In my years of working with B2B clients on digital marketing campaigns in Asia Pacific markets, one area of focus is always targeting specific accounts. Way before marketers started calling it Account-Based Marketing (ABM), we used to call it named account marketing, account list marketing, where it means devising a specific marketing tactic to target a special list of account names that are of high perceived value to our clients. ABM is definitely not a new shiny big thing that marketers used in their annual plan to impress their stakeholders. If executed properly, ABM can provide B2B marketers high-ROI growth results.
What is account-based marketing?
Account-based marketing aka ABM is a business-to-business (B2B) growth tactic that involves focusing one’s investment and effort on a specific group of customers within a market to generate prospective high value leads that can potentially generate high returns-on-income. Rather than embarking on a mass audience marketing strategy, ABM tailors its methods and strategy to the needs of the target customers, intending to narrowly engage with major decision influencers and decision-makers.
Account-based marketing is not a new concept. Highly focused sales and marketing initiatives have consistently outperformed generic, non-targeted initiatives. It does, however, necessitate a shift of mindset. As a marketer, you no longer measure the amount of engagements or website visitors and leads. Instead, you’ll be tracking responses and engagement from your named accounts, along with personalizing the buyer’s journey and tailoring all communications, creatives, content assets, and campaign flows for your named accounts.
Adopters of account-based marketing can expect to see greater ROI and a boost in customer loyalty, with the strategy being prioritised for lead generation, pipeline acceleration as well as customer retention. According to the 2020 State of ABM Report, more than 94% of respondents ran an active ABM program in 2020 (this is quite a substantial increase from 77% in 2019). During this covid-19 period, while budgets have reduced across most marketing campaigns, budgets allocated for ABM remained resilient.
According to a survey by ITSMA, 87% of B2B marketers indicated that their ABM initiatives outperform their other marketing investments in terms of ROI. It is no doubt that account-based marketing is not just the shiny new thing, but an on-going sustainable strategy that B2B marketers should prioritise to drive leads and revenue.
Account-based marketing need not be solely digital
While digital marketing enables measurement and optimization of performance results, certain audiences might be better reached offline. For example a C-suite who is a jetsetter and constantly being targeted on digital platforms might be reached with a physical direct mailer.
With the average ratio of emails to direct mailers that an individual receive daily is 36/1, according to Nutshell, a direct mailer is less common and thus faces lesser competition as compared to digital tactics.
ABM is not difficult
Like any marketing program, ABM requires careful planning and strategising but it’s not difficult to execute. The core of ABM is to first distinguish main target accounts with a focus on critical decision influencers and decision-makers, then develop messaging and content that will resonate with the content needs of these potential customers. Understanding their business pain points and the entry touch points are critical success factors to maximize your business’s relevance to your target’s business.
Content marketing rules
B2B marketers know very well that content is king when it comes to marketing to B2B or B2C audiences. Now it has never been more true than when it refers to ABM to a highly focused group of audiences.
With an increasing buying committee of decision-makers and influencers and an average of 5.4 people required to sign off on each purchase order, it only makes perfect sense to accommodate content that addresses the pain points of these audiences, who may be overwhelmed with a slew of content and messagings out there in the marketplace. Mapping out the audience personas will be the first critical step to identify and design the content assets.
ABM requires seamless collaboration between sales and marketing teams
While effective marketing generates leads for the pipeline, it only becomes exceptional when it is integrated into your sales plan. I have heard too many times where leads fed into the marketing pipeline are followed up too quickly by the sales team and the leads are not warm enough, on the contrary, there are also stories about sales ignoring hot marketing leads due to conflicting interpretations of what defines a lead, just to give a few examples.
The alignment of marketing and sales operations can lead to better productivity and minimized wastage of marketing dollars. Your business will enjoy more synergy and performance when the sales and marketing teams agree on shared goals and focused accounts before embarking on ABM.