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How to Implement Account-Based Marketing and Why You Should

Imagine your marketing and sales team working in tandem, seamlessly pursuing and closing on the kinds of businesses your company exists to serve. That’s the premise behind account-based marketing (ABM). The idea is to personalize your campaigns for each pre-qualified prospect and pinpoint their unique attributes and specific needs, then use this intelligence to speak to them in an up-close and individualized way. 

This article provides a clear guide to understanding ABM marketing by defining the ABM meaning and discussing how to implement ABM strategies so you can produce the kind of messaging that sets your sales team up for success. 

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What is account-based marketing (ABM)? 

Simply stated, account-based marketing is a strategy that meticulously selects high-value accounts and targets them with personalized messaging. It’s a great marketing technique for companies seeking to sell a particular type of product to a specific audience. ABM marketing is the antithesis of a generalized inbound marketing approach where the goal is to leverage content marketing, SEO strategies, social media tools and branding to attract as many prospects as possible in hopes that their journey through your sales funnel will result in a purchase.  

Account-based marketing requires close collaboration between marketing and sales to produce a personalized buying experience for target accounts. You can think of ABM as a jazz trio where sales and marketing tune their instruments to the key of each other and then to the customer, so all three can play together in perfect harmony. 

While your instruments need to be tuned correctly, you’re not going to reach that perfect harmony unless you hit all of the right notes. In an ABM context, this happens when your team successfully creates and operates within a winning ABM framework. You’ll need to make sure that sales and marketing are aligned, that they’re targeting the right customer, and that the results they are driving are responsive to the customer’s unique needs. 

 

Sales and marketing alignment

A tight and seamless alignment between marketing and sales is needed to form the foundation of a successful ABM strategy. The two must agree on every aspect of the ABM campaign, from determining who will fulfill what role, to how resources will be allocated, to what constitutes success and how it will be measured. Sales and marketing must be so in tune with one another that customers feel like they’re working with one team, versus two unique teams with different functions.

 

Targeting accounts

ABM marketing relies on taking a deep dive into all aspects of a prospective customer’s business so you understand their pain points and goals. This type of hyper-vigilant research requires an equally robust pre-qualification mechanism. Before moving forward with creating personalized ABM strategies, both sales and marketing will need to work together to define what constitutes an ABM-success-viable account. When qualifying accounts, look at the following:

  • Cost-benefit analysis. If won, will the account generate sufficient revenue to justify the resources required to pursue an ABM strategy? You want to consider whether the potential benefits of securing the account justify the costs. 
  • Growth and scalability. Does the account under consideration provide opportunities for future retention? Is the company poised for expansion or is it in an industry with a high likelihood of growth? Sometimes taking a long view can reap all kinds of future rewards. 
  • Competitive analysis. Are you bypassing industries or companies your competitors are pursuing? If so, you may be missing out on accounts eager to purchase your goods or services. 
 

The benefits of account-based marketing

Companies increasingly recognize the many benefits of account-based marketing, especially when they consider the low return on investment that can accompany conventional B2B marketing strategies. The general approach many use to targetleads—casting a wide net in hopes of reeling in enough prospects so that some statistically significant portion might actually be sold—is often high on expectations but low on ROI. Technology advances and the resulting intelligence that can be gathered through sales prospecting software like Crunchbase, make access to the tools for ABM marketing easier than ever. Companies adopting ABM strategies are finding that they are able to find that seemingly elusive ROI and experience better outcomes. 

Some of the biggest benefits of adopting account-based marketing tactics include:

  • Sales and marketing team alignment;
  • Less wasted time for sales and marketing;
  • Better customer engagement; and
  • Better metrics tracking and discernible ROI.

Let’s delve a little deeper into each of these advantages to demonstrate just how beneficial account-based marketing can be. 

 

Sales and marketing team alignment

In too many companies, the tug-of-war between sales and marketing results in a misalignment so extreme it actually interferes with the company’s ability to expand its client base and realize revenue. When your sales and marketing teams fail to work together, time is wasted on pursuing inefficient tasks. In fact, studies reveal that as much as 70 percent of B2B marketing content ends up unused. It is summarily discarded because sales has determined it to be irrelevant to the buyers the sales team seeks to target. 

ABM bypasses this misalignment problem altogether since the ABM approach is predicated on sales and marketing operating in concert. When incorporating an ABM strategy, sales and marketing approach their respective disciplines in terms of how to hone in on specific accounts, pique the target’s unique interests, and then close the sale.

 

Less time wasted

Companies have limited resources and budgets to devote to lead generation and sales. Unlike general marketing activities, which are often predicated on long lead times and high utilization of resources, account-based marketing operates in a laser-focused environment. Marketers can operate more efficiently when the marketing program is created, optimized and executed for a specific recipient for a specific purpose and on a specific timeline. The premise of the ABM approach is that by focusing on a narrow audience and tweaking the messaging in a way that is meaningful to the well-researched recipient, every second the team works on the ABM campaign—and every dollar spent in pursuit of the sale—is productive and aimed toward tangible goals.  

