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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)?

Note: this blog post was updated on June 3, 2020.


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.

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 benchmarks have 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 account based marketing best practices 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.

Want to learn more? Read Account-Based Marketing For Dummies by Sangram Vajre, the first-ever book about ABM. Or check out Sangram’s latest book, ABM is B2B.

account based marketing

account based marketingHow 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.

Account based marketing solutions 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.

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, ABM software allows 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. Currently evaluating account based marketing software? Choose a platform and partnership that fits your strategy best.

account based marketingBenefits of Account-Based Marketing

Now that we’ve gone over the account based marketing basics 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. Account based sales 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, read this study conducted by Forrester Consulting on the Total Economic Impact™ of Terminus. It’s the perfect starting point for your own account based marketing strategy.

account based marketingDemandbase

We’ll also use this blog post to review the current ABM landscape. Let’s start with Demandbase, who is one of many account based marketing companies today where teams use their software to win with ABM. Account based advertising is one of many features offered within their platform as it is part of their Targeting Solution. Demandbase does a great job of providing educational resources and putting on account based marketing events for their prospects and customers. For more on how their customers use the Demandbase platform, check out an account-based marketing review site like G2 or Capterra.

Engagio

Another ABM platform, Engagio, also does a great job of offering account based marketing case studies that teams can use as a starting point or to see how their customers use the platform. Use these examples to see how they target ABM accounts, which channels they use to engage them, how they get their customer’s brand in front of the right audiences, and how they can measure ABM success.

Engagio was founded in 2015 (at that point it was one of many account based marketing startups) and is headquartered in San Mateo, CA. According to their website, they currently have around 70 team members and 250 customers. Just like with Demandbase, if you’re interested in how Engagio customers use the platform and what they say about it, check out a review site. Customer feedback about these platforms can also be found in other resources too, like the ABM platforms Forrester report (coming out soon)!

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions

One of the most popular ABM channels to use is LinkedIn. It’s considered the most trusted online community when compared to other social media channels like YouTube or Facebook. With the Terminus and LinkedIn integration, teams can create audiences to target, launch ads and get their brand in front of this audience, and then intelligently report on key account marketing activity (or engagement). As said best by the Marketing Communications Manager from Zoot Enterprises:

“The main value of account based marketing LinkedIn is the ability to support your messaging through one of the primary channels that B2B buyers use on a regular basis. With Terminus, the value is that it’s a single platform for executing on the ad strategy that we’ve found to be successful.” For more, read the case study here.

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions can also be used as a part of a team’s strategy, but we recommend using an ABM platform and integrating directly with LinkedIn as an ABM channel. Out of all of the account based marketing tools and channels available, LinkedIn is near the top. It was definitely one of the most popular account based marketing tactics 2019 had to offer. The year 2020 is expected to be the same.

Account Based Marketing Tactics (FAQs)

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers related to account based marketing tactics:

How does account based marketing work?

  • If you’re wondering how to do account based marketing or need educational resources for a starting point, first focus on the basic account based marketing definition. Start with the Account Based Marketing for Dummies book, authored by Terminus Co-Founder and Chief Evangelist, Sangram Vajre. As the very first publication in this category, this account based marketing book was written in 2016 and at the time defined ABM as a focused approach to B2B marketing in which revenue teams (marketing, customer success, sales) work together to target best-fit accounts and turn them into customers.
  • Fast forward to today and this definition has been modified a bit. Today, teams use ABM as an end-to-end GTM strategy where they align and integrate all revenue teams around their most important pre-sales and post-sales accounts. With data-driven targeting and personalization programs at scale, they use the T.E.A.M. account based marketing framework to get their brand in front of their most important prospects and customers and generate more revenue opportunities.

What is an ABM strategy?

  • The T.E.A.M. framework is the perfect account based marketing strategy for teams looking to grow revenue across every part of the sales funnel. Benefits of account based marketing strategies include more acquisition, acceleration, retention, and expansion revenue opportunities for your marketing, customer success, and sales teams.

What is account based content marketing?

  • The key to ABM success is delivering relevant and helpful content to your targeted accounts through a number of different channels. The better your content, the more effective this becomes. Account based content marketing is all about creating resources (videos, reports, blog posts, webinars, etc.) that are personalized and relevant to a certain account, persona, or industry. In terms of account based marketing best practices, this is HIGHLY recommended.

What is the long term objective of account based marketing?

  • The long term objective of B2B account based marketing is to help teams with revenue growth at every stage of the funnel – acquisition, acceleration, retention, and expansion.
  • The more success a marketing, sales, or CS team has with ABM, the more account-based marketing adoption they’ll see across the entire organization. Some companies today even hire an account based marketing manager to ensure success and adoption.

Account Based Marketing Examples

Why are account based marketing examples so important? It inspires or motivates a team to get creative with their own account-based marketing cadence. Before developing a strategy, specific tactics, or narrowing down the main goals of your ABM operation, simply start with examples. Collect them, evaluate them, discuss as a team what you like best (or don’t like) and how you can apply these ideas to your own campaigns or tactics. The more examples you see, the better you’ll understand what the term personalization in account based marketings means.

The best place to find these examples? Start with Terminus! By going through the Terminus account based marketing certification course or talking through an account based marketing PPT with a team member, you’ll get access to many different examples that can help as a starting point. Aside from Terminus, account based marketing HubSpot resources are also highly recommended. In addition to Demandbase and Engagio, which are mentioned above.

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