It is clear to see that B2B marketing has been evolving quickly especially for the past few years. As face to face interactions became a thing of the past, marketers shifted to online events and meetings. Modern consumers’ behavior has also undergone a complete transformation where they spend a significant amount of time researching products before making a purchase.

Account-based marketing is a way for B2B marketers to make the most of the current scenario by focusing on a narrow list of prospects. In the structure of account-based marketing, the marketing and sales forces are combined to work in unison on specifically chosen high-value accounts and turn them into customers. Let’s understand how an account-based marketing strategy works for any particular B2B company in the following.

How Account-based Marketing Strategy Works?

Account-based marketing strategy is all about targeting individuals that fit certain pre-decided criteria instead of the spray and pray approach traditional marketing takes . Account-based marketing strategies work by reversing your sales funnel where the top is held by targeted accounts that would eventually be turned into leads and customers . The bottom of an ABM based sales funnel is all about opportunity customers or simply, your clientele.

 The goal here is not to get as many leads as possible but to find your best match, nurture them, qualify them, and then convert them into future clients as naturally as possible. In this structure, you are adding only the accounts you want in your sales funnel.

The complex yet highly beneficial strategy of account-based marketing works in the following 3 important stages, similar to the usual marketing approcahes:

  1. Identify the target accounts
  2. Build a marketing plan and target these accounts
  3. Measure success

1. Identifying accounts

This is the first thing to master when creating an account-based marketing strategy for a B2B brand. By identifying accounts we mean expertly choosing companies that have the qualities to become your customers. It is not an easy task to identify accounts based on their general characteristics (like position, age, business needs, etc) and ensure they match the ideal buyer persona created for your brand.

To create such a list you would need to first define what your ideal customer looks like i.e. 

  • What kind of revenue do they usually give?
  • What's their turnover?
  • How many people are employed with them?
  • What does their revenue look like?
  • Which industry are they from? among other things

This can be done by your team by looking at

  • Current and past clients’ competitors
  • Data regarding all previous and existing clients that generated a decent amount of profit
  • Companies that have been repetitive and visiting your website regularly

Once you have identified these accounts, the next course of action would be to check the key decision-makers involved with that particular account. Most B2B decisions are usually a consensus or are made by a decision maker high up the ladder, this makes it extremely important that the resources to spend on marketing is targeted towards the right set of decision makers in the company. 

Making finding the contact and other details of decision makers extremely important. 

2. Marketing identified accounts

The next step in concreting your ABM strategy involves selecting appropriate marketing channels for interacting and engaging with your target accounts on a personal level. However, based on the account selection and specific ABM approach, the channels and tactics may differ. For instance, in the case of the one-to-many ABM approach, where the marketing efforts are directed towards a wide net, online platforms will prove to be a better fit for this approach.

Similar to choosing the appropriate channels for marketing, establishing a skilled team is also necessary for better coordination and cooperation. ABM is a multi-channel approach with various roles, including content manager, head of ABM, integrated campaign manager, and more.

3. Measuring the success of campaigns

The effectiveness of an ABM strategy is also influenced by how successfully the results are measured and evaluated. Monitoring and measuring ROI remains one of the most challenging aspects of an ABM initiative. In order to evaluate how successful a campaign is, identifying the crucial ABM KPIs is necessary, along with tracking the results. The relevant ABM KIPs can be divided into three major categories, including revenue performance and marketing efforts.

KPIs for revenue performance

ABM campaign KPIs related to revenue performance aid in forecasting the revenue potential of an ABM campaign. The key strategic measures involve several key performance indicators like deal close rates, funnel velocity impact, and average deal size. Where the deal close rates KPI indicates the percentage of total deals closed, the funnel velocity illustrates the pace of the sales cycle. The funnel velocity KPI is considered one of the crucial indicators, among others, since successful evaluation of this framework helps in accelerating the performance.

KPIs for marketing performance 

Target account list engagements, pipeline, total conversion rate, customer retention and upsell, and cost per opportunity are some of the ABM KPIs that fall under this category. The TAL engagement rate determines the frequency of interaction that your target account list has with your marketing efforts. The pipeline KPI, on the other hand, indicates the percentage of sales that are linked to TAL; evaluating this KPI determines the effectiveness of the target account selection of a campaign. Similar to TAL engagement, the website engagement level is another KPI that helps in analyzing the number of TAL that have actively interacted with your website.

The effectiveness of the marketing performance can also be determined through other KPIs like customer retention and upsell, which signal whether the existing customers are about to upgrade and make an expensive purchase. Other indicators also involve cost per opportunity, which determines the cost of acquiring a new customer, and total conversion rate, which measures the TAL’s conversion rate.

