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A quick guide to account-based marketing (ABM)

It’s time to revolutionize your marketing game.

ABM: What it is, and why it’s being embraced across industries

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a marketing and sales process where both teams collaborate to define and target high-value accounts with highly relevant, personalized, and streamlined sales cycles.

The last aspect — streamlined sales cycle — is the key benefit because it empowers marketing teams and decision-makers to direct resources efficiently to drive valuable pipeline. It also enables sales to prioritize specific accounts early and close them fast.

Let’s consider a typical sales cycle, which looks something like this:

The ABM approach accelerates and automates the attract and nurture phases so key decision-makers can take highly qualified leads straight to the decisioning phase — increasing the chance of conversion by up to 10x.

And the benefits of account-based marketing go beyond simply skipping the first steps of attracting qualified leads. You’ve already targeted the account — understanding their pain points, goals, and business models — so all the other phases are usually sped up as well.

It’s no wonder investment in ABM is accelerating.

A four-stage approach to implementing ABM

For a successful ABM approach, all stakeholders, marketing and sales teams must be aligned — from the initial creation of the ideal customer profile and the outreach across various touchpoints to the post-sales journey toward advocacy.

The ABM practice can be broken down into 4 stages:

1. Identify accounts
In this stage, marketing and salespeople work together to streamline the process of determining which key accounts they want to target. The key point for determining the accounts to target is they must be high value.

An account’s value can be determined by company size, industry, or even their connection to your current customers. It’s also important to consider their revenue potential, growth model, and performance.

2. Get to know them
It’s one thing to know which accounts to target, it’s another to actually know those accounts. This is where empathy is critical. You need to understand your target audience — their goals, pain points, strategies, etc.

Developing personas is a critical step in this stage. Personas are fictional customers you’ve created using research, customer data, or both to represent a familiar, targeted role within an organization. Different personas have different goals, pain points, marketing channel preferences, communication styles, behaviors, buyer journeys, etc.

Marketing departments should have a persona for each account, ideally multiple personas. When creating personas, ask yourself who is likely to be included in the buying decision — C-Suite, IT, legal, end-users? Then create a persona for each potential customer. These personas will help you determine the content you need and boost your marketing efforts.

3. Deliver targeted customer experiences
Traditional marketing is about casting a wide net. The hope is that some of the fish you catch will be good enough to pass to sales. With ABM, it’s all about precision.

You still want to understand how each customer from your account list moves through the sales funnel, identify friction points and remove them, and create a clear path to a sale.

And you still want to deliver marketing campaigns — but everything needs to be personalized for the account. This doesn’t mean using their name in a generic email. It does mean creating and delivering relevant content that speaks to their direct goals, needs, and pain points.

This is another point where the old saying holds true: content is king. This is part of why an inbound-marketing strategy fits well with ABM. The content from your in-bound strategy can often do double duty for your ABM strategy, although it will require tweaks, and some may require an overhaul.

Just remember that ABM campaigns are all about personalized experiences. Again, slapping someone’s name or company name on a generalized asset is not ABM. Repurposing a generalized asset so it speaks directly to an individual account’s pain points, goals, and more is.

You can often also repurpose your ABM content for in-bound marketing. Whatever you’re repurposing for, having a modular content strategy is another great way to deal with the content volume needed. It makes it easy to switch out aspects of content.

4. Analyze and iterate
Is the plan working?

From identifying accounts to iterating on your account-based marketing strategy, ABM requires data. As cookies are phased out, third-party data will become harder and harder to come by. This is why first-party data is already, and will be increasingly, important.

If you haven’t perfected your data strategy, you’re not alone. But implementing your ABM program can be a great impetus to get your data program in order as well. With Sales and Marketing aligned, they have a better chance of overcoming the hurdles to data excellence.

When it comes to measuring impact, you’ll want to look at more than conversions. Engagement in general can be important, as can the types of engagement. First-party data is important for B2C, B2B, and B2X, but it’s worth noting that, on average, about 80% of B2B purchase research happens outside of vendor’s sites. You can explore more critical metrics and KPI’s to measure here.

This is a place where personalization can help, too.

Aligning ABM with other tactics

Your personalization program can be aligned with your account-based marketing tactics. By discovering the right personalization tools and implementing them, you can automate the process of identifying the visitors that match your personas. You can even iterate on your personas and generate new ones automatically.

In this way, you can ensure that when targeted audiences are on your site, they’re being directed to the most relevant spots quickly. This can both speed the process of research and shape the messaging by delivering the key information needed at each moment.

As noted briefly above, ABM work is also often implemented with an inbound marketing approach. If you’re thinking this is likely because most organizations have realized the value of inbound marketing and are already implementing it, you’re not wrong. But there is another reason — ABM supports inbound and inbound supports ABM.

An inbound strategy consists of search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, and social media. By creating content targeting personas and search terms, you’re already on the way toward ABM content, and it likely only needs to be tweaked slightly to speak directly to target companies and accounts.

Likewise, as we noted briefly above, the content you create for targeted accounts can almost always be generalized a bit and delivered to a broader audience. ABM and inbound marketing form a synergistic symbiosis. ABM is a powerful digital marketing tool for B2B marketing — one that businesses shouldn’t ignore.

Whether you’re just getting started with your ABM strategy, looking to make it more sophisticated, or getting prepared to implement an ABM approach in the future, our suite of composable solutions offers the perfect complement to an ABM approach.

Learn more about the power of a composable approach from Gartner® and explore our composable suite of solutions.

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