Recently, I attended an event hosted by the The Marketing Alliance where a panel discussed some of the more advanced points of account based marketing, or abm marketing. While I was sitting in the audience, it occurred to me that, while the panel was certainly experienced enough in account based marketing, this revenue strategy probably isn’t familiar to a lot of people. And the execution of account based marketing efforts are probably even more foreign to most.
What Is Account Based Marketing?
Account based marketing is actually a pretty straightforward concept and it’s been around for ages. It goes by a lot of different names – account based marketing, account based revenue, account based lead generation, etc. At its core, abm marketing is creating a target list of accounts on which you want to focus your marketing efforts. Once you’ve created that list of accounts, you create messaging specific to the decision makers of those target accounts and deliver that messaging directly to them through channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Email, etc.
ABM Marketing Isn’t New
Account based marketing is nothing new. This kind of campaigning has been going on for years under any number of different names – Target Account Selling, Strategic Selling, Lead Specific Selling, Key Account Marketing, etc.
ABM marketing has traditionally been the responsibility of the sales side of the revenue equation because historically, sales was the only group that could effectively and consistently target specific accounts and the specific roles in those accounts.
Now, with the targeting capabilities that we have on the marketing side of the revenue equation, we’re able to be almost as laser focused in our efforts as our sales teams have always been.
Imagine how much more of an impact if the VP of Sales has been seeing the exact same messaging on retargeted ads as she’s been seeing over email when they finally get a call from your sales team. That makes for a much more focused conversation and a much higher likelihood of conversion.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Why Should I Use Account Based Marketing?
The benefits of account based marketing can be huge but it’s important to remember that it’s not something to be taken on lightly. Because these campaigns are so heavily targeted, they can be more expensive to execute.
That said, the benefits to an effective ABM marketing campaign are definitely worth the cost.
Here are the Biggest Benefits of an Account Based Marketing Campaign
- Clear and Substantial Return on Investment. Compared to other marketing initiatives, studies have shown that ABM marketing delivers the highest return on investment.
- More Effective Use of Resources. Because it’s so heavily targeted, account based marketing allows you to control your resources a lot more closely reducing waste and focus on programs specific to your targets.
- Heavily Personalized and Optimized for Your Targets. With specific targeting comes the ability to be hyper personalized in your messaging. You don’t have to optimize your campaign for a “persona” anymore – you get to optimize for a person.
- Clear Goal Tracking and Management. The smaller your set of campaign targets, not to mention the ads and messages targeting them, the easier it is to track the KPIs of your account based marketing campaign.
- More Effective Sales Alignment. There’s no question that sales loves targeted leads. ABM marketing allows marketing and sales to effectively go after the same leads to generate new business.
What Should I Know Before Executing an ABM Marketing Campaign?
If you’ve been in marketing long enough, you’ll know that any marketing campaign has more than a few considerations that you need to review when preparing for launch. These may be even more important with account based marketing campaigns simply because they’re so targeted. You need to make sure that the money you’re spending really is producing results inside of those target accounts.
Most successful account based marketing campaigns have four things in common:
They’re well segmented
This helps you ensure that any and all messaging focused on these targeted accounts is directed to the people seeing them. You don’t want the CFO seeing the same message as the Director of Marketing. Their interests and decision making factors are completely different so one message won’t work for both. If you’re going to put the effort into this type of a campaign, make sure that you’re taking the time to craft a message that’s focused on the right person or role in that account.
They deliver consistent messaging across all channels
You’re going to be using a variety of channels in your ABM marketing campaign so make sure that all of the messaging is consistent. The Director of Marketing at your target account should be seeing the same message when they open Facebook, LinkedIn, in Google search results and their email. Of course you need to test those messages to find the one that works before starting to spend money at scale but once you find the messages that work, make sure that they’re seeing it everywhere they look.
They focus on content
Content marketing has been a bit of a blessing and a curse for marketers. On one hand, we’re able to more effectively start conversations with our prospects by getting our information in their hands faster. On the other hand, the time that it takes to get someone to go from a website visit to a phone conversation tends to be a lot longer. Make sure that your account based marketing campaign focuses on the content offers that will get people to engage with you early enough in the journey so that you’re not left out in the cold.
They’re long term.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to go after these target accounts forever. Every campaign has to have an end date – and that includes account based marketing campaigns. You do, however, need to make sure that you take enough time with your campaign to nurture the different players in those target accounts. This isn’t a groundbreaking concept. You know how long your sales cycle is. I’m willing to bet you also know how many touchpoints it takes to get someone to respond to a message. Typically it’s 8-12. Give your ABM marketing campaign enough time to work and don’t get caught in the one-off trap.
Now that you’re prepared from a conceptual standpoint, let’s get tactical. Here are the seven key steps to launching your account based marketing campaign:
Create your target account list
It’s rare that I recommend doing anything before goal setting but this is an exception. Going through the exercise of developing the target account list for your account based marketing campaign is going to help you to determine just how big that target base is and who the players are in those accounts. Without that information you probably won’t have any goals to set.
While you’re creating the target account list for your ABM marketing campaign, be thinking about things like:
- Who are my decision makers?
- How big are my best clients?
- Who are the people who influence my buying decision?
- Who do I start my conversation with?
- Where (geographically) am I focusing my efforts?
- What verticals are my favorite clients in?
Once you’ve got your list, you can start reviewing it and move on to the next planning stage.
Set your goals and KPIs
Before you start your account based marketing campaigns, you’ll need to make sure that you have clear goals and KPIs. This is just as important for ABM marketing campaigning as it is for any other campaign. If you wouldn’t start any other campaign without goals, why would you start this one without them?
