What Is Account-Based Marketing (ABM)?

Account-based marketing, known as “ABM,” is an approach used primarily in B2B (Business-to-Business) marketing. ABM is a strategy that aligns both sales and marketing teams to work together to engage specific, high-value target accounts. Both teams’ alignment is crucial to Account-based marketing success, as both sales and marketing contribute to different parts of the process to achieve a common goal: to target the best accounts for the business and turn them into customers

With this strategy, you are able to sort through companies to reach out to by separating them by their potential value to your business. By specifying target accounts, you can communicate to these accounts directly and personalize your approach to each of them. With personalized approaches, buyers are more likely to be receptive to your outreach.

Inbound Marketing vs. ABM

Account-based marketing flipped funnel
The ABM Funnel

Traditional B2B inbound marketing tactics such as SEO and paid campaigns cast a wide net and aim for prospects to self-identify themselves in order to move through a sales funnel. Conversion rates at each step of the funnel are measured and optimized.

Account-based marketing complements inbound marketing by “flipping the funnel” and starting the marketing process with an already narrow group of target accounts and prospects. As these prospects engage with your brand, your reach expands within an organization, earning a closed opportunity, up-sells, renewals, and referrals.

Types of Account-Based Marketing Approaches

There are various types of possible ABM approaches, each differing in where the approach places its focus:

Strategic ABM

As the name suggests, the Strategic ABM approach is used for highly strategic accounts and performed entirely on a one-on-one basis. The focus of strategic ABM is primarily on relationship-building. How well this approach works depends mainly on individualized marketing campaigns that convey a deep understanding of the individual target account.

ABM Lite

ABM Lite focuses on individualized campaigns but to a lesser extent. This approach targets a smaller group of similar accounts. Instead of developing a personalized approach to each account, you would develop one strategy that specifically covers the group of accounts with similar business challenges or firmographics.

Programmatic ABM

The Programmatic ABM approach focuses on using modern technology to customize marketing campaigns at scale for target accounts. Instead of continuously relying on marketing teams to conduct the relevant research and build the personalized approach from the ground up, leveraging technology such as intent data can streamline some of the processes that usually require time dedicated for customization. 

Benefits of Account-Based Marketing 

Efficiency

Having both sales and marketing teams work together means that both teams can work with and convert accounts much more efficiently through a joint effort. By working together, the teams can create a more rounded, customized and thought-based approach that increases the chances of higher engagement from target accounts.

Streamline the Sales Cycle

The steps to ABM are clear: identify target account prospects, strategize and execute account-based marketing and sales campaigns, close them, and maintain the relationship. This process can be much smoother by ensuring the accounts you target are pre-qualified and ideal for your business instead of searching and connecting with low-value accounts.

Return on Investment Calculations

Through account-based marketing, you are able to measure ROI for each target account that you target. Strategic ABM approaches allow for a specific account-based budget, while ABM Lite budgets are delivered across a group of similarly profiled accounts. This means that data can inform whether the invested accounts were actually ideal for your business. By collecting and analyzing this data, you can continue to maintain beneficial accounts and understand the kinds of accounts that deliver the highest ROI.

Save Resources

You can save time, staff, and budget resources by intentionally investing time in accounts that are of higher value and hold more promise to convert the accounts to actual customers. This way, you avoid spending time on low-value accounts or using generic approaches that are not well-received.

Potential Drawbacks of ABM

As with most marketing strategies, there are potential drawbacks to using ABM. However, most of these potential drawbacks can be avoided with proper planning and strategy.

Alignment Between Sales and Marketing Teams

For ABM to work effectively, sales and marketing teams need full alignment and constant communication. Collaboration is essential to ABM success. If the foundational functional relationships between departments are not solid, ABM will not be successful. This is why it is crucial to have organizational alignment when implementing ABM, with a constant open dialogue between teams to raise awareness of engagement and communicate interactions with each target account. Collaboration can include active CRM use, communication platforms such as Slack, and regular meetings to review campaigns and progress.

ABM Expertise Required

ABM requires extensive marketing and sales expertise. Campaigns are complex, leverage many integrated technologies and involve multi-threaded prospect conversations. Managing and executing a deliberate ABM campaign requires dedicated resources that understand the technology used as well as the industry that your business operates in. The wider your pool of target accounts and the more prospect touchpoints at each account, the more resources are required.

