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Account-Based Marketing Explained: Benefits, Tactics, & Examples

Account-based marketing (ABM) dates back to the early 2000s, when it was only known to a few large organizations. But it has recently begun to generate a lot of buzz across industries and is fast establishing itself as a core aspect of B2B marketing.

According to studies by ITSMA and ABM Leadership Alliance, ABM has consistently outperformed traditional marketing approaches in multiple critical areas, with 45% of ABM-oriented organizations generating more than twice the ROI realized from other marketing strategies.

Account-based marketing benefits
Source: ABM Leadership Alliance

Interestingly, as of 2019, more than half of ABM-oriented organizations were in their first year of implementation. So, if you’re yet to get started, you’re not too far behind.

This guide will break down the concept of ABM, as well as its benefits, tactics, and helpful examples to help you set off on the right foot.

What is Account-Based Marketing?

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a hyper-targeted marketing approach in which marketing and sales teams collaborate to deliver personalized experiences for a mutually-identified set of “qualified” accounts.

The traditional B2B marketing and sales approach focuses on generating as many leads as possible and filtering them through the conversion funnel. The inherent problem with this approach is that the volume of leads gets smaller down the funnel, and only a tiny percentage end up becoming customers.

Traditional lead generation funnel

ABM, on the other hand, emphasizes quality, not volume. It targets specific accounts with the best revenue potential and leverages technology to serve personalized messages to these accounts. This, when done right, will result in shorter sales cycles, fewer wasted resources, and a more predictable ROI.

Account-based marketing model

B2B marketers classify ABM into three categories:

  1. One-to-One: An ABM strategy that focuses on creating bespoke marketing content and messaging for individual target accounts, viewing each account as a “market of one.” This usually requires collaboration between senior-level marketers and individual account teams. 
  2. One-to-Few: This takes the same research and personalization strategies of one-to-one and applies them to a cluster of 5 to 15 accounts with similarities in profiles, industries, business issues, and behaviors.
  3. One-to-Many: Also known as programmatic ABM, the one-to-many ABM framework focuses on personalization at scale. This is where marketing and sales teams collaborate to address multiple strategically curated accounts. Technology plays a vital role in creating personalized messages and tracking results for each account. 
What type of account based marketing is used most often
Source: Demandbase

How Does Account-Based Marketing Work?

An effective account-based marketing strategy leverages a multi-channel approach and emphasizes an airtight collaboration between marketing, sales, and customer success teams.

The entire concept of how the system works can be condensed into three basic processes:

Identification

This involves the collaboration of marketing and sales teams in defining what qualifies as a high-value account (a target company). 

High-value prospects can be found within your list of existing clients (ones that generate the highest revenue for your organization), your clients and past clients’ competitors, and companies that have multiple touchpoints with your marketing channels.

A study by Gartner revealed that an average of 11 stakeholders are involved in a company’s B2B purchase decision-making, and it can get up to 20 sometimes. This highlights the importance of identifying key decision-makers in your target companies for better results.

Marketing

This involves creating personalized marketing content for each target account. You can deploy your content through social media, email, and even offline channels. 

It is important to ensure that your marketing content is correctly designed to match your target accounts’ individual needs. Creating generalized content will defeat the goal of your account-based marketing tactics.

ABM isn’t limited to just content marketing. It extends to other areas, such as account-based advertising and retargeting—which involves launching display advertising campaigns to deliver personalized messages to target accounts that match your company’s ideal customer profile.

Measurement

This involves setting up a system for tracking the performance of your campaigns. ABM approaches measurement differently because you won’t necessarily need to focus on clicks, page views, and impressions.

Instead, you will monitor how companies interact with your brand’s social accounts, websites, and even sales teams. The aim is to see if you’ve been able to make each target company develop more interest in your organization. 

If you notice that a target company has begun interacting with your brand more frequently, it means that interest has increased, and your sales team can reach out to them. Otherwise, you may need to test different variations of landing pages, emails, content, and even CTAs.

For this purpose, you will need a platform like Improvado that’s compatible with all your marketing channels and touchpoints. That way, it will be easier to collect data from your campaigns, get a holistic view of each account’s performance, and optimize accordingly.

