The Complete Guide to Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
Account-based marketing (ABM) has become one of the hottest buzzwords in B2B marketing over the past few years. But what exactly is it, and why should you care?
In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about ABM, including:
- What is account-based marketing, and how does it work?
- The benefits and ROI of an ABM strategy
- How to get started with ABM in your organisation
- Developing account-based marketing campaigns
- Best practices and critical process for ABM success
- The future of account-based marketing
By the end of this guide, you'll understand precisely why account-based marketing is revolutionising B2B marketing and how you can implement it to skyrocket your company's success. Let's dive in!
What is Account-Based Marketing?
Account-based marketing, or ABM, is a strategic approach focusing on targeted individual accounts rather than casting a wide net to reach all potential customers.
ABM aims to deeply engage and convert high-value accounts by personalising messaging and campaigns for each target account. This is a shift from traditional inbound marketing methods that attract anonymous website visitors and leads.
With ABM, the focus is on quality over quantity – nurturing and closing high-value accounts rather than accumulating a high volume of low-quality leads.
Here are some key characteristics of the account-based marketing approach:
- Targeted: ABM focuses on a clearly defined list of target accounts rather than a broad audience. These accounts are identified through ideal customer profile research as having the highest potential value.
- Personalised: Messaging, campaigns, and content are tailored to resonate with each target account. This personalised approach helps improve engagement and conversion rates.
- Account-centric: The goal is to market to the entire account, engaging with multiple stakeholders rather than just individual contacts.
- Coordinated: ABM requires close coordination between marketing and sales teams to execute a cohesive strategy.
- Data-driven: Extensive research and intelligence gathering is done on each target account to enable personalisation.
In summary, ABM takes a laser-focused approach to marketing and outreach, concentrating resources on fewer accounts with higher potential value. This is very different from conventional inbound tactics.
The Benefits and ROI of Account-Based Marketing
Why should B2B companies adopt an account-based marketing strategy? What are the concrete benefits and returns on investment?
Here are some of the top reasons ABM delivers tremendous value:
1 – Increased Conversion Rates
Numerous studies have found that account-based marketing generates higher conversion rates compared to traditional inbound marketing:
- ITSMA found that ABM delivers conversion rates 2x higher than other marketing methods.
- Demandbase saw an average 760% lift in conversion rates with ABM campaigns.
- MeaningCloud achieved a 39% increase in conversion rates within six months of implementing ABM.
By tailoring campaigns precisely to target accounts, you can grab their attention and convert high-value accounts more effectively.
2 – Larger Deal Sizes
ABM also enables you to land larger, higher-value accounts. According to ITSMA research, deals from account-based marketing had a deal size 2x larger on average compared to other deals.
When you focus on tailored outreach to your ideal customers, you can expand within profitable accounts and increase deal sizes.
3 – Accelerated Sales Cycles
Personalised, multi-touch outreach speeds up sales cycles by engaging accounts early and consistently.
For example, Demandbase found that ABM reduces sales cycle lengths by up to 30%. This means deals close faster, lowering your cost of customer acquisition.
4 – Increased Account Retention
By taking a consultative approach focused on entire accounts, ABM strengthens relationships and boosts retention.
Data shows that account-based marketing can deliver up to 10 times higher retention rates than inbound marketing.
5 – Higher ROI
According to ITSMA, 90% of marketers who measured ROI saw a positive return from account-based marketing, with over 50% seeing returns of 2x to 10x.
Forrester also found that ABM delivers an average return of $20 for every $1 spent.
The highly targeted nature of ABM generates outsized returns by focusing budgets only on high-value accounts.
In summary, the ROI case for adopting account-based marketing is highly compelling. From increased deal sizes to faster sales cycles, ABM delivers tremendous value.
How to Get Started With Account-Based Marketing
Now that you know what account-based marketing is and the concrete bottom-line benefits, how do you start with ABM in your organisation?
Follow these steps to begin executing a successful account-based marketing strategy:
Step 1: Identify Target Accounts
The first and most important step is researching and selecting the accounts on which you will focus ABM efforts.
Review existing customer accounts and analyse for potential expansion opportunities. Look for common attributes of your best customers, such as industry, size, tech stack, etc., to profile your ideal account.
Leverage intent data and predictive analytics to identify accounts that fit your ICP and have a high propensity to buy. Depending on your market, your ABM account list size may range from less than 100 to several thousand targets.
Step 2: Create Detailed Account Profiles
Conduct in-depth research on your target accounts to build detailed profiles. Important data points to gather include:
- Firmographic data – revenues, employees, locations, spending budgets
- Technologies used
- Organisational structure – decision makers, influencers, procurement team
- Pain points and challenges
- Trigger events – new funding, site launches, mergers
These insights enable the personalisation of messaging to each account.
