Start small: account based marketing doesn't need to aim for the sun!

12 minutes read
Adam - 14.10.2018
Account based marketing doesn’t need to aim for the sun! First, target selection.

Account based marketing (ABM for short) is a powerful way to break through the noise and hit the big hallmark clients. However, we have started to notice a different need across many of our B2B clients. Many of them sit in this strange place where they don't want to be hitting the biggest clients they can comprehend. They want leads that are substantial but not massive - picture a tuna or a swordfish, rather than the fabled 'whales'.

Massive clients often come with glacial procurement processes, bureaucratic obstacle courses and shedloads of internal politics. For many agile companies, while working with a name like Microsoft looks great on paper, it won't realistically improve their balance sheets (or the sanity of their employees).

So, how do you market to target companies that are big but not too big to manage? ABM is great for hitting whale accounts, but it's a resource-heavy process which doesn't quite make sense when applied to smaller accounts. Nevertheless, a normal marketing plan isn't going to break through the noise when it comes to your near-the-top-tier client wishlist. So what's the answer?


What we need is a process that blurs the lines between your everyday inbound marketing and ABM. We haven't coined a name for it yet, but for the moment I'm going to refer to it as ''scalable ABM'. 

There are a lot of moving parts with ABM, but essentially it can be broken down into five key areas:

  • Target selection
  • Awareness bubble creation
  • Personalised direct approach
  • Sales nurturing
  • Customer delight

This doesn't take account bespoke success statistics, but we would follow these four must-have metrics:

  • Target penetration - how many accounts engage
  • Account penetration - how many people from the organisation engage
  • Opportunity generation
  • Revenue generation

So now we have those basics laid out, let's look at the first stage, target selection.


Step 1: Target selection

Within a typical ABM campaign, decision maker unit (DMU) mapping takes up a huge chuck of allocated time. There's a good reason for that. If you're trying to approach a highly sought-after asset, you need to know everything about that asset.

One of the best examples of this comes from the NFL franchises. If they want to sign a great player, they don't just send them an email. They have scouts learn everything about them, from playing style to their family to their favourite cereal. When they approach the player, they can give them context around how they will fit in to the team from a professional perspective, how they can practically adjust their lives if they move, even where they can get a great breakfast. Then all the player has to do is sign, knowing that the club has everything else in hand, from their responsibilities on the pitch to their living situation and even their morning bowl of Frosties.

Now this is obviously time-consuming, but if you're going to sign a franchise quarterback, that player is likely making you millions, so overall it's well worth the effort.

However, most companies don't have the resources to scope out the breakfast preferences of 400 company directors, so how do you do map out key targets in a more resource-efficient way?


Account based marketing doesn't need to aim for the sun! First, target selection.


The first step is to be realistic in your approach. Go after companies with a medium-to-low difficulty of entry and set your key metrics for company selection. This could be based on size, vertical or turnover, but what you need to ensure is that you're aiming within your league and maybe just a bit above. Is a 10-man consultancy going to run logistics for Amazon? Probably not. Could they help a medium-sized business revolutionise their logistics with effective consultancy? Possibly yes!

Now you have a solid selection criteria, you need to examine your product offering; what does it solve, what are the cost implications and how does a company get it off the ground? Does it appeal to HR or management? Is ipurely an IT consideration?

Once you know the main benefit your product will provide and the strongest argument for buying it, figure out who that argument will appeal to most. This person will be the focal point for your activity. As there is often a logistical and financial element to decision making, you should also consider who deals with this side of the business. Once this is done, you essentially have a DMU build of focal point, purse holder and job runner.

Following this, begin sourcing people within your target audience that sit within that focal role, alongside their company name and address. You should now have a very basic DMU map which allows you to move onto the next stage - bubble creation.

Step 2: Bubble creation

Filter bubbles was probably the most used term of 2015-2016 (I even wrote a blog on it) and whilst there is a lot of negative press around the implications of filter bubbles, they can be a very effective tool for ABM.

Once you have your list of companies and your messaging, you need to start building a ton of micro campaigns.

Create a display-based brand campaign on Google, LinkedIn or Facebook, linking to a simple landing page with your core arguments, some educational content and a simple call to action. This is not a direct response campaign, so don't set stringent response campaign metrics on it.

Once this is created, set up your micro campaigns based on a 1k radius of every target on your list and replicate this across all channels. You want these paired with an overarching retargeting campaign with a high daily impression cap (say 7 times).


