Account-based marketing (ABM) is a marketing strategy used by business-to-business (B2B) companies; instead of focusing on consumers, this strategy targets the pain points and needs of entire businesses or business groups. By leveraging custom campaigns specifically targeted to these entities, ABM helps small B2B businesses land accounts with high-value clients.
Identifying and nurturing high-value accounts requires a lot of data about business behaviors and interests. Many small businesses struggle to collect this data and keep it organized. An intelligent customer relationship management (CRM) software like Salesforce, however, will not only help you identify promising potential customers, but convert them by offering relevant, custom content and positive customer experiences. Click here for a free Salesforce demo.
How Account-based Marketing Works
To conduct ABM, businesses first determine their target accounts; this requires identifying existing high-value accounts, then finding similar companies in their industry and the decision-makers at those companies. Next, they create campaign content and choose the channels on which to publish that content based on the decision-makers’ pain points and where they consume content. Finally, they launch their campaigns and measure results.
To identify promising potential companies to target with ABM campaigns, consult with your sales team and dig into customer data to identify the types of customers who have been frequent buyers from your company. Then, identify what they have in common, including how they were acquired and their pain points. Lastly, use analytics tools and insight from your sales team to identify similar companies in your industry.
For the final stage of ABM, identify the key decision-makers within each target company. Start by searching for the company’s employees on LinkedIn, then identify who the key decision-makers are by the titles listed below employees’ names. Visit decision-makers’ profiles to learn more about them. With this information, craft content that speaks to their pain points, then publish and promote it on channels most likely to resonate with them.
This thoughtful, personalized approach helps small businesses compete across their industries by using the same winning ABM strategies as large enterprises. What’s more, ABM helps small businesses deliver the experiences high-value brands expect and, as a result, land them as long-term clients.
Who Account-based Marketing Is Right For
As ABM helps to earn a contract or develop a long-term business relationship (and not a one-time sale), businesses that can most benefit from ABM offer B2B products or services that need repeat purchases, like B2B freelance, service, manufacturing, and software companies. These can be either enterprise-level companies or smaller companies; the basic approach to ABM is not dependent on company size.
The types of businesses that would benefit most from account-based marketing are:
- Freelancers who offer services to businesses: Freelance businesses that can benefit from ABM include those that market to businesses and benefit from repeat customers, like content writers, content strategists, business coaches, accountants, event planners, graphic designers, interior designers, and landscapers.
- B2B service providers: B2B service providers generally make their biggest profits by signing a contract to provide repeat services to other businesses. Considering this, B2B service providers that would benefit from account-based marketing include cleaning, accounting, insurance, construction, and marketing service providers.
- Manufacturers: Many manufacturers create long-term and exclusive contracts with resellers, like chain car dealerships, to enjoy long-term partnerships with them. For these brands, account-based marketing can help them land new contracts with dealers who will sell their products to consumers.
- Software companies: Many businesses use software, like analytics and accounting tools, to help them more efficiently run their businesses. Because most software companies prefer to offer their products via annual, exclusive, and repeat subscription renewals, account-based marketing helps them convince target businesses that their products are worth a year-long commitment and the price tag that comes with it.
Benefits of Account-based Marketing
As marketing tools have dropped in price, ABM marketing has recently become more and more accessible to small businesses. As such, small businesses have enjoyed many benefits of this marketing strategy, including the creation of highly personalized campaigns and customer experiences, reduced marketing waste (via shortened sales cycles created by prequalifying leads), and accurate return on investment (ROI) tracking, among other benefits.
Here are the five top benefits of account-based marketing for small businesses:
1. Highly Personalized Campaigns
While inbound marketing casts a wide net to snag lots of new customers, an ABM campaign is targeted at one organization to acquire that client or buyer. However, it goes even deeper by targeting the organization’s decision-maker(s). So, instead of creating a campaign to appeal to a customer persona, your campaign is created to appeal to a specific person or people. This means it is easier to speak to the exact pain points of your buyer.
