Account-Based Marketing (ABM) in Depth

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) in Depth

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach to marketing that treats individual accounts, whether they are individuals, companies, or specific industry verticals, as unique markets unto themselves. It is characterized by its high level of personalization and combines data-driven marketing with sales efforts to raise awareness, build relationships, and drive growth within targeted high-value accounts.

ABM stands out by "flipping the funnel," which means it shifts from targeting a broader demographic persona to focusing on individual accounts. This approach is often likened to "fishing with spears" rather than "fishing with nets." In an ABM campaign, the process typically begins by selecting specific target accounts or industry verticals. The campaign then works to expand relationships and gain buy-in from key stakeholders and decision-makers within those accounts or industries.

Account-Based Marketing offers several potential advantages, including the ability to foster stronger and more valuable customer relationships, as well as improved customer retention. This makes ABM an increasingly valuable strategy for B2B (business-to-business) marketers.

It's important to note that there are different levels of ABM, and marketers may have varying starting points on their journey from inbound marketing to ABM. For instance, some may begin by targeting specific individuals (ABM 1 to 1), while others may initiate their efforts by focusing on a list of target accounts within a particular industry vertical (ABM Lite). There are also those who may start with an initial list of well-suited accounts at a personal level (Inbound to ABM). Each ABM campaign must be tailored to suit the unique circumstances and objectives.

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Key Benefits of ABM Marketing for B2B Marketers

Regardless of the starting point, an account-based approach offers solutions to various marketing challenges. Here are some key benefits of ABM:

1. Building Relevance, Trust, and Buy-In

ABM is particularly effective in establishing trust and buy-in with large, complex, and high-value businesses.

2. Developing Stakeholder Buy-In

It helps develop buy-in with key stakeholders involved in the buying cycle, ensuring your message reaches decision-makers.

3. Proving Value

ABM is well-suited for demonstrating the value of complex service offerings, often combining products, people, and services, to high-value accounts.

4. Enhancing Business Growth

ABM contributes to business growth through quality, long-term relationships and relevant conversations. It aligns your strategic customer direction with your value proposition.

5. Alignment of Marketing and Sales

ABM treats marketing and sales as collaborative partners, enabling them to articulate a joint customer marketing plan.

By leveraging robust insights about target accounts, ABM makes marketing more personalized, engaging, and relevant, often at the individual level.

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Structuring an Account-Based Marketing Campaign

To implement an effective ABM campaign, it's crucial to understand the specific factors and components that will shape your approach. The structure of an ABM campaign can vary significantly based on an organization's initial level of ABM maturity and the unique characteristics of the campaign at hand.

To define your account-based marketing playbook, consider the following:

1. ABM Starting Point

Assess your organization's initial level of ABM maturity, whether it's targeting specific individuals, industry verticals, or persona-level accounts.

2. Target Selection

Identify the target accounts or industry verticals that align with your campaign objectives.

3. Personalization

Craft personalized and highly relevant messaging and content tailored to each target account or individual.

4. Engagement Strategy

Develop a strategy for engaging with key stakeholders and decision-makers within the target accounts.

5. Measurement and Metrics

Define key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to evaluate the success of your ABM campaign.

6. Sales and Marketing Alignment

Ensure seamless collaboration between the marketing and sales teams to execute the campaign effectively.

7. Iterative Approach

ABM is an iterative process, so be prepared to refine your strategies and tactics based on campaign performance and feedback.

In summary, Account-Based Marketing is a strategic approach that prioritizes personalized engagement with high-value accounts. It offers numerous benefits, including enhanced customer relationships and business growth. Structuring an ABM campaign involves tailoring your approach to your organization's ABM maturity level and campaign-specific objectives.

Defining and Executing an Effective Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Process

At Strategic, we've established a comprehensive framework comprising four tiers of ABM to cater to various levels of ABM maturity within organizations. This framework spans from those just beginning their ABM journey, potentially with limited account insights and a focus on inbound marketing or other traditional lead generation approaches, to those with a well-defined understanding of the high-value accounts their campaigns should target.

Let's start from the top of the framework:

1. ABM 1 to 1

   - This top tier represents an ABM 1 to 1 approach, which involves selecting specific individual contacts and accounts that exhibit high engagement and a high propensity to make a purchase.

