Create a fast-lane to sales by giving high-value accounts the white-glove treatment through account-based marketing.
A long time ago, marketers solely focused on casting a super-wide net in the hopes of pulling in as many leads as possible. Blogs became content farms, covering topics that were meant to attract anyone and everyone. As far as marketers were concerned, the more traffic they could send to their sites, the better. The underlying philosophy that drove marketing and sales at the time was: Attract enough fish into the net, and you were bound to have a few keepers in there somewhere.
Keep your fingers crossed.
However, over the years, an alternate philosophy began to evolve, one that does away with the net and replaces it with a spear. Instead of tossing out content like a fishing net in the hopes of landing a few, this approach targets high-value accounts and gives them the white-glove treatment through extremely relevant and personalized campaigns. Focusing on a single account or prospect, this type of marketing uses a “spear” to go after a single prospect with one unified tool.
Opening the Doors to Account-Based Marketing
After years of working with many B2B clients, one thing that’s clear as day is that no two businesses are alike. They don’t just vary in the services being offered, but also how they want to market their products and solutions. Every B2B marketing company has a different brand language, different target audiences, and may employ an entirely distinct strategy while communicating with their prospects.
If the clients are so immiscible, you can only imagine how different their prospects will be from one another. There are unique experiences that shape individual prospects, brands and companies. Thus, following a default template-based model for servicing and marketing B2B clients has been unanimously shunned in marketing circles- opening the doors to a more personal, account-based approach.
Instead of relying on blanket campaigns that are meant to appeal to an entire market, account-based marketing makes use of highly targeted, personalized campaigns to win over particular accounts. It treats every individual account or prospect as a market within its own rights. Particularly, when it comes to closing enterprise deals, there are many people involved in the decision-making process, and ABM acknowledges all of those different people, different viewpoints – that comprise each account, flipping the traditional marketing funnel on its head.
Lead Generation vs. Account-Based Marketing
Unlike lead generation, account-based marketing assigns values to various accounts and segments them on the basis of it. Instead of filtering out all the bad leads and ending up with a target company that’s a good fit for your sales, you identify the biggest opportunities at the beginning and then proactively go after them, tailoring the content curation, sales pitch, and the buyer’s journey according to particular clients from start to finish.
In fishing terms, rather than waiting for a hundred fish to swim into your net, hoping you’ll catch the one fish you actually want, account-based marketing is laser-focused on that one fish from the start, and you’re devoting all of your energy into hauling that one, beautiful fish into the boat. It is a highly efficient system that eliminates the “by-catch” problem of traditional marketing, i.e. when you generate a ton of low-quality leads that will never convert.
Just so we are clear, this is not a claim that ABM is superior to any other inbound marketing strategy. The reality is that ABM and lead generation through inbound marketing are two entirely separate strategies that can be used in parallel for the best results. Instead of thinking lead gen vs. ABM; think lead gen and ABM.
In fact, think of lead generation as feeding into your account-based marketing funnel because if an inbound lead ends up being a part of a target account, ABM can pick up right where inbound left off. To use the fish analogy again, once you’ve got a bunch of fish in your inbound net, you can use your ABM spear to pick out the ones that look promising.
How is ABM Different from Other Strategies?
Both inbound marketing and traditional lead generation have served us well over the years, but there comes a point in every strategy when you’re seemingly maxed out. You have saturated the entire market, exhausted your content syndicators’ lists, and are nowhere close to hitting your pipeline numbers. Once the quality drops and you reach a state of diminishing returns, it’s time to switch gears and double-down on account-based marketing services which has been lauded by marketing leaders and influencers as a pipeline savior, ROI amplifier and a powerhouse of an overall strategy when merged with lead generation and inbound marketing.
While the two strategies may take separate paths, adopting a blended approach will ultimately ladder up to the same goals- pipeline and revenue. Switching to ABM doesn’t mean you will stop using your inbound lead-based marketing channels and programs altogether. But you will implement a much more targeted approach to engage those leads that fit your ideal account profile once they’ve entered the funnel.