2. Less Marketing Waste
Traditional marketing involves investing in campaigns for hundreds of people you don’t know. In contrast, ABM starts with identifying exactly who your target buyer is, their pain points, and if they’re currently looking to buy. This means that, before you even create a campaign, you have a good idea if your product is a perfect fit for them and if they’re likely to buy. Given this information, you’re less likely to invest in marketing that won’t bear fruit.
3. A Better Customer Experience
When marketing to specific people (as opposed to a customer persona), you can offer more one-on-one service and attention throughout the buying cycle. It’s the difference between shopping at a large chain store with a handful of salespeople to serve hundreds of customers and shopping in a high-end retail store that dedicates a salesperson to each customer. In the latter example, customers receive VIP treatment that identifies and meets their needs.
4. A Shortened Sales Cycle
Traditional marketing starts with casting a wide net to attract hundreds of people, then works to determine who is most interested in buying. After this is determined, campaigns must convince them you are the best business to meet their needs. With ABM, you first identify your customer to learn their pain points and intent to buy, thereby prequalifying them. There’s no time wasted casting a wide net, meaning less time invested in closing a sale.
5. Easy Return-on-Investment (ROI) Measurement
Since ABM campaigns are designed to appeal to one organization or team alone, if you land the account or achieve an upsell, it’s quite clear that your efforts paid off. By targeting one account and tracking them during the sales cycle, you know exactly when and how they chose to buy from you. This helps you accurately measure your campaign ROI.
How to Conduct Account-based Marketing in 7 Steps
To conduct account-based marketing, begin by identifying what your target accounts are, and then the decision-makers within them. Next, use the information you know about your target account decision-makers to create campaign content that will address their preferences and pain points. After publishing your content, promote it on channels that are likely to help it reach target decision-makers. Finally, measure your results.
Here’s how to conduct account-based marketing in seven steps:
1. Identify Your Target Accounts
To identify your target accounts, begin by digging into your customer data (in your CRM, if you have one) to identify your high-value customers. Next, talk to your sales team to narrow down your list to the customers who have the strongest relationships with your companies. As you look at both, look for accounts that spend a lot with your company on a regular basis, that have been with your company for a long time, and have referred other customers.
Review Your CRM Reports or Customer Data
Begin by looking at your CRM reports or customer data. Your CRM has analytics dashboards that pinpoint exactly who your high-value customers are; otherwise, you can calculate this using purchase history. You can also gauge the relationships you have with them based on the number of complaints you receive from them and how much time you spend serving them. Develop a list of your high-value, low-hassle customers from your records.
Gather Qualitative Data From Your Sales People
Your sales team can likely offer more insights into the traits that your best accounts have in common. Ask them who their best customers are. Then, review each account and ask why they have been able to nurture them into high-value and loyal customers. For example, is it a strategy they used or certain account traits that make them more valuable? Narrow in on the traits that make for high-value, long-term accounts.
2. Research Existing Customers to Find Similar Ones
Next, research your strongest accounts to determine the profiles you should look for when identifying similar companies for your marketing. To research your existing customers, talk to your sales team or visit current customers’ websites to learn about their businesses; create a profile of their size, position, and pain points. Next, use analytics tools like SEMRush to find similar companies by developing a list of their direct competitors.
Research Current Customers
Now that you have a list of current high-value customers who have strong relationships with your brand, dig in to learn more about them. Using their websites and online assets (social media profiles and directory listings, for example), create a profile for each that includes their industry, company size, number of decision-makers, revenue, time in the industry, and their pain points.
Identify Key Customer Competitors
Now, do some competitor research on these customers to find who else in the industry is similarly positioned. This will provide a list of companies that are roughly the same size, share the same industry, and have a similar revenue stream, products, services, customer base, and experience level in the industry. As such, it’s likely they have similar pain points as your best current customers.
To begin, use a tool like SEMRush; navigate to their website and use the search bar to type in your customer’s web address. On the next screen, scroll down to the “Main Paid Competitors” and “Competitive Positioning Map” reports. Take a look at the Competitor Positioning report and home in on which ones are close competitors and which are not based on your knowledge of the industry. Develop a list of your close competitors.
