A Practical Approach to Account Based Marketing

The idea behind Account Based Marketing (ABM), though not revolutionary, is a simple and powerful one. You focus marketing on a selected set of Accounts (businesses). These are the ones you want to penetrate to grow sales. And ABM will target these businesses to generate leads within those Accounts. This way marketing can give sales leads they want within Accounts they are responsible for.

Account based sales development is not new. It is how sales strategy and organization have always been structured. You divide the market into regions, regions into territories, assign sales team to territories, and sales teams in turn focus on Accounts within those territories.

Focusing marketing on Accounts is a relatively new idea. There are some who claim the idea originated in 2004, at an ITSMA conference. We will ignore that claim here since ABM has been made possible only because of the ability to target digital marketing at account level – and this is a recent development. Greater marketing focus has two benefits. You reduce waste in marketing spend. ROI is easy to measure by tracking sales from the targeted Accounts.

Today, ABM is the hot new idea that people are talking and discussing at Marketing Automation and B2B Marketing events. In 2016, claims one marketing guru “Account Based Marketing will be one of the hottest categories”. Maybe. Not sure what that means though and how one measures such a prediction.

Not surprisingly, new category of start-ups are entering the fray. And smart (and not so smart) VC money is following this new emerging area.If you have some spare cash lying around, sure you can explore these new platforms. But for the most you should be able to get started with ABM without any new investments in marketing automation technology. Here is a short recipe for launching your first ABM campaign.

First, create a list of Accounts you want to target. You can use traditional business filters – such as Industry Classifications (SIC, NAISC codes), Company Size – but they are not that useful. Predictive Analytics, maybe of value, if you are looking for scale and want to target tens of thousands of Accounts. A short telesurvey to identify Accounts for ABM is probably the best course of action.

Second, create a contact list within each of those Accounts. You need to be careful here. The traditional approach– of filtering with titles often is not very useful. Particularly, in mid and small sized enterprises, titles are not a good proxy for roles and the responsibilities. A CFO of a small company, for example, may not be empowered to make any purchase decisions. You need to create contact lists based on roles and responsibilities, not titles. Again a tele-survey is the quickest and most accurate way of getting this information.

Third, you need to create holistic view of the contact information for the prospects in each Account. Compiling accurate email address, working telephone number, and current postal address is a good start – but not sufficient anymore. You also need social Identifiers – particularly LinkedIn and Twitter. They will help connect with them socially and also monitor their social activity.

Fourth, you need to connect with target within each Account with an effective digital marketing campaign. You probably are already using most of these digital advertising techniques. Note, some such as SEO, SEM, Display Ads, YouTube lack the ability to filter at the Account level. Social Media, Retargeting (done smartly) are more appropriate for ABM.

Finally you need to use some traditional Outbound Marketing techniques. These days it is fashionable to malign Outbound Marketing. But senior executives do not have time to read your tweets, download white papers, or read your emails. A well designed direct mailer or a phone call from a professional tele-marketer may be the only way to build awareness.

There are some other ABM techniques – like website content personalization – that have been not included here. The reason is that personalization (of “real” value) is hard to do, takes time, requires lot of work, is not very scalable, and of questionable value.

Bottom line is all B2B marketers should consider ABM. You don’t need a new platform or technology to get started. If you don’t have all skills in-house, then find a partner with both Inbound and Outbound marketing skills.

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