Account-Based Marketing (ABM): learn how this strategy works

Account-Based Marketing is a type of marketing strategy focused on a specific company (account). The campaigns are customized for this account, which brings impressive results.

Updated: May 11, 2023
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Digital Marketing is constantly evolving, and no matter what strategy you already use, you will always have something new to try.

There are so many different types of marketing that it’s tricky to choose which ones to adopt, isn’t it?

A way to facilitate this choice is considering ROI that each strategy presents. In this regard, Account-Based Marketing (or ABM) stands out a lot!

Despite this, ABM is still an unknown concept to many marketers who could benefit greatly from this approach.

Want to learn more about it and see if Account-Based Marketing is for you? Keep reading and we’ll show you everything you need to know about it!

In this post you will see:

    Shall we begin?

    What is Account-Based Marketing?

    Account-Based Marketing is a type of marketing strategy focused on specific companies (accounts). The campaigns are customized for these accounts, which brings impressive results.

    Many marketers base their efforts on trying to attract as many prospects as possible in order to try to sell to them. Account-Based Marketing is different from that.

    You choose the companies (or accounts) you want to have as customers and focus on creating specific marketing campaigns for them.

    Personalization is a key factor in Account-Based Marketing. The communication and the content created are totally geared to the needs of potential buyers, hence the high rate of success that it brings.

    According to a survey by Altera Group, 97% of respondents said that this tactic had a higher ROI than other forms of marketing.

    The value generation that comes from such customization is also essential for those involved to be convinced to buy the product.

    According to Salesforce, for more than 90% of B2B customers, the search volume for a solution increases according to the price of the solution.

    The more expensive the product, the more research they do to make the right decision. Therefore, companies that invest in ABM usually generate greater value and increase the chances of selling.

    What are the types of Account-Based Marketing strategies?

    Strategies have “general rules”, but what makes companies really competitive is the way they develop specific techniques and tactics for their business. And Account-Based Marketing is not different.

    An ITSMA benchmarking study found that Account-Based Marketing strategies can be grouped into 3 types: one-to-one, one-to-few and one-to-many.

    The higher in the pyramid, the fewer accounts are worked on and the greater the investment they receive.

    A company can use only one of these strategies or all three — it depends on its goals. Below we explain the differences between them.

    One-to-one ABM

    This is the most personalized type. In this case, it is common for companies to build complete maps of their accounts of interest with organizational charts, professional history and type of profile of decision-makers, main selling points, news about the market etc.

    Based on this data, the marketing and sales teams are able to think of highly personalized actions.

    The point is that collecting these data and ensuring that they are reliable are tasks that take a long time and, therefore, this type of practice is only recommended for working with few key accounts, between 5 and 50.

    One-to-few ABM

    In this type of strategy, it is possible to work with clusters of accounts that share similar characteristics. For example, an oil company can group its key accounts according to the final destination of its raw material: fuel, lubricants etc.

    In such cases, the groupings usually have between 5 and 15 similar companies, which allows the creation of campaigns and content that are slightly personalized.

    One-to-many ABM

    This practice is the one that works with the largest volume of accounts, something around 1000 or more.

    It also allows the use of personalization because the accounts can be grouped around common characteristics such as industry, stage in the sales cycle, location etc.

    What are the main differences between Inbound Marketing and ABM?

    Overall, an Inbound Marketing strategy focuses on volume, while the Account-Based Marketing strategy focuses on quality.

    With Inbound, you strive to attract as many people to your company and then eliminate those who do not have a fit with your business.

    With ABM, you select accounts that already have a fit with your company and spend a lot more time and money to attract them. After all, when the deal goes well, you will have a great return on your investments.

    When to use an ABM strategy?

    An Account-Based Marketing strategy is best suited for companies that sell complex products and services, which involve multiple people and/or departments in the purchase decision and generally have a very high ticket.

    Because of this nature, ABM is more common in B2B businesses.

