“High-ticket sales, Greater Revenue, Acquiring Users at Scale, Warming up cold leads, Up-sells and Cross-sells, whatever you want to achieve with ABM campaigns - You have reached the right place.”
It was Friday, past midnight 🌃
Our kids were fast asleep 🛌
My spouse and I were watching ‘Money Heist’🤑 on NetFlix,
with a big bowl of popcorn 📺🍿
Tring-Tring - rang my phone 📲
A US-based cousin called up on WhatsApp 🤙
Day-night difference and free video calling 🆓
When we told her we were watching ‘Money Heist’ 🤑
She was like:
“STOP, STOP right there 🛑🛑, Please don’t be a SPOILER.”
I am yet to catch up, and there is still a lot more time ⌚⌚ before I can catch up.
“Please don’t be a SPOILER” is all Netflix needed to ensure more significant viewership for Money Heist.
And this deep listening inspired Netflix to come up with a check-mate move. Netflix targeted superfans (read as spoilers). And as spoilage usually peaks during the first few hours of the show’s release, Netflix trapped them on a 5-hour premiere flight. As this happened on an airplane where phones remained off there was no scope for spoilage. So, for the remainder of those 5 hours, the viewers enjoyed the thrill and suspense of ‘Money Heist,’ whilst the super fans were busy stuck 40,000ft up on a round flight from Madrid.
Usually, in account-based marketing, you would target the influential people in specific companies to make high ticket sales. And, sending a special gift to them is a no-brainer to get a positive response.
Netflix did quite the opposite.
To ensure a great viewing experience for most viewers, Netflix gave special treatment to the influential spoilers. Moreover, social media buzz on this move was like cherry-on-the-cake.
That’s how Netflix (unknowingly) gave birth to this term called - ‘Reverse Account-Based Marketing’ ;).
Before you get into a deeper understanding of why I call it “Reverse Account Based Marketing,” let’s dig in to understand everything about ABM - Account Based Marketing!
What is Account-Based Marketing(ABM)?
There are many definitions of ABM, giving us different perspectives to look at it.
“Account-BasedMarketing is a growth strategy in which marketing and sales work together to create personalized buying experiences for a selected set of high-value companies.” - HubSpot
“Account-based marketing is treating individual accounts as markets in their own right. ABM is a structured process for developing and implementing highly customized marketing programmes to strategic accounts, partners, or prospects. It is, by very nature, a long-term programme that demands a commitment of resources since it can take more than a year to deliver substantial returns. It is underpinned by a close analysis of the key business issues facing the client.” - Bev Burgess and Dave Munn, Authors: A Practitioner's Guide to Account-Based Marketing
[Both these definitions are more suitable for strategic ABM or One-to-One type of ABM. As you would see in the coming sections]
To me - “Account-based marketing is about cutting through the noise to reach the potential customer at the right time in the right place with the right offering to close business deals. Modern tech stacks help in scaling ABM campaigns. Creative, thoughtful, and personalized customer experiences including gifts act as a fuel for ABM campaigns.”
[This definition is more suitable for One-to-Few and One-to-Many types of ABM. As you would see in the coming sections]
Account-Based Marketing Framework
Account-based marketing is the exact opposite of traditional or inbound marketing practice. A traditional or inbound approach to marketing is like casting a wide net, hoping and praying to catch the fish (so to say the target audience). And then you need to nurture them subtly to progress them to a buying decision.
Broadly speaking account-based marketing has three stages:
- Land & Expand
1 - Identify
The first step of account-based marketing is to identify. The focus needs to shift from filling the funnel (as done in traditional marketing) to shortlisting best fit accounts. You determine whether they’re a good fit by using a set of criteria. This set of criteria aligns with your ideal customer profile. You can also use prospecting tools to identify accounts to save time.
One important thing to remember here is - that the accounts can be inside or outside the client base based on the campaign’s purpose. For example, you may approach the existing client base’s key accounts to become a trusted and valued partner. Conversely, you may reach out to accounts outside the client base to unlock new opportunities, e.g., scaling user acquisition.
2 - Engage
Engagement is the broadest stage of account-based marketing, as there are so many ways to engage with your prospects. There are tons of channels at your disposal: email, webinars, ebooks, targeted ads, videos, events, and any programmatic or automated ways you use to get in front of your target audience. Content is the key at this stage. Pain point-driven, visually appealing, compellingly delivered content will win the show for you.
The engagement stage gives you a lot of opportunities to leverage your marketing talent and understanding of human psychology.
