Traditional marketing tells you that a wider funnel gets more customers. The more people you target, the higher the chance that more consumers enter your funnel, become leads, and eventually convert to paying customers.
But here are some stats for you. Even though 71% of buyers discover new brands and products through search engines, the average search ad conversion rate across industries is 8.82%. On top of that, the average cost per lead is $41.40. That means for every 100 people who see your ad, you get an average of eight new customers—maybe nine—that you pay more than $40 to attract.
The spray and pray method is inefficient and costly. So, why not get to know your target audience better, personalize your marketing, and make your money go farther?
Account-based marketing optimizes your marketing by understanding and targeting a specific audience with tailored messaging.
Read on to learn about ABM basics — what it is, some specific benefits, and how to use it to maximize your budget and increase growth.
What is account-based marketing?
Account-based marketing (ABM), is a highly-targeted business-to-business (B2B) marketing strategy. It starts with identifying ideal, individual customers (i.e., accounts) and then leans on personalized marketing for each account. That way, you get more streamlined and effective marketing campaigns.
Instead of targeting many people like traditional marketing, ABM flips the triangle. It narrows the playing field to a few select accounts that are influential enough to snag more potential customers as long as you keep them happy.
To illustrate how ABM works, let’s look at an account-based marketing example.
Intridea, a UX/UI company, knew that Ogilvy likes disruptive, eye-catching marketing, so they put up a billboard across from Ogilvy’s Manhattan office. That billboard said, “Ogle this, Ogilvy,” and had a link below it (note that the link no longer works).
The link led to a page with the message, “Made you look. Now hire us. AngularJS, Rails, UX/UI and more.” followed by a CTA to email the Intridea CEO.
While there are a few ways to implement the ABM strategy (more on that below), Intridea’s approach landed them a meeting with Ogilvy’s upper management team.
How account-based marketing works
There are three common ways to implement your ABM strategy:
- One-to-one: Each marketing team member focuses on one key account and creates personalized campaigns for their assigned account.
- One-to-few: Each marketing team member works with a handful of accounts (around five to ten, usually) in the same industry, with similar pain points.
- One-to-many: Each marketing team member works with several similar accounts, personalizing each marketing campaign based on common pain points.
All three ways require close coordination between your sales and marketing teams to identify key accounts, get to know them better, and set up targeted campaigns that’ll get them to convert.
ABM & other types of marketing
While ABM works well on its own, it also works well in tandem with other strategies.
You don’t need to choose between inbound or product marketing vs. ABM. Combining the different B2B marketing strategies can create a more robust overall marketing effort.
Let’s take inbound marketing, for instance. ABM focuses on personalized content for individual accounts. So marketing campaigns look different for every account. On the other hand, inbound marketing targets a wider audience using evergreen content that most of your target audience can relate to. So you get more prospects using content that’s easy (and affordable) to create and maintain.
Together, both strategies can get you targeted, high-profile accounts while also capturing smaller customers you may have overlooked.
4 benefits of account-based marketing
Now that you know what ABM is, let’s explore how it can improve (or replace) your existing B2B marketing strategy.
1) Personalized experiences for your target accounts
Personalization is more important now than ever because everyone—including you—sees thousands of marketing messages daily. Through email, text, social media ads, and even private messages on social media platforms.
Personalization sets you apart and makes you relevant. A good, personalized marketing campaign also encourages customer loyalty down the road. And ABM forces you to get personal with all your target accounts.
Think of the Intridea and Ogilvy example from earlier. Intridea landed a consultation with a high-profile target account using a hyper-targeted marketing campaign—renting a billboard directly in front of Ogilvy’s Manhattan office.
2) More efficient sales funnel
ABM forces you to tighten your sales funnel because you only target a set number of accounts.
Think about it this way: With traditional marketing, you need to spend a recurring amount of money—usually one to five thousand dollars—to target random people on the internet. But not everyone who sees your ad is gonna become a customer. In fact, most people who click on your ad still won’t become paying customers.
Instead of having leads leaking out the sides of your funnel because they were never a great fit to begin with anyway, ABM targets accounts with a higher chance of converting. Even better, it targets accounts that will recommend you to other potential customers, even if they don’t become customers themselves.
That way, you spend a set amount of money on your marketing while also patching up the leaks.
3) Aligned team & strong relationships with important accounts
ABM makes it easy for your team to build strong relationships with important accounts because of its personalized approach.
Your sales, customer success, and marketing teams need to align and nurture your accounts—both potential and existing customers—using personalized conversations and messages. That way, everyone on your team knows who your customers are, what they need, and what your team needs to do to keep them happy and increase retention rates.
Having a team that’s completely keyed in on what your target audience wants will make it easier to keep your customers happy in the long run.
4) Easily-trackable metrics
Lastly, it’s easy to track metrics when you don’t need to set up an elaborate tracking system for everyone who clicks on your ad and lands on your webpage.
All you need to do is identify key accounts and track their journey.
Take note of
- Key events and important conversations (and when they happen)
- The customer experience of each account
- What percentage of your target accounts become customers
- Conversion timeline and how long it took key accounts to become customers
You can track all that with internal team notes and customer conversations.
