Introduction to B2B Account Based Marketing

Luke Gorski on B2B Marketing Strategy

Now that you have a basic understanding of B2B marketing, let’s dive deeper into a strategic B2B marketing approach known as account-based marketing.

One of the biggest challenges B2B marketers face is knowing who to sell to and when. As the number of decision makers in B2B buying cycles increases, selling to the wrong individual or not selling to enough individuals is one of the top reasons for lost business sales opportunities.

To sell effectively to the B2B buyer, you must take a step back, understand who its key decision makers are, and create a multichannel marketing strategy to communicate with each decision maker. This approach has come to be known as account-based marketing.

What is Account Based Marketing?

Account based marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach to effectively sell to B2B buyers. ABM encompasses both sales and marketing efforts, and creates a framework for both to coexist and work together.

Most marketing and sales departments do not work together. Though one depends on the other, there is little transparency into what the other is doing. Instead of coordinating and supporting each other’s efforts, both departments independently chase the same decision makers from the same organizations, resulting in wasted effort.

Account based marketing is a success when your marketing and sales resources are pooled together into an account. All existing relationships with a target organization, or account, are mapped and ranked. Then, a strategic marketing approach is coordinated. The results include smarter marketing efforts, more scheduled sales meetings, and higher contract values.

Account Based Marketing vs. Traditional B2B Marketing

Traditional B2B marketing views each decision maker in the buying cycle as an individual, with one sales representative assigned to one decision maker. That decision maker receives cold emails, cold calls, and standardized marketing materials from the sales rep.

Account based marketing views each decision maker as part of a larger whole: the organization. In this approach, your sales representative coordinates her efforts with those of your marketer. Together, they create personalized content for each decision maker from a target account, run personalized advertising campaigns, and schedule timely marketing messages, all designed to educate the decision maker about a problem, and increase brand familiarity with your company.

The idea is that by the time your sales rep calls the target decision maker, it is no longer a “cold” call.

Creating Your Account Based Marketing Campaign

So how can you implement an account based marketing strategy into your organization?

We’ve outlined below the 5 steps to identify your target organizations, their key decision makers, and your engagement strategy.

1. Identify Target Accounts

Before you can begin to engage new prospects, you must first identify the right prospects to target. You do this by first analyzing your existing customers.

Meet with your marketing, sales, finance, and operations teams, and create a list of your “best” customers. For example, list the buyers that make up the top 25 percent of your current revenue. Create an ideal customer profile to identify characteristics and reasons these organizations gave you their business.

You learn how to create an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) here.

Using your ideal customer profile, create a second list that maps all companies that look like your ideal customer. You may base these findings on a company’s revenue base, industry, technology stack, current fundraising efforts, or number of employees.

2. Identify Key Contacts at Target Accounts

After you’ve identified which companies you will be targeting, you will now identify the decision makers to target at those companies. Using tools like Linkedin, identify key decision makers using their respective titles.

Realize that you may find yourself with thousands of prospective companies, and tens of thousands of key contacts. In order for your ABM program to be feasible and successful, your marketing and sales materials must be personalized.

As you can imagine, creating personalized marketing materials for tens of thousands of prospects is expensive and impractical for most companies.

3. Rank Your Target Accounts

Your next step is to research which target companies are most likely to benefit from receiving your ABM treatment.

To do this, identify key characteristics that allowed for your product or service to be uniquely valuable to your current buyers. Examples of these characteristics may be a recent entry into new industry, a recent fundraising round, or a recent restructuring and hiring program.

Using these characteristics, rank your target prospects from most to least likely to benefit from using your product. Since you’ve already identified key decision makers at each company, you will also want to rank which contacts to market to first.

4. Develop Marketing Campaign

Once you’ve identified the top accounts for your ABM program, your next step is to develop your marketing strategy.

Remember that in the B2B buying cycle, your sales rep will be the ones communicating with the target accounts. Your marketing team’s job is to create relevant content for each account, along with retargeting campaigns and triggered email marketing messages to increase awareness and ensure key decision makers know about your company by the time your sales rep calls them.

The most important part of this step is to align your marketing, sales, and customer service teams around your ABM marketing strategies.

For example, base your sales call cadence on the engagement you see across your digital marketing campaigns. If a key decision maker is engaging with your content and repeatedly opening a recent email sent by your marketing team, your sales rep should follow up with a more personalized engagement, such as a phone call.

Marketing tools to consider include direct mail, email marketing, sales calls, and display ad retargeting campaigns. To quickly build brand awareness, start with a retargeting and display ad campaign. Consider following up with a direct mail campaign, followed by a gift in the mail to remain top of mind.

If you are targeting prospects in a new industry, you may find your target decision maker doesn’t realize she can benefit from your solution. In this case, shift away from marketing your product to creating educational content about the problem it solves. You can learn more about content marketing to B2B clients here.

5. Measure Campaign Results

As you execute your ABM program, track your marketing campaign performance and revenue generation.

If you’ve timed and targeted your campaigns properly, new prospects should begin to recognize your brand, and even reference certain components of your ABM program on sales calls or in in-person meetings.

Running Your First Account Based Program

If you are running your first account based marketing program, you may want to compare how effective your approach is using a control group.

To do that, segment a small group from your list of prospective accounts. Take a fraction of those accounts, such as 20 percent, to use as a control group. Your control group will receive the traditional marketing treatment of cold calls and emails. The remainder of the accounts will be marketed to using the ABM approach. After running the ABM program, you will compare how many sales opportunities came from each group.

By structuring your B2B marketing efforts using account based marketing, your prospects are being communicated to across various marketing channels. They may see a display ad, receive an email, and a gift in the mail, all in the same week. By the time your sales rep speaks with a target prospect on a cold call, the conversation starts from a much warmer place.


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