Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is more than the latest buzz word in marketing. Research by ITSMA found that 87% of companies that measure ROI say that ABM outperforms every other marketing investment.
However, it’s even more than a great marketing strategy. It’s a strategy to align marketing and sales. It is akin to key account marketing and key account sales strategies that companies have used for ages – but much better!
Key account marketing
Key account marketing has been practiced for years by many businesses. Here’s how it typically works:
Salespeople identify high-value accounts they want to pursue and focus their time and efforts on them. But it’s largely a tactical, ad hoc approach. It’s up to salespeople to decide which accounts the business should focus on.
In comparison, ABM takes key account marketing to the next level. Sales benefits by collaborating with marketing to leverage market analysis, segmentation and intelligence on account engagement with content and intent data from third parties – which signals buying intent. Together, marketing and sales attract, engage and convert key target accounts with synchronized communication.
Another key characteristic of “old-school” account marketing is that it relied on a manual approach to gathering and using data about top prospects. Salespeople used whatever tools they had at their disposal to identify companies and key contacts – LinkedIn, industry directories and networking, for example.
This caused them to have incomplete and sometimes inaccurate data about the accounts they were trying to pursue. In addition, they didn’t have a way to automate the process of finding more ideal prospects on an ongoing basis.
As a result, companies that used key account marketing tactics often lacked the data and market intelligence they needed to make informed decisions about their top prospects.
New age key account marketing, also known as ABM, takes a modern approach:
- Marketing and sales work closely to identify and score key prospects based on key characteristics. They then tailor customized programs and messages to individual members of the buying team within target accounts.
- ABM is made possible by sophisticated, AI-powered data sources that uncover interests and intent to purchase.
- ABM uses variable data technology to customize experiences for segments of one to a few, plus AI to automate and scale the process of identifying and nurturing key prospects.
In other words, ABM is a potent combination of one-to-one relationship building and state-of-the-art, data-driven communications.
Until recently, ABM was primarily used only by large enterprises because of its high cost. But in the last year or two, a new generation of tools has emerged that put it within the reach of small- to medium-sized businesses. Properly implemented, it can help them make a much bigger impact in their markets.
The principles of ABM
ABM begins with the development of an ideal customer profile (ICP), which contains criteria that define the type of customer, such as:
- Company size,
- Industries served,
- Revenue potential,
- Solution fit,
- Growth potential,
- Relationships to leverage,
- Cultural fit,
- Incumbent supplier,
- Intent to purchase and
- Geographic fit.
Each criterion receives a weighted score, to help your sales and marketing teams zero in on the most important factors that will be used to identify key accounts.
Next, ABM identifies the key people within each company’s buying group, including decision-makers, influencers, gatekeepers and internal champions.
The teams can then design individual prospect experiences to nurture each target account to a sale.
ABM utilizes data tools that can not only help your marketing and sales teams to identify the right prospects, but also gather intent data. It can help you understand which companies are already searching for the types of products, services and solutions you offer.
Why invest in ABM strategies?
ABM is strategic, scalable and automated. It’s so powerful that your company can either benefit from it – or lose business to a competitor who implements it first.
One of the biggest challenges of the dated approach of key account marketing is that it’s not very scalable. It takes an enormous amount of time and energy for salespeople to identity and then rigorously follow-up with multiple people within a handful of key accounts.
ABM brings strategy, structure and technology to this approach. It enables you to grow your business faster and automate the process of identifying new prospects that fit your ideal customer profile and nurturing them to a sale.
If you’re planning to implement an ABM strategy in your company, we can help. Contact MaryAnn Long at Cultivate today to discuss your needs at [email protected].