The data is in: 97% of marketers say that account-based marketing (ABM) approaches have resulted in higher ROI than other strategies. That’s because ABM is famously a “zero waste” system. Most traditional marketing initiatives, such as inbound marketing, are geared towards identifying an industry or audience and marketing to that target, while ABM is focused on individual accounts. In other words, ABM treats accounts as “markets of one.” It’s the difference between catching a dozen fish (many of which you have to throw back because they’re undersized) or hooking that giant marlin.
Of course, landing the prize fish requires many efforts and tactics. A solid ABM strategy is going to allow your marketing efforts to stand head and shoulders above the competition. It will appeal to that fish and that fish alone, gain its interest, and ultimately get it to bite. Here we offer some quick dos and don’ts for crafting the perfect ABM strategy.
Do the legwork
Back in the early 2000s, an IT solutions company named Northrop Grumman made waves when their ABM efforts landed them a 10-year, two-billion-dollar contract to partner with the state-run Virginia Information Technologies Agency. What many don’t know is that it took Northrop a whopping three years to land that account.
For those three years, the IT company honed its brand strategy and positioned themselves as a best-in-class IT solution operating in Virginia. Even more crucially, they networked with VITA’s key players while researching the objectives of Virginia’s premier IT company. They went after big game, too, inviting senior executives to speaking engagements and other events.
It was only after three years of accumulating data and building those relationships that Northrop rolled out their marketing campaign. The results speak for themselves and the lesson is clear: do your homework, build trust, and don’t rush things. After all, if you yank the hook too soon after a nibble it will only scare the fish away.
Don’t adopt a one-size-fits-all strategy
Unlike traditional inbound marketing, a one-size-fits-all strategy simply won’t work with ABM. ABM is customer driven and the customers of today want personalization. It’s counterintuitive to send out the same content to your contacts like you would with a traditional inbound email list. Instead, build those relationships, and speak directly to them as opposed to a general audience.
Do align sales and marketing
The good news here is that ABM seamlessly aligns marketing and sales anyway. In traditional inbound marketing, the marketers harvest the leads and then pass them off to sales. In effect, these two departments are embarking on separate initiatives. With account-based marketing, on the other hand, there’s only one initiative—land the big client. And since marketers and sales are both focused on this single goal, there’s no longer any leads to pass off to anyone. Presumably, both departments are laser-focused on the same target.
If your B2B operation has been predominantly focused on inbound marketing, it may be second nature for the marketing department to go at it alone. They may be used to shouldering the burden of digital advertising—generating content, building email lists, leveraging social media to raise brand awareness. It’s likely that they’re not listening so much to the sales team regarding these initiatives, either.
That won’t work with account-based marketing. ABM can only reach its full potential when both departments are sharing information and working in close contact to develop a strategy. Luckily, as we mentioned before, the nature of ABM facilitates this deep collaboration.
Always remember that, with account-based marketing, the traditional sales funnel has been flipped on its head. Instead of starting at the top with lead acquisition and working your way down to identifying specific targets, your top is now the target and you’re solely concentrating on conversion. This is your sales department’s bread and butter, so work with them closely on this strategy.
Do create customer profiles
There’s a lot of talk in marketing about how creating buyer personas is instrumental in targeting qualified leads. This is true in ABM as well. What’s also true is that building target account profiles is also instrumental. The two aren’t dissimilar, except that with building an account profile you focus on the size of the target in question and its pain points rather than demographics like education and age.
The most important data point in any account profile is the key-decision makers within the target company. These are the folks your marketing department will be appealing to. And it’s never just one person, either. In any given enterprise deal there are, on average, 17 people involved in the decision-making process. A successful ABM initiative is going to acknowledge each of these players while taking their disparate viewpoints and personalities into account.
To maximize efficiency, some marketers utilize predictive analytics to beef up their customer data and help create more in-depth profiles. And using a predictive model—which often incorporates thousands of customer data points—will help identify other accounts that would be a good fit for your brand.
One final “don’t”—don’t get tunnel vision where it concerns account-based marketing.
There’s a reason ABM often generates greater ROI than other initiatives: because it plays a long game. Remember that ABM’s ultimate goal is to “land and expand.” All that research, all the customer profiles, all the networking, all the personalized content—all of it is done to create optimized campaigns that not only land that big account but provide the framework to grow those accounts over time.