That being said, an account-based marketing approach is different from what we have been always been doing and here is how-
a) Account-based marketing is highly targeted: In order to source highly qualified prospects, an account-based marketing agency builds ideal customer profiles (ICPs) using firmographic and technographic data- sometimes even predictive analytics.
b) ABM focuses on accounts, not markets or industries: Unlike content curation addressed to a broader market, account-based marketing professionals collect intelligence on their target accounts in order to deliver content and campaigns optimized for them.
c) ABM targets both prospects and customers: The end goal of account-based marketing is to “land and expand” using personalised campaigns to bring in new customers and act on opportunities to grow current accounts, i.e. cross-sell or upsell.
Getting Started with an ABM Initiative
An inherent characteristic of the account-based marketing model is that the more personalized your campaigns and approach, the greater returns you’ll see. If you are able to calculate roughly what ROI you expect on your efforts beforehand, then you can start with mapping out the key areas where your ABM budget and resources should be allocated.
A good starting point will be with segments. Smart marketers have long been using segmentation to cut the pie of humanity into more easily digestible chunks. This allows your target demographic to be subdivided by certain characteristics – age, location, socioeconomic class, gender, hobbies, and marital status, to name a few – so that a product can be placed in front of only the most relevant eyes.
Segmentation followed by targeted personalisation will ensure more bang for your marketing bucks. But if your account-based marketing company services small business owners, mid-market, and enterprise, try using a more traditional inbound marketing model. It’s easier to reach out to small and mid-sized businesses using a broad-based approach at the top of the funnel.
As soon as you move up the market size, it gets more and more difficult to convert leads from large enterprises and engage them long enough to achieve sales-ready status. In this case, a large buying committee and long sales cycles- all contribute to the need for a more targeted approach for these accounts. So it’s here where you may want to begin applying ABM tactics from programmatic to 1:1.
Finally, while you, the marketer, might have pipeline goals you need to meet, you shouldn’t shoulder all the responsibilities of cinching those numbers. Ensure that both your sales and partnership teams contribute to a percentage of that pipeline and have those targets outlined in writing before each quarter begins. Since you’re already employing inbound demand generation as part of your go-to-marketing strategy, use these existing programs as cover while you get started with account-based marketing.
To start with ABM, create a small pilot program and test a few accounts first. Implement account-based marketing for one or two segments like large enterprise accounts in the financial services vertical. Focus your efforts on targeting existing programs on specific accounts and, if you’re worried you won’t have the budget to bankroll your ABM pilot, simply transfer budget from poorly performing B2B lead generation programs.
Moving beyond that, you need to leverage your current team and look at current programs. Consider how you’re currently appealing to broader demographics and how you can tweak those existing programs for account-based plays for the right accounts.
The Merits of Running an ABM Play
Since, ABM is geared towards marketing very specific and customized services to particular clients with certain needs; it has been most successful in B2B marketing circuits. Having said that, account-based plays can work in B2C industries as well, but more often than not, businesses in these lines of work tend to sell very uniform products.
However, the concept of personalisation and nurturing key accounts is as old as marketing agencies themselves and has withstood the test of time, even more so today, as we enter a marketplace that is primarily driven by customers. But with the advent of modern technology and automation, the risks associated with such a meticulous and precise strategy has been further minimized to a greater extent.
Since, account-based marketing flips the traditional funnel on its head so that you’re only marketing to the right audience for your product, it eliminates the classic inbound problem of attracting lots of low-quality leads, making it a “zero-waste” strategy. If you haven’t yet incorporated an ABM framework into your workflow, here are some reasons you should:
1) Improved Customer Acquisition
Every service seeker wants to be treated specially, even more so, when they are C-level business executives. They know what makes their company unique and want their account managers and brand spokespersons to be able to imbibe and reflect the core values of their business. Hence, a B2B marketing company espousing the principles of account-based marketing will have a greater chance of landing high-value targets.
