How does account based marketing (ABM) work?

May 29, 2020
By Adam

 

Whenever we describe account based marketing to a client or prospect, we always describe it as whale hunting.

You’re picking out a key client that you specifically want to work with, and the people within the decision making unit of that client, who are responsible for making key decisions, and building and running campaigns specifically around those people, their problems and the solutions that will benefit them.

Within account based marketing you have essentially two levels of ABM.

You have the one-to-one marketing when you’re aiming your campaign at a specific person.

And then you have almost an account based marketing lite version of that, which is when you target the people around the decision maker - the people who can influence a decision - and run an inbound marketing campaign around a persona in that organisation.

 

What is an ABM strategy?

An ABM strategy is all about getting the attention of a specific person or business that you want to work with.

If it’s going to work, it has to be a lot more focussed and you really have to do your research around that person to figure out what their problems are and how you can help.

You have personas for your inbound marketing, but each individual within that persona will have slightly nuanced challenges specific to them, so you need to figure out what they are.

Then all your content is tailored to and promoted around that person, So you’ll have landing pages built for them, your paid will be targeted directly at them to get them back to your website.

But you can also couple your digital activity with other physical marketing like direct mail or events. (Obviously we’re talking about doing these physical events as we get back to some kind of normal) but the point is, some of the more “traditional” forms of direct marketing are perfectly suited to ABM.

When we’ve done it for ourselves we’ve sent prospects something they can use like a book that’s relevant to them and their work with a personalised note. I don’t think you should underestimate the effectiveness of sending someone something in the post.

I think as people we’re naturally geared towards this feeling of if we receive something from someone, we instinctively want to give something back to them, so it can be an effective marketing tactic.

There are a few ABM campaigns we’ve heard of when people have received a box of chocolates in the post within a handwritten invitation to an event.

But something like this is completely irrelevant to them, it doesn’t give them any value, it’s lazy and it’s pretty obvious that you’re just trying to get them to come to your event and get something for yourself rather than trying to help them.

 

What is the long term objective of account based marketing?

So just like any inbound campaign, the ultimate objective of ABM is to close a deal and get a client, you’re just putting everything in the campaign to getting one specific client.

But because personalisation is such a big thing in marketing and sales now, ABM is starting to become more popular and more businesses are looking beyond that inbound only approach.

The inbound model still works, but honestly there’s nothing special about it anymore. Inbound has become the cost of entry to “doing content marketing”.

At the beginning ABM is very strategy heavy, and there’s a lot of research that goes into making sure you can meet your objective.

If you’re looking at a business you want to work with and wondering if they’d be suited for an ABM campaign, we’ve usually found that they work best for considered or complex purchases.

The objective for an ABM campaign from a marketing perspective to that you want to nurture that person and the surrounding decision making unit. Tech and SaaS are usually good fits for ABM because they’re usually bigger purchases, and it’s never really simple bringing in new technology to your company.

It’s typically more expensive but the returns are also way higher when it works.

So what marketing needs to so is target the person or decision making unit, figure out what their problems are and how you can help and then build a dossier that you can hand over to sales.

In the dossier you should have a road map of what the problems are and how to approach and talk to the prospect in order to get the deal.

So it’s fair to say that ABM campaigns live and die on the relationship between marketing and sales.

If you don’t get that bit right then you have no chance.

 

What is account based selling? Is it the same as ABM?

Essentially, yes.

Like ABM, account based selling is a specifically designed campaign between sales and marketing aimed at a single or small number of high-value accounts.

Also like ABM, account based selling is wholly reliant on the ability of marketing and sales to work together to create a sales enablement plan that nurtures accounts through marketing and then ensures sales has all the content they need to deliver.

 

Want a more detailed idea of how to plan, execute and measure an ABM project?

Download our complete guide to account based marketing here

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