3 - Land and Expand
In the engagement stage, almost everything you do is to land a meeting with the key decision-maker at the targeted account. The ball now goes into the court of the sales team. The sales team can drive conversations in this meeting by showing transformational growth opportunities to the targeted account. The objective of the meeting can vary from user acquisition to making high-ticket sales, to unlocking new opportunities for business, etc. as aligned with your ABM campaign.
Both types of marketing have their own benefits at different stages of business development. For example, if you have created a new product category, it will take forever to create awareness - hence account-based marketing would be beneficial at this stage. However, once you are a mid-sized company, inbound marketing can become your lead capturing machine. As, by now, you have a thorough understanding of your target persona, their pain points, and probable objections.
How ABM is Different from Traditional Marketing
ABM takes a one-to-one marketing approach with a heavy focus on relationship building instead of the traditional one-to-many approach. It almost literally flips the conventional marketing funnel by proactively pursuing high-value target accounts from the very beginning.
ABM moves beyond identifying high-quality leads. It focuses on specifically targeting and, most importantly, building relationships with the most qualified prospects who are likely to buy from you.
Besides being a “zero-waste” marketing strategy, it solves the “by-catch leads” problem that usually comes with implementing traditional marketing.
Importance of ABM for B2B
87% of B2B marketers surveyed by ITSMA reported that their ABM initiatives outperform their other marketing investments in terms of ROI.
Identifying and targeting key accounts has always been a best practice for B2B marketing and sales teams. What’s different today about account-based marketing is the advanced tech stack, including tools for shortlisting key accounts, finding human-verified contacts, managing customer relations, capturing leads, measuring engagement, digitalizing gifts, etc. Such a tech stack strengthens your account-based marketing multi-folds. For B2B marketing, this is essential, as it’s the most efficient way to use your time, energy, and resources.
Benefits of Account-Based Marketing
Here’s why ABM delivers solid ROI.
- Your efforts are super-focused
- Your trackability and measurability are high
- You optimize iteratively
- Your energy dissipators and cost leaks are low
All of the above means that even though you spend substantial amounts of time, effort, and resources (something that, on its part, will come down progressively as you get better at the game), ‘returns’ are higher than traditional marketing approaches. Sometimes, way higher than spending.
When you add other intangible benefits, the mileage can feel positively exponential, which include:
- Unlocking new opportunities - ABM demands strong synergy between sales and marketing teams to unlock new capabilities and build a priceless competitive edge for your organization.
- Shorter sales cycles - a result of targeting the decision-maker right from the beginning, instead of letting frontline workers work their way up gradually - enabling you to squeeze in more accounts and pump up revenue generation.
- Solid brand-customer relationships resulting from memorable customer experiences open up opportunities for upselling and cross-selling.
- Greater returns on investment - Because of the very nature of targeting accounts with the highest probability of success, the returns automatically increase.
- Increased revenue - As per a report by DemandBase, 60% of companies that use ABM saw a revenue increase of at least 10% within 12 months, while 1 in 5 companies experienced a revenue increase of 30% or more.
- Scalable user acquisition - automation with the modern tech stack helps in acquiring users without the limitations of manually nurturing each account. Again, jump over to the programmatic ABM section if that’s what you are looking for.
- Brand attention: Social capital and ‘free press’ that affirmative word-of-mouth from a VIP or big shot account (which is what most of your ABM exercises will target) can fetch for your brand.
ABM is All About Relationship Building
Almost every element of ABM is focused or based on relationship building. Let’s look at how different stages or parts of ABM are associated with building relationships with target accounts.
1. Building a list of high-value accounts and engaging them
ABM prioritizes quality over quantity. It requires you to go after handpicked, best-fit accounts that 100% match your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile).
Your job as an account-based marketer doesn’t end here because meaningful engagement is a crucial element of ABM.
You need to build a trusting, long-term relationship with high-value ABM-focused accounts by educating, nurturing, adding value, and following up with them. The goal is to win the business of these accounts or retain existing customers.
2. Researching target accounts to better connect with them
A significant part of ABM is to effectively engage and delight target accounts and key contacts that influence or make buying decisions.
Well, you can’t achieve this goal if you don’t have deep insights into your target accounts to establish a strong connection with them.
In ABM, it’s not enough to know who your target accounts are. You also need to know:
- Which industry or what business they are in
- What their needs and challenges are
- What solutions they are looking for
- What their interests and priorities are, etc.
That’s why in-depth research using your internal database and external B2B data is critical in ABM.
