to new relationships and, ultimately, drive more sales.

Is Account Based Marketing Right for You?

While ABM can lead to more sales, it isn’t right for every company. ABM requires that you invest time, energy and money into the front end of your marketing campaign, which means you have to make sure the return on your investment is going to be worth everything you have to put into it. If you need a quick turn on your efforts, it probably won't work as your primary strategy.

To determine if it’s a good fit for you, calculate the kind of ROI you typically make on the type of sale you’re going after. Then calculate how much time and effort it’s going to take to target accounts. Remember, you’re going to have to start by identifying your targets, and then you’ll need to dig deeper into what those targeted accounts need.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll start creating a customized campaign, and that will most likely mean some outlay of cash. Are you going to create a physical package or asset to send them? A direct mail piece? A targeted digital campaign? You want to catch their attention, and that won’t happen for free.

If the amount of the sales doesn’t justify the cost to acquire the sale, this isn’t the right path for you.

However, ABM could be just what your company needs to reach sales goals and bring in new customers for 2019 if you have the following:

  • A clear idea of who your ideal customers are
  • A specific industry you want to target — and a unique selling proposition that will catch their attention
  • The ability to create content that will “stand out from the noise” of your competitors
  • The financial ability to commit to a quality campaign

7 Steps to Implementing Account Based Marketing

When you’ve decided that ABM is going to be a good fit, you’ll need a carefully crafted strategy to make sure your team members are all on the same page and everyone is clear on what needs to happen. Your sales and digital marketing agency will have to align their efforts and keep from repeating one another’s work or, even worse, missing a step.

If you’re already using sales enablement, you know the value of collaboration between these two departments. Use that same kind of collaboration to get your customer insight, develop the personalized content that’s required for ABM and measure the results. Then, follow these seven steps.

1. Choose your customers.

Finding the right accounts to target is a key component of successful ABM. Look for accounts that have the potential for a high annual contract. You want to win their business and keep that revenue coming in year after year.

2. Do your homework.

Research is essential and sets the tone for the entire marketing campaign. The individuals doing the research should have a clear knowledge of how your company has helped similar customers. They should understand the accounts you’re targeting and be able to develop messaging that conveys what you can do for the prospect in a compelling and relevant way. They’ll need to do a deep dive to create their personas and understand the driving forces in making decisions for that specific industry.

3. Craft your messaging. 

A specific messaging strategy is the hallmark of ABM. Define what type of content you’re going to use and how it can address the specific business challenges of the industry and accounts you’re targeting.

4. Identify your connections.

Do you already have connections with some of the companies you want to target? Do you have the right connections? Your message has to get into the right hands, so invest time in making sure you’ve identified the decision makers. Then use all of your resources (LinkedIn, existing contacts, your CRM, purchased lists, etc.) to make sure you have the right information before you make your move.

5. Choose your channels.

If you’ve done your research, you know where to find your audience. Look at which channels will be most effective for reaching them. It could be print, mobile, email or direct mail.

6. Customize your approach.

Even though your overall strategy is targeting a specific industry, you’re going to take this customization even further and make sure your messaging speaks directly to the decision-maker. You’ll be able to repurpose and reposition much of what you create, but always make sure that you customize part of your messaging to each individual account. This could be a letter, an executive summary or a conclusion; just make sure it’s not a blanket “To Whom It May Concern” approach.

7. Track your results.

Measurement is where you’ll see what’s working and what’s not. The KPIs for ABM are different from other types of marketing, since you are looking at the quality of leads instead of quantity. Start tracking things like “who” is responding instead of “how many.” Follow the amount of revenue generated and how much effort is required to accomplish your revenue goals.

In the right environments, ABM can deliver stronger sales results and improve sales engagement. Yes, there are several steps and it requires careful planning and preparation. However, the rewards and ROI can be greater and could be just what your business needs to drive more sales and reach your goals.

Paula Felps

Paula Felps is a staff writer and editor with madison/miles media who has written for a variety of print and digital publications. She is the author of multiple books and is owned by a 17-pound Boston terrier named Archie.