Components of an Account-Based Marketing Framework

Although it can be implemented differently across industries and organizations, an effective account-based marketing strategy must follow a general framework, paying attention to the components described below:

Sales and Marketing Alignment

In reality, ABM is a broad term and requires more than simple contextual targeting in Google. An effective ABM campaign involves multiple automation platforms, data sources, and touchpoints with target accounts. But it will be impossible to connect all of these to your organization’s objectives without properly aligning your sales and marketing teams.

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When working on an ABM campaign, sales and marketing teams need to agree on characteristics that define a “best-fit” account, how each account compares in terms of quality, the amount of resources to be allocated, the specific roles required for a seamless customer transition between marketing and sales activities, as well as metrics that define the success of the ABM campaign.

This entire process requires smooth accessibility of data between both teams to enable faster extraction of insights and better decision-making procedures. This is where Improvado comes into play. 

Improvado activates alignment by helping teams consolidate data from multiple sources, allowing them to achieve a holistic view of cross-functional data, get access to insights when needed, and collaborate more efficiently in driving the objectives of the ABM campaign.

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Account Personas and Account Plans

Account personas refer to specific characteristics used to define an organization’s target accounts. When identifying personas for an ABM strategy, the team should pay attention to the following:

  • The target company’s mission, vision, and objectives
  • Number of target companies currently engaging with your organization at various touchpoints
  • Target company’s revenue model and spending pattern
  • Target company’s tech stack

While there are several points to consider when drawing up account personas, it is mission-critical that both sales and marketing teams agree on what personas meet the targeting criteria. In general, you should prioritize accounts with the highest revenue potential.

Account plans are roadmaps that show how sales and marketing teams intend to engage and convert their target accounts.

While account plans for different targets may share some similarities, it is important to tailor each plan to the unique needs of individual target accounts. Also, the plans should include details of key purchase decision-makers in each target account and the kind of content that will appeal to them.

Personalized Marketing

Personalized marketing delivers marketing messages created or updated to meet the needs of each target account.

Personalized marketing helps organizations build strong relationships with customers, and considering that it costs more to acquire a new customer than to retain existing ones, personalization is crucial to your bottom line.

All team members need to know where each prospect is in their conversion journey. That way, they can deliver timely and personalized communication, offers, and pricing information.

Go-to-Market Approach

A go-to-market (GTM) approach is a detailed plan of how an organization intends to engage its target audiences, deliver its value proposition, and demonstrate competitive advantage.

This aspect of the ABM framework requires an understanding of how a customer typically moves through the sales process. An effective GTM approach unravels possible areas of friction along the conversion journey that need to be addressed or areas where communication needs to be strengthened.

Benefits of Account-Based Marketing

HubSpot’s Not Another State of Marketing Report revealed that 70% of marketers reported using ABM in 2021—a 15% increase from 2020’s milestone.

Furthermore, a study by Demandbase showed that 92% of organizations recognize the importance of ABM and consider it a must-have for marketing and sales teams. This section will explore some common ABM benefits and how it can be a gamechanger for your organization.

Personalized Marketing Approach

ABM emphasizes synchronizing interactions across touchpoints and maximizing relevance for each target account through personalization.

A study by Salesforce revealed that 76% of customers expect consistent experiences throughout their interactions with an organization. Yet, 54% say it generally feels like they interact with different departments rather than one organization. This is because the sales collateral that engages them offers generalized content rather than materials tailored to their needs.

By personalizing your marketing approach, you will be able to establish stronger relationships with customers and achieve better win rates. A study by KIBO, Monetate, and Certona showed that 51% of marketers that use personalization across all touchpoints have seen up to 300% ROI or more.

Shorter Sales Cycles

A report by Gartner showed that the average B2B buying decision is typically influenced by 6 to 10 stakeholders. A different study by CSO insights reports that nearly half (46.4%) of every B2B sales process takes up to seven months to complete.

ABM empowers marketing and sales teams to cut through the red tape and shorten sales cycles by helping them concentrate efforts and resources on key decision-makers within their target organizations.

Clearer ROI

ABM put a significant emphasis on transparency of data and measurability. This makes it easier for marketing and sales teams to optimize for higher returns effectively.

According to ITSMA, 85% of marketers that measure ROI confirm that ABM delivers better ROI than other marketing tactics.

More Efficient Use of the Budget

ABM takes the fishing spear approach, focusing resources only on high-value targets most likely to convert. This results in fewer wasted resources and overall improved results.

This is in contrast to what’s attainable with traditional marketing, where Forrester reports that less than 1% of B2B leads convert to customers.

