Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is an unbreakable part of my day-to-day, and I spend a lot of time thinking about it.
To me, as long as your business is selling to large enterprises, ABM is an essential and integral part of your marketing strategy (and broader revenue strategy).
As digital marketing is a critical part of ABM, this blog post breaks down my thoughts on this topic by explaining 1) What is ABM? and Why ABM? and 2) What part does digital marketing play in ABM?
If you want the slides in the post, please add me on Linkedin and you’ll have all of them.
What is ABM? And Why?
According to Linkedin, ABM is “a strategy that directs marketing resources to engaging a specific set of target accounts. It forces teams to align because personalization at the account level requires sales and marketing to be in sync on account-specific messaging.”
The key points are underlined above:
- Leveraging marketing resources to focus on a set of target accounts
- Aligning sales and marketing on account-specific messaging
The core problem with that set of target account is that it is difficult to sell to those Fortune 2000, or very large companies.
Not only there are more processes within the buying cycle, the pain points of those large corporations are also very different to other companies.
Therefore, your solution, or way of marketing and selling, need to be customized.
Obviously, there are big rewards (i.e, revenue and shareholder value) in successfully selling to those companies.
Account-Based Marketing Strategy
Account-Based Marketing Strategy is a collection of tactics that the marketing teams are required to work cross-functionally and do whatever it takes to win that set of target accounts.
Besides digital, other tactics include:
- SDR/AE outreach
- Executive briefing/ connection
- Field/event marketing
- Direct mail, or as niche as,
- Paying someone aka “consultant” for executive/business introduction
To form a strategy, you need to understand how much business the target accounts are contributing in your business.
And for marketing, the metric is likely to be pipeline in relation to you marketing investment.
It may look like something like this.
This narrative from this State of the Business should be strong enough to rally resources internally to form a go-to-market motion for that set of target accounts.
The ABM Strategy, in very simplified terms, is centered around three pieces:
- Alignment between Sales and Marketing – how Sales and Marketing trust and collaborate with each other to win accounts, involving team structure, incentives and processes.
- Account Plan – what is the plan to sell your solution to that specific account. It relates to how to translate #1 above into execution.
- Channel Mix – what are the marketing channel mix being deployed at that set of target accounts. It focus on how various channels are orchestrated.
Digital Marketing Strategy in ABM
ABM exists beyond digital channels. However let’s explore ABM in the context of digital only.
With that, there are really two questions we are trying to get answers:
- How to reach, lead the target accounts to the website and convert?
- What are the effort (or resources) we will have against 1:1, 1:few and 1:many programs?
The different categorization of programs is aimed to provide a different level of effort:
- 1:1 – dedicated white-glove effort for that account
- 1:few – dedicated effort for a sub-set of accounts that share a common characteristic (e.g, industry, or pain point)
- 1:many – a catch-all bucket type of effort for the entire set of target account
To put them all together, we form a structure to lay down the tier, GTM motion and resources required to realize the digital programs.
How to reach, lead the target accounts to the website and convert?
The key to reaching and leading them to the website lies on the ABM platforms in the market and it is largely an advertising effort.
The technology is similar to B2B personalization by using reverse IP lookup, and/or cookie targeting.
There are plenty of ABM softwares, here are some of them that provide some kind of advertising capabilities.
How it works is that the software collects company IP addresses, or individual cookies, store and re-use them for advertising.
Imagine the ABM software has a pool of large audience that they know who you are based on form fills, emails and interests from browsing history.
Then they anonymize the identities to create a particular audience (based on company and persona, and perhaps intent) for their customers to target.
With these targeting conditions, you can create specific campaigns that resonate with the audience to promote your business.
Often times, it is via a mix of display channels, either by proactive targeting or retargeting.
Display advertising is pretty much the only way to target by a set list of accounts digitally. That is why it’s important to orchestrate with other channels to amplify the impact.
For conversion, marketers often think that a conversion on the website is a form fill (an asset download or free trial signup).
I think a conversion should be an action that a potential customer gives out their contact information. Often times in exchange of more information about your business.
But customers can also call, or chat with your business directly. These actions should also be counted as a conversion.
Then the question becomes what can you do for this set of targeted account?
The overall objective for conversion should be reducing the friction.
On a form, you can reduce the number of fields.
On chat, you can trigger a particular playbook to connect with the SDR directly.
Obviously, if we define a conversion to an action further top-of-funnel (e.g, page viewed, or video watched), that is totally okay too.
What are the effort (or resources) we will have against 1:1, 1:few and 1:many programs?
To begin with, the revenue potential of different tier should be a shared understanding.
1:1 should be higher than 1:few and 1:many. That may justify a higher level of effort and investment.
From a tactical perspective, the differences of 1:1, 1:few and 1:many programs are on the creative and offer that you would use for each tier, based on the different messaging / pain-point.
- You would offer $100 gift card to set a meeting for 1:1, but only $50 for 1:few and $20 for 1:many in an advertising campaign. Or,
- You would create dedicated landing page for 1:1, but only industry-specific messaging for 1:few and 1:many.
Since the channel mix is largely display advertising, getting impression and a better click-through-rate (CTR) would be two common objectives.
With all the above considered, you can make a decision on what platform/ inventory, you would like to spend your budget on.
Since the digital marketing channel for ABM is largely on display programs, the return in ROI should be looking at reach and engagement.
The ROI to a conversion in display channels is far away and will not yield meaningful result.
Having said that, the ROI of reach and engagement in digital ABM should be similar or less than general retargeting, but greater than general display programs.
This is due to the difference in level of awareness/ intent.
The audience in general retargeting already know about your business, but the audience in general display programs does not.
Another reason that the ROI to a true conversion is less relevant is that – your account team should have known the list of buyers or stakeholders in that account you want to sell to via SDR research or outreach.
It may not be wise to rely on digital channels to generate net-new names in ABM.
In short, digital marketing is a part, but an important part, of the overall account-based marketing.
It is particularly useful in keeping those account staying top-of-mind and warm throughout the lifecycle.
In other words, it is less meaningful to try getting net-new names.
I’ll translate the above concept in a case study of monday.com in another blog post.