Understanding Account Based Marketing
Definition and purpose
Also called “ Strategic Account Marketing ”, ABM strategy is a BtoB strategy for both marketing and business development. ABM strategy is a very complete sales technique at the crossroads between inbound marketing, content marketing, marketing automation, or even inbound sales (according to your wishes 🤪). It's ideal for sales reps who are targeting a small number of high-value accounts, often known as strategic accounts.
The idea is to implement account-based marketing dedicated to each specific accounts with a high level of personalization to increase the conversion rate of prospects into customers. This B2B marketing technique also makes it possible to increase the penetration rate on a target account by promoting cross-selling and encouraging in-depth knowledge of this account.
The major advantage of this technique is that the return on investment is significantly greater than that of "mass" digital marketing techniques, which are generally utilized in situations where a market has a small number of consumers but huge economic value.
Account-based marketing and Inbound marketing
Inbound marketing and account-based marketing are frequently conflated. There are several connections between the two techniques, but actually, these two strategies can exist without the other.
Indeed, inbound marketing is the art of attracting prospects to your website (thanks to content marketing) and converting them into leads (thanks to marketing automation). Inbound marketing makes it possible to easily and accurately identify several qualified leads and can nurture ABM effectively. We could then model the link between Inbound Marketing and Account-based marketing in this way:
However, to summarize ABM solely as the continuation of inbound marketing would be inaccurate and partisan. It can exist without inbound marketing, although I highly recommend that you do not do without it. Account-based marketing efforts can be implemented by identifying key targets and contacting them through modern prospecting methods. On the other hand, just like inbound marketing, ABM needs content.
It is therefore content marketing that links these two strategies.
If the difference between content marketing and inbound marketing is not clear to you, which is neither surprising nor worrying, I recommend that you check out our article on the subject .
ABM: The essential alignment between sales and marketing teams
Account-based marketing can be implemented easily in businesses of all sizes. There is, however, an absolute prerequisite for this strategy to work: collaboration between the marketing and the sales team.
To be honest with you, I think this alignment is necessary and vital, regardless of whether you use account-based marketing or not. The reality of B2B sales today shows that if you want to grow, you need to fully understand your customers and provide them with value throughout their buying journey .
It involves a competent and empathetic sales team. Sales teams should be trained to promote high-value, educational material that is tailored to the needs of each type of customer, generated by marketing teams.
From there on, there will be more than one step towards the sales method that should rule them all: Inbound Sales.
The 3 pillars of account-based marketing
There are 3 fundamental pillars in Account-Based Marketing tactics: they are targeting, content, and continuity. All of these components are critical to the project's success.
Targeting, the first pillar of ABM
The first and most obvious pillar is of course targeting. Indeed, account-based marketing programs should start with the strategy to address a specific list of high-value accounts. The objective is to make an inventory, as complete as possible, of the key accounts existing in your sector of activity.
Even if these are target accounts and not people, you need to have in mind the ideal business profile for your product or service.
- How many employees does it have?
- In which sector does it operate?
- What can be its problems?
- Where is it based?
- What is its turnover?
You can then list the companies concerned, by crossing the ideal company profile with databases such as Kompass, the SIRENE database or even social networks, in particular LinkedIn.
👉To find out, you can consult our article on the constitution of a file of companies and prospects .
This is also where you can utilize the list of leads that inbound marketing has helped you to create: subscribers to your newsletter, people who have downloaded your premium content, etc. Among these leads, you might identify key companies and even get an idea of your reputation with these companies.
Once the target accounts have been identified, you will need to identify who the relevant interlocutors are in each company. For this, I strongly recommend that you plan workshops to model your personas specifically for the ABM operation. Who will be your users, who are the influencers, who are the buyers, and finally who are your detractors within these companies? You must have a very precise vision of these profiles.
Content, the second pillar of account-based marketing
Without content, there is no ABM marketing. There's nothing more to say.
Okay if you insist ...
To set-up effective personalized campaigns, you must understand that the idea is to implement whatever means necessary so that your high value accounts become your customers. And “all the necessary means” in fact designates a battery of high added value content, specifically to meet the needs of all of your targets within a key account.
By content, I do not mean a brochure or a self-centered message. You must help them solve their problem and thus prove to them that your product or service is the most suitable. For each of these contents, you must illustrate them with concrete examples directly linked to your key account.
Example: If you are selling a project management solution, you need to create effective content to teach them innovative techniques in project management and team leadership. In this case, your key account is a large industrial account in the automotive sector. Take, for example, innovation projects in the area of change management to tackle difficult technological problems. Even better, illustrate with a case study directly inspired by what you do with… Their direct competitor.
More broadly, all your content must have been tailor-made, not only for the target company but also for the target person within this company.
Of course, the secret lies in the fact that several contents will be 80% identical between two competing companies among your key accounts. You have to do the extra customization work every time. Your return on investment depends on it.
Continuity, the third pillar and the philosophy of Account-based marketing
Marketing strategic accounts is a long-term job, you must constantly update your list of strategic accounts but above all, the list of people you are targeting and with whom you have interacted in these strategic accounts.
Content production must be continuous and so must the commercial effort. In addition to that, managers from marketing and sales teams must monitor actions accurately to maintain control over the sales process and account-based marketing strategies.
There's a sales technique that is particularly appropriate for accounts that are likely to make the case for account-based marketing. This technique is the MEDDIC approach. It makes it possible to obtain a large amount of information and to efficiently follow the most complex and lengthy sales processes.
I invite you to read our article about it: MEDDIC, the 6 keys to mastering complex sales .
