The Article in 60 Seconds
Account-based marketing (ABM) is not a fad. ABM can be a great marketing tactic, but only when you integrate it into a comprehensive marketing strategy.
ABM is most powerful when you:
Personalize your communication: The more you know about your targets, their pain, and how your solution specifically addresses their concerns, the more productive your ABM will be.
Don’t use ABM weakly: This is no time for half measures or half-hearted attempts
Capitalize on every engagement: When you take a direct address approach to represent your solution, you must make every connection count.
Think About This
87% of B2B marketers have agreed ABM delivers a higher ROI than other marketing activities. [ITSMA]
Individual stakeholders who perceived supplier content to be tailored to their specific needs were 40% more willing to buy from that supplier than stakeholders who didn’t. [CEB]
Companies that implement ABM have reported an 84% improvement in reputation and 74% improvement in customer relationships. [ITSMA]
Account-based marketing targets accounts already in your sales pipeline with a focus on a long-term relationship and retention. ABM requires a personalized approach and is best executed in tandem with your organization’s overall strategy.
- Who is your laser-focused target? You don’t just need a rough idea of your ideal customer. You need to know the exact type of targets you need and the companies they work for.
- What is your target’s role? By role, I don’t just mean title. How much influence do your targets exert in their organizations? How much are they listened to?
- What social and other channels does your target most frequent? LinkedIn is a given, but when done well, ABM can employ Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and eventually direct texts.
Remember, the more you know above, the more you’ll be able to personalize the content you send. Personalize every communication. The more personal the communication, the deeper impact you’ll make.
I can’t tell you how many bad ABM approaches I’ve received. Here’s a typical one. The names and companies have been changed to protect the guilty. It’s as if they want to exchange vows at the altar and rush away to the honeymoon and we haven’t even shaken hands yet. The worst come straight at me with a pitch and a demand for a commitment.
I host the “Up in Your Business” podcast. My guests are some of the sharpest minds in business and digital marketing. Here’s a recent example of someone using ABM to try and become a guest.
My book has just been published and is screaming up the Amazon rankings. I’m already number one in Organic Gardening and Horticulture and I believe by the end of the week I’ll be number one in Sustainable Gardening.
I love your show and I think your audience cares about this topic and how gardening makes you a better citizen of the earth, spouse, and parent.
When can we schedule a time to record my interview?
Let’s break it down:
- He started with something about himself, not about me.
- He said he loves the show, but he has definitely not listened because he doesn’t know my audience. That means he’s lying through his teeth. Like I’m going to trust him after that statement.
- He asked for the commitment but didn’t help me see how an interview with him could be mutually beneficial.
A different approach:
Imagine Julia is an image consultant looking to help style me for my speaking engagements. My observations are in [brackets].
I watched the “Statement of Worth” video you posted on LinkedIn. Wow. I found myself joining the crowd and saying, “I am worth it!” to my laptop screen. [Proof that Julia actually saw the video.] I loved your talk. [Compliment.]
And I must say, what an amazing outfit.[Appeal to ego.] I was so impressed with everything you put together — the sport coat, your jeans, and shoes. And that pocket square! [Compliment; specifics.] I decided to check out your YouTube channel and watched several of your videos. [Demonstrating that I am making a deeper influence.] You care about your appearance. In my 12 years as a stylist, I’ve come to believe like I’m betting you do: that dressing sharply (but not over the top) helps you feel more confident as a speaker and helps your audience trust you sooner. [Subtle positioning statement.]
When I come across someone who understands the connection between dressing well and communicating a message, I want to learn more. I would love to learn from you and add your thoughts to my knowledge and experience gained over my career. [Humility.] Angus, could we please spend 15 minutes together on the phone to do that? [Low commitment ask.]
I eagerly await your response,
P.S. While I was at a Michael Kors show last week, I couldn’t resist. I picked up a pocket square for your collection. It’s on its way to you now whether we get to chat soon or not. [Something for my benefit.]
Be sure to notice the highly personalized message targeting. Julia used not just my name, but knew other specifics about me.
These two examples are decidedly not B2B or tech. I’ve done so on purpose to demonstrate the different elements you need in an ABM approach.
