Ask yourself, “Why did I search for Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Best Practices?” Because it’s trending in marketing? Because it’s the next best thing? Or because it’s SMART?
B2B sales is a whole different ball game from B2C. The pool of potential customers is significantly smaller and niche. In fact, 82% of visitors to a B2B website aren’t even actual prospects.
Think about that for a second.
Say you get 100,000 visits to your website a month. 82,000 of them weren’t even looking for your solution, which means you really only had 18,000 visitors. With a pool so small, your marketing and sales strategies need a more targeted, account-based approach.
More than half of B2B organizations are planning to launch an Account-Based Marketing (ABM) campaign in 2020.
ABM is a strategy designed for B2B sales: an unfortunately convoluted process as it takes about 6+ people’s input in a prospective company to close a deal.
ABM is a highly targeted (specific) and revenue-driven (measurable) approach to acquiring (attainable) new business from companies you identify within your ICP (relevant). Because it’s used to target multiple individuals in a company, it’s also a synchronized (time-based) strategy that requires sales and marketing alignment.
What is Account-Based Marketing?
An advantage of ABM over other marketing strategies is it avoids a blanket approach that tackles entire markets. Instead, ABM is used to tackle specific accounts and treats them as markets in their own right.
This highly focused business strategy singularly targets a prospective company (and is possibly already a customer) with multiple business units you haven’t tapped in to yet.
Your marketing team can create content, events, and entire campaigns dedicated to the people associated with a specific account, rather than an industry as a whole (Hubspot).
ABM has become critical in B2B over the last decade and is particularly effective for organizations with multiple buyers or stakeholders (mid-level to enterprise sales). Sales often has to convince 6+ stakeholders to close a deal when working with these large and intricate organizations. ABM can directly target these accounts and individuals from the start and ultimately shorten your sales cycle.
“Account-Based Marketing is the process of targeting specific individuals within accounts through customized and coordinated marketing and sales efforts.” – said Skaled
8 ABM Best Practices You Probably Knew
ABM requires an extremely tailored approach, but before your Sales and Marketing teams spend precious time and resources on these campaigns, the right high-volume accounts and key internal players must be identified.
An advantage of this approach is you know before you begin a campaign that the prospect is within your ICP and is looking for solutions that you provide. Other inbound marketing tactics require Sales teams to qualify leads coming in that may not be a good fit for your company.
By doing your due diligence and identifying the companies you want to go after or identifying current customers whose relationships you’d like to expand, not only makes sure you are the right partner for them but that they are the right customer for you.
Avoid what others in your company think the ideal companies to go after should be and use previous customer data instead. Analyze your current portfolio for top clients (focusing on longevity as well as profit) to identify key demographics and behavioral commonalities. Then apply these traits to your target accounts or lead list. If companies don’t match these traits, remove them from your ABM strategy.
Sales & Marketing teams also often overlook the potential relationships that other employees outside of their organization may have with targeted accounts.
TIP: LinkedIn Sales Navigator’s TeamLink is a great tool used in building out your targets. It allows you to search connections other employees at your company have with contacts in your target accounts that can provide an in.
2. Identify the Appropriate Content & Channels for EACH Account
After identifying the appropriate accounts, each campaign will need its own customized messaging deployed through the appropriate channels. Messaging is not only personalized to the company but the individual.
ABM targets multiple individuals at multiple levels within a company. Whereas digital marketing tactics and customized landing pages may work well with Managers, Directors, and even VPs, C-Level Executives are most likely not going to register for webinars or give their information to download an ebook.
Landing Pages: Personalized landing pages is often one of the most effective tactics in ABM as you’ll continue to drive other marketing content back to it, you can display custom copy, images, offers, and forms. Duplicating landing pages and forms for specific individuals and accounts is also relatively easy after you have the first LP squared away.
Direct Mail: For C-Level Execs your approach will differ even if it’s within the same account. Direct mail can be an effective option for this group if the C-Suite is an older generation not very receptive to digital marketing tactics and unlikely to respond to unsolicited emails or messages on social media.
Peer to Peer: Another important thing to note about communicating to top-level executives is you should assign your own internal people to his/her peer in the target account. The Marketing and Sales teams should of course still support all aspects of this communication. From the initial direct mail piece or email to calls and follow-ups.
LinkedIn: Without diving too far into specifics, as the right content and channels will vary by account and business type, another channel you absolutely want to make sure you’re utilizing is LinkedIn. This is one platform that targets at every level will utilize. LinkedIn has over 610 million users. 90 million of which are senior-level influencers and 63 million are decision-makers in their company. 92% of Fortune 500 companies also use LinkedIn (2019 99Firms).
Related Content: Using LinkedIn as an Additional Touchpoint X5
3. Personalized Messaging from Top to Bottom, Left to Right
Personalization and customization is a best practice of almost every type of marketing and sales strategy. In today’s market, you will not be able to convert big fish, new business without personalized campaigns. And there are many tools and ai software out there that make personalization that much easier.
Think of your ABM strategy as a Personal Shopper dedicated to one individual. They know the person by name, their personality, their needs, their wants, what they can spend, and they are available when their clients need them most.
4. Focus on the Buyer Experience
One of the hardest challenges for Sales right now is getting their mind off their sales process and on to the buyer experience. Marketing is guilty of this too. We often create beautiful campaigns with the wrong messaging or beautiful campaigns with the right messaging but distribute it on the wrong channels.