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    What are the benefits of Account-Based Marketing?

    Companies that are able to work with an ABM strategy notice relevant changes in their environments. Here they are:

    Less waste and more efficiency

    Because it is directed at specific targets, ABM ends up minimizing the loss of resources and favoring sales optimization.

    In other words, the marketing team becomes more efficient at using time, money and energy in campaigns that will actually close sales.

    This is fundamental, as it increases the productivity and morale of all team members, in addition to making a difference in the final calculation of the profits.

    Less quantity and more quality

    For having a more efficient job, the marketing team no longer has to worry so much about volume. Investments will always be focused on contacts that are of interest to the sales team, so quality is guaranteed (and the highest ROI).

    Less conflict and more collaboration

    You have certainly heard of smarketing, the alignment between sales and marketing. Well, the idea is the same here! Because Account-Based Marketing works with metrics, goals and activities shared between the marketing and sales teams, conflicts are reduced.

    The sales team will help you choose which companies are on the list of key accounts, so everyone will be eager to start negotiations.

    Meanwhile, the marketing team knows that the campaigns created and the leads generated will be of interest to sales, so there is no discussion about quality.

    Less “reaction” and more proactivity

    Instead of waiting for potential customers to raise their hands and take an interest in your product or service, your team will actively seek out these customers and wait for them with personalized content and strategic information that can facilitate negotiation.

    How to create an Account-Based Marketing strategy?

    After all we’ve discussed, do you think ABM is the most appropriate strategy for your company? If so, just read on to find out how to successfully implement this practice in your business!

    Get management support

    The best way to find out if your company will adapt to account-based marketing and if it will really improve your ROI is by implementing a pilot project.

    During this test it will be necessary to make changes to processes and budgets — and everyone knows that changes are not always welcome in the organizational universe.

    Therefore, the best way to ensure that your endeavor is successful is through management support.

    Explain that the objective of the pilot project is to evaluate a new process for marketing and sales and ask for their support to evaluate the results — whether positive or negative.

    Talk to people individually, present the possible benefits for each department and raise possible objections before making your final presentation.

    Also, take advantage of this conversation to identify potential partners in the sales, marketing and operations teams — without them, you will never be able to build a relevant pilot project.

    Align marketing and sales teams

    Once you have the support of management and already have a team committed to the pilot project, it is time to make everyone involved “speak the same language”, that is, align objectives and metrics.

    Define together:

    • KPIs (key performance indicators)
    • SLAs (service level agreement)
    • baseline

    KPIs and SLAs help teams to look at the same numbers and know what to expect from each other.

    At this stage, it is interesting to design a new metrics monitoring report. As the objectives are the same for marketing and sales, everything can be placed in the same document, facilitating the macro view of the project.

    The baseline, on the other hand, serves as a snapshot of the current state of your strategy. In the future, it will help you understand what has improved and what has worsened during your pilot project.

    To do this, ask questions such as:

    • How does marketing spend its budget?
    • How many leads become real sales opportunities?
    • How long does a sales cycle take?
    • What is the average sales ticket?

    Define the ICP (ideal customer profile)

    Take advantage of the alignment between marketing and sales to analyze, define and document the profile of the ideal customers for your company, that is, the ICP.

    The ICP is a concept similar to that of the buyer persona, but it is focused on the characteristics of the companies — and not on the characteristics of the people who work in these companies.

    To build it, it is necessary to evaluate the historical data of your commercial team, as well as the information acquired after companies become customers. Some questions that can help in this survey are:

    • Who are the largest LTV clients?
    • What type of client has the highest sales ticket?
    • What type of client are you most likely to upsell?
    • What type of client has a promoter NPS?

    In addition, it is also possible to study situations opposite to these to understand what type of client your company does not want to attract.

    After collecting this information, you can get a general idea of ​​the most appropriate (and profitable) customer profile for your company. So, just discuss it with everyone involved in the pilot project to ensure alignment.