   - Organizations suited for this tier already possess insights at both the account and contact levels.

   - ABM 1 to 1 campaigns prioritize personalization, addressing the unique challenges of each specific account or individual through highly personalized content.

2. ABM Lite

   - Moving down the framework, ABM Lite involves a slightly broader targeting focus.

   - Organizations operating at this tier use a defined account list and vertical focus but may not have a clear understanding of specific target individuals.

   - ABM Lite campaigns incorporate personalized content and messaging that addresses challenges at a vertical or industry level, while also incorporating specific account business drivers where feasible.

3. Inbound to ABM

   - An Inbound to ABM campaign represents a transitional stage, where inbound activities generate relevant leads and nurture a pool of opportunities.

   - Inbound to ABM campaigns target challenges at a persona level, with the potential for further personalization as suitable accounts are identified.

4. Inbound

   - At the inbound level, campaigns market to unknown accounts through organic and paid channels, without specific account filters.

   - Content and messaging in inbound campaigns typically target personas, utilizing existing customer data to inform content and messaging.

It's essential to understand that having a clearly defined list of target accounts is not a prerequisite to starting ABM. Instead, it signifies that your ABM strategy may commence at one of the lower maturity tiers and gradually gather the insights required to progress into more account-targeted activities.

Tips for Effective Account-Based Marketing Campaigns

Implementing successful Account-Based Marketing campaigns can be complex due to the various moving parts involved. Beyond comprehending the components of an effective campaign, it's crucial to follow best practices for ABM. Here are some key guidelines:

1. Set Clear Campaign Goals

   - Define specific campaign goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your organization's overall objectives.

   - ABM metrics often revolve around quality account generation, increased engagement with key accounts, and revenue expansion within those accounts.

2. Select the Right Approach

   - Assess your organization's ABM maturity level to determine the most suitable program approach.

   - Consider factors such as your ABM strategy, alignment between marketing and sales, understanding of customer challenges, content personalization, and ABM metric comprehension.

3. Run a Pilot Campaign

   - Conduct a pilot campaign to demonstrate potential results, gain internal support, and establish the foundational resources necessary for a full ABM program.

   - A pilot serves as a valuable test to gauge the effectiveness of ABM for your organization.

4. Secure Internal Buy-In

   - Gain support from sales teams and secure executive buy-in, as commitment and realistic expectations are crucial for ABM success.

   - Ensure that your organization is willing to support the campaign throughout the customer lifecycle and is prepared for achievable timelines and objectives.

5. Align Marketing and Sales

   - Foster alignment between marketing and sales teams by clearly defining roles and responsibilities.

   - Hold regular meetings to review progress, monitor account progress, and learn from lost deals, ensuring that all parties remain aligned and adaptable.

In conclusion, Account-Based Marketing involves defining and executing a strategic approach that suits your organization's level of ABM maturity. It offers a tailored approach to engaging high-value accounts and requires careful planning, goal setting, and alignment between marketing and sales teams to achieve success.

The Components and Metrics of an Effective Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Campaign

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a powerful strategy that transforms the way marketing and sales teams collaborate to target and engage high-value prospects. To execute a successful ABM campaign, it's essential to understand its key components and measurement metrics.

ABM Overview

ABM is a strategy that focuses on treating high-value accounts as individual markets of one, with the goal of building strong relationships and increasing engagement with key stakeholders within those accounts. Here are the essential components of a successful ABM campaign:

1. Identifying Good-Fit Target Accounts and Decision-Making Units (DMU)

   - ABM centers around precise target accounts or verticals, shifting the focus from lead volume to the quality of relationships with decision makers.

   - A critical first step is defining your target accounts based on attributes like revenue, size, and location.

   - Identify key challenges at the account, cluster, or vertical level that your solution addresses.

   - Develop a shortlist of good-fit target accounts and determine the best contacts within those accounts, forming the Decision-Making Unit (DMU).

2. Developing Insight and Profiling Accounts

   - Data-driven insights are fundamental to an ABM campaign's success.

   - Utilize customer/campaign data, social listening, and third-party intent data to identify accounts with a high propensity to buy.

   - Leverage insights to focus sales and marketing efforts and tailor campaign messaging for optimal results.

