If you’d asked a group of business leaders about the value of account-based marketing a few years ago, you probably would have encountered a room full of blank stares. But fast-forward, and many of those same leaders are now singing ABM’s praises.
The ABM discipline takes us back to the good old days before mass marketing. The problem before was simply that it could not scale across many accounts and an increasing number of stakeholders. Technology has changed that, yet many marketers have forgotten about customer centricity and are now using technology to push generic messaging to all existing and potential customers.
It’s a business strategy that delivers results, according to research from ITSMA and the ABM Leadership Alliance:
• 52% of companies surveyed started ABM less than a year ago
• 57% have innovated new solutions from ABM accounts
• Companies are dedicating 28% of their entire marketing budget to ABM
• ABM programs generate higher ROI than traditional marketing, with 45% of companies using ABM seeing more than double the ROI than other marketing initiatives
During the course of 2019, we’ve noticed an uptick in conversations about account-based marketing with our clients, and it’s become clear that there is still confusion in the market about ABM. Some questions we hear frequently are: What’s the difference between ABM and demand generation? Who is responsible for ABM in an organization? Does it only apply to existing accounts, or does it work for new customers as well?
Let’s take a closer look at these questions to outline the benefits and opportunities of account-based marketing.
First: Key Pillars Of ABM
In simple terms, demand generation casts the net wide, while ABM is focused on a hand-picked selection. Demand generation aims to collect and nurture qualified leads, converting as many as possible to customers, and ABM uses deep customer insights to develop long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.
ABM uses in-depth customer or prospect data and insights to create relevant content and experiences. It trades in the traditional campaign strategy for an “always on” mindset, driving business growth expanding current accounts and acquiring new ones. When executed properly, ABM is an opportunity to move away from engaging with your accounts to entangling with them on an ongoing basis. A true ABM strategy provides customers with tailored, individualized experiences that are relevant for them, therefore increasing their loyalty and retention.
Second: ABM In Action: The Progression Model
Imagine that your company is launching a new product, and you want to get the word out to your customers. You could send a message to everyone who has ever bought a product from you, saying, “We have this great new product we think you’ll like! Here’s more information.”
This is a standard marketing blast to existing customers, but it’s not taking into account any knowledge from the existing relationship you have with them. ABM, on the other hand, would craft a personalized message that incorporates what you know about your customers: “You’ve bought these five products from our company in the past, and we’re about to bring Product X to market. This is how it would fit into your life and help you do more with what you already have.” In simple terms, you’re defining the “value add” you would bring them.
Once you adopt an ABM mindset, you can start to map out what we call a progression model. This outline is based on data – what to offer your customer next, why it would matter to them and how to best connect with them. Make your customers – not your company – the point of departure for your marketing efforts. A product launch may be a big deal for your team, but that doesn’t mean your customers will care. How will they benefit from it? How will it help them reach their goals? When you frame your messaging in this way, you are moving from an inside-out model of marketing to an outside-in model.
You can also apply this strategy to acquiring new customers. Instead of investing in a general marketing blast, focus your efforts on a targeted set of prospects. Analyze your existing accounts to determine what characteristics have been successful, such as a certain company size, industry or geographic location. Then create a curated list of companies that share those criteria, and push out a relevant message to their needs.
Third: Getting Started With ABM
Successfully implementing account-based marketing requires concerted time and effort. Get started by asking these simple questions:
1. When we are marketing to customers, are we taking into account the information we already have? How can we apply those insights to be more pertinent to them?
2. Are we applying a progression model to our efforts – outside-in vs. inside-out? Are we following the specific trends in our relationship with these customers? Are we basing our communications on how a new product would complement what they have already bought from us and empower them further?
3. Who owns the relationship with existing customers? Who is responsible for communicating with them? If sales manages this relationship, how can we better integrate marketing into the entire sales funnel?
4. Are we applying this targeted way of thinking throughout our organization? What lessons can we leverage to reach new customers?
In short, account-based marketing is no longer an option; it is an expectation from customers and a requirement for marketers. When ABM programs are created with the customer at the center, they become a platform for driving business growth. Show your customers that you know them better than anyone else, and they won’t go anywhere else.
Smart marketers recognize that there will be a distinct “before” and “after” in consumer behavior as a result of the pandemic. You must start now to create the digital tools needed to embed your brand in the customer’s post-COVID life.
Take the time now to identify and understand the new expectations of your customers, and how have their habits and priorities shifted during this time