    Then, document the final version with as much detail as possible to facilitate the dissemination and education of everyone on your team.

    Your ICP may include information such as:

    • Occupation area;
    • Target market;
    • Company size;
    • Budget available;
    • Origin of capital etc.

    Build your list of key accounts

    With the ICP defined, it is enough for your operational and/or intelligence team to search for companies that meet your criteria.

    In a pilot project, we do not recommend generating a very long list, which can easily fall into the good old Inbound volume. Despite this, it must have a relevant number to the point of making the results visible.

    This list can be updated over time, but it is recommended that this be done every quarter or semester, so as not to lose focus.

    Once the list is defined, share it with everyone! Ensure that any employee knows where to find it and how to find out whether a particular company is part of their key accounts or not.

    Attract key accounts

    Now that you know what your key accounts are, it’s time for marketing to take the field to lure them into your business.

    Evaluate matters such as:

    • Of all the companies on my list, how many contacts do I have in my database?
    • From accounts where you have no contact, what actions can be taken to attract them?
    • Of the accounts on your list, how many contacts have visited your site in the past 3 months?
    • What kind of content can I create to attract visitors to these key accounts?

    Obtain engagement

    While some accounts may not even know your company, others may have already contacted you.

    In such cases, it is time to step up your efforts to convert these companies and bring them closer to your sales team.

    Evaluate matters such as:

    • Of the accounts that visited my site, how many converted to a landing page?
    • What are the offers that convert most of my key accounts about?
    • How can I customize the offers (ebooks, webinars and website) for my key accounts?

    Convert and close with key accounts

    Here, your sales team should already have a good history of interactions between your company and your key accounts. For example, how many visits does your site receive and how often, what offers do people interact with most, what topics or terms are most searched for, who are the most engaged contacts, if anyone has visited the price page and/or requested a demo etc.

    Now, it is up to them to analyze these signals and find entry points to close the deal.

    But of course, marketing remains available to help with whatever is necessary, after all, the final goal — the sale — is important for both teams.

    Analyze the strategy KPIs

    When analyzing your pilot project numbers, keep in mind that the buyer’s journey is not linear. Therefore, it is important to choose an attribution model before evaluating the numbers for each channel.

    You can then consolidate these results at 3 levels:

    • The macro level, which is of interest to management, should bring a comparison between its baseline (non-ABM) and its key accounts in terms of closing rate (sale), average sales ticket and speed of the sales cycle.
    • The intermediary level, who is more related to the performance of the marketing team, should bring information such as: engagement of the key account list, pipeline, percentage of the pipeline that is represented by key accounts, number of key accounts that are accessing the site, conversion rate, cost per opportunity, among others.
    • The third level, more micro, consolidates data from campaigns and web metrics. They are quite diverse, but when compared between ABM and non-ABM, they can bring good insights to the project. Here, evaluate traffic sources, number of sessions, behavior on the site (session time, bounce rate etc.).

    Make improvements and scale the strategy

    This is the time to evaluate your pilot project. Look for data that will help you answer questions such as:

    • Was the final result positive? In what sense?
    • Have you created a process that can be replicated?
    • Can the project stop being a pilot and become the new sales process?
    • Do you know where and how to escalate the process?
    • Do you know how it will affect the teams’ budget?
    • Do you know how it affects the work of the marketing team?

    As you may have noticed, Account-Based Marketing and Account-Based Experiences offer very interesting benefits, especially for companies that sell complex products and services.

    In such cases, as the ticket is usually quite high, it is worth investing a little more to ensure that you attract only the right customers.

    ABM will require a major change in the processes of the marketing and sales teams, which is challenging for some companies. But remember: if you plan a solid pilot project, you will acquire the necessary experience to find the best format for your business.

    And if you want to have a successful account-based marketing strategy, you need to include it in your marketing planning. Don’t waste any more time and check out our free Marketing Planning Bundle for 2023!


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