Marketers are often criticised for bringing in low-quality leads that don’t fit the ideal customer profile, and don’t convert. To break out of this pattern, sales and marketing need to align their strategy to accommodate today’s B2B buying behaviour.Account-Based Marketing (ABM) aims to fix this.
Aligning sales and marketing objectives, tactics and results, an ABM campaign allows the two teams to collaborate on target accounts, thus creating a super-efficient strategy that promotes long-term business growth.
For the Ideal Customer that they are targeting, it’s a win-win because it means they experience a new level of hyper-personalisation that truly engages them. For a B2B SME company, this level of engagement is more likely to gain conversion and boost ROI and revenue.
You may have heard a thing or two about the benefits of Account-Based Marketing, like these stats:
- 80% of marketers say ABM improves customer lifetime values, while 86% say it improves win rates (Hubspot).
- According to Rollworks, 87% of marketers say ABM outperforms other marketing activities.
But before jumping into ABM, it’s key to understand if it is right for you, and whether your business is ready?
A quick overview of Account Based Marketing
Firstly, what is Account-Based Marketing? ABM is a targeted approach where sales and marketing work together to create hyper-personalised communications for a group of high-value accounts.
There’s often confusion between inbound marketing and Account Based Marketing.
The difference between inbound marketing and ABM
ABM:Targets predetermined accounts with tailored marketing efforts.
- Energy and attention are fixed on high-value accounts.
- Custom content shared on targeted channels where the target engages.
Top tip: Ideal for a business who sells to a niche market.
- Attracts a wide range of customers through relevant, high quality content.
- Qualifies leads through offers, forms, emails etc to move contacts along the conversion funnel (awareness/attract, engage, to conversion).
Top tip: Ideal for a business that has a wide market and broad range of target audiences - enabling them to reach an extended audience and generate interest on a large scale.
Here’s a little more on what ABM is and isn’t...
What Account Based Marketing is - Selling directly to your ideal customer (high value, best fit) - allowing you to go straight to engaging and delighting your target accounts. It saves wasting time on unqualified leads that aren’t the right fit. So it’s super-efficient and therefore very popular among B2B SME companies.
What Account Based Marketing isn’t - Broad brush campaigns to a job title, multiple sectors, or running awareness-level (top of the funnel) campaigns that target a wide audience.
ABM has to be strategically planned in advance - it’s not just an ongoing promotion of activity to your target accounts. Similarly, identifying a type of company you want to sell to isn’t ABM. You need to specifically go through the process of identifying accounts and prioritising them in tiers - then tailor efforts and comms accordingly.
>> Further reading: Find out about the 3 types of ABM that vary from basic to hyper-personalisation.
The top benefits of an ABM campaign:
- Forces companies to set the criteria for prioritisation - what makes a good customer, who do we really want to work with (your target/Ideal Customers)
- Tailoring communications, content and campaigns to those specific accounts helps boost engagement, experience and customer loyalty
- By focusing your resources on winning best-fit, high-value accounts, you stand a better chance of sales conversion - thus improving ROI
The top challenges of an ABM campaign:
For ABM to be successful, B2B SME companies need to deliver a personalised customer experience, know how to choose target accounts and what content to use.
Often, when companies try to set up these ABM campaigns, they hit these challenges:
- Biggest challenge for most SMEs: Data sourcing/database build - you need to have contact details for multiple stakeholders across the businesses you are targeting otherwise you can't orchestrate the outbound side effectively.
- Lack of expertise - to develop the complex ABM strategies and execute them
- Budget - they can't afford to build an ABM team in-house (they need an affordable, flexible solution)
Key steps to successfully execute an Account Based Marketing campaign
There are seven key steps to successfully run an ABM campaign:
1) Identify your target accounts - Firstly, you need to decide who you’ll be wanting to capture - including the industry, company size, annual revenue, location etc. At this stage, market research is critical to determine which targets can be best served by your company offering.
2) Map the customer journey - Understanding how your customers buy from you and the journey they go through to become in a purchase-ready state is essential. Typical things to consider include: Where do they find their information? What information do they need? This helps you to alleviate any problems in the buying cycle.
3) Build buyer personas - Now, start to familiarise yourself with your new prospects: Who is making purchasing decisions? What problems are they having? This insight will help to build an understanding of the common persona and use this to tailor communications and content.
4) Create ABM content - Using the insight from the persona work, you now need to create content that addresses these pain points.
5) Identify channels - At this point, you need to establish where you will be sharing your new pieces of content to get them in front of your identified target accounts. We recommend a multi-channel and multi-touchpoint process as its essential prospects are engaged consistently across the several areas they interact.
6) ABM campaign execution - This should be planned in advance to make sure the right messages go out at the right time.