Step 3: Map Account Contacts
Identify the complete list of stakeholders involved in purchase decisions at each account. These may include executives, line-of-business managers, IT teams, etc.
Building contact lists for each account enables coordinated outreach across the buying group to influence the entire account.
Step 4: Define Account-Based Marketing Strategy
Develop an overarching ABM plan to orchestrate personalised engagements across your targeted accounts. Critical elements include:
- Value propositions: Determine the core value propositions and messaging that resonate best with each account.
- Content strategy: Create account-specific content such as case studies, ebooks, and webinars tailored to their needs.
- Campaigns: Plan highly targeted and sequenced multi-channel campaigns customised for each account.
- Sales alignment: Coordinate tightly with sales to pursue accounts through aligned campaigns.
Having a documented strategy provides a blueprint to execute ABM programs across accounts.
Step 5: Implement Multi-Channel Account-Based Campaigns
With your targets, insights, and strategy defined, it's time to execute orchestrated campaigns to engage your accounts.
Multi-channel ABM campaigns combine digital advertising, email, direct mail, phone outreach, events, and more. Different elements can be sequenced together into an integrated playbook for each account.
For example, you may start with targeted ads to raise awareness, followed by one-to-one outreach and invitations to a custom VIP event. Just remember – every touchpoint should be highly personalised.
Step 6: Measure Results and Optimise
A key to ABM's success is continually measuring results and refining your strategy—Analyse metrics like first touch attribution, pipeline influence, and account engagement rates.
Monitor what messages and channels perform best to double down on those while phasing out less effective elements. You can evolve your ABM execution as you gather more data.
With this step-by-step process, you can launch and scale account-based marketing in your B2B organisation. Now, let's look at some proven ABM campaign strategies.
Developing Account-Based Marketing Campaigns
Well-crafted ABM campaigns are the key to driving engagement and conversions with your target accounts. Here are some of the most effective types of campaigns to include:
1 – Targeted ABM Advertising
Serving personalised ads on websites your accounts visit is a top digital channel for ABM. You can laser focus paid search, display ads, retargeting, social media ads, and more.
Highly targeted ads raise awareness and have high visibility with multiple contacts at an account. Automated bidding and creative customisation enable efficient targeting at scale.
2 – Account-Based Email Outreach
Email is a workhorse channel for one-to-one ABM outreach. Send personalised emails to critical contacts after researching their roles and needs.
Align messaging to the value props that matter most to each recipient. Mix one-off emails with sequenced nurture tracks for continuous engagement.
3 – Direct Mail Touchpoints
Physical direct mail can capture attention in a digital world: mail creative packages, postcards, and gifts to accounts to spark interest and start conversations.
Use variable printing to tailor details in each package to the recipient for maximum relevance. Combine with digital channels in an omni-channel nurture.
4 – Account-Level Event Experiences
Hosting special events for target accounts is an immersive brand experience. These can range from VIP dinners to custom workshops to executive briefing centres.
Cater the event experience precisely to the account – invite key contacts, showcase how you solve their pain points, and customise takeaways. Events deepen relationships.
5 – Retargeting on Account & Industry Sites
Serving targeted ads on an account's website and pages related to their industry keeps your brand top of mind.
Retargeting raises familiarity and associates your brand with topics important to the account—frequency caps control ad fatigue.
6 – Account-Focused Content & Assets
Develop content tailored to topics and challenges specific to each account. This may include playbooks, case studies featuring their industry, ROI calculators, and product demos.
Account-specific content shares expertise relevant to each account, building mindshare. Repurpose across multiple touchpoints, from emails to sales collateral.
These are just some of the proven ABM campaign tactics to engage your targeted accounts in a personalised way. The key is orchestrating touchpoints across channels to surround accounts with relevant messaging.
Next, explore some tips and strategies to ensure your ABM programs succeed.
Best Practices For Account-Based Marketing Success
Implementing the following best practices will help you execute a high-performance account-based marketing strategy:
Choose Accounts Thoughtfully
Carefully select target accounts using data-driven criteria like growth potential and buying propensity. Avoid spreading efforts too thin on long laundry lists of targets. Start smaller for faster impact.
Know Thy Account
Do thorough research and maintain detailed profiles on each target account. Update regularly with triggers and new contacts. Deep knowledge enables personalisation.
Align With Sales
Make ABM a shared priority between marketing and sales. Coordinate campaigns, share intelligence, and work together to engage accounts. Marketing generates pipeline; sales close deals.
Keep the end goal of driving revenue front and centre: track pipeline and attribution to optimise high-ROI activities. Without revenue impact, ABM is just a cost centre.
Mix One-to-Many and One-to-One
Combine targeted advertising targeting the entire buying group with personalised emails, events, and calls focused on key individuals. This surrounds accounts from all angles.
Develop Account-Specific Content
Create a library of content customised to each target account's situation. Case studies, ROI calculators, and playbooks tailored to their needs demonstrate expertise.