To supplement this list, ask your sales team for their thoughts. They likely know of similar companies they’ve been wanting to pitch based on their experience. They can also help prequalify companies. After all, your sales people are hired for their intuition in addition to their hard skills; many have developed a feel for which prospects are likely to become strong customers.
Ask your sales team questions like:
- Do you have any reservations about targeting the companies on this list? Why?
- Which of these companies do you believe will be most likely to convert and why?
- Do you have more companies to add to this list and why are they good candidates?
3. Identify Key Decision-makers Within Target Companies
Now that you know your target companies, identify the people within them who can make decisions around purchasing your product. If you are a marketing company, for example, you might learn who the VP of marketing or the creative director is. To find the key decision-makers within your target companies, conduct a LinkedIn search, then learn about each by examining their profiles.
Conduct a Filtered LinkedIn Search
One way to identify your key decision-makers is via a filtered LinkedIn search. To conduct this search, go to LinkedIn.com. Use the search bar to search for the company you’re targeting. Then, click “People” from the top options bar. From there, click “All filters.”
Now, fill out the form by checking the boxes that apply. For example, if you want to target people in a certain country, click the box labeled with that country. Likewise, if you want to target people within the “Marketing” department, click the “Marketing” box. Select all relevant parameters, then click “Apply.”
Scroll through the filtered results to find a list of key decision-makers in your target company based on their titles. For example, a director of marketing or chief editor might be decision-makers you should target if you are offering content writing services. Then, scroll through their profiles to learn about them, including their age, gender, education level, and location. Read the posts they’ve written to try to identify their professional pain points.
Talk to Your Sales Team (Again)
Based on their experience with similar companies, your sales team will likely be able to offer further insights into the pain points the decision-makers on your list face in their particular roles. Ask them to put together a list of known pain points the people on your list are likely facing in their roles. While you’re at it, ask how they have successfully pitched your products to solve these problems with similar companies’ decision-makers in the past.
4. Identify Channels to Reach Key Target Account Decision-makers
Now that you know who your key contacts are, it’s time to decide which channels would most effectively reach them. Use the information you’ve learned about them—including their age and gender—to determine the primary online channels and any supplementary ones they likely use to interact and keep up on industry news. Research sources like The Pew Research Center Demographics of Social Media can help you identify these channels.
Choose Social Channels That Align With Target Demographics
In the digital age, 91% of B2B buyers are actively involved in social media and 84% of business executives report using social media to support their buying decisions. Using social media as part of marketing is key. Finding the right channels to use, however, can be more challenging. To find the right social channels for your marketing, review online studies and examine content on top channels in your industry.
To learn what social media channels they are most likely using, consult reports like those published by The Pew Research Center Demographics of Social Media. Their 2019 report in particular includes some telling statistics: 63% of men and 75% of women use Facebook. In contrast, 31% of men and 43% of women use Instagram. In addition, 75% of people with a college degree use Facebook.
Choose Supplementary Channels That Align With Target Demographics
Now that know on which social media platforms to promote your content, research statistics online to learn if other marketing platforms’ most-reached demographics match those of your target decision-makers. This will help you decide whether channels like digital advertising, email, or Facebook Messenger would also be helpful for reaching them. For example, this report by Statista.com indicates that 93.4% of people between 25 and 43 years of age use email.
To help with your research, it’s recommended you consult with major research centers and think tanks, such as Statista and The Pew Research Center. Individual platforms and providers will also sometimes publish studies on channel usage; look for these in your research.
5. Create Content for Your Target Company Decision-makers
Now that you know who the key decision-makers are and their pain points, how your salespeople might pitch your products to solve them, and where they spend time online, craft content to align with their needs. Use this content to address their likely pain points and their personal characteristics as learned via social media. Consider publishing content types like webinars, blog posts, e-books, newsletters, digital ads, and traditional media.
Here are some common types of content companies create for ABM campaigns:
- Webinars: Not only do webinars allow you to interact with potential accounts more directly, but as the participants interact and ask questions, you learn information—like pain points and challenges—that can help you land the account.