It helps increase relevance in your ABM efforts and resonate well with target accounts. You see, even the research part in ABM is conducted keeping the factor of ‘relationship building’ in mind.
3. Creating personalized experiences for each stakeholder or contact
Personalized content is key to ABM success. Besides this, messaging, web, and buying experiences play a significant role in converting ABM-focused accounts into paying customers.
One of the reasons is that they allow you to better relate with target accounts and stakeholders and boost your relationship with them.
Personalization in ABM lets you show target accounts how your solution can benefit their business in different ways as you appeal to different stakeholders. It goes a long way toward building lasting relationships in ABM.
4. Targeting channels that are most preferred by ABM-focused accounts
Email is not the only channel used to target high-value accounts in ABM. Not all people and companies spend most of their time or prefer brands to communicate with them on the same channel.
Social media, direct mail, phone, video, webinar, and in-person events are also used to pursue and nurture ABM-focused accounts.
You need to determine the best channel(s) to target high-value accounts and contacts. However, no matter what channel you choose, you’re always looking to stay top of mind with targeted prospects in ABM. You use different channels to stay connected, share content, interact, and foster your relationship with them.
5. Measuring ABM or relationship results
Measuring the right metrics and KPIs is essential to ensure your ABM efforts are getting the desired results. Here are some of the key ABM metrics to track:
- Number of deals closed
- Average deal size
- Sales cycle length and sales velocity
- Time to close deals
- Net revenue earned
Most of these metrics could be impacted by relationship building in ABM. However, the more specific or relevant metrics that relate to building a relationship with ABM-focused accounts include:
- Account engagement and number of stakeholders reached
- Number of face-to-face or virtual meetings earned
- Event registration and attendance rates
- Content consumption and sharing
- Email open and click-through rates
Types of Account-Based Marketing
Strategic ABM | One-to-One
Strategic ABM is synonymous with your brand’s marriage to the target account. You need to build stronger relationships with premium clients by demonstrating an in-depth understanding of their business needs. This understanding gives you opportunities to offer curated transformational solutions; Just as you would understand your spouse’s needs and create solutions towards a better life for both of you. The idea is to enter a strategic partnership where the client's success is your success. And you would go out of your way to make it happen. Strategic ABM demands human involvement for a much more significant part of the campaign.
Strategic ABM is not just a sales or marketing initiative; it’s instead a corporate initiative that delivers outcomes such as revenue growth, advocacy, and client lifetime value.
Strategic ABM is a 7-step process, as explained below. However, bear in mind that the bigger purpose of strategic ABM campaigns is to become a valued partner for your clients.
- Step 1 - Knowing What is Driving the Account - understand why the client is doing business with you. Conduct more profound research to understand what can add more value to their business. If required, make use of advanced technological tools for insights.
- Step 2 - Playing to the Client’s needs - Identify what product offerings or a group of product offerings can be helpful for your client. At times there may be a need for a new solution to be built upon your company’s strengths.
- Step 3 - Mapping and Profiling Stakeholders - sometimes, a group of people is involved in decision-making. Understand how they contribute to the buying process. Then, pull the right strings to get them involved.
- Step 4 - Developing Targeted Value Propositions - People don’t buy solutions; they buy benefits. Drive your value proposition based on efficiency, quality, speed, profitable revenue growth, value creation, etc.
Here is a quick value proposition hack for you. Fill this template out, and it would become easier for you to develop your proposition.
We do ................................... so that you can do/feel/be ...........................................
We created........................... so you don't have to do/feel/be .....................................
- Step 5 - Planning Integrated Sales and Marketing Campaigns - it’s a must to have the involvement of both teams to ensure the success of the campaign. If the sales team understands problems and solutions, the marketing team knows how to use that information to drive the narrative for success.
- Step 6 - Executing Integrated Sales and Marketing Campaigns - Besides sales and marketing skills, project-management skills would be necessary for the account heads to execute successful campaigns.
- Step 7 - Evaluating Results and Updating Plans - This is self-explanatory yet very important for continued ABM campaigns success.
HPE’s ‘Gold Dust’ program is a great example to understand strategic ABM, as shown in the visual below.
Source for Case Study: Book titled - ‘A Practitioner's Guide To Account Based Marketing’ by Bev Burgesswith Dave Munn
ABM Lite | One-to-Few
With ABM Lite, marketing programs and campaigns are typically focused on small groups of accounts that share similar business attributes and pain points. Insights from the sales team that come very handy in this type of ABM are:
- Which accounts to target?
