Account-Based Marketing – is this another one of those buzzwords? Or is it actually a strategy that can solve your problems in B2B marketing? In this article, we are going to find that out. First, we’ll clarify the question of what the term actually means.
Attempt at a Definition: What is Account-Based Marketing (ABM)?
In order to define the term, we must take a look at what Account-Based Marketing is not. Account Based Marketing is the counterpart to mass marketing and thus a strategy to avoid large scatter losses, especially in the B2B environment. It also isn’t – as the name suggests – a pure marketing strategy.
What exactly is Account-Based Marketing then? ABM basically is a long-term strategy for your sales and marketing. The focus lies on individual "accounts", i.e. companies or decision-makers. Accounts therefore can be potential customers, but also leads or existing customers. It is important that all the information available on a certain company is linked to this one account. This helps you addressing this company and wining them over in a very targeted and individual manner. In ABM you manage personalized campaigns instead of a large-scale campaign. The goal is to direct all measures and content to your target account.
A popular metaphor illustrates the idea behind this: While mass marketing or conventional lead generation uses big nets to fish in the sea, account-based marketing uses the harpoon and catches the fish that fit your "prey pattern". The lead funnel is turned upside down, so to speak.
What’s the difference between account-based marketing vs. inbound marketing and key account management?
Now you could say: But… I've already been tailoring my inbound measures and content precisely to my target audience. And since my target audience limited to a certain industry, that's also account-based marketing, right? No, not quite. While you specifically attract interested parties through your website, content and lead generation BEFORE you select them in inbound marketing, with ABM you make the selection right at the beginning (see lead funnel).
ABM focuses on highly individualized accounts instead of as many target customers as possible.
In ABM, you therefore communicate only with already selected prospects. Your target audience is much more selected and you can address them individually. With inbound marketing, on the other hand, you address the broad masses.
More similar, but also not to be confused with ABM, is key account management which describes taking care of certain important customers with a high value for the company. Although a key account manager is sometimes also responsible for acquiring new customers and cross-selling, his/her focus is more on personal support of important customers. Despite the fact that both focus on a handful of key target accounts, account-based marketing has the clear goal to acquire new customers.
Account-based marketing is basically an interface between inbound marketing, key account management and classic lead management.
How Does Account-Based Marketing Work Exactly?
Now that you know what account-based marketing is, you're probably wondering how exactly you can implement it in your processes. If you want to proceed strategically, it's best to go through these five steps:
1. Identify and Define Your High Value Target Customers
In ABM, the target audience is even more crucial than in other marketing strategies. Since the effort is comparatively high, your target audience must be chosen in such a way that your strategy is profitable. Find out who you want to address and what makes your target company or person!
Include all the information on a target company you can find. This means: When selecting target customers, have an open conversation with your sales department, customer service, and possibly even management. You should create so-called Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP) and define what your ideal target customer looks like. Do you base quality solely on sales or do criteria such as location or perhaps the number of employees also play a role?
In order to personalize your approach, it is helpful that you also know the decision-makers of your target companies. In order to better address them later on, ICPs can help you define your decision-makers in more detail. You need to know the pains of your personas precisely in order to align your content with them in the further course.
2. Find and Complete Your Profiles of Your Target Customer
First of all, make sure that you really have all the companies on your list that fit your previous ICP. It would be very annoying if you forgot some valuable candidates on your list. An easy way to find out which companies you absolutely have to include is to find lookalikes to some already high-value customers of yours.
Now it's time to gather the missing information about your target accounts. Do you really know all the people who have a say in the decision-making process? Where are the touchpoints you have with them? If some of your target accounts are already in the lead funnel, analyse them and the processes. That gives you insights such as which website content individual accounts are interested in or what ultimately made them buy your product.
3. Personalize Your Actions to Build Relationships
Now you need to be creative. Use the information you've gathered to decide what content to create for your target accounts. What are they interested in? It can also make sense to provide individual decision-makers within the target account with different information.
Today, it is no longer enough nor really creative to greet a company personally on a website. The only way to build a real relationship is to provide your target company with exactly the information they are looking for. Maybe they need a whitepaper, maybe an individual landing page or maybe an unique ad? Be interesting, surprising, and most importantly: relevant!
The goal should not only to capture the attention, but to keep the target account at your content for as long as possible. This can only be achieved with relevant content.