7) ABM measurement - With every campaign, measurement is essential. For ABM, it helps to understand which pieces are working and which need improving. As there is a smaller volume of accounts, measuring the success of an ABM campaign is much easier. However, you need to ask the right questions: Have there been changes to the way target accounts engage with the content? What revenue has been generated from the target accounts?
Top tip: Metrics you should be looking at in your ABM campaign are not the same as those in an inbound campaign - you should focus on metrics like accounts touched, accounts engaged, account lead score, and accounts closed.
>> Further reading: Read the full blog here for more detail on these 7 steps.
Case study: Successful ABM in action
B2B Demand generation machine generates £1.6m closed business
Spektrix provides a full stack of technology and services for sales, marketing, fundraising and admin teams in the venues industry.
They had run marketing campaigns in the past but felt like they needed to improve their overall planning, execution and measurement of campaigns.
They were looking to change their approach to demand generation and work with a strategic partner who could bring some rigour to their sales and marketing efforts, take their MarTech stack to the next level, and hone in on target accounts to generate sales opportunities.
We started with strategic road mapping, an intensive period of strategy work that meticulously analyses the current state of play and identifies the key opportunities for growth. From this, we developed a roadmap of activity designed to meet the business objectives, including Account Based Marketing.
We worked with Spektrix to help them prioritise accounts that they could potentially close in the financial year, then devised a sophisticated 6 month ABM campaign to draw prospects into the sales funnel.
£1.6m in closed business
48% of target accounts engaged
£540k additional pipeline generated
307 marketing qualified leads
The technology essential for ABM to work
These are the minimum marketing technologies that you would need to successfully run an ABM campaign:
- Marketing Automation platform
- Outbound sales automation/call tracking
- Landing page solution
- Reporting dashboards
Top tip: Ideally, you don’t want these all to be disparate tools that need to be connected via a tool like Zapier. We recommend using a platform like Hubspot as this is a good way to bring it all together for SMEs.
Are you ready for ABM: Checklist
Account Based Marketing can be really complex. To help you understand whether it’s ABM or inbound marketing you need, and to help you compare external ABM agencies that can support you, we’ve created this checklist.
Your ABM-ready checklist
✅ Do you have a high value product or service - low value doesn't tend to warrant ABM approach due to prohibitive cost-of-sale
✅ Do you have a well structured, usable CRM, full of the right data (valid email records/telephone contacts etc?)
>> Further reading - Why the Hubspot CRM platform is the best for B2B SMEs.
✅ Have you developed personas and know the different messaging angles/pain-points and customer needs for multi-stakeholder comms
✅ Have you got clearly defined criteria to identify and analyse target accounts?
✅ Can you execute a multi-channel campaign - is there a sales team who'll be running direct outreach/follow up across the target accounts
>> Further reading - More on sales enablement best practice here.
✅ Do you have the budget - to do this effectively you need to raise awareness for a prolonged period, buy the paid media, drop the tailored direct mail etc.
>> Further reading - How to overcome operating with budget constraints here.
If you don’t match these criteria, it's likely you may not see the results you’d want from your marketing efforts. You are likely to find more success from an inbound marketing approach.
Putting it all together
ABM has been around for a while now but it is now rapidly growing in popularity - in 2021, 70% of marketers report using ABM, up 15% from 2020 (Hubspot). This is largely due to the rise in technology which is improving targeting so increasing ABM potential.
ABM is a great strategy to get cut-through in dominant markets, whilst also improving ROI and sales and marketing working on shared KPIs – which is a common problem today.
Your next step
To book your free assessment, get in touch today.
Why businesses love working with Digital Litmus
We specialise in supporting B2B tech companies in the SME space. Acting as a true extension of your team, we provide the full-service of best practice Account Based Marketing strategy through to execution and reporting to maximise your ROI.
Our approach to ABM is strategic, systemised and analytical - We only work with B2B SMEs so we understand how to disrupt the complex buyer journey and develop activities and comms that are designed to identify prospects that have intent in the market.
Commercially focused - We analyse the results to optimise promotional activity and identify further opportunities into the future.
Driven by Chief Marketing Officer level strategists - That work closely with you to develop the criteria for prioritisation / segmentation - And then dig into the customer needs and pain points of the set of accounts in the mix for the ABM campaign. This ensures all campaign messaging and content across the sales funnel is on point and resonates with the target prospects - also equipping sales teams with what they need to convert.
Best practice execution - We then apply our marketing operations experience (as a Hubspot Platinum Partner) to ensure a seamless experience with marketing technology, minimising any manual effort through activities such as lead nurture and ensuring consolidated end-to-end reporting is in place.