There was a time when Account Based Marketing could be easily defined. At the onset of the new millennium, ITSMA proposed ABM as “a strategic approach to create sustainable growth and profitability” by means of targeting a handful of the company’s most valuable clients.
In this blog we have tried to identify the fundamental principles of an Account Based Marketing Program and how can they be implemented based on each organization’s needs.
Fundamental Principles of ABM
Targeted Marketing Campaigns: The cornerstone of an ABM program is about personalizing your messaging based on the target persona’s requirements and pain points. Its a shift from ‘feature’ selling to ‘solution’ selling thereby prompting engagement.
Symbiosis of Sales and Marketing: The true potential of ABM can be unlocked only when the sales and marketing departments work in symphony. Sales folks are continuously on the front line and are able to easily identify the reasons why clients buy their products and their inputs can drastically improve conversion rates of a marketing program.
Client-centric solutions: ABM is more of a solution driven method than a promotion driven one. The focus of ABM is towards solving the problem of the customer instead of selling a proposition. This requires client centric thinking based on a deep understanding of the organization and their values
Demand Generation vs. Account Based Marketing
Demand generation follows the reverse funnel (wide to narrow) process of targeting a large number of visitors, who get converted into leads. Further down the line, some of these leads get converted into opportunities. With proper marketing, these leads can then be converted into sales.
Account Based Marketing follows an inverse funnel approach. We begin by identifying a small number of target accounts, following which we map the buying center within each of these target accounts. Decision makers and influencers are nurtured with personalized messaging aimed at educating them about your value proposition. We then try to accelerate pipelines by engaging with each target prospect across a variety of hard touch and soft touch channels, and finally we try to expand accounts by identifying cross selling and up selling opportunities.
Three Types of ABM explained
Account Based Marketing programs can vary greatly based on the types of accounts that you wish to pursue and that channels that you will utilize. We have further categorized ABM into three different categories based on an organization’s need to scale.
The three types of ABM are:
1. Strategic ABM
2. Industry ABM
3. ABM Lite
As Strategic Account Based Marketing is a highly resource intensive process, it is generally recommended for larger organizations. Mid-level organizations and small businesses can however adopt and engage in Industry ABM or ABM Lite which is more broad based in nature. These are more likely to have better results with a combination of nets and spears, which is essentially a hybrid of targeted ABM (fishing with spears) as well as other marketing methods aimed at demand generation (fishing with nets)
1. Strategic Account Based Marketing
Strategic ABM, which was the original approach designed when ABM was first introduced, focuses on building campaigns with a target audience of “one”. Each campaign should address specific problems and pain points of that target account. Messaging is personalized after learning about the target people across social channels and an effort is made at building a relationship. This approach is predominantly used in ‘strategic’ or high value accounts.
The use of technology alone is insufficient for a successful strategic ABM plan, as creative and unique value propositions need to be thought of, relationship development initiatives need to be planned, in sync however with the tech-driven data insights and analytics.
2. Industry ABM (Cluster Marketing)
Instead of relying on key accounts, with Industry ABM a larger subset comprising of the next level of strategic accounts are targeted. All these account clusters tend to have common challenges and business attributes, and exhibit similar needs.
Messaging is personalized on an industry, solution or persona level. Campaigns generally include 20-50 mid sized accounts with 3 to 5 people targeted in each account.
In this program, technology plays a greater role than in strategic ABM, as many parameters such as insights, execution of the campaign, outcome measurement etc. can be automated. However, it is important to note that with a lower resource intensity in the input, the results (or the output) are likely to be lower too.
3. ABM Lite
The newest method in the ABM arsenal, Programmatic ABM relies on the principle of one to many accounts. The focus is on majorly using technology to create tailor-made marketing propositions for a large number of accounts
With the advancement in technology that enables the use of pin-point targeting and data-driven analytics, it is now possible to create and personalize campaigns for hundreds of named accounts. As there is a single individual handling all these accounts, the resource dependence is greatly reduced. This is an ideal approach for organizations where Strategic ABM and Industry ABM are ruled out due to cost and time constraints
However, there is a need to align this broad based ABM with the sales coverage model that the company adopts. It can be used to target precise markets from a specified segment, or included samples from named accounts across the entire market.
Choosing the right type of ABM
Armed with the knowledge of what works best for the problem the marketer wishes to solve, the appropriate ABM method needs to be implemented. Only when the marketer, in close collaboration with the sales team, defines the target persona and understands their pain points can they choose an ABM program that is ideal for the desired outcome.
Another emerging trend is the blending of two or all three of these types of ABM for a more varied outcome. In a survey of organizations using ABM, conducted by ABM Leadership Alliance and the ITSMA in July 2018, it was found that out of all the respondents, a staggering 46% had opted for a blended ABM strategy, which was 11% higher than that of the previous year. 58% of the respondents also shared their plans to scale their ABM efforts in 2019 by means of adopting a blended or hybrid strategy. The details of the 2019 survey are still awaited, but is sure to show an increased adoption of hybrid ABM.
At the 2018 ABM Forum conducted by the ITSMA, it was revealed that “one-to-few stylings of ABM Lite have become the most popular implementation of ABM.” This trend can be attributed to the fact that not every small organization has the resources to adopt Strategic ABM, and hence prefer stepping into Account Based Marketing through ABM Lite.
Reach out to us to understand which ABM Program works best for your organization.