ABM Marketing

Have you ever heard of the sales funnel? It is an upside-down pyramid that describes how companies convert prospective customers into sales. It starts with a wide top where marketers try to capture as many leads as possible, then gets smaller towards the bottom where the deal is closed. The sales funnel was popular once and still plays a key role in marketing. But in today's world, most businesses are switching to account-based marketing (ABM). Read on to discover what ABM marketing is and what advantages it has over the traditional sales funnel.

ABM Marketing ABM Marketing

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Table of contents

    ABM Marketing Meaning

    Marketing strategies are grouped into two major categories: inbound and outbound. Outbound marketing refers to strategies that push information to the customers — for example, billboards, radio ads, direct mail, and TV commercials. In contrast, inbound marketing pulls people towards the sales funnels through "slow-burn" strategies like blogs and email marketing. Inbound marketing lays the foundation for Account-based marketing (ABM).

    Account-based marketing (ABM) is a B2B marketing strategy that directs high-value and best-fit accounts to the sales funnel.

    The traditional sales funnel is a wide-top model. It starts by attracting a large number of leads, then nurturing and closing sales with few qualified leads that pass through. Account-based marketing reverses this model, making the marketing funnel narrower and more focused. It begins with lead qualification, then engaging them with personalized content before landing a deal (See Fig. 1 below).

    Account-based marketing replaces the wide-top funnel with a narrower and more focused marketing funnel.

    ABM weans out poor-fit leads and targets highly-qualified accounts with personalized ads and content. As a result, customers can have a more enjoyable experience while the sales reps have an easier time at work (since they don't have to deal with people who are not interested in buying).

    Upselling and cross-selling are two common strategies in account-based marketing:

    • Upselling means persuading customers to purchase additional and more expensive items.

    • Cross-selling is the selling of related or complementary products to existing customers.

    The idea is to get the most value from existing customers and drive long-term revenue for the company.

    ABM Marketing Tactics

    ABM marketing tactics rely mostly on aligning sales and marketing. Instead of seeing marketing and sales as separate processes, ABM ensures they are on par with one another and provides mutual support for closing deals with business accounts.

    On the one hand, marketing can support sales in:

    • Generating and qualifying leads,
    • Gathering data that is useful for closing deals.

    A common challenge in business is that while marketing can drive a lot of leads, most of these are poor fit or unqualified, making the job of sales rep harder.

    Thankfully, this problem can be resolved by account-based marketing. ABM begins with the account selection. This step means leads are qualified before entering the sales funnel. As a result, sales reps only have to deal with best-fit and ready-to-buy clients.

    In addition, using digital technology, ABM marketers can observe which content generates the best response among target customers and refer it to sales reps to persuade and land clients more effectively.

    Sales inputs can also support ABM as sales reps know their dream accounts and can provide valuable information to help marketing teams develop effective personas and strategies. Furthermore, sales can offer essential metrics to measure and optimize marketing performance.

    ABM marketing examples

    Here are some examples of ABM marketing tactics based on sales-marketing alignment:

    • Webinars - Webinars are seminars that take place online. They are an excellent method to provide a specific target account with customized and relevant information.

    • Direct email - While communication over the Internet has many merits, it is not the best way to kickstart a genuine relationship with prospective business customers. One popular ABM marketing technique is to send personalized gifts or relevant messages via direct mail to the target account to capture their attention.

    • Email marketing - Email automation is a great option for one-to-many ABM. Marketers can use a template and create tailored email messages for firms they want to reach.

    • Paid advertising - Social media (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn) and website ads are popular methods for reaching target accounts. Today technology like IP targeting allows companies to display relevant ads based on people's location.

    ABM Marketing Plan

    So, aligning sales and marketing is great, but how does it take place in practice? Here are the five steps of the ABM marketing plan to align sales and marketing in ABM:

    1. Identify the target accounts - Businesses can complete this step with inputs from both the sales and marketing teams. Input from sales can come from experience with past clients, whereas marketing's input is derived from marketing research. Businesses can qualify prospects based on a lead scoring scale. A lead scoring scale is a method of calculating an expected value from a potential lead. Prioritized accounts are those with higher scores. The scoring criteria are not universal but unique to each company.

    2. Develop account personas - Again, marketing and sales can join forces to develop robust account personas. While marketing insights include company names, titles, and positions, sales insights may include pain points and challenges from conversations with customers.

    3. Create marketing messages - This step is mainly done by marketing. Based on customer persona and the type of account, marketers design suitable messages to appeal to capture their attention. Marketers can use content from the sales team to create more relevant and consistent messages. Once the business has launched a marketing campaign, marketers can use data analytics tools to see what content resonates most with customers and inform sales reps, so they know what to focus on when closing a deal.

