Finding the One: Account Based Marketing (ABM) is Having Its Moment

Sure, getting an email from a Nigerian Prince asking you for help moving his family fortune out of the country feels nice. Of all the billions of people in the world, he chose you! It’s flattering, really. But despite the high return on investment and the opportunity for international friendship, something doesn’t quite feel right. You don’t reply, and the Prince sadly moves on.

Okay, that might be an extreme example, but the marketing philosophy for a lot of reputable B2B companies is similar – put enough crap out into the world, and eventually someone might respond. The upside? It’s cheap and fast, the equivalent of buying a lottery ticket on the off-chance you might hit it big. The downside? It’s impersonal and ineffective, the equivalent of spam that might do more harm than good.

Enter Account Based Marketing (ABM), the new darling of the B2B industry that really isn’t anything new at all. ABM is essentially how sales were done before we had the ability to send out communications en masse – it’s building personalized campaigns targeted toward specific accounts to drive revenue. An organization takes an individual prospect or customer account (companies, not necessarily individual people) and treats it like its very own market, or a market of one. The result can be a powerful way to boost ROI and measureable sales to high-value targets.

It seems intuitive – if you want to sell to someone, make them feel special or important. But because ABM requires more account-level personalization than traditional marketing, it has its challenges.

Challenge & Opportunity 1: Making/Taking Time

The key word here is “investment.” Building an effective ABM approach takes time (and should), because researching to find the right companies is worth it in the long run. It’s the difference between studying a treasure map and just starting to dig – sometimes it’s worth spending a little more time thinking about where you want to go. But remember, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good – you’ve got to start digging at some point. Identify how your target accounts are structured, how decisions are made and who the decision makers and influencers are. And then, go!

Challenge & Opportunity 2: Finding Targets/Prospects

Since ABM involves personalizing your communications to specific accounts, first you need to find the right targets so that your campaigns resonate. Most times, this means going outside your “normal” prospects lists and getting creative, which can be uncomfortable for more traditional salespeople. When discussing the right targets with your team, empathy plays a big role – try and think like someone who would really benefit from what you’re selling, regardless of industry. Think of your sales prospects as humans with needs, not companies. Is there an audience you’re missing? Or is there an audience that might be unhappy with one of your competitors? Salespeople are usually up to speed on what products the prospect is currently using, so finding a way to sell against those products will be important. Try to engage with them for some intel. (See Challenge 4)

Challenge & Opportunity 3: The Right Content

Targeted customers are more likely to engage with content that is geared specifically to them, and is relevant to their business, the specific challenge of their organization, and their stage in the decision journey. It’s about offering a personal, consultative approach, instead of a cold, general one. Respondents to a recent Demand Gen Report survey said that their ABM campaigns are most often built using content that includes some sort of offer or experience, such as:

  • Targeted executive event invitations (54%)
  • Interactive content tailored by industry/role (46%)
  • Sales meeting invitations (41%)

The key here is “usable” content – material that prompts a reader to engage, take a next step and see value in doing both those things. How do you find the nuggets of information necessary to create that content? The sales team.

Challenge & Opportunity 4: Aligning Sales

Want to bring sales and marketing together? You should, and need to partner with them from the very beginning of the process. ABM is one of the most efficient ways to build this bridge, mainly due to the fact that the marketer running an ABM program operates with a mindset very similar to sales—thinking about how to target accounts, bring them on board, and generate revenue from them. The biggest way to win over the sales team? Measurement. When you’re analyzing the effectiveness of campaigns, it’s easier to draw clear conclusions with ABM because you’re looking at a smaller set of target accounts instead of tons of metrics. Start conversations with the sales team that way; by selling them on the potential.

Despite ABM having its moment right now, it won’t replace or substitute for the brand awareness generated through mass marketing, but it should supplement those activities. So if any Nigerian Princes are reading this article, something to consider.

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