As a marketing concept, ABM is in its infancy. ITSMA (Information Technology Services Marketing Association) first coined the phrase ABM, or account-based marketing, in 2004. Unlike inbound marketing, ABM is an outbound marketing approach where team members use their ideal customer profile to allocate marketing resources to high-value accounts. Companies then use a selective approach to create customized, personalized marketing campaigns for the decision makers at these target accounts. This marketing approach involves multiple follow-up touchpoints, including specific tactics like phone calls, emails, social media, educational content, events, and direct mail to deliver better results from good leads at higher value types of account targets. ABM didn’t gain significant traction as a B2B marketing tactic until 2013, when the global search first appeared on Google Trends.
What is ABM?
So what is ABM? Like many marketing strategies, the ABM strategy evolved because technology evolved. New marketing technologies gave sales and marketing teams intelligence to better identify the right people at high-value accounts to deliver account-specific messaging while automating and tracking their engagement. Predictive analytics is taking the ABM platform to another level, with better and better ways to identify high-value customers with a set of target accounts.
The explosion of new technology and digital channels meant B2B marketers could now reach potential customers at a good fit targeted account through many new and different methods of communication and marketing efforts. Plus, sellers could test multiple marketing messages and incentives to drive engagement and desired actions to specific customer accounts.
But at the same time, across the table, key decision makers became more interested in engaging only with sellers who more thoroughly understood their needs from the start.
ABM emerges with tech, desire for personalization
One-size-fits-all mass marketing blanket campaigns would no longer cut it, especially in B2B verticals.
Over the next few years, the ABM approach expanded and evolved after Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools increased usage to track insights on a particular account. Best practices began to emerge. Using customer based insights, Customer Success Teams could better identify the ideal target audience, using key accounts to find the sweet spot customer base. ABM activities that create personalized experiences for specific accounts saw higher returns in average deal size and shorter close times.
Today, most B2B companies have an ABM program in place. Key stakeholders in the sales process include both sales and marketing departments; this marketing alignment with a common goal is a driving force to success.
Is ABM really that big of a deal?
YES. Because it works on many levels. Compelling study after study concludes that the ROI on ABM campaigns outperforms other marketing investments and is the most effective way to engage high value prospects and convert ideal accounts. With this B2B marketing strategy, working from a list of target accounts, sales spend less time chasing uninterested leads. Deals are bigger. Win rates are higher. The ABM market strategy of focusing marketing activities only on important accounts at the right time aligns Marketing and Sales teams—an incredible feat on its own. All organizations, from large companies with enterprise-level sales organizations to small businesses, can create a key account marketing plan using a successful ABM strategy.
What’s making ABM work?
As technology has evolved, people (prospects) began demanding more personalization and customization in their products and services and a better user experience. For example, the Burger King “Have it Your Way” campaign of the mid-1970s is now a part of our daily life. Think about it. No two iPhones are alike. Starbucks crafts every beverage to the exact specifications of the buyer. Life coaches, personal trainers, and smart home gadgets like thermostats and lighting all offer customized user experiences to fit our perceived specific needs. As predicted at the start of the century, the concept of “mass customization” marketing programs has arrived.
Stakeholders interested in investing in a solution need to know that it will specifically fix their problems and suit their business needs. They want someone with expertise in their field to make the implementation seamless. They want to choose someone who knows how the solution applies to their specific business and needs. They may not be ready to buy today, but those who stay top of mind and relevant will most likely be in the mix when it’s time to commit.
ABM gets you on the radar
As you probably know, getting the attention of a c-level is tough. But ABM is changing that: 75% of executives say they’ve read unsolicited marketing materials because it touched on their company’s specific needs.
ABM addresses 3 key factors
By its nature, ABM addresses three primary factors prospects answer when considering a new vendor:
- Do they know and understand my industry
- Do they know and understand my unique business issues
- Do they have fresh ideas to advance my business
In short, people choose to work with those they know, like, and trust.
Studies on the number of touchpoints it takes to convert a prospect vary wildly. Several years ago, the consensus was 7-8. Today, it’s not uncommon to need 20+ touchpoints. Maintaining that number of touches for a group of prospects is daunting for any sales organization. ABM manages the heavy lifting to keep the engagement flowing.
How can ABM scale if everything is personalized?
The pyramid approach is the magical secret sauce of ABM. Every successful ABM program implements three levels of targets. At the top of the pyramid, the elite few are the perfect targets. A perfect fit, even if they don’t know it yet. These accounts need the most personalized engagement and investment of time and energy.
One to Few ABM Pyramid Mid-Section
The mid-section of the ABM pyramid represents the “one to few.” Every company selected these differently. Consider them the runners-up to the elite few. The key is they must have something in common, such as being in the same business niche. Think about this grouping from their perspective. Could you imagine all of them attending the same conference or webinar? Then you’re on the right track. Getting this grouping right matters because this is how you scale. Can you “classify” this group? Can you find interesting news, data, stories to share with them that are specifically relevant to this group (and not others)? If the answer is no, you haven’t yet found your group.
One to Many ABM Pyramid Base
When you do, you’re ready to create your third group. It’s the broadest, but the rules from group two still apply. The most straightforward approach may be to broaden group two, but we’ve also worked with clients where these two groups were unrelated. For instance, group 2 could be resellers or salespeople who recommend your product or service, while group 3 is a specific business vertical.
Version one is better than version none
By its nature, ABM is a work-in-progress. Like a science experiment. You won’t have a perfect launch, but you will gain insights as you move along. Thus, the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll start learning what does and doesn’t work.
So start today.
To learn more about building and managing your ABM program, visit abm.xpromos.com