How to Leverage Account-Based Marketing for Your Business

Updated January 3, 2020

Email, phone calls, texting, chat, video conferencing, social media — access to numerous communication channels means organizations can now adopt more B2B marketing strategies to fuel their growth and business development.

However, the sad reality is that 63% of marketers are struggling to generate traffic and leads, according to data from HubSpot.

The reasons vary — it could be changing customer buying habits, stiffening competition for customers’ dwindling attention, or the lack of clarity on which technology can best meet marketers’ objectives.

What else can you do?

You may have heard of account-based marketing (ABM), a long-term, holistic digital marketing strategy that veers away from the usual “spray and pray” marketing format.

Instead of casting a wide net to find the most suitable leads, marketers identify their target companies (or accounts) beforehand. Then they engage each organization’s key decision-makers with personalized campaigns and content.

With ABM, you start by marketing towards a specific account instead of creating campaigns and messages with the objective of attracting a larger audience.

At a glance: Account-based marketing tactics to try:

  • Create account-specific offers
  • Create deals aimed at securing a meeting with a prospect
  • Use retargeting/remarketing to your advantage
  • Leverage social intelligence and social media data to understand what makes your prospects tick
  • Send personalized gifts
  • Personalize prospects’ experiences on your website

What is account-based marketing?

Cisco, a technology company specializing in high-end networking and telecommunications equipment and services, sees one trend shaping the future of customer experience in 2020 and beyond: hyper-personalization.

Personalization has been talked about countless times on many marketing blogs for a reason: People want to be treated as people — with feelings, needs, and pain points they want brands to understand and address — instead of as breathing sales targets or walking dollar signs.

This is where ABM makes its mark. Account-based marketing is a laser-focused marketing approach that targets specific, high-quality accounts and then creates marketing messages tailored to the needs of the key people in those accounts.

How to implement account-based marketing

How does account-based marketing work? Below is an outline of the steps to follow:

Step 1: Identify high-value target accounts

Determine the key accounts with the potential to generate the most profit for your organization. Create a target account profile based on criteria such as industry, location, company size, turnover, and the account’s pain points that your product or service can potentially address.

Step 2: Find your target accounts

You can search for your target businesses actively based on the profile you built in the first step. Or check your databases for the companies that have already connected with you, either via your website or other marketing channels.

Look at your current customers, too. They already like you, and they’re much easier to convert compared to businesses that have no idea who you are.

Step 3: Identify your contact persons

Research your target accounts to find the key people with whom you should connect.

Use social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn to get to know them, engage with them, and make them aware of your company’s existence. Commenting on their posts and using @mentions can capture their attention.

If you’re using website visitor tracking software, use the data you already have to pinpoint your best contact.

Step 4: Craft customized marketing campaigns

The type of content you create will depend on whether the key stakeholders in your target accounts already know who you are. The content will have to coincide with where they are in the sales pipeline.

Also, keep in mind that ABM is a strategy that targets the buying group instead of individual stakeholders. Therefore, each piece of content you create must contribute to the account’s shared story.

Step 5: Determine the right channels

Now that your content is ready, how will you deliver it? There are different marketing channels you can use, including email marketing, online advertisements, social media, direct marketing, and even direct selling or in-person presentations.

Step 6: Measure your campaigns

Always measure how your campaigns are performing so you know how to best improve them. Email marketing software systems have reporting tools that analyze email data, while social media measurement tools gauge how your social media initiatives are faring against your objectives.

Account-based marketing tactics and strategies

The key things to remember about ABM are personalization and relevance. Below are some ABM tactics and strategies you can implement to achieve both.

1. Create account-specific offers

Instead of creating general content intended for a wider audience, build content that homes in on the specific concerns of your target accounts. This means taking the time to research what stakeholders need and building content that speaks to those needs.

2. Create deals aimed at securing a meeting with a prospect

Design deals or offers aimed at getting your foot in the door.

For example, if you’re a web design and marketing agency, you can send a prospect a short video or a summary of your analysis of their website, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it’s performing versus the competition.

If research indicates that conversion is a major concern for your target account, you can offer to show them what the best companies in their industry are doing to hit their conversion goals.

3. Use remarketing to your advantage

Remarketing is the process of serving targeted ads to leads or customers who have already interacted with content on your site but did not result in a conversion.

