Account-based marketing (ABM) has become a buzzword in recent years. However, there is confusion among marketers concerning what it means and how to do it effectively. This guide is for those new to ABM or seeking to improve their approach.

  1. What is account-based marketing?
  2. Why is it important for sales and marketing?
  3. What are some examples of account-based marketing?
  4. How to plan and scale account-based marketing?
  5. How to track the results of ABM?
  6. How much budget do you need?
  7. What tools are necessary to implement ABM?
  8. Can you do this as a one-person team?
  9. How to complement ABM with your overall marketing plans?
  10. What else do you need to know?

What is Account-Based Marketing?

According to the Clear and Complete Guide to Account-Based Marketing from Engagio, ABM is: “Strategic personalized marketing outreach and engagement with prospects at target accounts using close collaboration between sales and marketing.”

Simply put, ABM is a marketing strategy in which: “Marketers leverage existing marketing elements creatively to help sales close deals with key accounts.” ABM can be used to acquire new accounts or expand business dealings with current accounts. Traditional lead-based marketing focuses on generating as many leads as possible. Unfortunately, this strategy does not always provide high quality leads to sales.

Account-based marketing operates in the reverse. Sales and marketing teams collaborate to identify target accounts (customers) who will benefit the company the most. These accounts are viewed and treated similarly to individual markets. Here is a nice image to show the differences between lead-driven and account-driven outreach. 

Note: It doesn’t mean that marketing needs to switch 100% to ABM. Marketing will continue to focus on the top of the funnel and build brand awareness is still critical. However, ABM makes sense when you work closely with Sales.

account based marketing guide

Why is Account-Based Marketing Important for Sales and Marketing?

ROI is Higher and Easier to Measure 

Showing ROI is something marketers have always struggled with in the past. B2B marketers using ABM saw an 87% increase in return on investment (ROI). ABM’s narrow focus on target accounts makes it easier to measure ROI unlike with other B2B marketing methods.

How Account Based Marketing Supports Sales Enablement

On the surface, sales and marketing may share the same business goals, but their approaches are different.

    1. Marketing focuses on the top of the purchase funnel whereas sales aim at the bottom of the funnel. 
    2. While sales teams refer to customers as ‘accounts’, marketers prefer to ‘personify’ their audiences using buyer personas.
    3. Marketing is concerned with awareness, creativity, and branding, but sales teams focus on closing deals.
    4. Marketing concentrates on nurturing leads, and Sales is focused on conversions.
    5. Marketing’s nurturing is long-term. Sales also focus on the long-term, but they have a monthly quota to meet.

As you can see, marketing teams are mainly focused on the upper part of the sales funnel. The sales team is more concerned with the very bottom of the sales funnel.  Account-based marketing facilitates sales enablement by combining sales’ account-centric approach with marketing know-how to meet goals. Both teams start at the bottom of the funnel by identifying their ideal customer.

Maximizes Resources

By avoiding customers who aren’t a good fit for the company, resources can be conserved to build relationships with target accounts. With this method, account sales come from businesses that long term relationships can be formulated with.

Targets Buying Committee 

B2B businesses rarely have one decision-maker in the purchasing process. In a survey, Gartner found 75% of B2B buyers agreed people from different locations and roles are involved in purchasing decisions.

There is an average of 6 decision-makers within a B2B company. Traditional B2B marketing strategies do take this information into account. Account-based marketing focuses on reaching as many of these people as possible. 

ABM Stands Out Amidst the Noise

People are busier than ever. Every day they are bombarded with emails, phone calls, and text messages. Generic sales pitches often go unanswered. Account-based marketing helps you stand out amidst the noise by personalizing all messages to the target account.

What Are Some Account-Based Marketing Examples?

Account-based marketing comes in many different forms. Before diving into some examples, let’s discuss marketing channels.

Account-Based Marketing can be divided into 4 categories: Owned, Earned, Paid, and Paid Social Media. 

Owned Media: Channels your company has complete control over such as websites, communities, blogs, print catalogs, and company ran events.

Earned Media: Free media impressions gained via shares, likes, retweets, byline or non-paid media coverages, etc.

Paid Media: Paid advertising or sponsorship opportunities such as TV commercials, radio/print ads, conference sponsorships.  

Paid Social Media: Paid advertising via social media channels such as FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram paid ads.  

account based marketing guide

The tactics covered in these four categories can be used to:

    •       Create customer events for target accounts
    •       Send unique or customized gifts to target accounts
    •       Share personalized educational content with key accounts
    •       Implement customized email/direct postal mail campaigns
    •       Launch scalable targeted programmatic ads  

These tactics can be used alone or in concert with each other. Any of them are effective if chosen with the target account’s unique characteristics and preferences in mind.  

Here are four companies and their approaches to account-based marketing.

Influitive

ABM Campaigns Examples

Influitive, an advocacy management platform, shared the results of three ABM campaign efforts in The Results Of 3 B2B Account-Based Marketing Campaigns: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. The sales and marketing teams chose target accounts ranked in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant that could benefit from more customer reviews.