- Blog posts: Blog posts help you earn credibility by showcasing what you know about solving problems target account decision-makers face. To ensure your target accounts are the ones viewing these posts, promote relevant ones with targeted social media ads or by including them in a newsletter your target account representatives receive.
- E-books: Like blog posts, e-books allow you to build trust with your target account decision-makers. You can create an e-book to address one target account pain point, then include case studies of how you solved that problem for similar companies. Providing these in downloadable format helps you track who consumes them.
- Newsletters: Newsletters allow you to compile all the content you’ve created for your decision-makers in one publication and send it to key account decision-makers via email. This requires an opt-in, though, and so should be paired with an incentive to subscribe—like a downloadable e-book.
- Digital ads: Digital advertising can be set to target key decision-makers in your target accounts with a link to content that shows them how you can solve their problems. For this reason, ads should normally be used in conjunction with other content types or to direct target account decision-makers to sign up for a free trial or demo, depending on where they are in the sales funnel.
- Traditional media: Traditional media—like newspapers and magazines—can be used to place ads where target account decision-makers consume information. For example, if you’ve seen on social media that a target account CEO loves to keep up on industry news via a particular magazine, placing an ad in that publication is a great way to reach them.
Creating different content types allows you to reach key decision-makers on the platforms they use most frequently. Keep in mind, however, that not all content types fit all channels. For this reason, you may choose to focus on one of these content types over others, depending on the decision-makers you’re trying to reach. To know the best content type for your channel, spend some time exploring it—as well as the profile of your target decision-maker on that channel.
6. Launch Your Campaign
Now that you have chosen your channels and created content, it’s time to put it all together. If you have chosen supplementary channels on which to promote your content, make sure your messaging is aligned and consistent. Also, be sure decision-makers are not receiving the same ads or message repeatedly; they are likely to feel spammed if they receive the same content via multiple channels. Instead, provide unique value on each channel for best results.
When all of your content is created and proofed, make sure you have tracking set up to measure results once it goes live. Then, either publish your content or schedule it to publish in the future. If you have multiple pieces of content, be sure you space out publication so your audience isn’t inundated with information in a short time span.
7. Measure Results
Once your content is live, use analytics tools to measure the results of your campaign. In addition, ask questions of target businesses to determine how effective your campaigns are. Analytics tools like SEMRush, Mailchimp, and Buffer can help you analyze how well your campaigns perform across your website, email, and social media around key metrics like clicks, downloads, new followers, sales, and lifetime customer value.
Use Analytics Tools to Track Performance
Small businesses have a plethora of analytics tools available to them at affordable prices; these can track engagement on key platforms like social media, website, and email. For example, Buffer allows small businesses to track social media metrics, while Mailchimp allows them to track subscriber interactions with their emails, and SEMRush helps small businesses track website content performance.
Here are three tools for tracking campaign performance on a small business budget:
- SEMRush: SEMRush offers both free and paid plans. This tool allows you to type in your domain or blog post URL, then receive reports around website content performance. For instance, you can track metrics like how many views blog posts receive and where traffic comes from to access your posts (Google ads, other websites, or social media, for example).
- Mailchimp: Starting at $14.99 per month, Mailchimp offers templates for email newsletters or drip campaigns. Once a campaign email has been sent to a subscriber segment, you can track metrics like where subscribers are when accessing it, how they interact with emails (clicking on links, for example), and what value email campaigns create for your business (sales earned).
- Buffer: Starting at $15 per month, Buffer allows you to determine the best time to publish posts and schedule when they will publish. You can also see how people engage with your content, including the number of fans and followers your social media profiles gain or lose and the number of times a user interacts with posts via follows, replies, or clicks.
Draw Conclusions From Analytics
Using the above data, you can determine which campaigns are successful and which aren’t based on the metrics you’ve chosen for them. In addition, analyze the number of sales closed with key accounts to determine ROI and campaign success. For those accounts that hit your goal metrics or became a customer, leverage the methods to convert them for future account-based marketing campaigns.
