ABM just turned to be the coolest kid on the block. If you weren’t sure after seeing all the “trends for 2017” articles, Inbounb 2016 & Martech 2017 conferences officially heralded the rise of this strategy.
What is Account Based Marketing?
ABM is essentially a form of strategic business marketing. An organization takes an individual prospect or “account” and targets it as it’s only audience. These accounts are in fact, existing companies that the organization would want to acquire as customers.
This strategy is typically enforced by enterprise-level sales organizations, and is mostly relevant to B2B efforts. According to current researches, 92% of B2B marketers consider ABM important and the number of B2B companies practicing this methodology has more than doubled in the past year. As it seems to me, and most of the marketers in the B2B landscape, ABM is not going anywhere, at least for the next couple of years.
Why is it good
What’s great about today’s account-based marketing technologies, is that they allow you to market across personas, sales stages, campaigns, or statuses in your CRM, and go from one-channel marketing to multichannel nurturing, instantly.With that said, the reasons I would use ABM sum up to these four benefits:
- Particularly useful for organizations with multiple buyers or stakeholders.
- Easier to measure, thus leading to clearer ROI.
- It enables to incorporate personalized messaging that resonates with your target audience.
- ABM is perhaps one of the most efficient ways to align sales and marketing. Primarily due to the fact that the ABM is being enforced as some kind of extension of your inside sales team.
How to get it started
Pure ABM makes sense mostly when your market is specific and well defined – the bigger your market the more you should turn to inbound strategies. Usually, the methodology starts with digging within your CRM data and extracting core attributes that would build your ideal customer profile. But what happens when you’re a young startup with zero to “my uncle tried it” customers? The core steps of ABM (ICP, prioritization, engagement, expansion and retention) remain basically the same, what changes in this case is the way you should enforce them:
- Developing your ICP – ideal customer profile – from zero
At this step you should formulate your thesis on potential customer segments where your product would have strong perceived value. The marketing team basically sits down with the sales or CSM team (yes, one person still accounts for a team) and together, they come up with a list of companies who they think will be interested in the company’s solution.
Once these companies (accounts) were identified, the next step is to find out the decision makers and critical players in those accounts. If you don’t own this information consider having your sales team conduct a research or purchase this data from outside vendors. You can use a tool like Saleslift to get the needed contact details, you can subscribe to services that provide it – or go for less traditional methods like scraping the web for them or extract them from your LinkedIn account. There are plenty of amazing technologies out there that can support this effort — like LinkedIn Navigator.
- Prioritize the chosen accounts
After passing the ICP step you would usually rank your ICPs by engagement data at the account level in order to prioritize outreach by interest signals. For startups that do not have this data upfront, you’ll have to prioritize according to profitability likelihood. Factors like deal size, market overlap, geographic proximity and more should be taken into account. To answer those questions you can use tools like Crunchbase, Owler or Mattermark.
This is when content and channels come to life. Based on your accounts you should formulate specific messages and content offers that will resonate with each of your account verticals (if you have only a few you can come up with designated messaging for each account).
Think about adequate content formats such as email, e-books, targeted ads, videos, webinars – basically anything you can use to catch your accounts attention.
For this step you can incorporate some help from Marketing Automation platforms. Companies like Demandbase, Terminus and Engagio have come up with tailored solutions for marketers that wish to enforce their ABM strategies.
Most marketers are always looking for new prospects, leads and segments when they talk about expanding.Therefore, I wouldn’t say that it’s clear we can and are supposed to expand our reach to other personas within our existing target list of companies and accounts.
Because of the nature of B2B sales funnel, many of the leads that you already engaged with weren’t ready to make a purchasing decision on spot – that’s totally natural, as B2B deals might take a few months and multiple touch points before getting closed. Don’t give up so easily and let these accounts go just because they’re not going to turn into an immediate sale. Instead, use account-based nurturing to continuously present your marketing message over time, keeping your company top of mind until your leads are ready to take the next step. At this point, after reaching your accounts and engaging with them you should have some initial data to keep your nurturing activity alive.
It is not a secret that retaining current customers is far cheaper than bringing in new ones. Despite that fact, most marketing teams have no budget to spend on existing customers. Retention is one of the most underutilized strategies in today’s marketing. In current times, as we enter into an era of revenue marketing, the revenue is only looked at from a new customer perspective.
Retaining existing customers is by far the greatest opportunity to drive demand and buzz around your own products. Salesforce does this mainly with events (like Dreamforce and the Salesforce One Tour all around the world), but you can also turn customers into advocates without the need to arrange a fancy cruise, by using tools like Influitive, or showing your appreciation to them by engaging with them back.
To sum up, ABM can be used by startups without the need of an existing customer’s database. It’s truth that having preliminary information can really focus your ABM efforts, however you can always start based on the tips above and refine your ABM strategy on the go.