Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has been around in one form or another for about 15 years. In fact, you can trace its origins back to 2003 when ITSMA conducted its first-ever survey on the role of account management in marketing strategy.
Over the next decade, the concept would evolve and take shape as technology companies both large and small started implementing ABM concepts to shorten sales cycles, lower customer acquisition costs (CAC) and achieve huge gains in ROI. By 2016, ABM moved from marketing evolution to revolution as venture capitalists started investing in SaaS-based ABM solutions like DemandBase and Engagio.
But what is ABM exactly? Is it just another trendy buzzword to add to your growth-hacking arsenal? In the post we run through the basics of account-based marketing.
Your 10-Second ABM Primer
In very simple terms, ABM is a B2B demand generation strategy that brings high-value accounts front-and-center so that Sales and Marketing can unify their efforts to improve program success rates. At its core, ABM provides a multi-touch, personalized campaign to engage your highest priority accounts through inbound content marketing and relationship-building.
Flip Your Marketing Funnel
For many Marketing and Sales teams, the idea of “flipping the funnel” is one of the most impactful ideas central to an ABM campaign. Through the use of highly personalized campaigns designed around a target account’s specific organizational needs, the ABM model effectively turns the traditional marketing funnel on its head.
*Graphic adapted from Engagio
Accounts vs. People
It is important to note the distinction between “accounts” and “people.” For longer-cycle B2B sales efforts, the buying decision is often made by a team of people rather than a single, holy grail, C-titled stakeholder.
An effective ABM strategy employs initiatives and tactics that offer multiple avenues to secure touchpoints with a varied group of folks working in tandem at the same organization. ABM steers your key buyer personas (as well as their support staff and decision-making peers) into the educational content world created by your inbound marketing efforts.
Prioritize & Blend
Everything begins with outlining your target accounts and assigning them a level of priority. Top tier accounts will have highly customized programs; mid-tier accounts will have lightly customized programs for clusters of accounts with similar issues or needs; bottom-tier accounts will be reached through more broad campaigns, leveraging technology to provide some level of personalization.
Companies that report the highest-performing ABM campaigns often take what’s called a “blended approach” to penetrating target markets and accounts. As opposed to focusing solely on one tier, these companies use a prioritized target account list as a guide, with distinct strategies and tactics to reach each tier of accounts, which results in efficient resource allocation and a broader scale of results.
*Graphic adapted from Demandbase
Five Questions That Confirm ABM Campaign Success
While more and more tools are available to democratize the ABM implementation and execution process, it is worth considering the investment and effort required to be successful. These campaigns involve an intricate level of collaboration and communication between your Sales and Marketing teams, as well as the folks managing the necessary marketing technology (martech) tools.
Overall program costs and implementation complexities vary in accordance with the initiatives your company chooses to implement, as well as the value of the accounts you’ll target. With that said, there are five general success indicators to keep on your radar when deploying an initial ABM campaign:
- Is there a more unified strategy across your Sales and Marketing departments?
- Are you focusing on long-term success, not just initial deal wins? In other words, does your ABM strategy ladder up into long-term, strategic business objectives?
- Are you combining digital components with in-person engagement tactics?
- Are you using customer insights and feedback to personalize the inbound content and relationship-building experiences?
- Are you focusing on the right KPIs and ABM metrics for your business? (marketing-qualified accounts (MQAs), account engagement, campaign ROI, customer retention rate, etc.)
Start Your ABM Journey Off Right With Our All-New ABM Guide
There are limitless ways to build an ABM program that can roll out as an intuitive next step in evolving your demand generation strategy. But, to truly reap the rewards of ABM, it does require significant investment. If you are interested in learning more beyond just the basics of account-based marketing, check out our comprehensive guide, Account-Based Marketing: The B2B Demand Generation Guide for SaaS CMOs.