What is Account-Based Marketing?

Vigil Viswanathan
April 6, 2022

Over the last few years, the processes around how sales and marketing teams reach, engage and convert the target customers have changed drastically. From spray and pray efforts as in billboards and TV/radio ads to targeted social media campaigns to video-based marketing on platforms like TikTok and Linkedin. 

Marketers and sales folks alike now are trying to solve the question of whom to reach and how personalized this interaction can be rather than how many can we reach with this campaign.

ABM is one such methodology in the B2B space. Officially though, 

ABM or Account-based marketing is a process where sales and marketing teams collaborate to target high-value customers through highly personalized content and engagement plans built specifically for these small sets of target customers. 

Understanding Account-based marketing 

In its simplest form, account-based marketing is a B2B marketing strategy used to target a curated set of high-value customers instead of the traditional spray and pray approach. 

Account-based marketing strategy is used to create a customized buying experience for companies that matter to your business and weed out the less-valuable accounts right at the beginning of the process. 

This is done by aligning sales and marketing efforts to target the said accounts which are usually backed by 

  • Personalized content like blogs, videos, reports etc
  • Targeted advertising over Social media or events
  • Individualized Messaging like in case of emails or inmails

ABM lies between sales and marketing, which basically means that both sales and marketing teams need to align on the target customers, messaging and objective of the entire campaign right at the beginning. 

Which then translates to personalized content and messaging for each of these customers across the board. 

Types of ABM strategic targeting

In order to represent the highest potential business opportunities to a high-valued account, account-based marketing makes sure that the sales and marketing departments work for a common goal. 

ABM targeting is done in various ways by different types of B2B companies. The priority is always finding a common list of high-value accounts with the help of both sales and marketing teams.

 Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of ABM targeting used by marketers in ABM campaigns;

  1. One-to-one marketing strategy targets important individual accounts; 
  2. One-to-few marketing tactic targets smaller groups rather than people, and 
  3. One-to-many marketing approach targets the whole potential market.

Now let’s unpack what each of these ABM types does

  • Programmatic Account-Based Marketing or One to many ABM

The Information Technology Service Marketing Association calls this approach Programmatic ABM where 1 engagement strategy is applied to many accounts related to valuable B2B companies. In this 1-to-many style, marketers utilize tools like HubSpot, Terminus, Demandbase, and Triblio to send personalized and highly targeted messages to almost hundreds of individual key accounts.

The basic criteria to use this approach is that all the target accounts in question have a similar profile and very similar problem to solve which can be solved by the same or similar products or services provided by the company.

Usually, this approach is reserved for small but similar enterprise accounts which usually have much shorter sales cycles and a well defined problem statement.

  • Account-based Marketing Lite or One-to-Few ABM

The 1: few ABM approach, also known as ABM Lite, entails targeting a smaller group of prospective accounts rather than individual ones. Although this type of account segmentation is not as hyper-targeted as the 1:1 ABM strategy, the marketing and sales teams still need to conduct adequate research and skills to engage and provide personalized content. While the 1:1 approach may seem time-consuming since it targets individual accounts in a more personalized manner, the one-to-few ABM method is beneficial for targeting small groups of accounts.

However, similar to the strategic ABM approach, it also addresses the specific customer preferences, industry, job title, and challenges through which the relevant accounts are grouped. Instead of approaching a single account to address their pain points and interests, this ABM method focuses on addressing the same but towards a group of accounts.

  • Strategic Account-Based Marketing - Or one to One ABM

In this type of ABM targeting, marketers focus on a 1-on-1 scenario in which they have to create a highly personalized program for their assigned valued account. 

1-on-1 usually includes face-to-face interactions such as virtual meetings with prospects to give it a personal touch and deepen relationships with each targeted account. This is usually backed by the marketing team which targets multiple contacts in the same target account using a combination of custom reports, content and ads

This is usually used for super-high value accounts which can take some time years to close and have multiple touch points & decision makers involved in the entire process. 

Why do we need account-based marketing?