4. Determine which Channels You Want to Use
The first goal is to get the decision-makers in your target account to convert for the first time. Try to do personalized ads and use retargeting, e.g. via Google, LinkedIn or even native advertising. The possibilities are so diverse that this step deserves its own name: Account Based Advertising. More on this later.
If you manage to bring the targeted company to a personalized landing page, you can offer further relevant content there via a lead form. Ideally, you’ll receive a mail opt-in afterwards. In this case, you can rely on marketing automation to provide the target company with suitable content throughout their entire customer journey.
Very important: The top priority is to align the approach as best as possible with the previously defined personas/ICPs. Therefore, the channels mentioned do not always have to be the right ones. Sometimes a personal call can be more appropriate, or perhaps an invitation to an event works better? You should be creative when selecting the channels.
5. Analyze and Optimize Your Approach
The beauty of a long-term strategy is that you can permanently collect data to optimize it on a regular basis. So, it doesn't matter if your account-based marketing strategy is not perfect from the beginning.
It's best to monitor the entire sales cycle with appropriate tools, such as Hubspot or other CRM systems. This allows you to evaluate the extent to which your measures are effective and where you need to make appropriate adjustments.
Questions that can help you with the analysis could be:
- Does the prospect respond to your measures?
- Does each action move the prospect forward in the customer journey?
- Is contact with the target account maintained without large gaps?
- Are sales opportunities used and is the closing profitable?
You can extend the list of questions as much as you like. It can also be a good idea to ask the target account directly which content was helpful and which information he/she was or is missing. You can also ask directly after closing or during the sales process, which requires a certain tact; after all, you don't want to scare off the prospect with an endless list of questions.
If you would like to get started with ABM right now, we have created a clear guide to help you with your first steps:
Clear Advantages: What are the Reasons for Account-Based Marketing?
All the advantages of ABM at a glance:
By focusing on individual key accounts and repeatedly analyzing and optimizing their customer journey, customers naturally benefit from ABM. With an individually tailored customer journey, the buying experience is more enjoyable and customer relationship gets off to the best possible start.
This unique customer experience ultimately also makes closing a deal easier. Now you’re created the best foundation for your customer to stay loyal the future.
Compared to marketing measures that address your entire target audience, with ABM you can avoid scatter loss very effectively. You only target your measures at the addressees to whom they are tailored – that is maximum efficiency!
You certainly put a lot of work into your measures, but the outcome is all the higher for it, since you already consciously select your target customers beforehand and the customer relationship can only benefit from your efforts. This and the fact that you avoid wastage means in plain language: high return on investment (ROI) and more sales.
It's common knowledge that sales and marketing go together like coffee and cake. Most of the time, however, the collaboration works more like Coke and Mentos. ABM forces sales and marketing to work effectively as a team, as both benefit greatly from it.
Marketing gains valuable insights about target accounts and the customer journey, while sales receives leads that are almost ready to close. Why does ABM collaboration actually work better? That’s quite simpe: Thanks to the 1:1 perspective, marketing moves much closer to sales and mutual understanding grows.
Furthermore, the targeted approach tailored to the individual target account makes ABM a GDPR-compliant marketing strategy.
Finally, ABM measures are also easily measurable and very insightful. Instead of the otherwise large amounts of data, Account-Based Marketing gives you insights into exactly how accounts respond to your measures. These would usually be lost in "standard marketing”.
Account-Based Marketing, increases your relevance and, at the same time, your probability of closing deals with your top customers. The combination of content, paid ads and direct approach - tailored to specific target audiences - makes ABM so effective!
CEO Pluspulso GmbH
Who can Use Account-Based Marketing Most Profitably?
Basically, ABM is suitable for any company that wants to make its marketing and sales activities more targeted and individual. It doesn't matter how much revenue you generate, what industry your target customers are in, or how large your marketing budget is. However, there are some considerations you should keep in mind when implementing ABM strategies. Accordingly, the use of ABM is particularly worthwhile if the following points are fulfilled:
- You usually have a comparatively high turnover per customer or key account
- You are genuinely interested in helping your accounts with their pain points and challenges
- You think it’s highly important to have a stable and trusting customer relationship (often with a single contact person per customer)
- You regularly engage in up- and cross-selling
- The decision-making processes with your customers can often take longer
Furthermore, certain business models or products benefit from ABM: Let's imagine that a company produces a special seal for a certain type of vehicle, then this company would only want to address manufacturers, sellers or workshops of this type of vehicle with its campaigns, mailings and co.