- What are the key decision points?
- Which business issues to highlight?
- How to position your solution?
- How to tailor existing content for client needs?
Technological involvement is more than humans in ABM lite campaigns for process, execution, and measurement. If you want to attract accounts beyond the strategic ones - ABM lite is the way to go. ABM lite helps you increase your reach and revenue. ABM Lite is a middle ground between strategic ABM and programmatic ABM.
Facebook’s $1billion creator funding program is a great way to understand ABM Lite. Think of videos - what comes to your mind? YouTube, isn’t it? YouTube's worldwide advertising revenues amounted to seven billion U.S. dollars in the third quarter of 2021. Video content gives a lot of opportunities for placing ads. Usually, creators upload videos on YouTube and share links for those videos on their Facebook pages. Facebook users click on the link, leave the platform and go to YouTube. So only YouTube benefits from the monetization of videos. However, Facebook is already doing well with its ad revenue. In the third quarter of 2021, Facebook's total advertising revenue amounted to roughly 28.2 billion U.S. dollars. Getting Youtube creators to upload videos exclusively on Facebook is an excellent way of keeping users stuck to their platform. I am sure you already understand the benefits of sticky users.
Explore the visual below to understand why we call it an ABM Lite campaign.
By the way, we just connected the dots grasping the information about the funding program.
Programmatic ABM | One-to-Many
This one-to-many approach is possible due to the latest technologies that enable razor-sharp targeting, analytics, and personalization across hundreds or even thousands of identified accounts. Marketers can use programmatic ABM tools to:
- Derive customer insights through social listening tools
- Serve targeted content by tracking cookies - you just thought of something and saw an ad for a related product in your feed. Does this ring a bell?
- Nurture leads at scale throughout the buying cycle
With just one marketer working across hundreds of accounts, Programmatic ABM is much less marketing resource-intensive than strategic ABM and ABM Lite.
Programmatic ABM | Step-by-Step Process
Step 1: Identify Target Accounts
Collect data points around your premium customers—the ones who often do business with you. Thus you will have a list of things to look for in the target accounts. You can also use tools for profiling and prospecting.
Step 2: Finding contact details for Key Decision Maker
LinkedIn Sales Navigator or tools like LeadFeeder or Triblio can help you find the contact details for the prospects you must reach out to.
Step 3: Researching the Needs and Pain-points
Broadly you know what the pain points are. However, there are data-driven tools available to help you dig deeper to understand customer needs. Next, you need to look for ways to help your target audience do better professionally.
Step 4: Planning the Campaign
The best way to run these programmatic ABM campaigns is through social media: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., or emails. First, study the ad formats for various platforms. Identify what would be most suitable for you. Pen down touch-points and offerings. Decide on a budget. Look for the best days and times to run the campaign.
Step 5: Preparing Content
Create personalized content that caters to specific accounts and their needs. For instance: ebooks, case studies, templates, guides, cheat sheets, etc. The content needs to be:
- Pain-point Driven
- Visually Engaging
You shall be required to work closely with the sales team to understand needs and the design team to create compelling content.
Step 6: Executing the Campaign
Automation tools come really handy for this leg of the ABM campaigns. For example, you can use CRMs like HubSpot to keep track of touchpoints. In addition, HubSpot offers the creation of automatic workflows triggered by audience behavior.
Step 7: Measuring and Optimizing the ABM Strategy
No process can improve without a feedback loop. There are tools available to help you measure ABM engagement stats. Measuring shall guide you through calibrating your strategy as needed.
