Published November 23, 2022
Account-based marketing (ABM) is one of the most important strategies for B2B companies. With its individual approaches to high-value clients and its integration of marketing and sales, the account-based marketing model is transforming the approach to strategic sales.
This means that many organisations are facing the question of how to do account-based marketing. The nature of ABM means that there is no one-size-fits-all answer, as the best account-based marketing strategy varies with the products or services, the target market, and the resources available. However, there are some principles that successful account-based marketing strategies share. These can be summarised in a seven-step strategy:
The value of account-based marketing lies in targeting high-value customers who can provide good streams of revenue. It’s a high-effort B2B marketing strategy in which it’s important to target the right companies, to get a return that justifies the effort.
The first step to creating a winning account-based marketing strategy is to define your ideal customer profile. This will help you to identify the types of companies and decision-makers who are most likely to convert into clients, and who are likely to provide the ROI you’re looking for.
To do this, consider the features of your ideal client:
Some of these factors will be easier to define than others. When your products were designed, you had a target industry or industries in mind. But other questions, such as geography and buying cycle, might be ones you haven’t previously considered. Remember, you’re not trying to come up with a profile that covers all of your customers, but one that will help you to target the most valuable prospects. Don’t be afraid to come up with a profile or set of profiles that excludes customers you already have. You won’t be losing them, you just won’t be actively pursuing others like them.
Though account-based marketing is a B2B tool you need to implement a personal approach by considering the individual people who are decision makers or department leads of companies, how they shape their organisations and how they might provide you with a route in. The key decision makers within the company are an important part of the profile.
Once you’ve defined your ideal customer profile, it’s time to research your target accounts. This is your chance to identify businesses that fit your profile, that will be interested in what you’re pitching, and where there is a real business opportunity that can offer enough revenue to be worth the time you’ll invest.
When it comes to account-based marketing, research early on can save you a lot of wasted effort further down the line. Take your time to identify a wide spread of potential clients, then narrow the list down by learning more about them. The clients who you’ll research but not approach aren’t wasted effort but an important part of the process of finding the right targets.
To research your target accounts, consider using:
While you’re researching potential target companies and how well they fit your criteria, it’s also worth making a note of any ideas this provides for approaching them. Account-based marketing techniques are all about personalising your approach to the prospect, and if learning about a company gives you inspiration then you shouldn’t let the ideas go to waste.
After you’ve researched your target accounts, create a list of them. This list will let you compare targets, plan how to approach them, and track progress. Seeing all the targets listed in one place will help you to get an overview of what you’re doing.
How you do this will depend on the software you have and how well it’s suited to this task. Along a spectrum of sophistication, you could consider using:
However you assemble your list, make sure that it’s available to everyone who needs to see it, across the sales and marketing teams, but that you limit editing to those who need to change the record. This is the guiding document for your strategy and an important log of your efforts, you don’t want it to be changed incorrectly.
Once you’ve created your list of target accounts, it’s time to work out how you can appeal to them. That means creating a value proposition for each one—the distinctive element of your product or service that will appeal to that specific company and the people leading it.
This might sound like a basic thing to say, but in account-based marketing, fundamentals subtly change. You’re not trying to create a single value proposition to appeal to your whole audience. Instead, this value proposition should be tailored to the specific needs of each account.
This isn’t to say that you’ll need to reinvent the wheel each time, but that, like all account-based marketing activities, the value proposition should be personalised. You might spot something unusual about the target company that allows a unique proposition, or you might simply create a variation on a previous proposition using the language and interests of a new company’s directors. Adapt your approach to the materials you have, just like you adapt those materials to your audiences.
To create a value proposition, consider using:
By combining information about your product and about the target company you can create a distinctive value proposition on which client-specific marketing can be built.
After you’ve created a value proposition for each target account, it’s time to create a content strategy for each one.
Content has become another powerful tool in modern marketing. Providing information, insight, and entertainment gives clients a reason to come to you and is far more effective in creating interest than taking your pitch to the client. However, it’s also time intensive, so it’s important to make the best use of your resources.
Your content strategy is the high-level planning for how your content will connect with a target. While your content will seldom be written just for one prospect, it’s important to consider what’s appealing to each target and how you can make sure there’s something for them. Consider what you can put into your account-based marketing plan to show your value, whether it’s through simple how-to guides, deep market insights, or interesting videos.
A good account-based marketing content strategy should attract, engage, and convert the decision-makers at each account. Use their interests, priorities, and the filters through which they see the world. How can you make content that isn’t just relevant to their interests but provides them with something new, something memorable, something they’ll want to come back to?
When creating a content strategy, consider using:
Account-based marketing is all about getting specific and personal, so make use of the specifics you’ve learned.
After you’ve created a content strategy for each target account, it’s time to create an outreach strategy to match. This covers the specifics of how you’ll use that content, as well as other marketing tactics, to influence your targets into buying your products or services.
This outreach strategy should be designed to generate interest and engagement from the decision-makers at each account. Remember, you’re not just appealing to businesses, you’re appealing to people, with all their quirks and inconsistencies. Be personal, be specific, be considerate.
To create an outreach strategy, consider a range of marketing channels:
Think through not only the content that matches your account-based marketing objectives but the channels that will work best. It’s no good putting a lot of effort into a high-profile social media platform if your target decision-makers aren’t there, or sending highly personalised emails if only a PA will see them. Unless, of course, that PA is the real decision-maker…
The final step to creating a winning account-based marketing strategy is to measure, track, and optimise your results.
While measuring the results might sound like something you do after the strategy is complete, it’s actually an essential part of planning. A good strategy isn’t a fixed thing, it’s a flexible construct that adapts to circumstances. Measuring and tracking your results is how you judge those circumstances and work out what’s most effective. This will help you continually improve your results and ROI by altering your strategy in line with the targets’ responses.
To measure and track your results, consider using:
At the planning stage, work out what metrics are available to you and which will be most useful in tracking the specific accounts you’re working on. Just because you have data doesn’t mean that it’s useful data, so pick measures that are relevant to you.
If you can, set up an account-based marketing dashboard to keep track of what is happening with your campaigns, or a regular account-based marketing report to keep the team informed of progress. This will improve everyone’s understanding and create opportunities to develop and spread best practice.
If you’re measuring and tracking your results, then you can keep optimising your strategy for further improvement. As with everything around account-based marketing, do this account by account. Focus on what you’re learning about individual clients, adapting to them as much as to the big picture.
Account-based marketing involves a lot of tailored effort for high ROI and loyalty in return. That’s why it’s important to get the strategy right, from the outset in defining your potential clients to tracking outcomes and results. With a smart, data-based approach you can make a concentrated effort that wins the best clients for you.
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