They then sent videos via Twitter congratulating each company on their standing in the Magic Quadrant. Influitive informed these accounts they could move to the upper right (AKA the Holy Grail) of the quadrant with the help of their customers. The sales team saw a high response. Influitive decided to create holiday video campaigns using similar tactics. Those campaigns also did well.

GumGum

ABM Guide Examples

GumGum’s CMO, Ben Plomion, shared their 3 Crazy ABM Campaigns that actually worked. One of the examples outlined their efforts to land T-Mobile. Their story may sound crazy, but they succeeded. GumGum’s marketing team noticed two things about T-Mobile CEO, John Legere. He is very active on Twitter and loves Batman. When T- Mobile unveiled its unlimited data plan GumGum reached out about how their computer vision technology program could benefit T-Mobile. 

The company hired a team to create a comic book entitled T-Man and Gums. They distributed 100 copies of the finished comic to T-Mobile and its agencies of record. John Legere enthusiastically announced his approval on Twitter. In less than a week, GumGum met with T-Mobile. The ABM tactic was definitely a risk, but it sparked a meaningful conversation that eventually led to T-Mobile becoming a client.

Pizza Party During Demos and Other Ideas

Many sales teams offer pizza lunch during demos for potential target accounts. It’s nice to watch a demo and enjoy something to eat. It’s a great idea to encourage more people to attend. Who doesn’t like free lunch? Depending on the timing of your demos, you can also do brunch, coffee/snacks, or wine and cheese happy hours from the comfort of the accounts’ offices. 

In the light of virtual communications during pandemic, Field Marketing Manager, Shannon Jasper from Marketo, wrote a blog post: 5 Lessons Learned After One Month of Virtual Events. “She cancelled one of their in-person dining experiences, our Plan B was to host the event virtually by having a celebrity chef livestream a fully produced cooking class from a studio kitchen. As part of that experience, we would also send the attendees meal kits to cook along with the chef.

Shortly after launching, the shelter in place orders went into effect in New York City, taking studio production and meal kit assembly off the table. We then had to pivot to Plan C – having the chef film the video herself in her own kitchen, selecting a recipe that focused on pantry staples, and sending gift cards to all attendees to buy the necessary ingredients.”

A Google search will provide many examples of companies using ABM and their unique tactics. The key to running a successful ABM campaign for your company is to: 

    • Understand your own marketing elements
    • Collaborate with sales      
    • Build a workflow in order to track measurement and execution

How To Scale Account-Based Marketing 

Planning ABM takes time and effort. As marketers, you need to understand the accounts well. Different accounts require different approaches. The key is to ensure processes are in place to scale. Here are the proposed steps to follow:

    • Get buy-in from Sales
    • Identify key accounts     
    • Conduct research       
    • Identify key marketing channels
    • Create a targeted outreach plan
    • Monitor and track results over-time

Onboard Sales

I was asked by a client for the best way to introduce sales to ABM. In my experience, sales teams are incredibly busy. In their eyes, ABM adds to their already heavy workload because they must collaborate with marketing.”

Here are a few things that should be discussed with sales as you plan your ABM strategy. Highlight how it will benefit them. It’s important to explain ABM and how it sets a path for sales enablement.

Explain how it will be carried out and what is expected of them.

Value proposition The sales and marketing teams should both agree on which products and services are suited to the target account and how they can help.

Share Goals Discuss your goals and the KPIs used to measure them with the sales team. 

Who Will be Involved What marketing and sales staff will be involved in the ABM campaign? This should be made very clear to both sides from the start.

Identify Key Accounts (New or Existing) 

Partner with your sales team to create an ideal customer profile (ICP). This will be used to identify target accounts.  Utilize firmographics such as:

    • Annual revenue
    • Industry        
    • Company size
    • Location

Consider whether these accounts present opportunities for new revenue or upsell or cross-sell.  After creating an ICP, develop workflows within CRM software to identify target accounts in the future.

Conduct Research

Identify those involved in the target account’s decision-making process. Remember ABM is about winning over the account, not an individual. LinkedIn can be useful here to identify company employees and their job titles.

Identify Key Marketing Channels

Where do decision-makers in each target account spend most of their time? What marketing channel will be most effective in reaching these people? LinkedIn is a popular choice for B2B marketing as many companies and their employees have a profile there.

Create Targeted Outreach Plan

Develop a plan to reach out to these decision-makers. Use your research to personalize campaigns. Simply listing off features is not enough. Remember, your content and messaging should convey how your products and services can help the target account. Case studies are one way to do this. Choose or create a case study that showcases how your products/services have helped companies like the target account.

Monitor and Track Results 

Monitoring the results of your account-based marketing strategy provides information on whether your campaign has been successful. This information can be used to improve future campaigns. Some useful KPIs to measure are:

    •   Percentage of deals closed
    •   Number of account sales
    •   Deal value
    •   Engagement with messaging

How to Measure Account Based Marketing 

It’s important to track not only the end results of ABM but also the progress of your campaign. While the exact metrics measured will vary according to the type of ABM tactics used there are some metrics every campaign should measure.