2) Simpler Metrics and ROI Analysis
It can be hard to gauge a fair evaluation of your marketing efforts. You need metrics for all stages of your marketing cycle to measure a campaign’s effectiveness. But “ABM is the sniper’s way of marketing” because it allows you to spend more time analysing each aspect of your effort, since you’re working with a smaller set of targeted accounts.
ABM campaigns are executed on an account-by-account basis; so there will be smaller set of data points and case-by-case analytics, making it easier for you to draw conclusions on the impact of your work. With well-documented plans for each of your accounts, you can easily compare each segment to your goals, making you more equipped to adjust your efforts going forward.
3) Reduction in Junk Lead Chasing
There are many stakeholders involved in B2B marketing, many of whom de-accelerate the sales cycle. But employing ABM will ensure all of these stakeholders are personally involved in the sales process, thus reducing the number of poor leads, which cannot be converted into useful transactions.
Treating each client as an individual account, your ABM strategy could be customized to win these high-profile accounts. This saves valuable time and money as you focus only on those accounts that are interested in buying your services.
4) Shorter Sales Cycles
Removing non-viable leads and prospects from the initial stages of your sales funnel or marketing campaign will reduce the time period of the sales cycle significantly. ABM naturally allows you to focus on accounts that are deemed beneficial, displaying a higher potential to be converted into buyers, making the most of your marketing budget and generating a higher ROI. A shorter sales cycle also means that more products can be sold over a calendar year or a fiscal quarter, as more such cycles can be iteratively implemented.
5) Building An Expertise
Instead of being the jack of all trades across many business verticals, ABM challenges you to think on a more personalized level as you get to know your audience and their intent, making you the master (or a subject matter expert) of one particular specification.
Granted, there’s more research going into the process but this also means that you are gaining expertise in an area where most people just have a broad idea. Slowly, over time you will start having your unique selling points, which will make you stand out in the oversaturated marketplace and attract more like-minded clients to your services.
6) Sales and Marketing Harmony
In ABM, sales and marketing are treated as two sides of the same coin, both of which equally contribute to the success of the entire process. Since, an account-based marketing agency is focused on accounts instead of individual leads; they end up speaking the same language as their sales counterparts. This makes for an incredible alignment between sales and marketing departments as they both focus on target accounts, working towards a common goal.
Forrester Research found that organizations with aligned sales and marketing teams see an average of 32% annual revenue growth, while less aligned companies see a 7% decline in growth. With account-based marketing, the arguments over lead quantity vs. lead quality dissipate, as your sales and marketing executives align to become a single unit. It also means the transfer of knowledge from one department to another is easier, bringing everyone on to the same page.
ABM: Best-suited for the Golden Age of Personalisation
The expectations of personalisation are changing the way we communicate these days. Your prospects expect you to address their needs directly and stay with them as they continue on their buyer’s journey. They also expect you to stand out, seeing little value in a B2B relationship where they can’t tell you apart from your competitors. To meet the needs of today’s demanding clients; ABM is the most powerful tool in your marketing arsenal, bringing personalisation, inbound targeting and customer-centricity under one umbrella strategy.
On the surface, account-based marketing might seem like it isn’t the most scalable strategy, but in reality, ABM allows B2B marketing executives to do twice as much with half the effort. Smarketing (sales + marketing) efforts amplify your efficiency, lending to an elevated ROI with minimal spend. Thus, ABM is a revolutionary step forward, building the foundation for better marketing strategies and more cohesive team-building.
2020 left all our marketing plans in the dust, opening up a world of increased digital consumption. To cut through this noisy B2B environment, marketing leaders must remodel their existing processes with an agile and resilient framework that will meet buyer expectations and create a fast lane to sales for high-value accounts. However, implementing an ABM framework requires advanced know-how and expensive software packages. Industry experts and B2B marketing consultants at Oxper Martech can help you smoothly transition from a traditional marketing setup to an ABM based one.