Narrows the Pool of Possible Target Accounts 

By its nature, ABM narrows the pool of possible target customers. This may not be the greatest approach for smaller businesses. How well ABM works, or how well-suited it is for your business, depends on the stage your business is in and how narrow you have profiled your target account list. If a small pool of target accounts is better for you than reaching out to a broader range of potential customers, then ABM tactics should be considered.

Alignment with Sales 

The success of ABM depends on the agreement between both sales and marketing teams. The marketing team creates appropriate, targeted content to attract possible customers, and the sales team nurtures the leads and pushes these accounts further to close the account. Sales may have initial reservations about the strategy since, under it, they are no longer reaching out to as many potential accounts as they may have been prior. This alignment is the most critical feature of ABM. So, it’s essential to consider ways to make ABM more attractive to the sales team if there is hesitance.

One way to address this potential pushback is by framing ABM as being beneficial for sales specifically. ABM could help sales acquire more satisfactory leads passed to them by marketing. Contacts and high-value accounts are already identified, so the likelihood of sales making pitches with a negative outcome decrease substantially. Through ABM, sales are given increased resources to close an account through the marketing team’s efforts, especially with the personalized content that helps drive engagement.

It’s important to encourage communication between the two teams and have regularly scheduled meetings to touch base and address possible issues often. It’s equally important to discuss the responsibilities of each team member to understand their separate roles and how they can work together to turn their target account list into won opportunities.

ABM Complements Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing may already be a strategy that you use in your business. Shifting approaches to ABM does not mean, however, that you have to scrap inbound marketing entirely. Inbound marketing is a type of strategy that can work well with ABM rather than compete with it.

Both inbound marketing and ABM aim to identify high-value target companies more likely to require your business’s products or services. The methodologies may be different but using both can increase the likelihood of engaging with those target companies. To effectively implement both inbound marketing and ABM into your processes, both techniques need a deep understanding of ideal account profiles and prospect personas to influence content creation and messaging.

Inbound marketing aids in attracting the “right customers” to your business. This gives ABM a solid foundation to operate on by casting a net from which ABM can look for appropriate target accounts and then use the strategy to deliver a personalized customer experience. Additionally, because part of inbound marketing involves specialized content creation, ABM can use that content to reach out to target accounts and help speed up the personalization of the content for ABM.

Use of Intent Data

Intent data is a vital resource to have when executing an ABM strategy. Intent data provides insight into an account’s behavior and content consumption.

Intent data can be used to determine in-market prospects and discover accounts looking for solutions your company offers. It can assist marketers in understanding consumers and how to target them appropriately. In particular, First-Party Intent Data can show directly what consumers could be interested in and the level of interest shown from such consumers.

Therefore, intent data can be quite beneficial to ABM when marketing determines which accounts qualify as high-value accounts for the business. 

Businesses often use “intent data providers” to obtain intent data. These providers collect data on intent and buyer online behavior and forward that to the business. There are a number of intent data providers available to use, so it’s important to know the features that separate these providers from one another, and the features that are important to you and your business. This can include market insights, lead prediction, and lead management, insight on competitors, and website user analytics. Popular intent data providers include Bombora, Demandbase, and ZoomInfo.

How to Effectively Adopt Account-Based Marketing

How businesses implement ABM will vary, but overall, the process will fundamentally stay consistent:

  • Decide on the type of Account-based marketing strategy your business wishes to pursue: Strategic ABM, ABM Lite, or Programmatic ABM.
  • Determine target accounts or account profiles that are high value
  • Identify target personas and individuals within those high-value accounts
  • Develop personalized campaigns for each account

There are various options for personalizing content creation and campaigns to target accounts. You should have a clear understanding of the interests, needs and challenges that each account faces. From there, you can begin to align your content and approach with those values for personalized outreach. Some of the more effective ABM strategies include complex technology implementations, such as website personalization welcoming visitors from target accounts to your website by mentioning their company name.

  • Execute the campaigns

Campaigns generally can include a variety of approaches, such as direct mail, targeted ads and email. However, what ends up working best for you depends on your industry and the target accounts you are seeking to engage.

  • Collect data, optimize strategies, and iterate to success 

When used correctly and strategically, Account-based marketing can increase your business’s ROI when developing marketing campaigns and conducting outreach to businesses. The strategy brings together the sales and marketing teams and has them work in tandem to identify high-value accounts, produce personalized content, implement complex technology solutions, and acquire target accounts as customers. 

If you’re interested in developing account-based marketing campaigns for your organization, contact Second Eclipse’s B2B marketing experts today.