Account Coverage

Account coverage entails examining the quality versus quantity of data you’ve gathered on target accounts and their decision-makers. This metric will help you find any holes in your information about a target account. Some questions to ask yourself are:

    • How much power do the decision-makers you’ve identified have?
    • Have you identified all the decision-makers within the buying committee?
    • How often do decision-makers touch base with your company?
    • What is their intent when interacting with your company?

Brand Awareness

It’s important to gauge brand awareness among your target accounts. This knowledge will enable you to tailor content accordingly. How well do target accounts know your brand and what it can do for them?

This question can be answered looking at the number of events, product demonstrations and kind of content they’re engaging with. Make sure everyone on the buying committee understands what you do and how it can help. Web traffic is an excellent indicator of brand awareness among target accounts. Use IP reverse lookup tools to separate target accounts from overall web traffic.

If a target account is not well acquainted with your company then you’ll need to introduce them to you and then tie that into how you can help them. On the other hand a company that already understands your products and services will need to be told what makes you different.

Account Engagement

Engagement is key for identifying those target accounts responding well to your campaign. With this information, you’ll be able to determine where to allocate your time. Some factors to consider are:

    • How much time are they spending on meetings and speaking with sales
    • Are they engaging with your social media and website content
    • Are they referring others to your company

Account Reach

Account reach may sound similar to engagement but it tells us what marketing channels are working. How you measure account reach depends on the type of marketing tactics being employed. For example, if your webinars are seeing high responses but social media ads are not you may need to focus more on webinars. 

How Much Budget Do You Need for Account Based Marketing?

How money should be allocated to ABM depends on factors like the size of the target account, how many decision-makers are involved, and how much competition you have.

You will need some baseline that you can work from.  However, there are two ways that can help you estimate a budget for ABM.

Cost of Past Marketing Campaigns

How much did your last event, paid ad campaign or television commercial cost?

Cost Per Acquisition

This is how I prefer to approach budgeting for ABM.  Estimate the cost of converting target accounts. If you are only targeting one account then decide which marketing tactics will be used. With this information, you’ll be able to estimate how much the marketing tactics will cost.  For ABM campaigns targeting more than one account, the process does not differ very much.

The difference is that you must first determine the number of accounts you wish to convert. Then choose the marketing tactics and estimate the cost per conversion. The closer an account gets to becoming a customer the amount spent on personalizing campaigns and reaching out. 

What Tools are Necessary to Implement Account Based Marketing?

The tools and platforms needed for your martech stack will ultimately be determined by your workflow and marketing tactics.  Hosting an event may need a registration platform or landing page. But there are a few tools that can be useful for any campaign.

Marketing Automation Tool

Marketing automation tools like Marketo can be used to tier accounts based on their fit for the company. Some also have products dedicated to account-based marketing. Because these companies often specialize in different areas, you may already have this kind of tool in your martech stack.

Reverse IP Lookup Tool 

You can use reverse IP lookup tools to find out when a target account has visited your website. This information is useful despite the kind of marketing tactics or workflow you’re using.

Third-Party ABM Tools

In spite of your marketing tactics or workflow, this is one tool you will want to consider. It’s likely your ABM campaign will involve different types of software. A third-party integration can help streamline the process behind the scenes.

Can You Implement Account Based Marketing as a One-Person Team?

In general, the answer is no. Once again, ABM is a lot of work, even with the assistance of ABM-specific platforms. For a one-person marketing team, I recommend aligning your marketing objectives with your company’s business goals. What team members do you need if you do have a marketing team?

Leader

Decide who will be the directly responsible individual (DRI) for the campaign. This person will spearhead the campaign and report to upper management

Dedicated Sales Reps and Marketers

How many sales representatives and marketing members will be dedicated to each target account? Will you need 1 salesperson and 4 marketers?

Marketing Operations

Depending on your ABM strategy you need someone to help everything run smoothly. This person does in the real world what a third-party integration tool does for a martech stack. Their job is to help everyone work together and assist with organizing the campaign.

How Account Based Marketing Integrates With Your Marketing Plan

Account-based marketing is different from other B2B marketing strategies. However, that does not mean it can you aren’t able to use some preexisting marketing methods to feed ABM. Existing content, such as blog posts, can be customized for target accounts and vice versa. It is important to remember to remove target accounts from your typical marketing campaigns. If this is not done they may be overwhelmed by both ABM and conventional outreach.

What Else do you Need to Know?

ABM is more labour intensive than some other B2B marketing strategies. requiring support from upper management, sales, and other parties to execute it effectively. This is not something that can be done alone. If you’ve decided to approach it, make sure you have a plan and the resources to support it. Be realistic with your budget as well. Most importantly have a way to track the results and report them. If done correctly ABM can pay dividends for your company.


As an additional resource, I suggest Salesforce‘s Report – Sixth Edition: State of Marketing 

Who is Pam Didner?

Being in the corporate world for 20+ years and having held various positions from accounting and supply chain management, marketing to sales enablement, Pam has a holistic view of how a company runs. She thinks strategically and then translates the big picture into actionable plans and tactics.