My first exposure to account-based marketing was using a hyper-personalized email campaign to grow our solution adoption in eight enterprise accounts of a software company where I worked. That was five years before the phrase account-based marketing (ABM) was coined by ITSMA. Initially seen mostly as a strategy to penetrate larger accounts, ABM is targeting your highest value accounts and prospects with more personal and focused touches—typically to all the decision makers in the account. The analogy often used is “fishing with spears instead of nets.”
This type of focused marketing has yielded great results for many companies, and it certainly seems like a strategy almost any B2B marketer would get behind. Fast forward several years though to 2019 when I attended a conference on B2B technology marketing. In a session on ABM, there was a lot of confusion and concern about ABM’s role in small to mid-organizations and as a tool to target small to mid-size organizations. Most in attendance had not adopted it.
That’s understandable. If you do a web search for “account-based marketing” you’ll see thousands of pages with how-to articles and must-have tools. It often seems that unless you’re completely committed and willing to invest significant budget and resources, it just won’t work. Also, many of the articles and tools are more focused on large companies that may not be your typical client. The good news is there’s still a place for ABM in your marketing plans.
How to Get Started with Account-Based Marketing
Below are four main steps to take if you want to leverage the power of ABM.
1. Decide on your overall strategy.
That includes how many accounts you’ll want to target and at what level. For example, you may want to focus on a handful of accounts (even three to five is okay) with account-specific research and then plan on performing one-to-one outreach. Or you may apply ABM tactics to a segment—focusing on a niche or industry. In that case you may be able to focus on a few hundred accounts.
2. Build your plan with your business development team.
Account monitoring, research, and personal outreach is what makes ABM a highly successful strategy. Business development and account management resources are critical to creating a plan that works for your company. In addition to determining approach, you’ll want to identify the accounts you’ll be focusing on, who the key decision makers are in those accounts, and how many you’ll be able to target initially. Also focus on what support marketing will need to provide—usually in the form of messaging and collateral.
3. Identify account research and monitoring strategies (and tools).
Whether you’re focused on a few accounts or a larger industry segment you’ll need to know everything you can about who you’re targeting. Initially you can develop simple profiles with the key decision makers and anything you already know about the company. Then you’ll need to build that through monitoring.
Hopefully, you’ll have a list small enough to allow some form of account-level monitoring. This might include changes in leadership, acquisitions, or new areas of focus where your solution can play a role. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is one very powerful tool for not only monitoring accounts at this level but for direct engagement as well.
4. Build your content strategy and develop your content.
ABM requires personalized content for each of the decision makers in your target account. As part of this planning, identify “triggers” that can signal opportunities at these accounts. This should include educational and thought-leadership pieces to open the conversation. Nurture these accounts throughout the process.
You should also provide your business development team with some basic messaging and other content pieces to help make their outreach easier and more valuable. For example, if you have a trigger as “expansion into a new product line,” then an article discussing how your solution made that process more seamless for one of your clients could be a great piece to have on hand. If you’re focusing on a few accounts, you may even want to create some content that is branded specifically for them.
ABM is a strategy that in many ways flips traditional marketing on its head. Instead of a huge database driving hundreds of leads and filling a large pipeline, you’re focused on a much smaller set of accounts. This can be unnerving and maybe even feel a little risky because it takes time to ramp up and see results. It’s usually best to test ABM while your other marketing programs continue to run.
As you see results, consider shifting resources around to support more of the targeted approach. You may also find you’ll get some great targeting ideas from your ABM plans that will help strengthen your one-to-many approaches too!
Need help building your ABM program? From strategy to content, we can help you. Contact us today.