ABM is very well suited for niche products.
Of course, it's the same the other way around. Large car manufacturers are just as dependent on their suppliers and their quality. If, for example, certain parts are required for a new model, there is often a call for tenders to ensure that only the best parts are installed. For this reason, a personalized marketing strategy can also be worthwhile for a big player who is specifically looking for manufacturers of a niche product.
ABM is also suitable for all "business-related" services. For example, providers of consulting or coaching can use ABM for highly individualized campaigns tailored for their customer segment. An example? Assuming you offer pronunciation training for sales people, you can use ABM to focus on companies with a sales department. Address exactly the pain points of sales managers in terms of language coaching and look for companies that have their own sales department and budget.
ABM is very well suited for consulting activities and specific market segments.
Even if you serve many target or key accounts in a specific market segment, ABM can be an advantage for you. Let's say you are focused on a specific industry, for example you sell tax software for tax consultants and lawyers – then ABM is for you! If you define a precisely fitting advertising strategy for these segments, your target customers will feel addressed automatically.
As said at the beginning, basically anyone can use ABM. However, you should keep one thing in mind: ABM is both more time-consuming and more cost-intensive than generalist marketing approaches. Therefore, it is usually worthwhile to use it if your product or service generates a high turnover.
Areas of Application: Where Exactly Does Account-Based Marketing Come Into Play?
ABM has several areas of application. It can be used in every phase of the customer journey: during the acquisition of new customers, in the nurturing or sales phase, as well as in customer care or in retargeting.
New Customer Acquisition: Create Awareness & Generate Good B2B Leads
Let's take a closer look: Certainly, many people first think of ABM in terms of new customer acquisition – customized and highly individual ads, mailings or content strategies are on the agenda. What’s also interesting is the so-called dynamic content, which is content that can only be seen by certain people.
Let's say you produce natural cosmetics and want to win over a big drugstore as a customer. Now you could, for example, create brochures and information material on how to sell your brand in all these drugstores. Only employees of that certain drugstore itself who are visiting your website can now see these materials, because they are only displayed to the drugstore’s IP-address. If you combine this technique with ads, mailings or other relevant content, your chances of success are very high.
Retargeting: Personalized Ads for Decision-Makers
ABM is also very useful for retargeting. If someone visits your website but doesn't interact through a download or other material and bounces back, you can use personalized marketing to reignite their interest.
Retargeting in ABM is about targeting the right people, contacts and decision-makers. For example, supported by the right tools, you can use your budget perfectly: Account-Based Retargeting allows you to place your retargeting ads in front of decision-makers. With Account-Based retargeting, you can track visitors to specific URLs and include company-specific filters (such as size or industry) and individual characteristics (such as job description, hierarchy). This way you can ensure that your retargeting reaches the right person in a company.
Lead and Account Nurturing: Better Features for Better Leads
ABM also helps you in the sales process – especially in lead management. Once you know the characteristics of the customer segments you want to target with ABM, you can segment them further and create a list of similar companies to target.
The task is then to create a focused ABM campaign for each of these companies, targeting key decision makers and their pains. When you run a campaign for another segment, you automatically collect more data and information. This way you can determine if your feature analysis was correct.
If so, you can further refine your ABM activities – for example, by using the dynamic content mentioned above! Perhaps you can build a separate landing page for certain customer groups or display additional content from this area to those who have downloaded a whitepaper on a certain topic.
Cross- and Up-Selling: Increase Your Sales with ABM
ABM also supports you if you have already acquired certain companies as customers. In the area of up-selling, for example, it makes sense to show the customer relevant success stories or case studies. This way you can convince them not to stick with the basic version of your software, but to upgrade to the premium version.
The same applies to cross-selling: Show your customer, for example, what competitors have achieved with another product from your portfolio.
How Does Account-Based Marketing Succeed?
For a successful implementation of ABM and good results, it is absolutely important to work across departments. It won't do you any good if the marketing department designs campaigns without talking to sales to find out what triggers your customers the best. The same applies to the exchange with customer consulting. Here, the decision makers in marketing, sales and customer service of the respective teams have to put their heads together and work out an objective and a strategy.
