As you might’ve recently heard, people are paying a lot of attention to something called account-based marketing (ABM). According to the article “The Ultimate Guide to Account-Based Marketing” written by Braden Becker, more than 60% of companies plan to launch an ABM-based campaign in the next year.
And yet, it seems like account-based marketing is still a fairly new concept to many people. A big part of that has to do with a lagging alignment between marketing and sales within many organizations, while this number is almost double what it was four years ago, still just 22% of companies consider their sales and marketing departments well aligned around the same goals.
But account-based marketing, and its success, is somewhat rooted in that very alignment between marketing and sales. And as you’ll see, it’s highly useable, if you know where to begin. That’s why we’re here to help.
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a highly focused business strategy in which a marketing team treats an individual prospect or customer like its very own market. The marketing team can create content, events, and entire campaigns dedicated to the people associated with that account, rather than the industry as a whole.
In the above context, ABM really just what it sounds like, marketing that’s based on a specific customer, existing or prospective. It’s a market of one. This practice is typically done by enterprise-level sales organizations, and is most beneficial to business-to-business (B2B) efforts.
Why is ABM so critical to B2B? Well, ABM is particularly useful for organizations with multiple buyers or stakeholders. Part of its goal, says Sam Balter, a senior marketing manager at HubSpot, “is to address the needs of an organization by connecting with all of the stakeholders within it. That’s one reason why it works so well in B2B, oftentimes you have to work with five or more stakeholders in a given sale.”
That might seem a little tricky, especially, says HubSpot’s Senior Product Marketing Team Manager Jeff Russo, “from an execution standpoint.”
Account-based marketing shouldn’t take the place of your industry-level marketing practices. You should necessarily use ABM as a supplement to your larger digital strategy.
As Balter alluded to in the above section, ABM is particularly helpful when trying to reach multiple buyers at the same company, or perhaps your largest accounts, which are more likely to pose more business opportunities inside the organization that you haven’t tapped yet. When this is your goal, ABM has several benefits:
1. It’s personalized to your audience.
Account-based marketing is dedicated to decision-makers all within the same organization. Therefore, it ensures your marketing campaigns are designed to resonate with these specific people.
It can be hard for marketing campaigns that cater to a wide audience to make each reader, viewer, or user feel that their individual needs are being met. And that’s okay; the bigger your audience, the more types of people you’re trying to help. ABM doesn’t give you a large audience to generate leads from, but in exchange, it allows you to personalize all of your messaging and content to an intimate cohort of people.
2. It’s easier to see potential return on investment.
One of the biggest challenges marketing departments face is attribution, being able to associate certain marketing campaigns with new revenue. But when you’re marketing to buyers, for a business you already have a relationship with, it’s much easier to attribute your marketing campaigns to the revenue it led to.
Let’s say, for example, you spent $500 on an industry-level marketing campaign for three months targeting small businesses in the greater Boston area. At the end of that three months, the sales department closed on eight new accounts, each worth $1,000, and two of them are businesses based in Boston.
Now, it stands to reason your $500 marketing campaign helped generate $2,000 in new business, but without the right attribution reports, there’s no way to know for sure. In ABM, you know exactly where your marketing dollars are going and the money you stand to gain at the end of the campaign. This gives the business more confidence in your marketing efforts, and can ultimately encourage them to provide you with more resources to do what you do best.
3. You spend less time on marketing campaigns that don’t yield new business.
ABM doesn’t just make sure all your marketing efforts have a return on investment; it also makes sure you’re not spending too much time or too many resources on projects with no clear business value.
By spending some of your marketing budget on ABM, you make your entire department more stable in case you have a slow quarter or seasonal decline in engagement from your wider audience. In other words, ABM is like an insurance policy for your marketing team.
4. It shortens the sales cycle.
A (huge) part of marketing is lead generation, and part of lead generation is handing sales some leads that simply won’t turn into customers. It’s up to the sales team to perform the prospecting that eliminates these leads from their pipeline when they don’t respond to their outreach. In ABM, salespeople don’t deal with thisnearlyas often.
ABM generates more qualified leads because the business is more likely to have folks who want to hear from you. This allows sales staff to cut back on the time they spend grooming leads that won’t become customers, and spend more time on the ones that will, shortening the time between first phone call and closed sale.
5. It fortifies your relationship with existing clients.
According to Small Business Trends, the average American business loses 15% of its customers each year. Customer retention is critically important to a business’s growth, and while your customer service team is at the forefront of this effort, ABM helps your marketing and sales teams become an equal part of it.
ABM might not expand your business with a particular client, but it does strengthen your relationship with this client. By networking with more people across the business, and delivering content that’s laser-focused on their needs, you can increase the chances that customer will renew their contract at the end of the year.
6. It easily aligns your sales and marketing teams.
The tension between sales and marketing teams is a tale as old as time: Sales wants better leads, and marketing wants more visibility to the customer so they can improve their strategy. With ABM, both sales and marketing are inherently aligned. Marketing knows exactly whom they’re marketing to, and sales gets the leads they hope for.
Account-based marketing really boils down to six essential steps, which we’ll flesh out and tie back to inbound marketing, because while they’re two different concepts, they can truly complement each other.
Michael Hammond is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. NexLevel provides solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. A seasoned technology executive, Michael brings close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product and services experience. His expertise spans start-ups to multi-billion dollar corporations, running businesses, business units, marketing, sales, strategy and product and services organizations. Michael brings exceptional insight, leadership, passion, and strategies that create profitability.