With remarketing, a tracking cookie is placed in the user’s browser. The cookie then notifies the remarketing platform of the type of ad to serve the user based on the specific pages or content they viewed or engaged with on your app or website.

4. Leverage social intelligence and social media data to understand what makes your prospects tick

Social listening is a key element of audience research in which companies monitor, analyze, and respond to social media chatter about their products, services, brand, or industry.

A social listening strategy gives you valuable insights into the thought processes of your target accounts. It’s also invaluable for discovering new information about your prospects, allowing you to redirect your message or restructure your offers as soon as possible.

5. Send personalized gifts

Delight your prospects by sending gifts specifically for them. Instead of the standard company-branded items, think outside the box and come up with something your target accounts will be very happy to receive. For example, send a personal blender or sports headphones to the fitness buff, or perhaps a multitool to the avid outdoor enthusiast.

6. Personalize prospects’ experiences on your website

Provide your target accounts with customized experiences on your website to increase engagement and boost conversion.

Create landing pages with custom images, copy, offers, and pricing specific to the account browsing your website. Data you can use for website personalization include:

  • Behavioral data: How a prospect behaves while on your app or website.
  • Contextual data: Provides contextual information, such as the browser used, type of device, and its location, etc.
  • Demographics: Name of the prospect, email address, job title, and location.
  • Firmographics: Company name, industry, employee count, revenue, stage in the buying cycle.

Should you use account-based marketing?

Account-based marketing is not for everyone, but the results can be phenomenal when done right.

Benefits of utilizing account-based marketing

Here are just a few of the benefits of account-based marketing:

  • Targeted marketing efforts: With ABM, it’s quality over quantity. Your marketing efforts are laser-focused on high-value prospects and accounts that are likely to close. This means less wasted time chasing unproductive leads, especially if all you need is one big deal to make it through the rest of the year.
  • Synchronized sales and marketing initiatives: ABM requires the marketing and sales teams to work together to create meaningful experiences for the key people in your target accounts. CRM software helps organizations ensure that relevant information and resources are shared among teams, instead of siloed off between departments.
  • More efficient use of marketing dollars: ABM may end up being more costly than other forms of marketing because of the hyper-targeted nature of this approach. However, ABM goes beyond just B2B lead generation. You can also use it to maximize the value of your largest accounts via upselling and cross-selling.
  • Shorter sales cycles: The B2B sales cycle typically involves multiple stakeholders — a reality that can slow down the sales cycle. With ABM, your focus is on nurturing the key decision-makers and other related candidates within the account, thus allowing you to speed up the sales process.

Considerations before trying this type of marketing

To know if ABM is the right marketing approach for you, consider the following before diving in:

  • ABM investment: ABM requires a more comprehensive, 360-degree approach compared to other marketing methodologies. You have to find your target accounts, research them, create accurate profiles, craft content that’s tailored to their needs, devise an outreach strategy that will include both paid and free marketing channels, and manage engagements on an ongoing basis. All told, the return on your ABM investment should make sense.
  • Target audience: Do you know your target audience? Does your target audience even know you exist? Will you start building your accounts list from scratch? Do you already have website data to peruse? If your target accounts don’t know you, it’s a good idea to reach out to them instead of waiting for them to contact you for inquiries.
  • Content generation: Your aim is to convert carefully selected accounts with very specific needs, which means your content should drive high conversions. If your in-house team doesn’t have the time or expertise to research the organizations you’re targeting, as well as create content that resonates, it’s your responsibility to assemble a team that can actually get the job done.
  • Sales and marketing alignment: To get started with ABM, sit down with your marketing and sales teams to discuss your goals and the steps required to accomplish those goals. B2B marketing deals with several decision-makers, and it’s important that every employee at your company says the same things. It would be a turnoff for potential customers, not to mention unprofessional, if one person from your team says one thing to a prospective customer and someone else says another.

Laser-focus your marketing with ABM

Some marketing experts aptly describe ABM as “personalized marketing on steroids.” However, it’s not for everyone.

The time and financial investment it requires can easily become hurdles, especially for small businesses. So, do your research before diving in.

If you decide to move forward, remember that combining ABM with other B2B sales and marketing approaches is your best bet for realizing your business goals.