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The 1-2-3 Guide to Account Based Marketing (ABM)

Account based marketing (ABM) helps B2B companies find the most high-potential prospective clients and target them with an individualized approach. As modern technology powers higher levels of automation and targeted tactics executed at-scale, companies across industries and of all sizes are using ABM to grow revenue.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to launch a new ABM strategy or level up the one you already have in place. 

Quick Takeaways

  • Account based marketing (ABM) flips the traditional marketing funnel upside down to target high-potential prospects.
  • ABM requires strong alignment between marketing and sales.
  • Important ABM metrics include length of sales cycle, conversion rate, customer acquisition cost, and customer lifetime value.
  • Technology tools like sales prospecting software and CRM platforms enable ABM execution at scale.
  • ABM target sources should be diversified to keep your pipeline full year-round.

What is account based marketing (ABM)?

Account based marketing is a highly targeted, hyper-personalized approach to B2B marketing that attracts best-fit prospects on an individual basis. Unlike traditional inbound marketing strategies that generate leads with one-to-many tactics, ABM tailors the marketing and sales process to each prospective client.

It flips the traditional marketing funnel upside down to identify the most high-potential clients proactively, rather than pursuing only those that enter the sales pipeline on their own.

Account based marketing (ABM) flips the traditional marketing funnel upside down to proactively identify high-potential prospects.

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Central to ABM success is collaboration between marketing and sales, who must work together to provide a seamless customer experience at every stage of the B2B buyer journey. This requires companies to design new processes and protocols that keep each team accountable for their part in ABM execution.

While account based marketing isn’t new, it has historically been limited to large enterprise companies with the budget and resources to implement it. Today, advanced technology makes it possible for companies of any size to execute ABM effectively and at scale.

Why should companies consider an ABM approach?

Traditional marketing hailed the mass-inbound approach. It was best practice to cast the widest net possible with marketing campaigns, thus generating more leads that would presumably translate to more sales. This made sense in a pre-internet business world without the means to discover and target specific B2B buyers before they made first contact.

Now, information is plentiful for companies to find high-potential clients and present them with customized brand experiences, all before they ever make a purchase. Further, B2B buyers expect a certain level of personalization now that the tools exist to provide it. Generic marketing that focuses on the brand rather than the customer no longer resonates.

Inbound marketing is still necessary and valuable as a foundational marketing strategy. It creates brand awareness and increases your reach to new audiences and prospects. But in order to attract and convert customers that can benefit most from your offerings — and earn the highest ROI for your company — inbound needs to be supported with targeted ABM.

Then, they can work simultaneously to keep your pipeline full of high-volume and high-quality leads. As demonstrated in the volume funnel below, your inbound strategy works continuously to bring in new leads as your ABM hones in on those that will earn the highest ROI.

The B2B volume funnel demonstrates how inbound marketing works continuously in the background while ABM hones in on those that will earn the highest ROI.

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Today, companies with marketing and sales teams that partner to execute ABM are 6% more likely to exceed revenue goals. The overwhelming majority of marketers report that ABM is more effective than other marketing activities and that they’ve seen a positive impact on results since adopting ABM at their companies.

The next section walks through a 7-step account based marketing guide with best practices to achieve ABM success at your organization.

7-Step Account Based Marketing Guide for B2B Companies

Build your internal ABM team

Whether you’re launching a new ABM strategy or working to improve the one you have, you need an internal team to champion it within your company. Many companies even have a formal role for the Head of ABM, and although it’s not a necessity, research has shown that companies with someone at the helm for ABM perform better overall.

To start, think about who from your marketing and sales team should work together to lead your ABM strategy. Ideally, it will include an executive-level leader as well as contributors at all other levels within both teams (ex: managers, reps, creative contributors, etc.).

Once you have your team created, formalize your plan for meeting frequency to keep your strategy building on track. This plan should continue well after you implement your plan so you can address challenges, identify new opportunities, and measure ABM performance.

Align marketing and sales

Creating your ABM team is an important first step to aligning your marketing and sales teams — but it’s not the only one.

After your team is in place, you’ll need to put the right processes in place to enable marketing and sales to collaborate effectively on ABM. Companies that do this well earn higher revenue, increased brand awareness, and larger average deal size than those that don’t.

Companies with aligned marketing and sales teams earn higher revenue, increased brand awareness, and larger average deal size than those that don’t.