In the research phase of your ABM strategy, not only can you pull customer data on demographics but their acquisition journey as well. How did you previously win your top clients?
- How and where did you communicate?
- What content did they find most useful?
- What did they like and dislike about the sales process?
- And what ultimately closed the deal?
We can forget that our buyers are people with everyday lives not just sitting around and waiting to be sold to. Most often, they’ll avoid it unless they are already looking for a solution. Every action taken in your ABM strategy must first answer the questions: “Will my message reach my buyer at a point in time when they are ready to hear it?” and “Will it bring value to my buyer in this moment?”
5. Coordinate Campaigns
Running your ABM play will take an open door of consistent communication between Marketing and Sales, and you’ll have to coordinate your messaging across various channels. It’s important your team doesn’t use conflicting content or have conflicting conversations that will turn your buyer off. If Marketing and Sales aren’t communicating effectively or campaigns aren’t teed up, this can build mistrust within your target account.
6. Track Goals and Measure Results
Tracking metrics and KPIs is a given in any marketing campaign, much like personalization, but it’s still often overlooked as an aspect of account-based marketing.
Countless marketers still struggle with directly connecting their efforts to revenue and often it’s because they don’t have the right metrics, KPIs, and benchmarks in place before launching a campaign. It’s almost impossible to tell if you’re on the right track with an account or what’s working and what isn’t if you aren’t tracking results correctly.
Marketing, and Sales, should be setting weekly/monthly goals around engagement and conversions. Not only will this allow you to determine the success of an ABM campaign but replicate it for future campaigns.
7. Align Sales and Marketing
Building off of best practice #5 and #6, if Sales and Marketing aren’t coordinating their efforts and aligned on messaging and KPIs, they will be working against each other to the detriment of your ABM campaign and to the annoyance of your target accounts.
ABM is a synchronized, tailored approach that requires these two teams, and everyone in the teams, to be on the same page and utilize each other to push through the deal. It is also important to note that Sales and Marketing alignment does not mean that they are working with the exact same messaging. Don’t worry, we’ll explain this counterintuitive statement.
Marketing’s messaging is meant to build brand awareness, brand value, and generate leads. Sales’ messaging should be developed as a post-lead engagement designed to get meetings and provide even more value (not restating things the prospect already learned from Marketing). Coordinating these campaigns makes sure buyers receive this information at the right time, through the right channel, and by the right people.
8. Separate your One-to-One C-Level Campaign from Other Account Campaigns
Your one-to-one C-Level campaign will go more in-depth than your other peer campaigns. Specifically, your CEO to CEO communications. Outreach should be personal and state the business reason of why these two CEOs should connect. Marketing or Sales should still support all aspects of this campaign as it will be built into the whole of your ABM play. CEOs and other C-Level execs will often have gatekeepers and require much more one-to-one personalization, proof of value, creativity, and consistent follow-up.
2 ABM Best Practices You Probably Didn’t Know
9. Know Your Glossary
This may not seem like a very important “best practice”, but we’re going to be the ones to bite the bullet and say half of miscommunication in our business comes from not completely understanding our own sales and marketing lingo – or having varying definitions.
Take ABM for example. At the beginning of this post, we gave our own definition and then linked it to two others. The three definitions essentially mean the same thing, but an apple and an orange are both essentially fruit, yet we don’t see people biting into the tough skin of a caramelized orange.
Within this glossary also lives your team’s understanding of their own goals and KPIs. An important KPI such as a “qualified lead” can mean two different things to two different people. For example, one sales associate may think a qualified lead is a company that needs a state-of-the-art VPN and has the budget but doesn’t take into account that they do a lot of business in a country that blocks the sales associate’s particular VPN. Another sales associate may believe a qualified lead is a company of 200+ people but doesn’t take into account the 300-person company they are talking to is a non-profit and although they are stateside, doesn’t have the budget for the software. The sales associates ultimately had to drop the sale, but not before having many conversations with these companies and pulling in other internal employees.
This isn’t a perfect example, because if you did your research right, all ABM accounts should be qualified leads, but we do hope this shows that something as simple as a definition can have a very big impact on your campaigns and your business.
10. Your ABM Strategy Should Work in Tandem with Your Inbound Strategy
After about 7 minutes of convincing you how great ABM is for B2B sales, we’re going to pivot and note that the intent wasn’t to convince you that you should stop your Inbound strategy and go all-in on ABM. There will be more potential accounts that you’re not targeting with your ABM efforts that you don’t want to miss because their business isn’t currently on your radar.
Inbound can also help complement your ABM strategy by attracting targeted accounts with relevant content organically. And if the two strategies are working together, you’ll be able to perfectly time your ABM follow-up messages to Inbound interactions. This also allows your content to work double-time and contribute to both marketing strategies.
Tackling an ABM strategy for the first time or revamping your current strategy can seem daunting at first. With the right support, however, you’ll be able to hit these account-based marketing best practices on the head and start connecting with and closing your target accounts.
Skaled’s experienced consultants are experts in account-based strategies: account-based marketing and account-based sales. It takes under a minute to take the first step towards being one of the 60% of companies integrating ABM into your marketing strategy.