B2B marketing has traditionally been geared towards casting a wide net to catch the largest possible number of leads. This approach has been challenged recently with the rising prominence of account-based marketing (ABM).
To extend the analogy, ABM works by creating custom 'bait' to attract a smaller number of high-priority leads. The premise here is that having fewer high-value clients is more beneficial for a company than having a larger client base with varying degrees of quality.
So far, ABM has predominantly been used by larger corporate entities because it was both more expensive and labor-intensive than traditional inbound marketing methods. However, with the release of more affordable marketing software solutions in recent years, ABM became a viable option for small business as well.
With that being said, most small businesses have yet to adopt this new paradigm. So in order to make the transition towards using ABM as painless as possible, we have written a short primer on the topic to help you get started.
So keep reading, and find out how your company can start leveraging the power of ABM.
How ABM works
The basic definition of ABM is that it is a marketing strategy that involves targeting specific companies (i.e. accounts) with specially tailored marketing messages. Factors that determine whether a given account is worth pursuing include, but are not limited to.
- Their conformity with your ideal client profile
- Their money-making potential
- The problems they tackle in their line of work
- The kind of content they find valuable
Apart from allowing you to create a list of accounts to target, information of this sort is also used for creating personalized marketing messages for each account. These messages are then sent out across different marketing channels, including email, social media, direct calls and others.
Unlike in traditional marketing, ABM transitions seamlessly into sales, which is why marketing and sales teams have to act in tandem in order to achieve optimal results.
The theory behind ABM is relatively straightforward. The implementation, on the other hand, can be complex, depending on your business needs and goals, as well as available manpower and resources. So before you start using ABM, it is worthwhile to examine the concrete benefits it can offer to your company.
Benefits of ABM
ABM has seen enough widespread use in recent times, and there are well-established benefits associated with it. Here are the four most relevant ones for small businesses.
According to the 2014 ITSMA Account Based Marketing Survey, ABM has the highest ROI of all B2B marketing strategies. Because ABM is specifically focused on reaching out to and converting high-value targets, it is guaranteed to provide the best possible ROI if implemented correctly. In contrast, marketing strategies that utilize a scattershot approach for lead acquisition tend to provide less valuable leads on average, and hence a lower ROI. It is a matter of quality over quantity – it is more lucrative to have long-term relationships with trustworthy clients, than a mass of unpredictable ones.
The demand for personalized content is at an all-time high, and ABM is geared toward personalization by design. Personalized content is the key to driving engagement, and engagement is an essential factor in the attention-driven economy of today. Since ABM works with fewer clients by default, it becomes feasible even for small businesses to create content according to each client's needs. The data-centric nature of ABM also ensures that you have ample data for implementing personalization. And between two companies attempting to create personalized content, the one with more information on their hands will always come out on top.
ABM is a collaborative project between marketing and sales, and this makes it especially effective for lead nurturing and customer success. By continuously engaging with accounts, your company will have more opportunities to extract value from clients through up-selling, cross-selling, referrals, and brand advocacy. Traditional marketing approaches are focused on short-term gains, a strategy that is both unreliable, and prone to misfire. In contrast, ABM is geared towards long-term by design. On the whole, customer relationship management becomes easier thanks to the alignment of marketing and sales within ABM.
Because ABM relies on precision targeting, it enables small businesses to utilize their resources efficiently, and thus keep costs down. With a fewer number of accounts to keep track of, ABM also makes it easier to track and monitor your marketing campaigns. It is easier to draw clear conclusions about the success rate of your campaign because you are looking at a smaller set of account data instead of a large number of unrelated metrics. And since your marketing and sales teams will be working together on the same goal, the risk of spending more marketing due to overlapping is reduced.
Getting started with ABM
Getting started with ABM can appear daunting at first, but in reality, the whole process can be broken down into a number of easy-to-follow steps. Here are the essentials of what you need to do.
Your first step should be to decide on the specific goals you want to achieve with ABM. Depending on the industry you are operating in, ABM can be used to forge stronger bonds with clients, increase your upselling and cross-selling potential, improve your conversion rate, etc. The objectives you set out to accomplish will determine the rest of your ABM strategy.
Determine key accounts
Once you are clear on your objectives, you should proceed to gather data on potential accounts in your industry. The hallmarks of a key account are its potential to generate revenue, its marketplace position, the likelihood of repeat purchases, and others depending on your goals. Make sure to do your research here, your choice of accounts is your primary success factor in ABM.
Synchronize marketing and sales
As mentioned, ABM relies heavily on marketing and sales alignment to function properly. Small businesses actually have an advantage over their bigger counterparts when it comes to this alignment. Simply put, because they operate with a smaller staff, there is a greater likelihood that salespeople are the ones doing the marketing as well (or the reverse). This makes ABM much easier to implement.
Create custom content
Custom content is the cornerstone of ABM. The content you create has to be highly relevant to the accounts you have identified. If you do not have the resources to create entirely new content from scratch, you can attempt to repurpose old content, but you will need to ensure it is sufficiently customized for each key account. When creating content, be sure to take into account the nuances of each communication channel you are going to use.
Launch the campaign
With your list of key accounts gathered and your content ready, it is time to launch your first ABM campaign. Software tools can be of great help here. Setting up a CRM System should be your first priority in this regard, followed by a marketing automation suite. These tools will eliminate much of the busywork associated with digital marketing, and they will make it easier to track your campaign progress.
ABM and the future of B2B marketing
As a small business, you often have limited resources, so it is important to invest in a marketing strategy that brings results. ABM has a proven track record on the enterprise level, and with the abundance of marketing tools available today, it is now possible for small businesses to partake in this success.