20 Account-Based Marketing Tactics to Drive Growth
1 - Create Ideal Customer Profile
Connect as many data points to prepare an ideal customer profile. Data points include - age, gender, location, role, company size, motivation, goal, challenges, etc. 👩💼👨🏽💼
2 - Identify Growth Opportunities for Customers
Customers would only be interested in your offering if you could show them their growth. People buy better versions of themselves and their companies. 📈
3 - Personalize Sales Enablement Content
Bring marketing and sales teams together to prepare personalized content that the sales team can share with the prospects. Ask the marketing team to leave some fields blank for customization.✍️✍️
4 - Create Offers to Land a Personal Meeting
Free evaluations or assessments, free quality scores, or free consultations are excellent to bring you one step closer to your target accounts. Make it super easy to block your calendar for these offers. 🆓🆓
5 - Give Social Recognition
As humans, we love to be recognized. So, create blog posts that recognize your target accounts. For instance: ranking of top companies, promising startups, proficient professionals. 🏆🏆
6 - Tag on Social Media
Once you publish the recognition blog posts, tag the account owners on social media to get their attention.✅✅
7 - Add to Twitter Lists
Create a list of business leaders of your target accounts on Twitter. The cherry on the cake is Twitter’s notification for list addition. To further grab their attention engage with them on Twitter by sharing value-adding or opinionated comments.👣👣
8 - Use Advanced Tools
A wholesome list of tools is available for shortlisting key accounts, pulling human-verified contacts, ad targeting, content experience, CRMs, integrable gifts, and rewards platforms. Make use of these tools to strengthen our ABM strategy. 🛠️⚙️
9 - Automate to Scale
Of course, strategic ABM would require your sales team to take charge of account handling personally. But for programmatic ABM and ABM Lite, you can automate 60-70% of the process using the right tools. 🛠️⚙️
10 - Be Human
Premium account handling demands human touch. Create more personalized experiences to foster strong relationships. The strategic ABM would fail in the absence of human touch. 🤝🤝
11 - Tie Your Ads with Gifts and Rewards
Social media platforms are flooded with ads. LinkedIn alone offers seven types of ad formats. The ads can be placed in various locations like hello bar, news-feed, messages, notifications, sidebar, etc. However, if you want to cut through the noise - gifts and rewards can go a long way. Something as simple as a coffee voucher would also work.🎁🎁
12 - Go Digital with Gifts and Rewards
Pandemic forced many businesses to go digital. As a result, digital gifts have replaced direct mail gifts to a great extent for better. Digital gifting saves you the hassle of packing and shipping, ensures delivery to the right person, and helps you track engagement and redemption.👨💻👩💻🎁🎁
13 - Write Personalized and Compelling Emails
Email marketing is not dead yet. You have to use the right tactics of drafting emails, personalizing emails, establishing credibility, etc. You need to give people a solid reason to receive a response. 📩📩✍️✍️
14 - Target multiple decision-makers on LinkedIn
Among the wholesome choices for LinkedIn ads, the platform enables company-specific targeting. Media managers can identify company accounts on LinkedIn and serve ads to the key influencers at those companies. In fact the ad campaigns can offer tailored content to all stakeholders. 👩🦱👨🦱👩🏼🦰👨🏽🦰👨🏽💼👩💼
15 - Use Account-Based Retargeting
Create multiple touch points on social media by retargeting engaged contacts. Tie each touchpoint with a valuable offering like an e-book, case study, template, guide, etc. You can also add gifts with these offerings like Amazon gift cards, coffee vouchers, product discounts, etc., for better results. 🧧🧧📚📚
For example, if the prospect clicks on an ebook ad, offer them a case study ad next. If they click the case study ad, follow up with a demo ad. In case they didn’t click the case study ad, offer them a consideration-stage eBook.
16 - Rock the Trade Shows and On-Ground Events
Plan engagement activities and rewards in advance to target the pre short-listed accounts at the trade shows and physical events. Here is your complete guide to maximizing conversions from physical events. 🚀🚀
17 - Create a buzz with Gifts
Send gifts to a wholesome number of employees to create a buzz around your brand. Many people receiving gifts from your company shall generate curiosity in them to know more about your brand and offerings. 🎁🎁🎁🎁🎁🎁
18 - Host events
Events for the local accounts are a great way to develop strong relationships with key people at target accounts. Nothing beats this face-to-face interaction. 🤝🤝
19 - Gift Experiences
Sending a gift just for the sake of it is useless. Think of a way to make it count. Make it memorable. Gift things line fine-dine coupons, adventure trips, movie tickets, etc. 🍽️🍹🍹🎥🍿
20 - Measure and Recalibrate
It’s always important to measure how target accounts are engaging with your account-based marketing campaigns. You can always identify what works and double down on it. There are many tools available that can integrate with your CRM to measure ABM engagement statistics. 📈🖲️
Account-based marketing is a targeted approach where you identify the accounts matching your ideal customer profile and engage with them on a personalized basis to generate more business opportunities. There are three types of ABM - Account-Based Marketing. 1) One-to-One or Strategic ABM, 2) One-to-Few or ABM Lite, and 3) One-to-Many or Programmatic ABM.
With ABM campaigns, you can:
- Scale user acquisition
- Shorten sales cycles
- Increase revenue
- Unlock new opportunities
- Generate higher RoI on same sales and marketing budgets
You may ask how:
Explore more about how you can add wings to your ABM campaigns!
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