Much like Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick, all B2B marketing professionals have that one client they desperately want, that “big whale” they simply need to land. Ahab’s obsession drove him to take a very focused approach to achieve his goal. In the end, he did harpoon his whale (although Moby Dick ensnared Ahab, as well). B2B marketers can learn from this narrow focus and adopt an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy to secure the marquee clients they’ve been pursuing.
What is Account-Based Marketing?
ABM is a strategy of identifying highly desirable prospective clients because of their potential profitability and/or reputation, and executing marketing initiatives that are specifically aimed at landing these prospects. Each of these large accounts is managed as if it were its own market.
In the past, ABM was typically only employed by large enterprises that had the people and funding resources to take this approach. However, marketing technology tools – such as CRM systems, email distribution platforms and marketing automation software – have leveled the playing field for small- to mid-sized companies.
According to SiriusDecisions, a global B2B research and advisory firm, 52% of companies say they currently have ABM programs in place. This number is expected to grow because 41% of B2B marketers worldwide plan to increase spending on ABM.
ABM strategies are generally supported by inbound marketing tactics rather than outbound ones.
Outbound tactics, such as advertising, sponsorships and cold calling, are interruption-based communications that push products or services on customers. They are difficult to measure.
Inbound tactics, on the other hand, earn clients’ interest with content that is educational and entertaining and provides real value. Inbound content may be packaged as white papers, ebooks, webinars, podcasts, blog posts and infographics. The content is search engine optimized (SEO) for specific terms used by target audiences. Distribution channels include the company’s website or blog, social media networks and email lists, all of which provide means to measure results.
ABM Gives Marketing Strategy Focus
ABM gives B2B marketers the opportunity to use their resources more efficiently. By deciding which “big whale” accounts are the most qualified, they can focus their marketing efforts and spending toward those that are the easiest to spear and provide the biggest return on investment (ROI).
Plus, the ROI with ABM is easier to measure because a list of specifically targeted accounts is much smaller than an entire market with hundreds of prospects. According to Information Technology Services Marketing Association’s (ITSMA) 2014 ABM survey, 80% of marketers measuring ROI say that ABM outperforms other marketing investments and half of them say the difference is significant. This makes ABM one of the highest ROI deliverers of any B2B marketing strategy or tactic.
Every Step is Key When Executing an Account-Based Marketing Strategy
In order to implement an ABM strategy, you’ll first need to identify your targets. Ask your sales department for a list of current and prospective customers. Look for commonalities between the two. Then, narrow your list to those with the greatest potential. Start with a small list and gradually build your ABM program as you become more comfortable with the process. Consider a medical device manufacturer that makes a product used during open heart surgery. This company would start with a list of all the hospitals across the country that do such surgeries. It then might trim that list down to the three that conduct the most open heart surgeries annually.
Second, develop and distribute tailored content for each targeted client organization. This content should appeal to multiple people in different departments at the target company – all of whom have some influence on the buying decision. For example, if your company sells commercial roofing materials, your content should not only resonate with the facility manager, but it should also appeal to the building owner, as well as individuals in purchasing and accounting who are responsible for managing the business’ finances. Each has different informational needs. The facility manager wants the job to be done professionally, with little of his oversight. The building owner wants the new roof to last, so he doesn’t have to make another large capital expenditure for another 10-15 years. A purchaser desires good value at the lowest cost, while the accountant may be concerned with payment terms.
Finally, measure your campaign results. Use the analytics tied to your website, email, automation system and social media channels to determine what content is resonating with your targets. Information gleaned from analytics will enable you to further refine and better target both your content and its distribution. Use what you learn to adjust your ABM strategy, replicate successes at scale and ultimately catch that whale.