 

Increased customer engagement

With broad-brush marketing strategies, it’s hard to maintain sufficient levels of customer engagement. The opposite is the case with ABM.

With typical in-bound marketing, you have few opportunities to interact with customers in a meaningful way. When you are constantly churning out marketing content, it’s hard to respond to each prospective customer’s inquiry or interest with a phone call or carefully crafted personalized email. Instead, you end up automating your responses, sacrificing the personal touch as you play the numbers game on a digitized field. This lack of engagement leads to distance and apathy on both sides, hardly the perfect scenario for creating long-term mutually beneficial relationships.

ABM, on the other hand, is all about customer engagement. ABM marketing is so personalized, targeted and closely aligned with a buyer’s needs, the buyer is much more likely to respond positively to your efforts. And you, in turn, have made it a priority to engage in a meaningful way with the prospect. 

 

Better metrics tracking and ROI

Metrics tracking in the name of showing sound returns on marketing dollar investments is the bane of every marketer’s budget. While the advent of increasingly sophisticated analytics to help track website visitors, bounce rates, page views, landing page performance, session duration and keyword rankings, to name just a few, proving a nexus between these metrics and ROI can be difficult. It’s hard to know what goals and metrics to track for what purpose. 

ABM marketing eliminates the problem. Because the universe of what you’re measuring is small, it’s easier to capture detailed and insights data on how your emails, events, ads and website are performing. You can easily track your spend against revenue to gauge ROI in a meaningful way. This makes it possible to determine when to toe the line and when to pivot and change course, intelligence that is worth its weight in gold in a sales/marketing context. 

 

How to implement an account-based marketing strategy 

While the premise of ABM marketing is its personalized nature, the following four steps are universally sound strategies for ABM success. 

 

Step 1: Align sales and marketing for success

It’s clear that sales and marketing must be in alignment to succeed with ABM, meaning you’re going to have to create a clear pathway for leads to convert to sales. This begins with bridging any communication gaps between marketing and sales—facilitating a meeting of the minds when it comes to how sales will communicate its needs and how marketing will communicate its plans to meet those needs. 

You can appoint a liaison from each to be the point person for their respective disciplines, or you can set up regular staff meetings to go over plans and prospects. Regardless of how communications are facilitated, it’s important to have a system of mutual accountability in which sales and marketing know what they can expect from each other and how to hold themselves and each other accountable for meeting expectations. 

 

Step 2: Pinpoint personas and identify key accounts

Since ABM is such a targeted approach to marketing, solidifying personas is crucial to identifying the right companies to pursue. This is something sales and marketing can and should work on together. Working to identify the personas of potential buyers not only helps both teams understand who they are communicating with and why, but it also can serve as a valuable rapport-building exercise. 

When determining account personas, consider asking (and answering) the following questions:

  • What do the high-value accounts that are already engaging with your company look like in terms of company size, growth, and yearly spend?
  • What would be the business objectives of your ideal customer?
  • What is your ideal customer’s size and growth plans?
  • What is your ideal customer’s annual revenue and what share of the market does it represent?
  • What competitor products might your ideal customer be using and why?

Once marketing and sales agree on what the target accounts look like, use available sales prospecting tools to pinpoint the companies to reach out to. 

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Step 3: Create individualized account attack plans 

Now that you’ve got marketing and sales working together and you’ve identified at least your first-tier targets, you’ll need to identify leads and how to best approach them. For each targeted buyer, look first to your current inbound marketing and then pursue additional resources, where necessary, to determine:

  • Who are the decision-makers and stakeholders (e.g., your ideal contacts)?
  • What types of content will resonate with each stakeholder and decision-maker?
  • How can you produce content that lets the contact know you understand their company’s needs and interests?
  • Where is your ideal contact seeking out the solutions you can provide and how can you penetrate this space to become visible to them?
  • What kinds of conferences or industry events does your contact attend and how can you become a highly visible thought leader at these events?
  • Where does your contact get their trade news and information and how can you become a highly visible contributor to these information resources? 

Collecting and digesting this information will help you construct a highly targeted and personalized ABM strategy to develop a relationship with the contact. 

 

Step 4: Stay in constant communication with teams

Regardless of who is running point in following each lead, the ABM strategy requires a team effort. Therefore, it is important to make sure all the key players on your marketing and sales teams are kept in the loop as the sales cycle progresses. Marketing needs to be poised to provide back-up to sales’ efforts on a moment’s notice with targeted materials. 

 

Account-based marketing begins with Crunchbase

Regardless of where you are in the evolution of your company’s account-based marketing strategy, Crunchbase can help. Our best-in-class intelligent prospecting software will help you find the companies and accounts that align with your target prospect persona, and our market research tools embedded with rich insights can help ensure your ABM strategies align with where your industry is trending. 

  • Originally published May 19, 2022