3. Aligning Sales and Marketing

   - ABM necessitates close cooperation and alignment between sales and marketing teams.

   - Both teams should have a clear understanding of campaign goals, responsibilities, and key activities.

   - Regular meetings should be held to review progress, account status, and learn from lost opportunities.

4. Reviewing Your ABM Toolkit

   - Ensure that your campaign has the necessary infrastructure, including CRM, Marketing Automation, CMS, ABM content promotion tools, and social promotion channels.

   - Integration of these tools is crucial for effective tracking and reporting.

5. Creating ABM-Focused Messaging and Content

   - ABM requires highly personalized and targeted messaging that resonates with an account's specific challenges.

   - Craft messaging and content based on individual, company, or vertical challenges.

   - Personalize interactions through email marketing, social selling, and on-page content personalization.

6. Reporting and Metrics

   - ABM shifts the focus from lead volume to building relationships with quality accounts, requiring a different set of metrics.

   - Metrics to consider include moving accounts to opportunities, developing relationships with the DMU, and achieving campaign goals and ROI.

MQL vs. MQA: What’s the difference?

A crucial distinction between ABM and traditional lead generation strategies lies in how you measure and monitor "good-fit" accounts versus "good-fit" leads. ABM introduces the concept of Marketing Qualified Accounts (MQAs) alongside Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs):

MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead)

   - Represents leads that meet specific criteria for "good fit" based on factors like Buyer Persona, seniority, company, and engagement with brand or content.

   - MQLs are qualified to enter the sales funnel and be nurtured into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).

MQA (Marketing Qualified Account)

   - Encompasses the entire high-propensity account or Decision-Making Unit (DMU) showing sales readiness following ABM activities.

   - MQAs align with sales' focus on winning accounts rather than individual leads.

MQA Measurement Considerations

When adopting an MQA measurement model, consider the following account-level metrics to gauge MQA readiness:

1. Account Insight

   - Ensure you have the right data and insights to identify accounts with a high propensity to purchase and those actively in a buying journey.

   - Incorporate buyer intent intelligence to pinpoint active buyers and prioritize resources effectively.

2. Account Awareness

   - Monitor branded web traffic and engagement interactions (e.g., email open rates, content consumption) to assess account awareness.

3. Account Engagement

   - Measure the time spent by a good-fit account engaging with your organization.

   - Track actions such as reading content, browsing the website, opening emails, and interacting with representatives or chatbots to determine account engagement and MQA readiness.

In conclusion, ABM campaigns require a well-defined strategy that aligns marketing and sales efforts to target high-value accounts effectively. Understanding the components of an ABM campaign and the difference between MQLs and MQAs is crucial for success in this transformative marketing approach.

Diverse Channels for Various ABM Programs

The choice of channels for executing an Account-Based Marketing (ABM) program depends on factors like the specific ABM program, maturity level, and funnel stage focus. ABM execution channels vary across different ABM programs, and here is a breakdown:

ABM 1 to 1

   - Execution channels include LinkedIn Sales Navigator, InMail, email, and offline activities.

ABM Lite

   - For a smaller audience size, similar channels to ABM 1 to 1 are used.

   - When targeting a large single account with a significant global audience, channels such as LinkedIn Sponsored Updates, InMails, or email may be employed if existing contacts are known.

Inbound to ABM

   - Execution channels encompass LinkedIn Sponsored Updates, InMails, remarketing, and matched audiences (if the audience size is substantial).


   - Execution channels involve organic channels, pay-per-click (PPC), remarketing, and other online methods.

It's important to note that channel selection should consider the online and offline environments where your target accounts are active.

Essential Technology for Account-Based Marketing

Technology has revolutionized B2B marketing, enabling more precise, cost-effective, and scalable strategies. To build effective ABM campaigns and connect with key accounts, understanding available technologies and tools is crucial. Here are essential technologies for ABM:

1. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Platform

   - A CRM is central to aligning marketing and sales efforts.

   - It integrates with other platforms and provides real-time tracking and insights.

2. Marketing Automation Platform

   - It serves as a central hub for marketing and sales activities, offering complete marketing intelligence.

   - Aligned with CRM, it manages lead scoring, content tracking, email campaigns, and more.

