Account Based Marketing, or ABM, is the watchword of the day. What exactly is ABM? It’s an approach in which the company focuses its marketing and sales efforts on a defined group of accounts (“flipped funnel”) vs. a demand gen approach that focuses on generating leads for the pipeline. Each account is handled in a highly individualized, personal manner.
In ABM, all prospective influencers and decision makers are identified up front, and marketing and sales collaborate to devise a specific outreach program.
Who is ABM right for?
Typically, companies that market and sell a very specific product or service to a very narrow audience benefit the most from ABM. For example, a management consultancy service, or a company that sells an enterprise product to the top tier of a specific industry. These are businesses that are “whale hunting.”
However, the ABM approach might not work for the majority of B2B organizations. Most of these have thousands of potential prospects. Even if their audience numbers in the hundreds, these companies probably don’t have the field sales force to pull off ABM.
On the other hand, many of the tactics of ABM can be used by any B2B marketer, regardless of the product or service being offered. In fact, in today’s B2B demand generation world, most of them should already be standard operating procedures as prospects are identified and moved through the stages of their purchase journey. So, don’t let the buzzword throw you off kilter.
The right building blocks
No matter what you sell, you can utilize the building blocks of ABM. The first thing to start with is content. You must have an effective inbound marketing program to fill your sales funnel. Only 20% of your prospects are likely to be in market right now. Another 20% won’t be. It falls upon you to nurture the remaining 60% so your company stays top of mind until prospects have an immediate need six or nine or eighteen months later.
1. Inbound marketing
To stay top of mind, you must provide content that corresponds to where prospects are in the buyer’s journey. In the early stages of exploration, prospects are looking for information about the broad industry landscape. Blog posts and infographics are effective vehicles to drive awareness for your company during this stage of buyer research.
As buyers move into the evaluation phase of their research, your website, webinars and white papers will be effective to differentiate you from the competition.
As the sales funnel fills, analytics should drive how much attention to pay to your best potential prospects, by industry, company, title, and individual.
2. Outreach marketing
The outreach phase (ABM) is where you should apply maximum marketing and sales effort to drive revenue. Leverage data gathered through your inbound marketing interactions to aid in a personalized approach.
Content should continue to be a vitally important part of your outreach program. Case studies and research reports work especially well in this phase.
3. Building trust
Buyers are searching for a trusted partner. There are quantitative and qualitative aspects to that equation. The quantitative aspect is the knowledge and expertise represented by the content you provide. The qualitative aspect is the human factor. How you service and support prospects as they progress through the buyer’s journey will demonstrate how you will treat them as clients. Done well, you win. Done poorly, all the content in the world will not help. In B2B marketing, it is still people selling to people that clinches the deal.
4. Putting it all together
Marketing and sales should collectively track and measure results at both the account and individual prospect levels. This will allow you to adjust and adapt as prospects progress through the buyer’s journey.
The ABM approach can be applied to your B2B demand gen program. It will yield more sales, with shorter sales cycles.
Jeff Cleary | Managing Director
Jeff, a University of Massachusetts grad, worked for others for many years. In 1990, Jeff teamed up with Mike Osborn to form Catalyst. Smart move. In his role as managing director, he continually strives to meet and exceed client expectations as well as his employees’, always ensuring a positive, productive workplace.