Are account-based marketing tactics right for your organization?
Account-based marketing, or ABM, is a B2B marketing methodology and practice. ABM requires and enables sales and marketing teams to work in sync to land high-value, key accounts.
ABM is not new. It borrows heavily from concepts like Peppers and Rogers’ one-to-one marketing strategy that date back to the mid-nineties. However, automated and dynamic digital marketing platforms have advanced account-based marketing tactics potential and personalization capabilities exponentially.
Read on to learn about the different types of this powerful business marketing strategy, and learn the secrets you need to know to get the most out of an ABM campaign.
In 2022, competing for the attention of buyers in an age marked by seamless connectivity, unprecedented messaging frequency, and the incessant flow of information has driven the advent of modern-day ABM in the B2B world.
Account-based marketing tactics help sales and marketing teams cut through the noise. Marketing to an individual or a key prospect account addresses them as markets of one or markets of some.
Types of ABM
You might want to think of the types of account-based marketing tactics as a stacked pyramid. If you consider them as an inverted marketing funnel, here’s what the layers would be comprised of, starting from the apex:
1:1 ABM or Strategic ABM
1:1 ABM sits at the top of the pyramid. This type of account-based marketing focuses on a thoroughly researched and agreed to set of designated high-value accounts—your absolute top 1-10 accounts.
Yes, relational marketing tactics like events, loge seats at the big game, dinners, and the like are personal to an extent. Still, they ignore the power of orchestrating and delivering compelling and personalized content at a meaningful moment.
These account-based marketing tactics are fueled by the dynamic messaging and digital experiences that only today’s measurable and hyper-targeted technologies and platforms can provide.
ABM Lite represents a one-to-some or one-to-a-few approach. Teams following these account-based marketing tactics go after a few select accounts with similar profiles, business issues, needs, desires, and firmographics.
Predicated on accounts that are highly promising and worth more spend but not highly valued enough to qualify (yet) for a 1:1approach. ABM Lite provides a great test and learning environment for full-on 1:1.
Usually targeted at 100 to 250–500 accounts, programmatic account-based marketing tactics enable marketers to work with a larger group of accounts using technology.
In keeping account buckets smaller you benefit from tighter campaign cycles leading to more learnings and iterative adjustments.
Programmatic account-based marketing delivers results more effectively than typical mass channel marketing and can help grow existing customers and act as a feeder platform for the even more profitable ABM Lite and 1:1 ABM approaches as well.
Bolt-On ABM uses technology to ascertain and engage, by association, other key influencers or buying personas at your key target’s company—serving up targeted content for each individual on the buying committee. Think of it as ‘bolting on’ to the other types of account-based marketing tactics.
Make friends and influence people
Sales teams can’t execute their approach to account-based marketing tactics without a marketing strategy that harmonizes with sales activities. Conversely, marketing teams can’t successfully execute ABM, borne of an account-based strategy, without their sales team’s full support and embrace.
ABM requires that sales and marketing teams work not only in parallel but interdependently and in tandem.
Though marketing leaders set strategies, account-based marketing tactics work intrinsically with general sales. They are therefore informed in large part by your organization’s sales leaders. If planned and executed properly, alignment of both teams (and often customer success staff, too) instinctively follow.
There’s no getting around it: ABM’s about people, people
If you’re in marketing and think that account-based marketing tactics are right for your organization, take your sales leader—not a sales underling—to lunch. And if you’re a sales leader and believe ABM could help deliver next-level conversions, take that marketing leader to lunch. Each of you will need the other’s buy-in, expertise, leadership, support, and guidance.
Think it tall the way through and count the costs
Moving your sales and marketing teams to use account-based marketing tactics warrants considered assessment and will likely include rethinking, in whole or in part:
- Your go-to-market up-front strategy
- Creating far more granular and personalized messaging by individual, industry, etc.