3. CMS (Content Management System)

   - Integration with the marketing automation platform is essential for managing content effectively.

4. ABM Content Promotion Tools

   - These tools enable content personalization through IP targeting, domain-based targeting, geo-fencing, keyword targeting, and 3rd-party cookie targeting.

   - They recognize key accounts' online behavior and display personalized content.

5. Social Media

   - Promoting the right content on social media channels that key accounts use is vital.

   - Social paid promotion enhances targeting and engagement, fostering relationships and trust.

Scaling ABM Campaigns with Technology

ABM technology, including social listening tools, predictive data analytics, customer engagement data, and more, aids in scaling ABM activities. These technologies provide deeper insights into accounts, gauge buyer propensity, identify the best media and channels for engagement, and more.

However, interpreting the data needed to select ABM-ready accounts still relies on human judgment. Activities like crafting a compelling customer value proposition, creating account-specific messaging, and developing bespoke content require a human touch. Therefore, it's essential to understand that ABM programs cannot be scaled solely through technology; they require a thoughtful blend of technology and human expertise.

Measuring the Success of Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Measuring the success of account-based marketing (ABM) programs differs from traditional strategies, as the primary focus is not on lead volume but on cultivating relationships with high-quality accounts. ABM reporting considers a range of alternative success criteria and metrics, including:

1. Audience Growth

   - This involves the acquisition and engagement of new contacts, identifying and engaging new buying centers or influential decision-making groups within target accounts.

2. Customer Perception

   - Ensuring that customers have a deep understanding of your organization and its full range of offerings. Success can be measured by the transition from a vendor to a strategic partner or trusted advisor status, which may manifest in increased interactions with key contacts.

3. Customer Engagement

   - Assessing whether target accounts are engaging with personalized content and online experiences. Are they attending webinars or interacting with specific content assets? Understanding where accounts are in the buyer's journey is essential.

4. Value of Marketing to Sales

   - Demonstrating the value of marketing efforts to the sales team and the broader business.

5. Revenue Growth

   - Ultimately, ABM success is measured by its impact on moving opportunities through the sales funnel to closed revenue.

In addition to the above, other metrics such as website engagement, sales cycle length, velocity (conversion of prospects to opportunities), revenue, retention rates, deal sizes (typically larger for ABM), and the number of contacts per account are important for evaluating success.

Evaluating ROI for Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Determining the return on investment (ROI) for ABM is not as straightforward as traditional lead-volume-driven marketing. ABM campaigns primarily aim to increase awareness, establish mindshare, and build long-term relationships with specific high-value accounts. When assessing the ROI for ABM, consider the following:

1. Account Justification

   - Evaluate whether your target account(s) warrant the investment required for ABM to generate a positive ROI.

2. Account Selection Criteria

   - Clearly define the criteria for selecting target accounts, as this is crucial for estimating potential ROI.

3. Managing Expectations

   - Build a business case based on well-defined metrics and commercial key performance indicators (KPIs) to manage expectations regarding ROI.

Understanding Budget Requirements for ABM

Understanding the budget requirements for ABM is a critical aspect of building the ROI case. Several factors influence the investment in ABM campaigns:

1. Current Activity Level

   - Consider your current ABM activities or whether you are primarily using an inbound marketing strategy as a foundation for lead generation and nurturing.

2. Number of Target Accounts

   - Determine how many accounts the ABM campaign will engage and whether you have the resources to create customized campaign assets for each.

3. Expected ROI

   - Assess whether the expected spending by target accounts justifies the investment in ABM.

4. Technology Investments

   - Determine if investments in marketing automation, CRM, or other platforms and tools are necessary.

5. Staff Investments

   - Decide whether to implement ABM activities in-house or outsource to an experienced ABM agency. Consider investments in your marketing and sales teams.

6. Other Resource Investments

   - Account for the time and budget required for planning, strategy development, campaign management, and the creation of tailored account-focused content.

Defining Success for ABM

Success in ABM is defined differently for each program, aligned with the overall goals of the business. Success criteria may include increasing revenue growth, enhancing engagement, or improving account perception of the organization. Regularly monitoring key factors such as audience growth, customer perception, customer engagement, revenue growth, retention rates, and sales cycle length, and comparing these with non-ABM activities, provides valuable insights into ABM success.