    4. Integrate ABM into multichannel marketing - Marketing and sales will execute this step in entirely different ways. For example, marketing publishes content on websites, social media, apps, etc., whereas sales will use calls, meetings, and personal emails to contact clients. However, they can frequently communicate to ensure everyone is on par with the sales process and buyer journey.

    5. Measure and optimize - Metrics from sales can help develop marketing KPIs in the future. It is also a good measurement of marketing efforts.

    Types of ABM Marketing

    Companies worldwide widely adopt ABM marketing to optimize their marketing strategy and sales process. ABM marketing is grouped into three categories: Strategic ABM, ABM Lite, and Programmatic ABM.

    Strategic ABM Marketing: one-to-one account

    Strategic ABM targets high-value, strategic accounts. It is a one-to-one marketing model.

    Strategic ABM aims to build a strong relationship with customers through highly-targeted marketing interactions and a deep understanding of their problems. A strategic ABM program is often crafted by senior marketers with few sales team members.

    ABM Marketing Lite: one-to-few account

    ABM Lite creates lightly customized marketing campaigns targeting a set of similar accounts. It is a one-to-few model.

    The collaboration with the sales team is mainly conducted to agree on the type of account to target, the common business issue, the product's value proposition, and how to adapt the existing content to the new campaign.

    Programmatic ABM Marketing: one-to-many account

    Programmatic ABM uses technology to tailor marketing campaigns for specific campaigns at scale.

    It moves from the traditional model that can only track individual leads to a robust model that can track multiple leads simultaneously. Modern technology can target, analyze, and personalize the buying experience for hundreds, if not thousands of accounts. Programmatic ABM reduces the workload of marketers while allowing companies to conduct ABM marketing at scale.

    ABM Marketing Tools

    ABM is all about aligning sales and marketing efforts to identify qualified leads and improve the rate of sales success. However, lead qualification can be long and enduring. The good news is that many ABM marketing tools allow marketers to automate the lead qualification process to focus on engaging and nurturing potential customers.

    Three main tasks of ABM marketing tools are:

    • Acquire new accounts,

    • Nurture existing accounts,

    • Expand and grow accounts.

    In addition, they can help to:

    • Create a personalized buying journey,

    • Increase the customer lifetime value,

    • Create opportunities for in-pipeline accounts.

    Many ABM software can also be integrated into a customer relationship management (CRM) system or marketing automation platforms to better target and engage leads.

    Here are some examples of ABM marketing tools:

    • Account-based advertising platforms - segment and display ads to customers based on known IP addresses obtained when someone visits a website.
    • Digital personalization platforms - craft personalized buying journals based on each account persona
    • Account intelligence platforms - use account engagement scores to give a clear view of each account's engagement.
    • Account management platforms - weed out unqualified leads, document buying journals of each account, and provide account engagement analytics (clicks, conversations).1

    ABM Marketing - Key takeaways

    • Account-based marketing (ABM) is a B2B marketing strategy that directs high-value and best-fit accounts to the sales funnel.
    • ABM marketing tactics rely mostly on aligning sales and marketing.
    • The five steps to planning an ABM campaign are: Identify the target account, Develop account personas, Create marketing messages, Integrate ABM in multichannel marketing, and Measure.
    • ABM marketing is grouped into three categories: Strategic ABM (one-to-one), ABM Lite (one-to-few), and Programmatic ABM (one-to-many).
    • ABM marketing tools can help to acquire, nurture, and expand leads.

    References

    1. G2, Best Account-based Marketing Software, https://www.g2.com/categories/account-based-marketing.
    Frequently Asked Questions about ABM Marketing

    What does ABM marketing mean?

    Account-based marketing (ABM) is a B2B marketing strategy that directs high-value and best-fit accounts to the sales funnel.

    What are the three types of ABM?

    ABM marketing is grouped into three categories: Strategic ABM (one-to-one), ABM Lite (one-to-few), and Programmatic ABM (one-to-many).

    What are some ABM tactics?

    Some ABM tactics to define and connect with target accounts include webinars, direct email, email marketing, paid to advertise, etc. 

    What is an ABM example?

    An ABM example is a company holding a webinar with personalized, relevant content to attract specific accounts. 

    What is the goal of ABM?

    The goal of ABM is to eliminate poor-fit leads and target high-quality accounts for maximized sales. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Account-based marketing (ABM) is a B2B marketing strategy that directs ________ and best-fit accounts to the sales funnel. 

    Account-based marketing (ABM) sales funnel is a ____________ model.

    Attracting, nurturing, and closing deals with leads are processes of ABM. 

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