Account based marketing doesn't need to aim for the sun! Second, bubble creation


Now you won't be able to target by location at ad group level, so you will need to set up individual campaigns. Best practice is to create these with a naming convention that outlines each of the target groups. This gives you a lot of control over the campaign spend and also gives you indicators of message saturation on each account.

Any biddable manager worth their salt will be able to do this in a couple days, but just make sure you give them coffee and a ton of praise!  What you want is message saturation, so targets are seeing you when they are on toilet breaks, smoke breaks, whenever they have a lapse in concentration and flip onto the Daily Mail website... If they see your messaging regularly, this puts you in the front of their mind.

Once there has been decent level of engagement (impressions and clicks) you can assume that they've noticed your message, so your sales people won't be going in cold. So how do you capitalise on this?

Step 3: Piercing with a personalised approach

After running your ABM biddable for around a fortnight, you're hopefully starting to see good interaction from your target list via your biddable statistics and content reads. Now what? You need something that's eye-catching and attention-grabbing to break the noise and get you a meeting.

We suggest you do this through a personalised approach. Going back to our NFL example, I doubt you can send a bespoke Bentley to each prospect, but you can still create a high quality experience.

Before we go any further, personalisation goes further than just using your prospect's first name. This is lazy and won't grab the attention of any decision maker. What you need is something high value, thoughtful and considerate of your prospect's wants and needs.


Account based marketing doesn't need to aim for the sun! Using a personalised approach


We would suggest that as a minimum, you create a quick video where you address the prospect by name, introduce yourself and demonstrate how you can provide value to their business in the form of a quick win or free advice. This can be quickly achieved using Loom or Google hangouts to create short replicable videos.

Direct mail campaigns can also be personalised and tactile. This is all about creating something that captures the decision maker's attention, so your content needs to be eye-catching while letting prospects know you really care about them. There's no value in sending out a mass flyer.

Once you have decided on your high value hook and begin to see positive signals then you need to send this out using recorded delivery. This way you know the letter will get there and once you have the signal you can get your sales team to begin calling.

Everything up to this point has been teeing up your prospects so sales can come in and knock them out of the park. This leads us to the next section - making sure your salespeople are empowered to make the most of these leads.

Step 4: Empowering your sales team to engage effectively

Before your sales team begin to call prospects, you need to ensure they have all the required information in front of them. There's no point in booking a meeting with Jeff Bezos for your salesperson to go in blind.

We would suggest you create custom dashboards for each target decision maker within your CRM. These will contain all the information you need to ensure that this process is trackable and transparent.


account based marketing doesn't need to aim for the sun! Empower your sales team


To give your team the necessary control and tracking, we suggest you use Costello playbook software. Costello allows you to create custom playbooks for every stage of your sales process, track their success, pick out conversion stats and drop off points in the sales process. Having a B.A.N.T and G.P.C.T. model for your team to follow is effective, but how can you sure that this is being followed? By having a playbook tool like Costello in place, you gain quantitative statistics to inform the qualitative aspects of your sales team's pitches.

If you're getting conversations with major accounts, you want your biggest hitters to be on the calls, not a junior. However your big sellers will have their time already filled with established pipelines, so you may have to delegate to a less experienced staff member. The fastest way to get everyone on your team up to speed is to have them run sales calls the same way your best reps do. At the same time, you don't want your reps to feel like they can't incorporate their own selling style on the call. By outlining playbooks with data driven optimisation points, you can give your team the best chance of success and ensure any drop-off points are supplemented with your most effective content.

Step 5: Customer delight

Within the inbound model, 'delight' is defined as exceeding customer expectations and thus creating a positive emotional reaction, which leads to word of mouth marketing. Imagine when your friend sends you a meme that only you will find hilarious. This is the approach you should take within the 'delight' stage of your ABM.

Use the information you have gathered intelligently, rather than dropping in a stale email introduction. If they are a huge football fan, book a hospitality venue at a game. if they like the finer things, then book a flashy rooftop venue for your meeting. What you want to be saying is: "We have taken the time on your account because we feel it's worth it for both parties."


Account based marketing doesn't need to aim for the sun! Delight your customers


At a basic level, ABM is about showing prospects they are important to your company. Special occasions and special people require special effort. You wouldn't propose in your living room or have your diamond anniversary in a McDonald's, so when it comes to ABM, go the extra mile and do something that reflects the importance of the potential deal and wins the prospect round,

So there you have it, a quick-fire roundup of how to run an impressive, effective and scalable ABM strategy. Any questions? get in touch with the Six & Flow team to learn more.


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