- A shift toward cultural sales and marketing consensus in terms of approach and mindset
- Not just automated and triggered messaging, but more personalized if/then planning and decision tree activities created to respond to anticipated—and unanticipated—prospect signaling
- More profound and deeply-profiled list building tactics
- Tactical planning and redistribution of resource allocation (budget and identified personnel) across sales and marketing teams—and in some cases customer success teams that tie to revenue growth as well
- Methodology modifications to enable cross-functional teaming—including sales and marketing ops professionals, platforms, dashboards, even meeting cadences
- Tweaks or additions to your sales and marketing tool-stacks, integrations, processes, people, and platforms
- A redefined prioritization of what’s measured, and what’s not
- And more … integrating a full-on practice or adjunct account-based marketing tactics into your organization’s growth methodologies will require focused communication, planning, and change in many areas
To put a sharper point on it, if your organization is capable of selling repeatably within acceptable growth targets and margins—relying heavily or solely on a direct sales team alone, e.g., working only in parallel or even independently of marketing—account-based marketing tactics may not be for you.
Conversely, suppose your organization can sell products or services via broad-based marketing platforms and practices alone, without the need for a sales team. In that case, account-based marketing tactics are likely not for you.
73% of B2B marketers surveyed said average deal size was greater with ABM, and 91% said that ABM accounts had higher ROI than the control group. (Source: SiriusDecisions State of the Account-Based Revenue Engine 201)
Get more return on, well, almost everything
With all that, “counting the cost,” why pursue account-based marketing tactics? For starters, the move to ABM offers clearer and more attributable revenue, focused on higher-value targets and audiences.
ABM helps clarify useful buyer journeys
Account-based marketing tactics require knuckling down on the construct and criteria of those journeys. This is an exercise of particular benefit if you’re a new challenger brand looking to establish yourself, a disruptor brand introducing a new way of doing something, or a market leader set on keeping it that way.
There’s far less “poke and hope” with account-based marketing tactics
A smaller and much more defined account lens translates to hyper-targeted metrics and insights. And that creates more clarity around what to chase, and measure, in the first place.
With ABM, a market of one or some focus means efficiency
It stands to reason that if you defined a prospect as one of your five best-fit accounts that your level of effort will render far more focused results and learnings. And that points to more efficient and targeted resource allocations.
Account-based marketing tactics create more engaged prospects
Account-based marketing is so personalized. Content creation is done specifically for the individual target, their team, and their company. Audience engagement with your brand and product or service is naturally enhanced as the prospect navigates their journey with you.
ABM helps sales and marketing staff share language and goals
In many organizations, remarkably, sales and marketing teams are not in alignment. Account-based marketing tactics necessarily align both teams around ideal client definitions, profiling and targeting, goal definitions, sequencing and cadences, approach and funneling activities, as well as a shared win at closing.
87% of B2B marketers reported that their account-based marketing tactics outperform their other marketing investments in terms of return on investment. (Source: ITSMA)
Walk before you run
If you decide to explore account-based marketing tactics, think, test, and learn. Start with an ABM Lite approach and a small skunkworks team internally, then scale after you see what works. And be sensitive to other forms of sales and marketing that are already in play and working, even to some extent, in your organization.
Adopting an overly-excited “Account-based marketing tactics are genius!” mentality then looking to upend and systemically wrench existing platforms, practices, protocols, processes, and perspectives out from under your sales and marketing teams (and therefore, likely your ops and customer success teams as well) is ill-advised.
Beginning with a dedicated team, ABM Lite, or even just account-based advertising—a sort of warm-up leading into account-based marketing tactics—can lead to critical insights as you consider delving deeper into tool stacks, tactics, resources allocation, and teams.
Go deep on your ideal client profile
At the very top of the account-based marketing tactics pyramid resides your very top prospects or your ideal customer profile, also known as your ICP. A senior-level marketing colleague once put it this way, “If an ABM prospect qualifies as an ideal client profile, we’ll send our CEO on a bike with a pizza to close that account if that’s what it takes.”
Account-based marketing is less about list building. It is more about deeply targeted list penetration and immersion. With account-based marketing tactics, look to go beyond traditional and homogenized demographics.
