Five steps to account-based marketing success

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Should you be targeting your marketing resources on key customer accounts?

Account-based marketing (ABM) is about focusing your marketing (and sales) efforts into landing those key, high-value accounts that will help your business thrive.

A successful ABM-based business might find themselves working with fewer clients, but each of those clients will be a great fit for the business’ experience and expertise. These clients will typically be worth more, too, because if you’re working with fewer clients then each one needs to be a worthwhile addition to your client portfolio.

Successful account-based marketing takes a lot of time and coordination within the business to pull off. Efforts from a strategic, marketing and sales perspective need to be aligned, and you have to work hard to prove your worth to these especially important clients. The rewards are worth it, though: account-based marketing delivers the highest ROI of any B2B marketing approach.

So, how to go about being an ABM ace? Well, here are a few steps to guide you along the way:

Set your marketing goals

ABM is no different to any other marketing strategy in that its objectives need to be defined before you start so you can easily measure success as you go.

This step is about getting all areas of the business in sync before you start. You should ask yourself questions like: how many qualified leads are the marketing team expected to generate? How many of those should be turned into customers? What are the revenue expectations per account? And how much your annual revenue should this be a portion of?

When setting these goals, every head of department should be involved so it’s clear what’s expected of everyone. Constant communication and a helpful spirit of collaboration between sales and marketing teams will play a key role in your account-based marketing strategy’s success or failure.

Define your ideal accounts

This is a bit like building a buyer persona except on a company- or industry-wide scale.

You may already know the kinds of businesses you want to target. You might already work with a couple of key accounts in certain fields and want to expand that offering to other, similar clients.

But it’s important to spend time identifying what you consider an ideal prospect looks like, rather than just targeting an industry because you work within it already.

A few things to consider in defining target accounts:

  • What are the characteristics against which you want to measure your ‘ideal’ client?
  • Your own experience in a particular industry
  • The earning potential of an average client
  • Pre-existing leads within your business that you can explore. (“Hey, I know the CEO of Big Property Company. I’ll drop her a line.”)
  • Which companies are already engaging with you? Who’s visiting your website, reading your blogs and signing up for your newsletter? Are there any clues as who might already be a qualified lead that you can approach?
  • What are the biggest existing opportunities for you? Are there any juicy prospects in your sales pipeline you can focus more effort on?
  • Are your potential prospects aligned to your overall strategic goals, such as growing into new markets or territories or hitting a certain growth percentage by the end of the year?

Get personal

When following an account-based marketing strategy, always remember you don’t form relationships with companies, you form relationships with people.

So, once you know the key companies you’re targeting, it’s time to get on first-name basis with the key people.

Which means it’s time to do some research. Get on their website’s ‘Our team’ page or scour Linkedin to find out who’s occupying the relevant roles within the company. Or, if you want to shortcut the process and don’t mind spending a bit of money doing so, go to a lead-buying company and ask for leads based on specific companies. This will cost you more but will generate higher quality leads.

Once you have your target in sight – along with their email address or social media handle - it’s time to offer them value in ways that immediately make sense to them. To do this, you need to know their pain points, their customer personas and user journeys, and then develop a content strategy that shows you can solve their problems or that showcases your understanding of their industry and how you can add value to it.

A good tip here is to build a social listening report based on their brand mentions across social channels. You can use this insight to generate a report that shows what your potential client is doing well but which areas need improvement and how you would resolve any negative chatter they’re experiencing about their brand.

Get on the campaign trail

So, you know the industry, the company and the individuals you want to target. And you know the content with which you want to target them. Now you need to know how to get it in front of them.

An inbound marketing strategy is a great way to build up a bank of content that talks directly to the industries in which you want to work. As above, you can use this to prove that you understand their world and the problems they face. And, of course, how to resolve them.

But you shouldn’t just wait for people to come to you. It’s best to ally an inbound campaign to outbound activity, too. Time, then, to get on the phone, fire out an email, scribble a newsletter and get active on social. Attend trade fairs specific to the industries you’re targeting. Try a direct mail campaign that compels them to get in touch with you. Or write a handwritten letter instead of an email, which is much more likely to be engaged with by your prospect.

Your aim here is to advertise yourself, and the best way to do that is to get noticed. So, try and be creative. Once you have their attention, then hit them with how you can make their lives easier and their business more profitable.

Monitor, learn, make improvements

Remember those objectives you set at the start? Well, how did you fare? Did you hit your 3- 6- or 12-month goals? Did you generate sufficient marketing-qualified leads? Are you engaging with the right companies and right contacts? And are your sales team happy with the quality of leads you’re sending their way?

If you’re falling short on any of your objectives, it’s time to find out why and see where improvements can be made. Are your sales and marketing teams talking to one another as they should? Are you nursing your leads properly, building them into your CRM software and regularly staying in touch with prospects? Are your target leads engaging with your content?

The beauty with account-based marketing is that evaluating your performance is much easier as you’re focusing on a smaller group of accounts. So, if you’re not getting the desired results, it should be easier to pinpoint why and then do something about it.

So, there you have it. Five steps to account-based marketing success. In short, ABM requires company-wide collaboration, an in-depth knowledge of your clients’ industry and their specific challenges, a creative content strategy and definable goals. Not an easy task, but for those who pull it off the rewards are great.

If you need help identifying new markets to target or devising a content, inbound or outbound marketing strategy that’s sure to entice new clients, then reach out to us today.

Daniel Swepson is head of marketing at Woven

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