While these KPIs cater to different aspects of an ABM strategy, evaluating them for a specific timeframe is also necessary to guarantee the success of the campaign.

For short-term ABM success: Measurements including conversion rates, account penetration, target account engagement, and influence need to be tracked for at least the initial six months after running the campaign.

For mid-term ABM success: As soon as the ABM campaign continues to expand, upgrading the results measuring models must also be required. During this phase, make sure to track and analyze key performance indicators (KPIs) such as pipeline, cost per opportunity, and the percentage of opportunities from the target account list.

For long-term ABM success: KPIs like close rates, funnel velocity, revenue, and average deal value are the most crucial indicators in an ABM initiative and determine the long-term success of the campaign.

How to Create an Account-based Marketing Strategy?

Creating and implementing an appropriate ABM strategy can increase key marketing and sales areas while also improving conversion rates. Here are three significant steps involved in the creation of an account-based marketing strategy.

Step 1: Beginning with the account selection process

The first step of any account-based marketing strategy starts with the account selection process that determines the success of the entire marketing campaign. A deep-level understanding of account suitability and your target audiences helps you formalize a successful and reliable ABM strategy. During this step, marketers and sales team members are required to select target accounts accurately and nurture them through personalized engagement.

At first, the marketing team creates detailed personas for target companies on the basis of their most high-value clients ready to convert/grow with some effort. What comes next is determining the business objectives and values that those high-value clients possess and tend to focus on. The major steps in their buyer journey are also calculated along with the key decision-makers during this step. Following are a few required data points for marketers to collect for ABM:

  • Life cycle: includes various development stages and the maturity of target accounts
  • Psychographics: includes purchase decision patterns, preferred values, motivations etc.
  • Demographics: number of employees, relevant industry, location of headquarters, etc.
  • Technographics: the type of technologies and resources used by an organization of interest.

If your target account personas turn out to be detailed, full of updated information, and robust data points such as the aforementioned ones, then it would allow your marketing team to identify them clearly as high-value contacts. There are two most-prefered ways to do it. One is by using quality CRM software or getting all the information directly from the source through surveys.

Step 2: Aligning sales and marketing team efforts

The coordination between your marketing and sales team is a deciding factor in the success of your account-based marketing strategy. Once you have robust target company personas in your hand, the next step is to plan an effective strategy. The most important thing to remember before planning an ABM strategy is knowing it is completely different from old-school lead generation processes. 

Usually, when the sales team receives a lead from the marketing team for reaching out to them, the latter stops their outreach and transfers the responsibility of engaging those leads to the former. But in the case of successful ABM strategies, account engagement is not executed only by the sales team but rather through proactive coordination between sales and marketing teams. Starting with the first interaction with target accounts, marketers and sales reps have to devise a plan together for sophisticated and highly personalized campaigns across a plethora of channels. 

This joint effort is advised to continue all through the sales process to maintain a smart marketing presence on different digital channels. This prolonged communication builds trust within target accounts and they are able to gather information and even seek purchase help. Here’s what a successful ABM communication channel would look like:

  • social media
  • Events
  • E-commerce
  • Partnerships/Sponsorships
  • Segmented email campaigns
  • Brand websites
  • Landing pages
  • Paid media campaigns etc.

The marketing and sales team are expected to create a list of planned engagement opportunities for execution and develop marketing tactics over time in an ABM strategy. This list can be further used to modify the ongoing strategy’s outreach and engagement activity.

Step 3: Building tech stack and utilizing third-party targeting tools

If you do not have the right software or have not invested in the suitable technologies then reaching success through an account-based marketing strategy could be difficult and in some cases, even impossible. Luckily, there is account-based marketing software available in the market which is designed to strengthen all of the steps involved in an ideal account-based marketing strategy like an account selection, all-around engagement, and analysis capabilities to make adjustments as required. 

Your sales and marketing teams need better tools and technology to create, perfect, implement, and execute an account-marketing program successfully. The most common and useful choice for a company would be to choose an end-to-end ABM platform. Such a platform would feature several necessary functions required at each and every step of the way for establishing an ABM program that is complete with data and tools. Such a software platform includes tools for;

  • Lead scoring
  • Engagement monitoring
  • Prospecting
  • Marketing automation
  • Analytics 

Integrating ideal tools based on rich data regarding your existing customer data can help broaden the horizon of your sales and marketing team’s capabilities. It can also empower your team to create a singular buyer persona for each and every high-value contact based on their demographic and behavioural data.

Conclusion

If you are planning to utilize an account-based marketing strategy to drive sales and revenue by including valuable accounts as your customer, then understanding what this strategy is all about comes first. Experts recommend that one makes a short and long-term plan for implementing ABM to see what works for them in the end through comparison and then decide on a specific ABM program.