For many years now, B2B marketers have spent time and effort carefully crafting buyer personas based on demographic profiles, needs analyses and former sales results, among other criteria. The burgeoning trend towards account-based marketing (ABM) takes that a step further, by customizing activities to enable a laser-sharp focus on each specific target account. While inbound marketing is occupied mainly with attracting prospects to your offering, ABM emphasizes focusing on qualified business prospects, according to HubSpot. It requires a direct, highly personalized sales and marketing program that targets each organization individually.
In the 2016 State of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Study from Sirius Decisions, key findings showed more than 50 percent increase in the number of B2B companies practicing ABM. Chances are good you’ve been doing a form of account-based marketing in your firm for some time, without calling it that by name.
Roadmap for Developing a Program
Formalizing the process by implementing an official ABM program helps you to make it part of the corporate culture, obtain executive buy-in (and the budget that goes with it) and set performance parameters for its success. It’s about changing your approach, not your infrastructure.
The following list of actions offers a roadmap for the development of an ABM program. In some cases, actions can be carried out simultaneously, while in other instances you’ll find there are co-dependencies to consider.
#1: Identify Your “High-Value” Clients
Analyzing your data is critical to enable you to determine what makes a high value client. This will provide you with a starting point for building an account-based marketing program:
- Define the ideal customer profile (ICP) for your specific product or service, based on criteria such as company size and location, industry and needs.
- Work with your sales team to review existing customers. Find out whether any fit the ticket, because your knowledge and understanding of them will be useful.
- Examine historical data to get the value of former “good” deals and the typical length of the buying cycles for each one.
- Look for scope for cross-selling and upselling to existing client, which will help to inform your understanding of opportunities with new, similar prospects.
Select a cross-section of clients and prospects to use as a pilot project, before you implement the full program. This will enable you to resolve any issues before you invest in an overall solution.
#2: Build an Understanding of Need
Successful marketing isn’t about selling, it’s about serving. You’ll make little progress by attempting to sell your prospect without knowing whether they have a need for your product. Analyze the data available on your ICP. Speak with your sales people about how your product is being used by existing customers. This will give you an in-depth understanding of their pain points, which are likely to be common in similarly-sized companies in the same industry.
#3: Develop a Value Proposition
Marketing your product as a solution to the client’s problem takes on new meaning when applied to ABM. Given that the number of high-value target accounts is likely to be smaller than with a more broad-based approach, it’s imperative that your marketing delivers a correspondingly high percentage of leads. An effective value proposition shows your prospect the benefits of contracting with your firm. Account-based marketing makes this possible by enabling you to address the individual responsibilities of each contact persona you deal with during the buying cycle and highlight issues that are important to them.
#4: Personalize the Approach
Relevance and real-time personalization are key to account-based marketing and 77 percent of B2B marketers agree, according to the Direct Marketing Association’s Real-Time Marketing Insights Study:
- Conduct an audit of your existing content and map them against your knowledge of the buyer’s journey.
- Create high quality, targeted content and offers and customize it for specific accounts. For example, a technology solutions firm could prepare a content hub focused on providing solutions for fleet management, and target a company like Enterprise Fleet Management by focusing on the specific makes and models they primarily purchase.
- Develop dynamic content on your website that defaults to customized landing pages, calls to action and messaging that changes depending on which targets visit the site.
Research by ITSMA shows that 75 percent of executives are likely to consume marketing collateral if it is personalized for their business—even if it’s unsolicited—so by aligning your content with their pain points you’ll get your brand noticed ahead of the competition.
#5: Mine the Data
Customizing your approach in this fashion requires access to data, but firms often already own more data than they realize. A professional data analytics partner will mine your existing data and obtain information from external data sources. Vendors such as Bombora, Infer and Mintigo track thousands of topics across through Internet searches, social media posts, webinars, events and online videos to gather information designed to identify users’ intent. This helps them to forecast what companies may be looking for in terms of products and services, gives you the data needed to gather intelligence on your ideal client and build a comprehensive information bank to use for account-based marketing. These predictive analytics tools help find companies in your CRM that resemble established clients, and model your marketing activities on what worked previously.
#6: Monitoring and Measurement
Implementation of a pilot ABM project in your firm, if done correctly, will deliver multiple useful insights to incorporate in your long-term marketing. Effective use of the insights depends on accurately recording and measuring them, however, and the metrics used to define success in ABM differ somewhat from the traditional lead-based marketing common in B2B markets.
Undoubtedly, the primary metric in account-based marketing is revenue, which takes time to record and measure. For this reason it’s useful to create other key performance indicators, such as:
- The number of marketing-qualified accounts generated by your analysis
- Initial consumption of targeted content based on analytics reports
- Percentage of engagements with the prospect compared with previous engagements, based on your marketing automation system, reports from the sales team, recorded touchpoints within your company and proposals in progress.
All these will provide a sense of whether your implementation is on track, before you invoke a full-fledged migration to ABM.
#7: Play the Long Game
Implementing account-based marketing requires a substantial investment in your business, even as a pilot project. The high-value accounts you target during the process are probably either existing customers or very strong prospects, so it’s unwise to test the waters with them unless you’re fairly certain your company is ready to make the shift to ABM. Identify whether you can engage your customers in a differentiated, relevant way over the long term. Involve your sales team in the planning process and the strategic content development, and focus your resources on area where you can make the biggest impact in the shortest time.
Define what you need to develop an ABM program that enables you market more efficiently, to prospects with a high likelihood of closing. Determine what you should look for in a solution, and if necessary, source a marketing partner with the ability to make it happen.