Higher Sales Conversion Rate

Due to its highly targeted nature, ABM has a track record of generating higher sales for organizations.

According to Sirius Decision’s State of Account-Based Marketing Report, 91% of surveyed marketers confirmed that ABM accounts have a higher sales conversion rate, with 66% reporting over 20% higher close rates.

Better Customer Experience

Because ABM recognizes the value of each account, it empowers marketing and sales teams with opportunities to deliver better experiences for their prospects.

In fact, more than half (58%) of surveyed professionals report that ABM plays a significant role in making their organizations more customer-centric, according to a study by ITSMA and ABM Leadership Alliance.

Furthermore, given that customers expect consistent experiences across all touchpoints, ABM’s approach has proven to be more efficient by offering better targeting and personalization capabilities.

Account-Based Marketing Examples

ABM begins with creating high-value segments and identifying a mix of marketing content that can be personalized to prospects within these segments on channels that are most valuable to them (website, offline events, emails).

Each company can employ its mix of marketing content based on the nature of its offers, target accounts, and channels in consideration.

This section will look at some real-world ABM use cases and examples to inspire your first (or next) ABM program.

Lunch and Learn Events

Terminus recently discussed the concept of “pizza-nars” and how ABM teams have been experimenting with it. A pizza-nar is simply a webinar accompanied by pizza. The idea involves delivering pizza to your target prospects to enjoy while watching your webinar.

This idea isn’t limited to just pizza—lunch and learns can still be as impactful with coffee or any food item your prospects choose. This concept helps boost webinar attendance and encourages your target prospects to pay attention.

That said, your webinar content must be meaningful and relevant to your target accounts, and you must make sure that the accompanying messaging, call-to-action, and follow-up are impactful.

This example is effective across all account life cycle stages, from initial engagement to renewals. It can also be used for expansion and re-engaging “at-risk” accounts.

Some teams go as far as building out personalized webinar experiences using custom landing pages so the target account feels like the webinar is hosted specifically for them.

Snowflake’s Bespoke Content Experience

Snowflake, a data warehousing company, runs over 500 concurrent one-to-one ABM campaigns.

To pull this off, the company has six dedicated marketers working in tandem with members of the sales department (who know the customers inside and out).

Interestingly, Snowflake doesn’t intend to drive conversions through its content experiences right off the bat, and none of its bespoke content is gated. The company hosts all of its  content on the open web to first build credibility with its audience. It follows this up with retargeting strategies on valuable prospects that engage with its content to drive conversions through weekly demos and free trials.

This approach is helpful for organizations trying to build initial engagement or progress existing accounts to meaningful engagement. It also works when you’re leveraging a Land and Expand strategy to penetrate other departments within an organization.

GumGum’s Interactive Storytelling

In a bid to win over T-Mobile as a client, the CMO of GumGum (a computer vision company) began by researching the target company’s buying committee, starting from the executive leadership team.

The CMO discovered that T-Mobile’s CEO at that time, John Legere, was a big Batman fan. With this information, the CMO and his team went on to set the gold standard for personalized ABM marketing.

Here’s how GumGum got the attention of John Legere and ultimately won him over:

The team developed a comic book, T-Man and Gums, featuring Legere as the Batmanesque superhero—T-Man—who rescues his city from bad cell phone service with the help of his partner, Gums. 

In the comic book, Gums provides T-Man with image-recognizing marketing tech that helps him spread the word about T-Mobile.

Not only did this move land GumGum a meeting appointment with T-Mobile, but it also gave the company free exposure, thanks to John Legere’s shoutout on Twitter.

GumGum’s move is resource intensive and is best reserved for top-tier clients.

Here’s how you can achieve something similar (the cheaper way): 

  • Gather as much intel as possible about your target clients. 
  • Find the specific individuals responsible for moving the needle around your target company’s buying processes.
  • Create engaging, personalized, and impactful content for these individuals and try to spark a conversation.

Nail It Before You Scale It!

During the course of your first or next ABM program, it is important to track account-based insights across all touchpoints to understand your targets’ behaviors throughout their journey. This is fundamental to the success of your ABM strategy because it is the only way you can optimize and scale results effectively.

Improvado is a data integration platform that empowers ABM teams to turn data into actionable insights. Compatible with all your marketing channels and customer touchpoints, Improvado offers the most convenient way to consolidate data from multiple data sources and achieve a comprehensive view of your entire ABM campaign.

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