5 Steps to an account-based marketing strategy for growth
ABM doesn’t get you customers overnight. It takes time, patience, and a lot of research. But it works, which is why 70% of marketers used it in 2021 (up 15% from 2020).
Get started on your ABM strategy with these five steps.
1) Identify accounts that you want to target
Not all accounts are worth targeting with ABM. For example, a startup that doesn’t have any contacts in your industry probably won’t work with the ABM funnel. So your marketing and sales teams need to create a profile for your ideal high-profile targets together and then look for accounts that fit the set criteria.
Keep in mind that with ABM, you’re not just randomly targeting businesses. You’re getting to know what each of your target accounts stands for, what their pain points are, and—most importantly—who makes the buying decisions.
Use these questions to start creating your ideal customer profiles and buyer personas:
- Which deals from last year do you really want to happen again this year?
- What industry are your ideal customers in? Where are they located?
- How big are your ideal customers? And what funding stage are they in?
- Are there any potential customers engaging with your content that could benefit from a more targeted strategy?
- How well-connected or well-known do you want your customers to be? How many contacts or blog subscribers should they have?
- Who is your ideal customer’s buying decision-maker? Are they accessible?
After you’ve created your profiles, look through social media platforms like LinkedIn to find businesses that might fit your criteria. Create a long list first, then narrow it down as you go.
2) Align your sales and marketing teams
While most companies know that alignment is an important part of ABM, only 24% of practitioners are confident that their teams are truly on the same page. So throughout the entire process, make sure that your sales and marketing teams are aligned. Both teams need to work together to create campaigns, talk to your potential high-profile customers, and close deals.
Streamline communication into a single tool or platform to keep your teams literally on the same page. Choose project management tools like Notion or Trello to keep track of your campaigns in a public place. Also set up public Slack channels to help your teams communicate better.
Make sure that your teams share information like:
- Key account profiles: Which accounts you want to target, some information about those accounts, and why you’re targeting them
- Teammate responsible for each account: Which marketing and sales team member is in charge of each account
- Progress updates: What buying stage each potential customer is in
- Project updates: How much of each campaign has been implemented
- Unexpected customer pain points: Pain points that your team learns about from communications with key accounts
- Budget and resources: Approved campaign budget and resources
- Goals: How many accounts you want to close or what you want to learn
- Notes: What worked well and what didn’t
Keeping your teams aligned will help you stay on top of each account and create better campaigns.
3) Choose ABM tools based on your needs
While you can do everything manually, tools will make your life easier. Tracking progress with a jerry-rigged spreadsheet instead of a foolproof tool is an inefficient way to handle your marketing needs.
According to Hubspot’s research, here are some account-based marketing platforms that most marketers used in 2021:
- Social media analytics platforms like Emplifi and Sprout Social to find out who’s interacting with existing marketing campaigns
- Website analytics platforms like Google Analytics and Amplitude to get more information about website visitors
- CRM platforms like Pipedrive and Salesforce to manage leads and create segments for targeted campaigns
- LinkedIn Navigator to look for potential key accounts
- Zoominfo to get access to a B2B account database and the corresponding marketing tools
- Terminus for an overall ABM platform
Choose the tool that fits your needs, depending on what marketing stage you’re in. For example, a tool like LinkedIn Navigator can help you identify key accounts faster, but you won’t need that service down the line.
4) Plan personalized marketing campaigns
Talk to both your marketing and sales teams and make sure that they know to create each personalized marketing campaign together. And based on how you implement your ABM strategy—i.e., one-to-one, one-to-few, or one-to-many—tell them to create campaigns that are as personalized as possible.
A great example of a personalized campaign is how Robin, a flexible workplace platform, used customer testimonials to increase their website traffic by 50% and leads by 20%.
Robin used the one-to-many ABM strategy to target companies that:
- Have a flexible work policy
- Have an office that needs upgrading
- Need help managing their remote and in-office teams
They knew their intangible product—i.e., workplace management—was hard to market. So they made it more tangible by gathering testimonials and real office photos from their existing customers. Something like this:
They then shared those images on social media and used them to run paid ads targeted at key accounts. The testimonials and images showed happy customers and optimized spaces. They also showed key accounts how much potential existing offices had and how Robin could help get them there.
5) Set metrics to measure results
Lastly, track metrics that measure success to make sure that you’re on the right path. Some metrics that most ABM practitioners track are:
- Revenue won: How much revenue you generated through winning new accounts and upselling existing ones
- Won accounts: How many new accounts you won over a set period of time
- Revenue per account: The average amount of revenue from each account
Other metrics you can track are:
- Customer lifetime value (CLV): How much each account spends on your product throughout their lifetime with you
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC): How much you need to spend to acquire a single customer—from lead to conversion
- Churn rate: How many customers decide to stop doing business with you over a set period of time
- Sales velocity: How long it takes for your potential customers to go from leads to paying clients
- Accounts in-market: How many accounts are almost closed-won deals
You can use a spreadsheet or use analytics tools to keep track of your progress.
Wrapping up — Target high-profile customers with ABM
ABM streamlines your marketing to get high-profile clients that can increase your credibility and refer you to other potential customers.
Each marketing strategy works differently for each company. So check out other potential strategies before setting your heart on one.