Do sales come in waves, with too long of a lull between them?
This may be the result of a disconnect between the long-term business objectives set by leadership and the strategy that the sales and marketing teams are executing. If you find yourself in this situation, it may be time to consider an account-based marketing strategy to align your organization with your objectives.
Table of Contents
- What Is Account-Based Marketing?
- Is Account-Based Marketing Right For You?
- Benefits Of Account-Based Marketing
- Inbound Marketing And Account-Based Marketing
- How To Get Started With ABM
- Account-Based Marketing Software Options
- Account-Based Marketing Best Practices
- Account-Based Marketing: Not So Scary Now!
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What Is Account-Based Marketing?
Ever receive a cold call or a cold email that just felt flat, generic, and boring? That was definitely not the result of an account-based marketing strategy. Casting a wide net only works when the fish are plentiful. When the fish are scarce or too many fishermen are casting too many nets, you need to switch to a baited hook.
Account-based marketing identifies high-value key accounts and then markets to them directly with personalized, individual messaging, creating an inviting channel for communication and lead nurturing instead of the more generic, wide-net approach.
Account-based marketing inserts real-time market data into automated processes to target accounts at every stage of the buyer’s journey with a personalized, tailored message. This approach will lead to increased revenue, decreased time in the sales cycle, and a better buying experience for your customers.
Is Account-Based Marketing Right for You?
Account-based marketing can be a powerful sales technique, but such a personalized marketing strategy can be labor-intensive and time-consuming — so it may not be the right choice for every business or prospect.
Consider the following before jumping straight into it:
- Is your sales team large enough or efficient enough to handle the increased focus on individual accounts?
- What would it take to reorganize your sales and marketing structure?
- Does this approach make sense for your business model or sales cycle?
Benefits of Account-Based Marketing
Account-based marketing is typically most effective for B2B businesses and companies with larger sales teams — but if you don’t have a large team, don’t let that discourage you. If your sales and marketing teams have the capacity, account-based marketing can promote efficiency and avoid wasted resources so you can speak directly to your ideal customer.
Hyper-Communication and Alignment Between Sales and Marketing
Sales and marketing are two highly specialized departments that (all too often) don’t have enough overlap. Marketing can be focused on asset creation and broad messaging while sales may see themselves as the warriors in the trenches, engaging directly with leads and actively nurturing prospects.
Account-based marketing requires close collaboration between these two groups and creates an environment where each is tightly integrated into the other. Messaging must be consistent across all channels and everyone should be equipped with the knowledge and materials they need to effectively communicate with prospects.
Understand the Best Product Offering for Target Accounts
Each account is going to be different. Not all of them will want the same thing from your business, or even from the same product. So why would we market to them like that?
One of the most important steps in account-based marketing after identifying target accounts is understanding what their specific needs are and what you can offer them that will solve their problems or help them achieve their goals.
Once you connect directly with prospects, you can leverage that communication to refine your understanding and correct any assumptions you made in your research, and apply those lessons to similar targets.
A critical tool in this research is a well-crafted target sheet. We’ve saved you the effort and put together a comprehensive template that you can use to identify your ideal targets, perform the necessary target research, and determine the best channels to connect with them on.
Simplify Your Sales Cycle
The wide-net strategy is often highly reactive to whichever fish it happens to catch. You never know for sure which fish are going to bite. But with account-based marketing, you have a clear understanding of where each prospect is in the pipeline and what messaging is required.
You can create standardized processes for prospects in every stage of their consideration, which helps eliminate the guesswork that most sales teams inevitably experience when working with individual prospects.
Inbound Marketing and Account-Based Marketing
Although they represent very different approaches to marketing, adopting an account-based approach doesn’t mean you need to throw out your inbound marketing efforts. In fact, they complement each other quite well!
Inbound marketing is the process of creating valuable content to attract potential buyers. Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing is about developing resources that your ideal buyers can find organically. This can be in the form of blog posts, content offers, website pages, or other media.
You can build and use content that supports both your account-based marketing and inbound marketing strategies. For example, you might create a personalized case study for a specific prospect that can later be shared on your blog or website. If you’re going to spend time and effort creating personalized content, you might as well repurpose it for later use.
If account-based marketing is the house, then inbound marketing is the foundation. By implementing both strategies, you draw a larger group of prospects than you would with only one, and you seize any opportunities that weren’t captured by the other.
How To Get Started With ABM
Account-based marketing can represent a big change for organizations not already using it, and the transition can be difficult if you don’t have a guide. At Uhuru, we’ve utilized account-based marketing for years; we’ve identified every hurdle that can come up when moving over from a traditional marketing structure. That’s why we’ve put together key steps to take in order to successfully implement and execute an account-based marketing approach in your business.
Step 1: Identify Your Team
“When you’re trying to create change, you also need to change the mindset of the organizations you work with because they’re used to doing it their own way.”
— Gemma Davies, ServiceNow
The first step in implementing account-based marketing is to identify your team. You will need to determine the key stakeholders in your company; they’ll be involved in both the implementation and execution of your ABM strategy. In most cases, they’ll be your sales and marketing teams — but you may also include your service teams since they have close, daily interactions with your customers.
It is crucial that everyone involved with ABM is on board with the strategy and committed to its success. Work closely with these individuals early on to identify potential pain points in the process and build systems to address them before you start.
Step 2: Define Your Ideal Client Profile To Go After
Since account-based marketing is all about focusing on the highest-value prospects, you will need to identify who they are and what they look like. For some organizations, these ideal clients may all be quite similar to each other, but you’ll more likely find that each is quite different, and each will require its own unique approach to messaging and acquisition.
