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account‑based marketing

Account‑based marketing (ABM) is essentially using a harpoon to catch a customer, rather than casting your net into the ocean and hoping for the best.

ABM has become the most preferred marketing strategy in B2B because, by focusing your marketing resources and budgets on a specific shoal of accounts, you stand a greater chance of success.

Unlike most marketing strategies, ABM is all about the unseen work – the actual marketing itself is just the tip of the iceberg, as it were. The most vital element is what’s underneath the account selection process, the research and the delivery.

This should include existing or past customers as well as new business prospects, and range in size from a single whale to hundreds of minnow accounts. The size of your accounts will then ultimately decide the type of ABM programme you should select: 1‑to‑1, 1 to few or 1 to many.

Target accounts aren’t lost or landed on the decision of one individual. In fact, 8‑10 people are involved in the average B2B buying decision. Therefore, make this a guide for the minimum number of individuals you should seek to be marketing to per target account.

Consider the roles of everyone in the buying cycle. You should be aiming to get in front of influencers, users and decision makers at each target account. Conduct deep dives to clarify who plays what role, which of these roles they belong to and where they feature in sales conversations/cycles, ensuring relevant, tailored and personalised communications to each.

ABM sinks or swims based on account selection. Spend the most time here. It’s the hidden side of ABM that the customer will never see. Make your selection based on evidence, using the data available to you.

Data sources useful for key account selection include: website visitor data, CRM data, web enquiry information, current customer profiles, exploratory LinkedIn campaigns and intent data.

Full‑feature ABM platforms can prove an expensive investment – especially if you are new to ABM. However, there are many low‑cost or subscription‑free tools that can provide the insight and information treasures you need. LinkedIn, ListenLoop, Netline, Owler, Nudge, Leadfeeder and LeadSift are just some of our favourites.

Once you have spotted your treasure, or target accounts, speak to the wider team across your company to uncover any possible connections with any of your ABM accounts. A quick win could lie with an existing connection within the wider team.

Seasonality occurs in every business. However, in low season, your always‑on ABM activity should stay afloat to maintain a minimum consistent level of visibility in front of target accounts year‑round. Target accounts may not be buying in low season, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t on the lookout or researching a future purchase.

Remember, only 5% of your addressable market is actively in‑market at any given time. Therefore, your ABM strategy needs to include a raft of always‑on activities, such as search, remarketing and email, to support your creative point‑in‑time campaigns.

To melt the icy exterior of your target accounts, you must invest in them before asking and expecting them to invest in you. You must provide value at every touchpoint in your ABM programme. Be prepared to share expertise, experiences, advice and give things away – be it free content, a free trial or free access to your people.

Once a target account has demonstrated they are in a consideration phase, be prepared to go the extra mile to capture your client in their purchase decision, hook, line and sinker. How? Dare to be different. Design bespoke content and tailor campaigns to individual stakeholders, or you might consider going old‑school with a clever direct mail piece and invite them to dedicated events.

ABM requires a long‑term commitment and must be a joint effort between marketing and sales. Even once a target is captured, sales and marketing must continue to work together to achieve deeper account penetration, building and strengthening brand credibility and relationships with other account contacts.

Key takeaway

When developing your ABM strategy, spend the most time choosing which pool to fish in. Go deep - build a complete picture by getting as much objective insight as possible into which accounts are active, interested or considering, and which would be a good fit for your business. Understand from your sales teams, any customers who are already taking the bait in some areas, and find out what can be done to further entice these customers to bite.

Use all the resources available to build your target list and make sure you review and revise your list constantly. Once you have sight of your target account list, go all in to win those accounts with a commitment to always‑on ABM.