Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a marketing strategy that has been growing in popularity in recent years. If you aren’t familiar with it, we recently wrote about why you should care about this approach. When done properly, an account-based strategy can result in a powerhouse alignment of sales and marketing to which other marketing strategies can’t compare.
However, Account Based Marketing is not made for every company, and it is certainly not a one-size-fits all approach. Here are four key criteria we look for when determining if an ABM strategy is the right one for your business.
1. You are targeting businesses (B2B) or government agencies (B2G).
“Accounts” in Account Based Marketing are businesses or government agencies. This is definitely not a consumer focused strategy. If you are familiar with traditional strategies that focus on an entire market or industry, with ABM you treat accounts as a “market of one”. Meaning, every company you target has highly personalized collateral.
You may have a landing page that provides insight into how they can improve (and of course how your company can make that happen). If you run digital ads, they will target that account. If you are using LinkedIn as a social platform, you will be identifying decision makers within that company and creating marketing collateral that answers their individual questions.
While most companies are focused on B2B, take note that this strategy also works for government agencies, though the actual execution of an ABM strategy is different in the government space. However, the principle is the same: identify target accounts, and build a marketing campaign that is specifically catered to them.
2. You have a high-value product or service.
Account Based Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires a significant amount of time and money to be invested into a single account, which you may not close in the end. So for every few account that you close, it should cover the costs of all of your lost deals. You need to take into consideration the costs of a highly targeted campaign toward a single account:
- Researching the account
- Developing insights and knowledge that applies to the account
- Production of personalized collateral (design, development, copywriting, print, etc.)
- Time your sales reps spend cold/warm calling
- Including the account in a targeted marketing campaign
- Building presence and awareness around the target company
- Management of the account campaign
With the effort involved in building multiple campaigns around individual companies, if your product or service is four figures or lower, ABM is probably not the best approach.
One of my favorite examples of Account Based Marketing is how Northrop Grumman won a $2 billion deal (yes Billion) with the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA). It shows how extensively they marketed around VITA, building their position as the perfect match for partnering with the agency, and ultimately closed the deal. Even with an extensive marketing campaign that surely cost them 7-figures, the ROI on that campaign was exponential.
3. You have a sales-driven organization.
Despite being called Account Based Marketing, this approach highly aligns your marketing and sales teams. In fact it merges them so tightly that it is typically managed as a single functional unit. Whereas marketing is traditionally seen as an inbound activity (attracting outside people to your company), Account Based Marketing leans much more on outbound activities like email marketing, targeted advertising, sponsored events, and grassroots activities.
In order to have a successful ABM strategy, you need to have the resources that can perform outbound activities. This involves a wide range of efforts from cold calls, attending events, sending packages via snail mail, and a host of other tasks that someone with a sales skillset is better qualified for than a marketing background.
This doesn’t mean your team is spamming your target accounts. Like any strategic marketing campaign you need to be providing high value content to your target accounts. But unlike a campaign that focuses on an industry as a whole and uses broad statements that apply to everyone within that industry, with ABM you are speaking directly to single companies. This makes it imperative that you have a complete understanding of their goals, challenges, how they fit in the market, and what value you bring to the table.
We love introducing ABM campaigns to organizations that have a strong existing sales team but haven’t yet refined their marketing strategy. Having that strong sales team makes it much easier to introduce an Account Based Marketing strategy as sales reps are on the front lines of the organization and already know exactly what resonates most with customers. Additionally, sales teams are typically quite excited to hear that they are going to be directing much of the marketing efforts as historically it has been a split effort.
4. You have a smaller target market.
The more niche your product or service, the better results you will have with an account-based approach. If your sales team is set up to sell to a range of markets, perhaps an entire horizontal, it can be challenging to shift to focus on individual accounts. Selecting accounts from a pool of thousands is difficult, especially if you are competing against hundreds of similar companies that are also targeting those accounts. Whereas if you are focused on 50-100 accounts due to your highly specialized focus, it puts you in a much more valuable market position.
Say you are a cybersecurity firm. If you are targeting all law firms, that is a very broad market (400,000+ firms). You can narrow down and focus on law firms in a specific location, perhaps Maryland (7,000+ firms). Further, you can narrow down and focus on law firms with a staff over 100 people, that handle legal work for large institutional clients. Now you are down to a couple dozen firms, which makes your target account list small enough to be manageable. Then it is about building your campaigns for each of those firms, and executing on the individual account strategies.
Is Account Based Marketing the right fit for you?
While reading, if you found yourself thinking “that’s definitely us”, it is likely an Account Based Marketing strategy could provide a significant boost to your revenue. If you are looking to reduce the length of your sales cycle, increase ROI of your marketing efforts, increase your close rate, and provide a better customer experience, then I recommend you look further into Account Based Marketing, and consider partnering with a digital agency to help you develop a customized strategy that works for your organization.