  • Best use of marketing team’s resources

Marketing teams are bound to have many priorities going in different directions. With a suitable ABM strategy, this haphazard way takes a structured form that ensures that all of your marketing efforts and key resources are prioritizing accounts that drive the most revenue. By narrowing your focus to just some priority accounts, it is possible to optimize your resources with the help of account-based marketing initiatives.

  • To start personalized communications

We need personalized marketing techniques to engage our most valuable prospects and customers these days. A simple example of this can be found in the commonly used email marketing campaigns. The opening rate for emails that address the receiver by their name is higher than other emails having generic salutations. Account-based marketing is needed to level up your personalized approach by developing content that key decision-makers want to see. 

  • Better tracking and easy reviews

When you are reviewing the bottom line of any marketing technique to see its ROI, then it becomes vital to thoroughly understand the effectiveness of each tactic used by the marketing team. Tracking and reviewing every single component of your ABM strategy can help you improve and create even more effective strategies in time. The ability of ABM is not only to influence revenue but also to contribute to revenue measurably.

  • Joining marketing and sales forces

Companies lose significant time and resources when their sales and marketing teams are working on different approaches and goals. Through ABM, these two sides of the same coin can align their objectives and collaborate together to develop a communication strategy, tactics, and even monitor a campaign’s progress. ABM is therefore required to unite its marketing and sales force in a way that doesn’t compromise their independent initiatives.

  • Better return on investment

Like any other marketing strategy, ABM is also needed to bring a high return on investment to be considered useful. The information technology services marketing association released an estimation that proves that account-based marketing brings higher ROI than any other marketing strategy in 84% of the studied businesses. The best thing about using ABM strategies is that you get to see improvement in immediate areas and also how your contacts respond to your content.

The benefits of account-based marketing 

For tapping into large accounts and establishing long sales cycles that consist of considerable deal sizes, account-based marketing provides several advantages to companies that we have discussed below:

  • Comprehensive ROI

The return on investment for a planned account-based marketing campaign is easier to determine than any other marketing technique. Since it is precise and measurable, ABM can easily provide the highest ROI when compared to all other B2B marketing strategies (if implemented strategically). A significantly high number of marketers measuring ROI have found ABM to be delivering the most returns. 

  • Less resource wastage

For any smart organization, the goal should be to minimize the wastage of resources which is often the problem with the traditional marketing approaches. A lot of people switch to ABM as it involves utilizing all available resources on a narrow list of significant accounts that have the most chances to convert and close sales.

  • Individual market perspective

The best way to part ways from the generic marketing approach is to shift towards account-based marketing which builds an individual market perspective within your ABM team. It allows your team to create highly personalized messages for the target accounts only after understanding their customer using their creative resources. This way ABM can lead a customized campaign for every customer attribute.  

  • Compact sales cycles

Any normal sales cycle might involve multiple stakeholders if the purchase decisions are major which contributes to a slow-paced sales process. To free yourself from delayed sales processes and shorten the sales cycle, companies make use of an account-based marketing approach where prospects nurture along with sales process development.

  • Balancing sales & marketing

In any organization, the collaboration of sales and marketing teams can effectively shape the results of an account-based marketing strategy. By working together on similar yet individual goals, both sales and marketing team members can focus on their priorities and move accounts through the pipeline so that conversion takes place naturally.

Has the pandemic accelerated ABM adoption?

We are aware of the pandemic situation’s effect on people’s purchasing behavior but tend to miss to note similar changes when it comes to B2B buying patterns. According to MarTech’s research report, in the present situation, ABM technologies and tools are seeing widespread adoption supporting the use of sophisticated and relevant data.

Due to frequent lockdowns, several in-person events were canceled and marketers lost a critical channel to engage with their target customers, B2B marketers had to switch over to a more digital albeit personalized approach. But the way that businesses increase their accounts had transformed even before the pandemic according to MarTech’s aforementioned report.

The intelligence report mentioned that online research took the highest concentration of resources spent on purchasing decisions way before COVID-19 hit the global market. According to an estimate, almost half of a buyer’s time is spent on researching products online independently while only 17% is spent on meeting with vendors.

The best way to keep buyers’ attention and simplify their journey is to utilize account-based marketing which can increase B2B purchase decisions.

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