April 6, 2016
What is Account based Marketing and Who Can Use It?

Inbound marketing is the typical approach for most marketers today, and done right it works very well. But when you are marketing a product or solution in the B2B sector where the decision to purchase can take months or longer and is decided by committee, you need to look at alternative approaches. This is where account-based marketing (ABM) can play a key role in gaining new customers and upselling/cross-selling current customers. 

So what exactly is account-based marketing? It's marketing at the account level (I.e. by company) instead of to specific people. And you don't just pick the companies out of a hat - you strategically analyze your market, including existing customers and you identify key accounts you want to target. Essentially, you know who you want to target and you design specific personalized campaigns for each account.  

Account-based marketing brings together sales and marketing teams because you need sales to help identify the right accounts to target, and marketing to develop personalized campaigns for each account.

According to a study by Demandbase and Integrate in February 2016, 57% of markers said that 20% of their marketing budget went to ABM. Of these, 90% said they needed to improve ABM program results, but there are two major challenges:

  • Finding the right person within the targeted account who makes the purchase decision. 
  • Obtaining accurate rich data on these decision-makers.

Finding the Right Accounts

So how do you find the right accounts to target and how do you find the key decision-makers within that account? Think about the key attributes you want in your target accounts - revenues above $1 million? Mid-sized companies or enterprise? Specific market such as pharmaceutical or higher education? Specific location? 

Look at your top customers today, identify key firmographics within those accounts. Use that information, along with some external market research and you should be able to figure who the optimal prospects to reach. Once you find the companies, dig deeper to find the right decision-makers.  

Another alternative is to purchase a list of potential customers who match the attributes you have defined.  

Keep in mind that it might not be just one person within the company you want to reach out to. Because you are focused on the account and not just a single person, you'll want to try and find additional people in the company to reach that have a hand in deciding what products to purchase. This includes end users and influencers (IT, security, lines of business, marketing, etc..) 

Once you have the right accounts and people within the accounts identified, you can start to plan your nurture strategy.  

The Right Approach to ABM

Account-based marketing is not a quick and dirty approach to winning new customers. It takes time and effort. This makes sense because the decision-making process itself can be a long drawn out process. ABM enables you to design personalized campaigns that run the entire customer lifecycle from decision-making all the way through to retention and upsell/cross-sell. 

You are, essentially, trying to build long-term relationships with these accounts, so don't expect results overnight.  

Not every company can afford the time and resources to focus so intently on a small group of accounts. But this doesn't mean ABM is not an option. Technology has enabled marketers to move to an account-based marketing model in ways they may not have been able to before. 

ITSMA, an research-based member organization committed to helping B2B organizations market and sell more effectively offer three approaches to scaling ABM.  

  1. Strategic ABM (or the classic, traditional model) is the 1:1 relationship building model most people think of with ABM. This is a strong focus on a few high value key accounts and an extremely tight personalized relationship.  
  2. ABM Lite enables a marketer to focus on a few organizations by limiting the amount of research done on each account (although still needing to get the right people in the organization to reach). ABM Lite supports the ability to personalized, but in a broader context. 
  3. Programmatic ABM enables a one to many relationship where technology is strongly leveraged to reach a greater number of accounts. These are typically smaller accounts targeted through demand generation tactics, but measured at the account level, not the individual level. 

Account-based marketing isn't for everyone. But if your sales cycles are long, you need to build strong relationships over a longer period of time, and your product or service is typically purchased through committee, then this approach is a smart one to consider. 

Next time, we'll talk about some of the ways you can use your web content management system in your ABM program. 

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