Challenge: deploy account-based marketing in 7 days
As I told you previously, deploying an account-based marketing strategy is within the reach of all companies that give themselves the means. To prove it to you,I offer you a challenge: 7 days to set up a strategy ABM Marketing in your business.
Day 1: the ideal target company, the famous strategic accounts
Start by bringing together the sales and marketing teams. Embark them on this fabulous project that will require strong teamwork. Together, they will change the way you develop yourself and their combined expertise promises a bright future… and therefore bonuses 😜 (I didn't say anything).
The first thing they are going to have to realize on this first day is to create a sketch of the ideal company for your products and services. What are the most important criteria to identify: business sector, turnover, location, company size, etc.
The skills of the salespeople will assist you in determining which businesses are most open to your proposals in the sector. The marketing team will be able to cross-reference this information with key metrics such as revenue per customer, the number of leads meeting these criteria, etc.
☞ At the end of the day, you will have the typical profile of your strategic accounts.
Day 2: Details of the targets, their background, and their motivations
You have your key accounts. Great! But we don't talk to an “account”, we talk to the people who work there especially to the decision-makers. This is the goal of the second day of work.
Always as a team and not each on their own, organize a full persona workshop to identify who within strategic accounts is your target. I'm not just talking about “who signs the check”.
You need to understand who will be the functional decision-maker, in other words, who decides whether a solution fits the need or not. Who will be the user of the solution? Who will be the financial decision-maker?
And finally, also think about who will play against you?
If you use this strategy, it is because you are not selling mugs, you are selling a complex solution that is likely to change the way your target works. If you're not, then someone will be. It's impossible to ignore it if you want to have any control over your sales process.
Remember to detail as precisely as possible the stakes of your different targets. For example, you can take inspiration from the jobs to be done approach to deepen the motivation of each of the interlocutors.
☞ At the end of the day, you will have modeled the typical profile of all of your targets within the strategic accounts.
Day 3: Create your list of strategic accounts
After two days of thinking and taking a step back, you are now ready to put together your files. When you're using outbound marketing to attract new leads and contacts, your existing databases will provide all of your target firms. Make sure you cover all of the bases and divide your lists based on categories.
Indeed, an endless list of strategic accounts without segmentation would be ineffective. Group accounts that are close to each other, for example by industry. This will allow you to structure personalized campaigns for each homogeneous target group.
In addition, try to set one of your client references in front of you for every target group that has been identified; this will assist you with future writing and will allow you to determine where you are well-positioned.
☞ At the end of the day, you will have a list of target companies grouped by sector, size, or location.
Day 4: Identify the people to contact
The last step of targeting, take a dozen strategic accounts. For each of them, your teams must identify the people to contact. Remember, by the second day, you had already copied the profile of all of the people involved with your solutions.
All you have to do is put a name in front of each of these profiles for each of these companies. It may seem complex to you, but in reality, there is a tool that will help you: LinkedIn .
It is the most up-to-date business database on the market and by using the right research methods, you can quickly find the right people. Consider cross-referencing this information with marketing databases, whether it's your newsletter subscribers, your old leads, etc.
If you can, also see if there are some of your target contacts among the people who follow your LinkedIn Company Page. You can consult Part 3 of our guide on the LinkedIn company page if needed.
☞ At the end of this day, you will have mapped your first 10 key accounts with the people to contact to initiate a sales process.
Day 5 and Day 6: Warm up your hands, you'll have some typing to do
We've now reached the tough part of our sales cycle. Writing effective content isn't always easy and to be honest it can take over two days if you're starting from scratch. In addition, to complete your ABM strategy you will create a lot more content and therefore you will need a lot more time. But let's be playful, the idea is to get your feet up and start in 7 days.
It is likely that you already have content for your natural referencing or customer cases for example. Logically, you created this content so that it answers the questions and specific issues of your personas. It is a good base but it is insufficient, you must address your main targets with ultra-personalized content. Rework the key articles that will help them begin their buying journey so that they feel they are written specifically for them.
We agree, the substance is not necessarily radically different. For example, project management remains project management whether at L'Oréal or at Yves Rocher. But there are specificities to take into account. Adapt your examples to best fit the context of your target audience. Demonstrate your experience with one of their competitor or detail a methodology specific to that company.
It's all about how effectively you can communicate with your prospects in order to convey your knowledge of their common difficulties and assist them solve them.
☞ At the end of these two days, you will have your first content to send to your main targets to initiate the sales process.
Day 7: Sending and monitoring the account-based marketing campaign
Il ne vous reste plus qu’à adresser ces contenus à vos cibles ! Il existe un très grand nombre de canaux différents et vous devez choisir vos canaux en fonction de votre cible et du format de votre contenu (vidéo, livre blanc, article …).
Aidez-vous des meilleures méthodes de prospection commerciale, du social-selling et n’hésitez pas à recourir aux contenus sponsorisés sur les réseaux sociaux.
All you have to do is send this content to your targets! There are a very large number of multiple channels and you must choose your channels according to your target and the format of your content (video, white paper, article…).
Use the best methods of commercial prospecting , social-selling and do not hesitate to use sponsored content on social networks.
Remember to track and measure the effectiveness of each of your campaigns, identify what works and improve what needs to be. ABM marketing is not a “one-shot” technique, it is a logic of commercial development with high added value. You will have to evolve and find the formula adapted to each account.
It's a lot of work, I agree, but it's worth it. 80% of marketing directors consider that this strategy offers a better ROI than other marketing operations. And sales teams are not forgotten, because they believe that ABM cuts almost 50% off “time lost” in ineffective prospecting.*