What is account-based marketing (ABM) and why is it the next big thing?
Account-based marketing (ABM) has gained in popularity in recent years and is fast becoming the go-to marketing strategy for B2B marketers.
Below, we’ll look at its benefits, how it works, and how to make the transition to ABM.
What is account-based marketing (ABM)?
ABM is a type of B2B marketing that focuses on engaging prospective customers within an account or particular market. In contrast with more general methods, such as the “spray and pray” approach to marketing which casts a wide net and hopes for the best, ABM personalizes marketing efforts for specific decision-makers and their teams.
Although ABM isn’t new, the digital era has enabled advanced levels of data-driven insights and personalization.
A number of studies have shown why ABM is becoming the go-to marketing approach for many organizations.
Recent research from IDG dives into the strategies, tactics, and advantages associated with ABM.
Among their findings:
- ABM was seen as superior to traditional go-to-market tactics by a margin of roughly 2 to 1.
- Of 500 tech marketers surveyed, 91% had been running ABM programs for six months or more.
- Large organizations were more likely to have ABM programs, and they tended to be more successful than those run by smaller companies.
- 89% had at least three goals for their ABM programs.
- 80% reported using three or more ABM-specific tools.
Notably, the majority (84%) of marketers in the study said they expected to increase ABM spending over the next 12 months, which, along with the other statistics covered above, demonstrated a clear vote of confidence for this marketing approach.
The building blocks of ABM
A mere shift in tactics or processes is not enough to successfully launch an ABM program.
Other prerequisites must be met, such as:
Data collection—from the field to the backend
Data lies at the heart of any successful ABM effort.
Without the right sources, practices, and processes, it is impossible to accurately target prospects, personalize messages, and engage on the right channels.
Another important point to note is the need for permission, not only to comply with regulations but as a matter of ethics and respect for privacy.
A number of tools are standing out to meet the needs of account-based marketers, such as:
- CRM platforms
- Marketing automation platforms
- Web analytics tools
- Predictive analytics
Having the right technology can make a significant difference in the performance and outcomes of an ABM program, so it is important to adopt relevant tools and ensure that employees are leveraging those solutions to their fullest extents.
Sales and marketing alignment
Both sales and marketing must completely align their efforts for ABM to succeed.
Since ABM customer journeys are so personalized, it is critical that marketers and salespeople collaborate closely and form a unified strategy by which to engage target audiences.
Greater marketing sophistication
To be successful, ABM efforts must personalize marketing journeys across multiple channels and strategies, including email marketing, social media marketing, paid advertising, and even localized events (COVID-19 regulations permitting).
This level of sophistication requires buy-in and a coordinated effort on the part of the marketing department.
Dedicated resources and staff
The larger an organization is, the more important it is to have a team and a set of resources dedicated specifically to ABM.
This means not only investing in staff and software, but ensuring that executives buy into ABM efforts. Fortunately, this should not be difficult, since, as the IDG study pointed out, executives tend to be the most supportive of ABM efforts.
Alongside investments in technology and resources should come processes that are built around data, customers, and continual improvement.
On the one hand, this means using data and analytics to progressively enhance the outcomes of the ABM effort.
On the other, it should mean staying agile and repeatedly testing new ABM strategies and tactics. As emerging technology continues to reshape the way we interact with customers, it will become increasingly necessary to invest in marketing strategies built around an omnichannel approach, multiexperience, total experience, and similar holistic approaches.
Once the core building blocks have been mapped out, it is possible to begin aligning efforts, assigning resources, and executing an ABM program.
A high-level overview of an ABM program will look something like this:
- Identify and prioritize the most valuable accounts, based on factors such as revenue potential, purchase frequency, and influence.
- Understand the structure of your target accounts, including decision-makers, influencers, and their decision-making process.
- Find the right channels that your target account uses, including social media channels, ad networks, websites, and email.
- Discover and access the right data sources that can provide the necessary insights for designing and scaling your ABM messaging.
- Develop targeted, personalized messages that address the specific information needs, challenges, and pain points of your account targets.
- Pilot test a program to gather preliminary data and test hypotheses.
- Scale, implement, and optimize campaigns using the tools and data-driven methods covered above.
A structured approach to ABM, such as the one outlined here, is a must for success—but it is just as important to align all of your departments around ABM programs. To make the shift, it may be necessary to rethink and shift the marketing culture itself to an organizational effort.