Are You Ready for Account-Based Marketing? 5 Key Ingredients

Blog Post
April 23, 2018

This story is the first in a four-part series that explores ways to leverage and effectively deploy account-based marketing. In this first part of the series, we examine the five essential ingredients to building an ABM strategy.

Imagine you have messages from two sales representatives. One of them knows all about your competition. The other knows how pending legislation will change the ways your company is able to compete. 

Whose call would you return?

The addition of just one piece of quality knowledge—one ingredient—can be the deciding factor in a sale. But, identifying that piece of insight, the timing of when it will be most relevant, and how to deliver it in a meaningful message—that takes a formula. It’s called account-based marketing.

Account-based marketing, or ABM, is a practice through which deep insights are employed to inform and tailor precise messaging for specific accounts, rather than individuals or industries. Another good term for it is precision prospecting, which uses analytics to determine the correct communications depending on challenges and issues specific to an account, as well as how and when those messages should be communicated.

Are You Doing It Already?

Many firms already practice ABM without even realizing it, or they take account-based approaches to marketing in piecemeal ways. 

However, few elevate those practices to the next level—end-to-end ABM deployment—because it takes advanced personalization to become part of the buyer’s journey. Each step of the approach, from selecting target accounts to the distribution of tailored messaging, needs careful consideration of the prospect’s or client’s market, sales organization, growth targets and so on.

For example, it is most efficient to focus on one or just a few companies. If it’s a high-potential, large company, the insights can help tailor messages that recognize contract clauses, the buying cycle, distribution channels and brand-specific limitations.

The effort is worth it: nearly all marketers (97%) said ABM delivers the highest return on their marketing investment, according to research from the Altera Group

So, how to overcome the challenges? Your organization will need five key ingredients to create a robust ABM plan. 

Putting ABM to Work for You: 5 Ingredients

Properly executed, ABM enables marketing and sales teams to collaboratively understand accounts to the point that they can craft knowing communication that anticipates needs. For ABM to hit its mark, however, those messages must arrive at the precise time the client is ready for them. 

Here’s how it’s done.

  1. Selective accounting. A strategy is only as good as its target, so be sure to carefully select and organize the most promising accounts for the service or product you propose. Be cautious not to target too many accounts. You can determine ideal targets with specific guidelines such as market trends, pending regulatory changes or industry consolidation. Once the right accounts are selected, they can be placedinto tiers based on size, value and strategic fit.
  2. Measured map-making. Now it’s time to place your feet into the account managers’ shoes and walk the buyer’s journey. This will enable you to encounter and recognize problems the client may face (and perhaps not yet anticipate) and to develop personas. In creating these journey maps, be sure to concentrate on the personas, not the product, or you risk losing sight of the clients’ needs and resolutions. 
  3. Uncanned messaging.  At this point, you can take what was learned during the journey and parlay it into communication plans. Using the raw materials of account-based information, such as data analytics and insights, each of these plans is tailored to a specific account or group of accounts. It can be difficult to personalize the message to the point that it is genuine, so it’s essential the message recognizes key factors of the recipient’s situation, such as timing, competitive constraints and budget.  
  4. Careful carryout. This is when you hit the “send” button. You’ll need carefully planned steps to deploy the communications, overseen by teams with expertise in content management and mixed technologies. Even after deployment, you’ll want an ongoing team (in-house or third-party) to maintain a live view of the ABM plan and execute ongoing personalized activity. Marketers commonly face the challenge of ensuring they have enough relevant content to engage the client across channels.
  5. A solid prep team. Get everyone on board. ABM may be a marketing tactic, but to work, it requires buy-in from all teams across the organization—from the C-suite to customer-facing employees. Each team should have a specific mini goal that builds toward the overall sales and marketing goals. And speaking of sales—it’s especially important the sales and marketing teams are aligned to meet these goals. 

ABM is a strategy that hinges on understanding—of your own organizational abilities, of the precise needs of your clients at a given moment, and then how those abilities can meet the client needs. Quality execution is critical to that success, so don’t scrimp on any of the ingredients. 

Check out my next post in this ABM series: Accounts are People, Too—Applying Personas Through Account-Based Marketing.

In the next installment of this four-part series, we will delve into the selective accounting and map-making considerations, including persona building, for launching an ABM strategy.