When you’re creating these KPIs, make them clear and specific. I’m sure we’ve all heard of SMART goals – you should be applying those same principles to your account based marketing campaigns as well. If you’re unfamiliar with SMART goals, here are the main points:
- Specific. Make sure that you know exactly what you’re trying to achieve here. For example, how many leads should be coming from how many of your target accounts?
- Measurable. Obviously measuring the number of leads generated is pretty straightforward. Beyond that make sure you’re able to measure the impact of the KPIs you set for your campaign.
- Achievable. Are you being realistic with your goals and KPI expectations? If your goals are unattainable, no one’s going to buy into the ABM marketing campaign.
- Relevant. Focus on the KPIs that can be achieved through your ABM marketing campaign. Leave the other ones for a different strategy session.
- Time-Related. We talked about the need to make account based marketing campaigns long term. Still, you need to make sure that you put a timeline on the results that you can measure against. Don’t let your campaign take you away like a runaway train.
Create your asset library
As we mentioned above, most successful ABM marketing campaigns are focused on content. With that in mind, you need to create your content library. Take some time to determine what content should be going out to whom and in what order.
When compiling your asset library, think about each stage of the buying cycle that each person in the decision making process has to go through and make sure that you have content developed that can guide them through each stage: Awareness -> Consideration -> Action.
I like to create a content matrix. It helps me to identify holes in my asset library that need to be filled. Take a look at the example below to see how that matrix looks.
Remember that you may use the same content for multiple purposes. That said, the plan should account for every person involved in the decision making process. For some that will be one person, for others that could be 10 people. Whatever that means for you, make sure that you’re addressing them with your content.
Identify your promotional channels
This part of your ABM marketing campaign starts to get deeper into more of the traditional questions of content marketing. When you’re planning your content promotion plan, keep in mind the three main categories of content promotion channels: Owned Channels, Paid Channels and Earned Channels. Don’t forget, however, that you need to place your content in view of some very specific people so plan accordingly.
Your owned channels are probably going to be best for easy segmenting and you can control timing and frequency of placement. Paid channels, however, will be more effective for helping you get in front of targeted people you may not have in your database yet. Earned channels may or may not have a fit into your account based marketing strategy depending on the industry and your target’s behaviors. Getting an article in a magazine isn’t going to do anything for you if none of your targets read that magazine.
Choose your promotional channels wisely and make sure you do the research into the best ways to connect directly with your targets.
Develop your creative
Now you know who you’re talking to and how you’re getting your message to them, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to say.
When it comes to creative, it’s often a good idea to engage a team to assist in the development of that creative – if you’re working with video, for example, an iPhone video may not be as impactful as a full production video. Obviously only you can determine whether that’s the case but bringing in an experienced video production company like Mainstream Video Production might be beneficial (they’re who we use for our production quality video). The same can be said for graphic designers and copywriters.
Just remember that when it comes to creative, if you’re not an expert in it you’re better off outsourcing it. Again, you’re going to spend some money here – make sure you don’t waste it with bad creative.
Make sure your sales team is ready to respond…and knows when they need to do so
I heard a story about an in-house marketer who implemented an account based marketing strategy that was incredibly successful. So much so that they got too many leads responding to their message and their sales team couldn’t keep up. What’s more, the sales team didn’t have anyone that was well enough versed in the value proposition so when push came to shove, no one was even able to respond to the leads that came in.
Before you launch your account based marketing campaign, make very sure that your sales team is ready to run with any leads that you’re creating for them. And, while you’re at it, make sure that everyone is on the same page in the expectations game. ABM marketing campaigns aren’t immediate lead generators and need to be given the time to produce the leads they can.
Beyond that, make sure that your sales enablement tech is ready to process the leads you bring in and assign them to and notify the correct sales people.
Create your content calendar and stick to it
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a content calendar, then you may need to do some more studying before executing an ABM marketing campaign.
Your content calendar is going to guide every step of your account based marketing campaign. Make sure you put some time into this. Create your calendar to last the entirety of your campaign. It doesn’t matter it it’s 3 months or a year, plan it all out.
In your calendar, you should include every post, every subject line and anything else that you can think of. You should also include regular check in points to evaluate your results and make sure that you’re meeting your KPIs.
What Tools Do I Need for an Account Based Marketing Campaign?
As mentioned, to execute an ABM marketing campaign you need to make sure you have your ducks in a row. Again, remember you’re making a decent investment to run these campaigns. As such you’re going to want to be well prepared for it. So what tools do you need to get your account based marketing campaign up and running? Here are my recommendations:
A Good CRM
Don’t make the mistake of losing leads just because they slipped through the cracks. Your CRM should be able to score your leads’ interaction with your content. When they reach a certain threshold, it needs to automatically notify your sales team immediately.
Marketing Automation and Lead Nurturing
Once someone fills out a form on your website, you need to be able to continue to nurture them via email with content, downloads, webinars, etc. In order to do so, you need software for email marketing to manage nurturing campaigns.
You’ll also need marketing automation software so that you can trigger emails, campaigns and sales workflows based on the information that you collect from your targets and their activity.
Doing all of your nurturing manually can be far too time intensive. It also negates any resource optimization and savings you may be trying to realize.
List Building Software
Obviously, if you’re going to be targeting your efforts, you’re going to need a list to start targeting from. Ideally, you’ll be able to pull a list and make sure that it’s verified before you start your campaigning efforts. And, as always, the more automated the better.
I like to use a system like LeadFuze that can automatically pull the prospect list and then send out an initial email to verify the contact info and clear out any bounces or bad contact info from the list.
So What Now?
If you’re thinking about an account based marketing campaign, there’s certainly a lot of benefit to it. But you need to make sure you’re ready for it. If not, you’re just going to be wasting your money.