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Much of your marketing and sales alignment should focus on a shared understanding of your ideal client profiles (ICPs) and buyer personas (more on those next). In addition, ABM requires a standardized lead qualification and management process that ensures a seamless handoff of every lead from marketing to sales.

Define ICPs and buyer personas

Ideal client profile and buyer persona frameworks are used by B2B companies to determine the types of organizations and people that will benefit most from their offerings. ICPs look at organizational traits, such as company size, industry, location, budget, and current technologies used. Buyer personas look at individual traits like job title, responsibilities, level of experience, and position in the organizational hierarchy.

Here’s a good visualization of how the ICP and buyer persona frameworks relate:

Ideal client profiles look at organizational traits, while buyer personas look at individual traits.

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ICPs and personas are both an important part of every B2B marketing strategy, but they’re especially critical to the successful execution of ABM. Without clear definitions of each, you risk allocating significant time and resources to leads that are unlikely to convert.

Outline your ABM metrics

Your ABM metrics are used to measure the success of your ABM strategy. They should be determined by your ABM team and tracked regularly to give you a clear view of what’s working and what areas need improvement.

Monitoring and reporting on metrics keeps your teams aware, accountable, and proactive, leaving no room to guess whether your efforts are earning results. Important ABM metrics you should track include:

Length of sales cycle

Length of sales cycle is the time it takes for a lead to move from initial interest to closed deal. It’s important to note that ideal length of sales cycle is not always equivalent to “as short as possible” for B2B companies. Depending on products and industry, some B2B sales cycles are inherently longer than others.

Instead, this metric should be measured by determining the ideal length of sales cycle for your company (based on industry averages) and then monitoring how close you stay to it as you execute your ABM strategy.

Conversion rate

Your conversion rate is the number of closed/won deals (converted to paying customers) divided by total closed deals (including those that converted as a loss). This number gives you an idea of how well you’re doing at identifying the right prospects for your business.

If your conversion rate doesn’t increase (or worse, decreases) after you implement your ABM strategy, go back to your ICP and buyer persona frameworks to be sure they’re on target.

Customer acquisition cost

Customer acquisition cost (CAC) is the total amount of money you spend to acquire a new customer. Ideally, as you get better at identifying the right prospects and delivering a seamless buyer experience, your CAC will decrease.

Customer lifetime value

Your customer lifetime value (CLV) is the total revenue you bring in from an individual customer over the course of their entire relationship with your company. When you use ABM to target the best-fit prospects for your business, you achieve larger average deal sizes as well as higher upselling and cross-selling revenues later on. Therefore, you should expect your CLV to increase over time as you execute your ABM strategy.

Determine your technology tools

Technology tools are required to execute your ABM strategy at scale. As you launch (or update) your ABM strategy, it’s important to identify the tools you’ll use and standardize processes for using them.

Common technology tools leveraged in ABM include:

  • Sales prospecting tools to identify potential clients that fit your ICP and buyer personas.
  • A CRM platform to help marketing and sales manage leads throughout the pipeline.
  • Content distribution tools (like email marketing platforms or social media management software) to distribute targeted, personalized content.

Standardizing processes for your ABM technology tools ensures you get the highest possible ROI from using them.

Identify your target accounts

Once you’ve got your team, ICPs, personas, metrics, and tools in place, it’s time to execute your ABM strategy.  You can identify new ABM opportunities in a number of ways:

  • Using your sales prospecting tool
  • Monitoring your existing marketing to sales pipeline
  • Leveraging your social media networks
  • Attending trade shows and other industry events

Diversifying your sources for finding ABM prospects keeps your pipeline full and protects you from dry spells due to the natural ebb and flow of any one given source (for example, seasonal trade shows).

Create personalized content

To succeed with ABM, you need personalized content that tailors your value proposition to each individual prospect. This requires collaboration between marketing and sales to develop creative content with the right messaging for every stage of the buyer journey. Using templates to standardize content while leaving room for personalization can help you strike the right balance.

Examples of ABM content include:

  • One-to-one email outreach
  • Presentations developed for individual client use-cases
  • Personalized web pages

Track and report on performance metrics

We’ve covered important ABM metrics, but it’s important to emphasize the need for formalized tracking and reporting processes to go along with them. Your reporting processes keep your strategy on track, create positive accountability, and provide data-driven insights for continuous improvement.

Over to You

Ready to launch (or upgrade) your ABM strategy? RevBoss’s outbound email software and lead generation services are custom-built for startups, consultancies, marketing agencies, and other B2B organizations.

Schedule a quick call with us and find out how we can help you win more clients.

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