You must demonstrate your ability to identify, and meet the need of your target. If you can’t do those two things, don’t dive into ABM.
Now that you’ve made an initial connection, what’s next?
What do you want your target to do with your communication?
Perhaps with your first email or phone call, there is no call-to-action. There is no need for your target to do anything. If you’re identifying your target’s needs and pain, you are demonstrating empathy. You’re gaining trust already.
With subsequent outreaches, decide in advance how you want your target to interact with you.
If you choose to use a landing page or another response mechanism on your website, personalize that as much as possible. From time to time, we have created specific landing pages like this one. At other points, we have cloned the landing page of our downloads to include target-specific content and information.
We were the beneficiaries of some great ABM after our 2019 visit to HubSpot's INBOUND. Our team member, Irma Davila, visited a trade show experience created by Sendoso. The team invited her to play a game. She did (and did well from what we hear). Sendoso got her contact information; she got coffee and a prize and left happy. Then, a couple days after returning to the office, a sharable box of Georgetown Cupcakes arrived reminding us of their service and showing us first-hand how powerful corporate gifts can be in trade show follow up. Do you think we will remember them? Do you think they will be top of mind the next time we consider sending gifts?
The Paradox of ABM
The less focused you are on the sale, the more trust you can build.
Your job is to close deals and grow revenue, but the more you try to do those two things on the nose, the more targets you will repel.
A sale is a natural byproduct of the relationship you’ve built. You have to be in love with your customer, not your product. If they feel valued, then your work is worth doing.
When you put worth into the work, the work is worth doing.
Moving A Target Closer to a Sale
ABM is slow by design. You are building a relationship for years to come, not a one-off sales for this week’s scorecard.
Watch for opportunities to assert your expertise.
- You find out your target’s company is headed to a trade show for the first time, but your company has exhibited many years in a row. Set up a time to talk about how to maximize their time at the trade show. You’ll demonstrate your knowledge and help them at the same time.
- Your target posts something on social media. Your company published a white paper that addresses the concern. It’s the right moment to send it to him. You are meeting an acute need at the right time with your company’s expertise.
- You have an upcoming webinar on a topic. You know your target can address that topic well. Invite your target to address your webinar audience as a co-presenter. While your target is on the line, he or she will hear your expertise while at the same time feeling honored to be a part.
- If your target hasn’t taken a demo of your solution yet, set up an appointment to personally walk him or her through your product.
When is it Right to Ask for the Sale Using ABM?
The right time to have a sales conversation will be different for each target. There is no formula because there can’t be one when building a long-term relationship. If you’re building rapport and gaining trust, your target will let you in on the challenges. Here are a few diagnostic questions to ask along the way to help you determine the right time for a sales conversation.
- Does your company operate on a calendar or fiscal year basis? (This information demonstrates a pressure point. Either your target has to solve a problem by the end of the fiscal year OR there will be new funds allocated at the beginning of the next.)
- What are the top goals you are pursuing for this quarter? (Your product might solve one of those top goals. This question also gives you a deadline and may reveal financial assets poised to meet the goal.)
- When your company makes decisions on new software solutions, what is their process? (This helps identify how many roles are in the decision making process.)
There’s another factor in ABM: the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Let’s not pretend that your target doesn’t know why you’re building a relationship. Everyone knows you’re trying to get a deal. At some point, it might be worth it to just say, “We both know that I connected because I believe our product is a great solution for your need. We’re both in business. We both need to generate revenue. Has our solution intrigued you? Could we talk openly about how your company operates and how interested you are in making an investment?”
In a perfect world, Account-Based Marketing techniques draw your targets to you and prompt them to ask you to sell to them. Just keep your affection for them and your desire to solve their problems at the forefront and the opportunities for sales should present themselves. ABM doesn't take the place of your other marketing efforts to all customers and your one-to-many efforts. All three techniques can work in concert with one another when integrated into a strategy.
The First Thing to Do After Reading this Article
If you’re new to ABM: Pick five potential targets and put a specific ABM plan together to approach them. Do so, then evaluate your results. How well did ABM perform against other nurture methods?
If you’re already using ABM: Evaluate your last three approaches. How much did you offer for the target’s benefit versus talking about yourself? What can you change in your ABM approach?