Important: Joint goal setting, KPI definition and resource planning
Above all, budget and resources should be planned together. This way, everyone knows who is scheduled where and for how long, and no misunderstandings arise. Especially when KPIs and goals are worked out together, everyone feels like they belong and don't work in vain.
If you want to ensure that your goals are met, we recommend that you form a team or task force for ABM. Members from all teams should be represented there. This way you can make it clear that each area will fully benefit from ABM: Marketing increases the conversion rate, Sales gets leads that are almost ready to close, and Customer Service increases the chance of having fully happy customers.
What is Account-Based Advertising?
Account-Based Advertising (ABA), just like ABM, is a personalized marketing measure tailored to a small number of target accounts, this time in the field of ads. With the help of digital advertising campaigns, ABA specifically promotes a few target customers as opposed to regular campaigns, which aim to reach as many potential customers as possible.
A survey by Terminus showed that Account-Based Advertising with fewer than 25 accounts generates over 400% more clicks than a campaign with over 300 accounts. As you can see, personalization is the key to successful ABM and ABA. Of course, this requires knowledge of the market, the industry and the accounts in question.
Try ABM with your ads, too!
On which channels does ABA work? In principle, all channels that you would also use with regular marketing measures:
- LinkedIn: As a business network, LinkedIn has great potential to reach many of your accounts. The fact that many people are on the move here with their professional profile makes it ideal for personalized ads.
- Google Ads: On Google your personalized ads are displayed to your target audience before all other links during a Google search.
- Display ads: These can also be more personalized and targeted to a smaller audience using ABA.
- Matched Audiences/Custom Audiences/Similar Audiences: On LinkedIn, Facebook or on Google, you can run target audience-specific ads that are generated for you by these platforms themselves and automatically displayed only to your selected target audience.
- Facebook & Instagram: Of course, you can also place ads on Facebook and Instagram. However, these platforms are more relevant for the B2C sector.
What Tools are Available for Account-Based Marketing?
Of course, there are a number of useful tools available to you for the implementation of ABM! Apart from tools designed specifically for ABM, we will also introduce you to other software from the areas of prospecting, IP tracking and customer relationship management (CRM). Only a combination of all areas will make your ABM successful in the long run!
Especially for ABM, there are tools that provide you with exactly the right data on your accounts to design an individual strategy. Among the best known are:
There are also some tools available to help you with prospecting. Originally, prospecting meant buying a static list of prospects. As you can imagine, this information became outdated very quickly, as company information changes very fast. Now, prospecting means using dynamic databases to find potential customers. The following tools, among others, will help you with that:
If you want to make sure that have the best leads in the long run, it makes sense to use software or tools for IP or website visitor identification. With these tools, you can track which companies have visited your website to learn about your products or services and thus define your ABM strategies. Among the most popular are:
Of course, we mustn’t forget CRM tools at this point. They ensure that your customer data is always up-to-date and maintained – so you always have the most recent information about your accounts! It also gives you a good overview of your customers' journey and touchpoints, which is essential for ABM. Make sure your CRM tool is equipped with marketing automation features to simplify your ABM. Some of the most popular CRM tools are:
With this set of tools, you'll be well equipped for ABM. Make sure you get high-quality data, develop strategies for it, and maintain it in the end. Surely you will find the right tool for you among the above.
What are Good Examples of Successful Account-Based Marketing?
But enough for the theory – let's bring everything you've learned about ABM to life with some examples!
For this purpose, we have compiled a broad selection of examples from various companies that were very creative and successful in the development and implementation of ABM. Before that, we would like to give you some ideas on how our customers have successfully implemented Echobot in their Account-Based Marketing and what experiences we ourselves have had with the use of events and webinars.
How Does Echobot Help with Account-Based Marketing?
As a first example, let's take an office supplier from Bavaria. With the help of Echobot TARGET and its potential search and trigger events, this customer was able to find companies in his exact zip code area that were currently opening new offices. These companies had an acute need for office furniture. So, our customer was able approach these companies directly and come up with individual marketing measures for exactly this target group.
Later, it became clear that within the new customers they had acquired, medium-sized companies with just under 250 employees and a certain sales margin were the most profitable for our customer, he used the "Search for Similar Companies"-function. This enabled him to "clone" exactly these companies with the just mentioned characteristics. He found even more ideal target companies and, in combination with Echobot CONNECT, he found the respective people to contact in the right department. His marketing team created custom-fit ads for these accounts, and the sales team was able to move into social selling with the help of the link to the Xing profiles.