Look back at past clients and consider which ones were most impactful to the business. Find any overlap with new prospects. Perform extensive research on your new targets to confirm if they would be a good fit for the business and if the effort to acquire them would be worth the payoff.
Step 3: Get Your Contact Data
Once you have identified targets, you will need to know how to reach them. This is where the target sheet template we made will be a crucial tool for your account-based marketing strategy. Take plenty of time for each target to determine key data points — things like their company, sales, and marketing information, as well as key stakeholders and their contact information.
This data will be critical in crafting personalized content and messaging for each account. Without it, you’ll be flying blind and your strategy will not be as effective.
Step 4: Determine the Outreach Strategies
Once you have identified your targets and their contact data, this is where the fun begins. It’s time to craft impactful and specialized outreach strategies for each target.
When determining the strategy for each target, consider the following questions:
What offers will be the most valuable and engaging to them?
As we discussed above, not all prospects will be interested in the same products or services, and not all offers will be effective. Look back at previous offers and see which ones converted best, what can be applied to new accounts and also taking into account their specific company goals.
What content should we create to attract and engage the key stakeholders?
Based on the goals each target has and the problems you want to solve for them, create engaging, original content to address those points. This can be anything, including blog posts, case studies, white papers, e-books, infographics, custom tools, and more. Keep in mind that anything you create for a specific account may also be used for your inbound marketing strategy.
Which channels will be used to share that content?
This will depend on the data in your target sheet. You may have some targets that respond well to direct email, while others prefer to engage over social media. If your research shows that a target is highly engaged on social media platforms, use that to reach them.
How will messaging differ depending on their stage of the buying process?
Cold accounts will need very different messaging than warmer ones. You wouldn’t use the same messaging for a target that is in the awareness stage as you would for one in the consideration stage. This is where close collaboration between your marketing and sales teams will be crucial to make sure the messaging and channels being used are consistent with where the prospect is in your sales funnel.
Account-Based Marketing Software Options
There are many marketing software tools on the market today, but which one is the best one? Is there even a best one? As a HubSpot partner, we use this software everyday for ourselves and for many of our clients so well versed in the benefits and functionality. However, HubSpot may not be right for your business or individual company goals — We’ll go over the pros and cons for the most popular account-based marketing software options available today so you can weigh them and decide which makes the most sense for your business:
- All-in-one platform for marketing, sales, and customer support
- CRM software
- Marketing automation software for email and social media
- Easy to use
- Great customer support
- High costs, although there are free options
- Difficult to use individual tools instead of the full package
- Hard to modify templates
- Lack of A/B testing for lower packages
- Cloud deployment
- Multiple products for various business needs
- Out-of-the-box functionality
- Highly customizable
- Multiple integrations
- Scalable pricing model
- Limited customer support
- High costs, especially with customizations
- Risk of excessive customization
- Data storage limitations
- Intuitive user interface
- Full integration with Salesforce
- Competitively priced
- Extensive reporting options
- Limited email and landing page building capabilities
- Cumbersome list management
- Limited automation capabilities
- Upcharge for B2B analytics
- Easy to create and launch new campaigns
- Easy learning curve
- Good customer support
- Salesforce integration
- Long wait times for support
- Outdated user interface
- Discrepancies in reporting and attribution
- Long review process for new campaigns
- Limited customization options
Account-Based Marketing Best Practices
ABM is not a set-and-forget strategy. It needs constant refinement and attention to detail in order to work, but when it does work, the results are undeniable. Here are some tips to keep in mind when implementing account-based marketing:
- Engage with target prospects on social media. Determine which platforms they’re on, join the groups they’re in, contribute to conversations they’re a part of, and share helpful and relevant content you’ve created. Just don’t be too pushy or annoying — you’ll risk alienating your prospects and other potential customers.
- Produce a podcast or video series and invite a leader from the target account to be a special guest. Not only will you add their credibility to your content, and also help you promote your content to their own followers. But you will have nurtured that relationship in a personal way, making them a MUCH warmer lead.
- Sponsor a booth at a target account’s conference or event. This will curry favor with them as well as ensure that you can connect with them at some point during the event.
- Send direct messages on the platforms they engage with most. This can be social media, email, or even direct mail. Just make sure you don’t overdo it and send too many. Pick the ones that will have the most impact.
- Communicate through LinkedIn InMail outreach. You can do this simply and without ever leaving HubSpot with its LinkedIn integration. LinkedIn is one of the best platforms for connecting with professionals, so it’s a potent tool.
- Build custom landing pages tailored to the needs, questions, and concerns of accounts. Make sure you have tracking set up to measure the performance of these pages and identify optimizations for the user experience.
- Distribute content such as blog articles across channels that are relevant to each account. If a target is most engaged on certain channels, focus your content delivery to those channels and ignore the less impactful channels.
- Create paid ad campaigns to target factors such as location, skill, and job title based on the specifics of each account. You can also set up retargeting campaigns to serve paid ads to users who have interacted with your website, specific landing pages, or social media accounts.
- Ask current contacts, accounts, and customers for referrals. As many businesses will tell you, this can be the most effective way to generate new business, this is a critical step. Provide incentives for satisfied customers to leave reviews for your business; if you have a good relationship with them, you can ask them directly to refer you to other potential customers.
- Invite your contacts to physical or digital events and ask attendees to invite their colleagues. Leverage your own social network and the network of your followers to increase attendance.
Account-Based Marketing: Not So Scary Now!
Account-based marketing is a powerful strategy that any business with the bandwidth and resources should consider. Put yourself in the shoes of the prospect: personalized, individual communication is much more appealing than broad, generalized messaging. So whether you are a smaller company looking to start small or an enterprise ready to dominate your space with account-based marketing, be prepared to invest in the necessary ad spend, software, staff hours, expertise, and strategy.