ABM targets individuals as much as it does the company they work for. View and treat those on your ideal client profile list as your most highly-valued individual target. Because if they meet all or most of your ideal client profile criteria, that is precisely what they are.
Below are a few general constructs helpful in determining your ideal client profile to go after with account-based marketing tactics.
Technographics revolve around your target’s technology ownership and usage.
Think tribes, such as Apple vs. Microsoft or Salesforce vs. HubSpot. Will the prospect’s technical predisposition, opinions, and inclinations surrounding technology, integration requirements—even their technical skills, good or bad—influence their opinion of your products or services if you try to reach them with account-based marketing tactics?
Psychographics are a critical qualitative approach that helps you utilize personality traits, company culture, attitudes, opinions, interests, values, goals, and other lifestyle factors and data.
Firmographics are to organizations what demographics are to people. Once defined, they lead to deeper segmentation by, say, vertical or industry and help you create an ideal client profile to use with account-based marketing tactics.
Firmographics focus on things, such as:
- Executive title (a key firmographic for ABM—including decision-makers, buyers, and influencers)
- Type of industry
- Annual revenue
- Company size
- Status (privately held, public, LLC, etc.)
- Sales cycle status (where are they in the buyer’s journey)
- Performance (longevity, growth, loss, profit, etc.)
Account-based marketing tactics are all about targeting the right accounts at the right time—engaging with those individuals and accounts and measuring the outcomes. To that end, firmographic data is one of the best ways to achieve that.
“If an ABM prospect qualifies as an ideal client profile, we’ll send our CEO on a bike with a pizza to close that account if that’s what it takes.” Greg Hewitt, Senior Director of Corporate Marketing, 15Five
It’s about the proper selection and mapping of channels
Account-based marketing tactics allow you to target via cross-channel and cross-functional teaming in a centralized account targeting environment.
There are many mediums and channels you can leverage in account-based marketing. But it’s more important to focus on the smaller mix of what’s working rather than a kitchen sink full of resource-draining things that “might” work.
Below are a couple of channels for account-based marketing tactics that you might consider. But know this is by no means an exhaustive list.
ABM & LinkedIn
LinkedIn has proven to be the most trusted platform for professional B2B buyers. Therefore, hyper-targeted account-based marketing tactics—like ads that go so far as to include the target’s company logo in the ad—can be very effective. LinkedIn’s various content, media, and publishing instruments can add far more depth to your campaigns.
And LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator tool is particularly powerful in researching targets by association. Who else works at the company and might become part of the internal buying committee? And that can help you tailor specific messaging in your ABM to ensure they speak to each individual? Taking this step is worth it because it may affect your key target’s buying decision.
Direct mail as an account-based marketing tactic
Yes, direct mail. A highly proven channel when it comes to account-based marketing tactics.
Find a vendor with ABM expertise. The best printers have experience integrating and triangulating individualized mailing drops between your CRM and your shipping carrier’s exact delivery moment.
Then incorporate those events with your established account-based marketing tactic cadences, messaging, and touchpoint triggers—once again, aligning sales and marketing activities with your targeted account strategy.
And, of course …
- custom landing pages
- print collateral
- guerilla marketing
- and, more
Honestly, it’s all about the strategy. Whatever mix you select, your account-based marketing tactics must be tailored to the audience, integrate human-oriented touchpoints, leverage automation, include sequenced and triggered cadences, and rely on interdepartmental commitment and orchestration.
Ready to get started with ABM?
Account-based marketing tactics, tools, processes, approaches, and platforms enable timely delivery of scalable, relevant, and meaningful content in a personalized manner people frankly now expect—and at a reduced overall cost to you.
In short, shotgun, generalized, volume-based, and homogenized promotions simply don’t generate the high-value B2B outcomes and returns that account-based marketing tactics make possible for companies.
If you’re curious how ABM and strategic marketing planning can help you reach your business goals, let’s talk.