Account-based marketing continues to lure in marketers with the ever-seductive dance of engagement. But some of us feel like ABM wallflowers, lanky with mismatched clothing, shuffling our two left feet closest to the exit while the cool kids show off on the dance floor.
We want to be just like them. But, we’re afraid we won’t fit in.
We keep hearing that ABM is recommended for mid-sized companies and above, or rising brands with high lead volume. They have the wherewithal and bountiful resources to invest in account-based marketing, or they’re drowning in so many leads that they have to channel their energy wisely by targeting key accounts.
What if you’re neither of those things? You’re a smaller business, and by George, you would love nothing more than to have the aforementioned “drowning in leads” conundrum! But you’re not even swimming in leads – just wading. Does that mean you can’t apply ABM methods to your current marketing strategy?
No, it doesn’t. That would be business size-ism now, wouldn’t it?
ABM has been around much longer than the past two years, when it suddenly became the next big thing (even though it’s really an old thing).
Kissmetrics boldy declared that ABM can be traced back to the burgeoning era of advertising in the 1960s. Think, Mad Men – when they courted big accounts, sparing no expense from sunup to sundown.
Today dinner and cocktails have been replaced with “person-centric” marketing tailored to specific personas, deployed in strategic channels. But, what exactly does that mean?
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sangram Vajre from Terminus a couple of months ago, and I asked him to share his definition of ABM. He had such a refreshingly simple explanation:
“I think about ABM as laser-focused B2B marketing. If you break everything down, it’s really all about accounts. The last decade we’ve been focusing on one lead or one contact, and now we’re putting the ‘B’ back in B2B to influence decision makers.”
– Sangram Vajre
You don’t need to be one of the big guys with an enviable budget to integrate ABM into your marketing strategy. You just need to be laser-focused on accounts that matter to your company. You need to work smarter than you have been.
So, here is a breakdown of how you can use account-based marketing, no matter what size your company is.
Build a Die-Hard ABM Strategy
Rule #1 in any campaign is to know the goal. What are you hoping to achieve with ABM?
Engagement. Of course you want that! We all do. But, before you go skipping off, take the time to create tangible metrics – such as how many opportunities you need to create for sales so they can advance the sales process.
Get your team together at the same table, at the same time, to map out the objectives, so you all know your mission without fail.
Laser Focus on Your Ideal Accounts
In typical lead gen fashion, often we get hung up on net-new prospects being our targets. But established partners and existing customers are accounts that are absolutely worthy of your time.
Prioritize your accounts, then take what you know about targeting your audience to the next level by really getting in there. Performing in-depth research and an analysis of the market and historical data is an integral part of any ABM account planning process.
Rally Your Team for ABM Success
Besides the beautiful promise of engagement, ABM brings another gem … sales and marketing alignment. ABM doesn’t work without it, so there’s no time to dilly-dally with silos, rogue behavior, or finger-pointing.
Assign roles and timelines to cover everything, from initial account planning to the follow-up game plan. Marketing needs to come to terms with the fact that sales is the primary focus, and sales should be more involved with content strategy.
Mastermind Content That Speaks to Your Accounts
ABM content needs to be customized for the account you’re going after. It’s not the cheeky and colorful infographic you’re throwing out there to entertain and (fingers crossed) attract a bunch of leads.
That isn’t to say you can’t recycle content you have already. Now is a good time to do a content audit to assess your library and see what you can tailor for your specific accounts. You can probably find a number of pieces that you can revise for different personas, or parse into products for different channels.
A single high-level eBook can become a webinar, a webinar can become a SlideShare, a SlideShare can become a podcast. Each can be a blog post and a half-dozen social posts. If you’ve done the research and you know which of your contacts prefers which channel, you can slant each piece to the right consumer.
Don’t count out old-school tactics. Direct mail is an amazing way to get something visual into the hands of your selected accounts and stand out with something they can hold and feel. (And these days it can be counted as a less-mainstream tactic.)
Otherwise, whether you choose to create an eBook, infographic, webinar, or video, the basic rule of content still rings true – provide value.
Meanwhile …Be Friendly on Social Media
While you’re getting all of your ducks in a row with your account planning and content creation, you can use the ABM approach on social media well before launching your campaign. In fact, being social with your key accounts can be its own thing.
For example, create a list on Twitter of your target accounts and begin to add value through content and conversation. Think of it as a casual introduction to say “Hey, I’m a human” and a nod of approval when you share and engage with their content.
As you build relationships, think of ways you can warm the account up a bit through content collaboration. By featuring them on a guest blog or interview, or teaming up to create a webinar that benefits both your audiences, a partnership happens organically without the defensive wall going up.
Create a Cohesive Experience with Integrated Campaigns
Take what you know about personas and amplify it, because in ABM, every tactic should be all about them. Use a variety of messages, channels, and offers for each account you’re targeting – and reach your audience on all the channels they leverage, whether that’s email or social media or pager (kidding).
Which channels will be most effective for your accounts? As always, it’s the million-dollar question. As always, A/B testing is a fine option.
Outbound email and direct mail can work side by side as a drip campaign to your targeted list. Display advertising and paid social advertising can be operating in the background to warm up your accounts and really bring your message home. Your next event can be a wonderful orchestration, with a greater chance for engagement, if you apply a multi-channel mindset through account-based marketing.
Decide your tactics in the strategy phase, then test and revise. You’ll learn what works best when you assess your campaigns.
Measure Your ABM Success and Proceed
Take a look at which channels worked best during A/B testing. And “best” in ABM terms means evaluating engagement and influence for your target accounts.
Most importantly, you have to ask yourself if these ABM activities are improving sales outcomes. Salespeople and C-level execs don’t give a hoot about opens and clicks. Account-based marketing is rooted in legitimate business metrics, how engagement affects pipeline and revenue. How many opportunities is account-based marketing generating? What percentage of deals close? Is deal size going up? Is customer lifetime value going up? How is the length of the sales cycle being affected?
Live and learn from your ABM experience. What is it going to take to make your next campaign even stronger? Are you targeting the correct accounts? When you learn more about what your accounts want, you can fine tune your strategy to solidify relationships.
At the end of the day, smaller businesses need to be more strategic with how they’re spending their time and resources, because those are precious commodities – the most valuable things you have. And if your highest-value customers can be best won through account-based marketing, then yes – you should adopt it, at least for well-chosen segments of your sales list.
With closed sales being the Holy Grail of marketing, and authentic engagement being the path that leads to sales, that’s the end goal of any campaign, right? We’re not just doing things and blowing budgets for the heck of it.
By incorporating account-based marketing tactics into our strategy, we have the opportunity to focus our energy where it matters. The days of throwing content out to see what sticks are over.
It’s not about how many leads we can get anymore; it’s about getting the right ones – becoming acquainted with a range of contacts inside an account, building relationships with decision makers, and creating lasting partnerships that benefit both sides.
Are you a small business using ABM? We’d love to hear how it’s going!
Account-based marketing has captured the attention of the marketing industry for good reason. According to ITSMA, 84% of B2B marketers say that ABM delivers a higher ROI than any other approach. By leveraging the five key principles of ABM in this eBook, How to Profit from Account-Based Marketing, you’ll be able to deploy a successful ABM strategy that produces real and repeatable success – with technology you probably already have.