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What is Account-Based Marketing? An ABM Definition

Author sangram.vajre Category Account-Based Marketing

What is B2B account-based marketing (ABM)?

Account-Based Marketing: A focused approach to B2B marketing in which marketing and sales teams work together to target best-fit accounts and turn them into customers

The traditional B2B sales and marketing funnel is broken. In its current form, B2B marketing takes a broad approach to lead generation with the goal of capturing as many leads as possible. The inherent issue with this approach is that the funnel gets smaller towards the bottom, so the vast majority of B2B leads — over 99%, according to Forrester Research — never become customers.

Account-based marketing - #FlipMyFunnel model to ABM

The #FlipMyFunnel Approach to Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing, on the other hand, flips the B2B sales and marketing funnel on its head.The #FlipMyFunnel approach to account-based marketing, pictured left, challenges the traditional lead-based, inbound-only approach to marketing.

Instead of starting with marketing channels in an attempt to generate leads, an ABM strategy begins with identifying and targeting best-fit accounts that have the biggest revenue potential for your business. Marketers can then use technology to serve personalized messaging to decision-makers at these accounts on the channels they are actively using. In an ABM program, this marketing outreach is supplemented by personalized, one-to-one sales outreach to the same list of target accounts.

How many stakeholders are involved in a B2B purchasing decision?

The answer is rarely just one. In fact, KnowledgeTree reports that the average B2B buying committee is made up of 7 to 20 individuals. And the sales cycle is growing longer as more decision-makers become involved, which is why single-lead marketing is not the most effective or fastest method to close a deal. Instead, more and more B2B companies are turning to ABM to place marketing messages in front of all decision-makers within high-value accounts.

The History of Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing has roots in the 1990s when B2C and B2B companies began to realize the need for more personalized marketing.

If you’re up on your reading, you may remember when Don Peppers and Martha Rogers published The One to One Future in 1993, forecasting the movement from mass marketing to the personalized, 1:1 marketing of today. As consumers began to crave more individualized buying experiences, many marketers turned to ABM to meet those needs.

The actual phrase account-based marketing was coined in 2004 by ITSMA, though many companies had already been implementing the strategies in one capacity or another for years. It wasn’t until recently, though, that ABM began to catch on due to the B2B marketing industry’s emphasis on demand generation and ROI — and the increasing number of vendors offering more robust ABM solutions.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) for Dummies book by Sangram Vajre

Want to learn more? Read Account-Based Marketing For Dummies by Sangram Vajre, the first-ever book about ABM.

How Does Account-Based Marketing Work?

Effective account-based marketing involves a multichannel approach and requires close alignment between an organization’s sales, marketing, and customer success teams. There are dozens of excellent ABM tools — over 40 of which are part of the Terminus Account-Based Marketing Cloud. I recommend exploring the cloud to learn more about the different account-based technology on the market.

For the purpose of this post, however, let’s focus on one very important aspect of ABM: account-based advertising.

Account-based advertising uses digital targeting to reach specific, best-fit companies — called target accounts — that fit your organization’s ideal customer profile, or ICP.

ABM platforms can be integrated with a CRM or marketing automation tool to run campaigns targeting your target accounts. What makes account-based marketing technology truly remarkable is that it allows you to reach not just contacts you have in your database, but also other key decision-makers at your target accounts.

That provides an ability to run multichannel campaigns by choosing the ads to show a target audience across mobile, social, display, and video — then engaging them on their terms. As a result, you can understand which message resonates the most – and get the data to back it up – with A/B testing on creative in near real-time.

A/B testing with account-based marketing

Account-based technologies have seen great success because they engage customers on their terms using digital channels other than email and phone calls. Because these marketing activities engage not only the lead but the entire account, ABM can easily be done at scale.

Today’s ABM technologies allow marketing across personas, sales stages, campaigns, or statuses in a CRM, making it easy to engage with and nurture your target buyers wherever they are online. And as the one-size-fits-all approach goes out of style, ABM has become a must-try strategy to personalize the buying experience with highly-targeted messaging.

Benefits of Account-Based Marketing

Now that we’ve gone over the definition of account-based marketing and its history in the B2B space, let’s tackle another crucial question: what are the benefits of ABM?

Tightly Aligned Sales & Marketing Teams — AKA Smarketing

According to SiriusDecisions, closely aligned B2B companies grow revenue 19% faster. The first step of account- based marketing requires your sales and marketing teams to identify and agree on key accounts to target. That means both teams must focus on the same goals — in particular, generating revenue from target accounts. Above all, this reinforces the importance of the marketing team’s role in the sales process.

[Tweet “Closely aligned #sales & #marketing teams grow revenue 19% faster. @siriusdecisions”]

More Efficient Use of Marketing Budget

With a lead-based strategy, companies spend marketing dollars to acquire as many leads as possible and then qualify them after the fact, effectively throwing away money on leads that are a poor fit. It’s far more cost-effective to determine which accounts are the best t for your products or services before you go after them, and then spend your money reaching them (and only them) on the channels where they’re active: across the web, on social media, at events, and so on.

Shorter Sales Cycle

The sales process is notorious for hitting a speed bump when it comes time for prospective customers to get internal buy-in. Account-based marketing solves this problem by getting the right messaging in front of key decision-makers at target accounts (who often aren’t accessible via phone or email), helping to speed up the sales cycle.

Successful Sales Conversations (No More Cold Calling!)

Using account-based marketing and advertising to reach target accounts sets your sales team up for more successful conversations with their buyers down the line. By the time your sales reps reach out to your target accounts, buyers will have already been exposed to your company’s messaging.

Better Customer Experience

Above all, account-based marketing is about the customer. As a business professional yourself, you know that buyers are not looking for a sales call or a marketing email to kick off their research process. Rather, they want to explore solutions on their own terms and only receive communications from vendors when they’re meaningful and relevant. ABM makes it easy to deliver on this need across the entire buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle.

Ready to learn more about ABM?

If you’d like to know more about ABM, download the Blueprint to Account-Based Marketing: A B2B Marketer’s Complete Guide to ABM. In this 62-page e-book, you’ll find ABM how-tos, case studies, worksheets, and everything else you need to get started with your account-based marketing strategy. Click the banner below to grab your copy today.

Download the Blueprint to Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

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