Craft Value-Driven Messaging
Focus messaging on the business value you provide – solving pain points, improving operations, and hitting KPIs. Avoid generic pitches about product features and capabilities.
Automate What You Can
Leverage technology like account-based advertising platforms and marketing automation to scale one-to-one personalisation across your ABM strategy.
It typically takes multiple touches across channels before accounts show engagement. Set minimum contact frequency guidelines—Analyse touchpoint saturation to optimise cadence.
Regularly analyse campaign performance at the account level. Double down on high-converting strategies. Swap out low performers. Optimisation accelerates ABM impact over time.
Mastering these core principles sets your ABM program for measurable success, engaging and converting your most valuable accounts.
Now, let's look at the future of account-based marketing and where this approach is headed.
The Future of Account-Based Marketing
Account-based marketing has already transformed B2B marketing in recent years. But what does the future hold for ABM?
Here are some key trends and predictions experts see shaping account-based marketing in the years ahead:
The Rise of AI and Predictive Analytics
Sophisticated AI tools will uncover deeper account insights and recommend micro-targeted strategies. Predictive analytics will model which accounts have the highest propensity to buy.
Expanded Use of Intent Data
Monitoring account and contact-level search behaviour, content downloads, site activity, and more will alert marketing and sales to moments of high interest to engage.
Orchestrating synchronised touches across all channels – email, advertising, sales calls, direct mail, events – will become standard. Account experiences will be immersive.
Tighter Sales and Marketing Alignment
Shared goals, account intelligence, and orchestrated workflows will align sales and marketing like never before. ABM is a team sport.
Martech innovations will enable one-to-one personalisation at a greater scale. ABM platforms will integrate ad tech, CRM, marketing automation, and more.
ABM will expand beyond marketing to involve broader customer-facing teams. Product, service, and customer success will increasingly coordinate on account strategy.
Greater Executive Buy-In
With proven ROI numbers, account engagement metrics, and pipeline impact data, the C-Suite will embrace ABM as a core growth driver worthy of investment.
The maturity curve of account-based marketing still has a long runway. As more success stories emerge and new technologies enable greater personalisation, ABM will become ubiquitous in B2B. The future is bright as ABM evolves from here.
Frequently Asked Questions About Account-Based Marketing
Still, have some questions about adopting account-based marketing? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
How is ABM different from traditional marketing?
Compared to broad inbound tactics, ABM is highly targeted, account-centric, and personalised. Traditional marketing reaches a wide audience – ABM focuses the budget on a defined target list.
What size company is ideal for ABM?
ABM can work for organisations of any size – even SMBs with lists of a few hundred target accounts see great returns. The key is focus.
How long does it take to see results?
Many companies see pipeline improvement in the first 3-6 months. But give it 6-12 months to ramp up momentum as you refine your strategy fully.
What accounts should we target?
Ideally, focus on accounts similar to where you have most success today – by size, industry, tech stack, etc. Layer on intent data and predictive lead scoring.
How many target accounts do we need?
Start with a small, manageable list of 100-200 accounts. As processes mature, you can expand to 500-1000+ targets over time.
How can we personalise at scale?
Marketing automation and account-based ad platforms make personalisation at scale possible. AI and intent data also help tailor messages.
How do we coordinate sales and marketing?
Make ABM a joint initiative with shared goals and incentives. Regular meetings, training, and shared systems ensure alignment.
How do we track ABM performance?
Pipeline influence, first-touch attribution, account engagement scores, and marketing-generated customer value help quantify ABM impact.
You are primed for ABM success with the answers to these critical questions.
Conclusion and Next Steps
We've covered much ground exploring the what, why and how of account-based marketing. Let's recap the key points:
- ABM focuses marketing efforts on targeted high-value accounts rather than a broad audience.
- Personalised, multi-touch campaigns tailored to each account convert better.
- The ROI case for ABM is highly compelling, with metrics like 2x conversion rates, 76% faster deals, and 10x higher retention.
- Getting started requires identifying your targets, researching your accounts, aligning sales, and implementing coordinated campaigns.
- Proven ABM campaign types include targeted ads, account-based email, direct mail, events, and more in an integrated cross-channel strategy.
- Focus on value messaging, persistence, and continuous optimisation to ensure ABM success.
In today's B2B landscape, account-based marketing should be a central pillar of your growth strategy. So, what are your next steps?
First, start small with a pilot – pick a subset of accounts to focus initial ABM efforts on and test approaches. Prove value, then scale.
Second, get executive buy-in and budget to support ABM tech and team investment.
Finally, train marketing and sales teams on the account-based mindset and approach.
Account-based marketing can transform your organisation's B2B marketing performance with focus, coordination, and persistence. I wish you the best of luck! Please reach out if I can be a helpful guide on your ABM journey.