3 Examples of Account-based Marketing
Many companies get very creative when creating and promoting content to reach target account decision-makers. Snowflake, for example, uses their blog, while GumGum uses comic books and Intridea uses billboards. Regardless, all of them carefully craft content and choose channels that will appeal to their target decision-makers’ preferences and pain points.
To provide you with inspiration, here are three examples of account-based marketing:
Snowflake Targets 500 Accounts Using ABM
Snowflake, a data management solutions provider, targets 500 separate accounts at a time with account-based marketing campaigns personalized to each one. The focus of their campaigns is online content—specifically designed to address the needs and pain points of target accounts.
First, Snowflake creates the content. They then create ads that target account decision-makers on the platforms they frequent to drive them back to content created just for them. Here, they are invited to sign up for a free trial or demo. The campaign nurtures target accounts from brand awareness through to purchase consideration. Sales representatives then nurture them to convert. As a result, 50% of their website traffic and downloads are from target accounts.
GumGum Uses a Comic Book to Pitch T-Mobile
In 2016, GumGum wanted to sell their vision computer technology to T-Mobile just as T-Mobile was unrolling their unlimited data plan. So, they turned to social media and found T-Mobile’s key decision-maker, the CEO, was a huge Batman fan.
To target him with a campaign that would resonate, GumGum put together a team of editors, illustrators, and storytellers. This team then created a custom comic book to the liking of the CEO; it illustrated how GumGum’s vision computer technology could be integrated into T-Mobile phones to help T-Mobile learn more about users and so be able to better target them with ads.
After sending one hundred custom-made comic-book copies to T-Mobile and its agencies, GumGum got a response from T-Mobile’s CEO himself. On Twitter, the CEO praised the campaign, confirming he received GumGum’s pitch. As a result, they won the account. Take a look at the comic book that started it all here.
Intridea Attracts Ogilvy & Mather With a Billboard
When Intridea, a web product company, wanted to pitch ad agency Ogilvy & Mather but couldn’t get a foot in the door, they placed a giant red billboard across the street from the agency with a simple message—“Ogle this, Ogilvy”—along with a URL. The ad agency took the bait and visited the URL, where they enjoyed fun messages like “Made you look. Hire us…” In response, the ad agency’s CEO, Lou Aversano, reached out to set up a consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is account-based marketing?
Account-based marketing is a strategy in which B2B businesses market to a target company, often referred to as an “account.” Businesses choose a target company they wish to convert; the employees within that target company are treated as one market. Companies identify the decision-makers within that account, then create content that speaks directly to them.
What does ABM mean in marketing?
In marketing, ABM stands for “account-based marketing.” It is a type of marketing that targets companies—or target “accounts”—instead of a large audience of consumers. For example, a content marketer might target a marketing agency to land a contract to write for them.
How are inbound marketing & account-based marketing different?
Inbound marketing starts by casting a wide net with content aimed to attract people to your website. While this content may appeal to a part of your target market, it still targets lots of people. Once you’ve gotten some of them to come to your website, you might invite them to fill out forms that opt them into an email campaign, thereby narrowing them down to those who are interested in your brand. You then must nurture them to purchase using an email campaign.
Instead of targeting a large set of people, an account-based marketing is a B2B strategy that targets one company. For ABM, companies create content that offers a solution to the pain points of target company decision-makers to nurture the target company into becoming a loyal, long-term, and high-value customer. This investment in personalized marketing makes sense because these accounts are worth more than single consumer purchases.
Bottom Line: Account-based Marketing
ABM is a strategy used by B2B brands that first identifies and qualifies target business accounts and their decision-makers, then creates campaigns that speak directly to their needs and preferences. The result is a highly personalized approach to B2B marketing, resulting in a higher likelihood of converting target clients. ABM is most often used by brands wishing to turn target companies into long-term, high-value customers.
To successfully create and launch an account-based marketing campaign, you need to collect and process a lot of data. While many small businesses struggle to do that, it’s easy to manage with a tool like Salesforce. Salesforce uses artificial intelligence (AI)-powered intelligence to create greater efficiency as you identify, qualify, market to, and nurture target accounts into becoming loyal, high-value customers. Click here for a free Salesforce demo.