Events as a Tool in Account-Based Marketing
You might be thinking: How is that supposed to work? I can't invite my accounts to a party! We say: Why not? It doesn't have to be a party, but why not invite them to a webinar including a lunch snack? Or to an after-work beer including an open conversation and a small pitch?
Terminus, an ABM software provider, coined the idea of Lunch & Learn. This is what it means: You host a webinar and offer those who signed in to the webinar a little something extra, such as pizza, pasta, or whatever you can think of. While your accounts or potential customers enjoy their meal, you have enough time to do your webinar on a topic relevant to them. If you promote yourself and your product in that situation, it will be less intrusive and promotional than in other situations.
At Echobot, we have also had good experiences with this. We usually hold our annual EchoBoost with two event days including presentations and after-work events. But this year, due to the pandemic, it was held online as a webinar series. In order to not miss out on the casual evening program, all participants were invited to a digital beer and/or wine tasting. The feedback was very positive, the mood was relaxed and we had the opportunity to get to know our customers and prospects on a completely different level. To support these events, we also ran ads on all channels and put them in the center of our social media, the website and with customers. That was personalized marketing at its best!
More Examples from Other Companies
We want to show you what an ABM campaign can look like in other companies. So, we’ve collected more examples. Let's get inspired!
GumGum Gets Creative on a 1:1 Level
Technology and media company GumGum launched two flagship campaigns in ABM. The target accounts were T-Mobile and McDonalds. To attract T-Mobile, GumGum tapped into CEO John Legere's passion for Batman and created its own comic book starring the CEO. The story eventually won him over. For McDonalds, the company shipped 100 personalized burger wrappers to McDonalds and its agency. Each box was personally named and contained a fast-food recipe, laid out like a BigMac, that described GumGum's technology.
Das Technologie- und Media-Unternehmen GumGum hat gleich zwei Vorzeigekampagnen im Account Based Marketing gestartet. Die Zielaccounts waren T-Mobile und McDonalds. Um T-Mobile zu gewinnen, hat sich GumGum die Leidenschaft für Batman von CEO John Legere zu Nutze gemacht und einen eigenen Comic entworfen mit dem CEO in der Hauptrolle. Die Story überzeugte ihn schließlich. Für McDonalds verschickte das Unternehmen 100 personalisierte Burger-Verpackungen an McDonalds und deren Agentur. Jede Schachtel war persönlich mit Namen versehen und beinhaltete ein Fast-Food-Rezept, aufgemacht wie ein BigMac, das GumGums Technologie beschrieb.
Optimizely Personalizes its Website
Optimizely wanted to move away from the website optimized for the average visitor and made the effort to welcome specific industries and also targeted certain businesses personalized on their website. This includes not only a matching cover image and custom greeting, but also CTAs, customer reviews, and content tailored to the visiting company.
BillingTree Sends Encrypted Suitcases
Since mass mailings did not lead to the desired success and missed the decision makers, the payment provider BillingTree decided to select the top 100 prospects and send them a suitcase secured with a combination lock – without the number to unlock it! Those who managed to open it anyway were rewarded with an Amazon voucher and a video pitch.
Intridea Relies on Classical Media
The agency Intridea proves that ABM is not only possible with technological support. To win over Ogilvy & Mather, it placed its message on a classic billboard located directly in front of the target account's office. Every time the Ogilvy & Mather employees looked out of the window, they were directly confronted with the message.
Vidyard Personalized a Christmas Video
One last example on the side, since there was no direct sales intent behind it. Vidyard was actually looking for a way to stand out from other companies with its Christmas message, and as a result launched a campaign with a personalized Christmas video. This video however made email open rates and click-through rates go through the roof, impressively demonstrating what one-to-one marketing can do.
Conclusion: You Must Try Account-Based Marketing!
Now you have an overview of the many possibilities and advantages of ABM. So, what are you waiting for? Ensure higher conversion rates and ROIs with tailored campaigns for your accounts. ABM will also bring your teams closer together because everyone will benefit from it.
If you don't know where to start, download our checklist "10 Steps to Get Started with Account-Based Marketing".
Checklist: 10 Steps to Get Started with ABM
Not sure where and how to start with Account Based Marketing? Download our free checklist to see how ABM fits your strategies!