How to build an effective Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategy

Account-Based Marketing, or ABM, allows you to turn traditional lead generation on its head, creating a more targeted approach to B2B marketing and sales. There’s a real buzz around ABM at the moment, and for good reason: MarketingProfs reported that companies using ABM generate 208 per cent more revenue for their marketing efforts.

Our recent survey, in which over 100 companies were polled about ABM, showed that 86 per cent are confident that employing ABM techniques will help their growth in 2016 and 2017, while 90 per cent believe ABM to be relevant to their organisation. It is clear from the results that marketers can see the benefits of ABM, with 38 per cent currently using an ABM programme, and another 36 per cent either trialing or planning to run one within the next six months to a year.

But while ABM’s popularity may be growing, putting an effective strategy in place is not quite so straightforward. This survey highlights some of the challenges: less than a quarter of respondents said that they identified themselves as leaders when it came to using data as a strategic asset, while three quarters still have trouble finding contacts at companies matching their ‘ideal profile’. More than half have limited or no ability to get the latest updates on accounts updated in real-time.

Below is our six step programme designed to help organisations implement a truly transformative ABM strategy, with a particular focus on the initial phase of discovering and targeting key accounts. In order for your ABM strategy to succeed, you need to take a really robust approach to target account discovery and insight – which means having easy access to the right data. ABM practitioners need deep company and industry information to make sure that they are targeting the right companies, as this is the foundation on which the entire process relies.

Know your market

You would be surprised how many marketers don’t really know their market beyond a limited set of characteristics such as geography, industry, or size. There are thousands of questions you should be able to ask about your market – such as what business events are taking place or how quickly is it growing? All of these characteristics can be mapped to your accounts to help you understand which organisations are more likely to buy your products.

Profile and target accounts

Only after familiarising yourself fully with the market can you begin to build an ‘ideal target profile’, selecting target accounts that will be of interest to your company. Picture a giant spreadsheet where every row is an account that you want to target, and each column provides the data that you need to engage with those customers (industry, contact information, etc). There are two separate tasks that can be achieved here: the first is finding upselling opportunities within existing accounts, and the second is identifying entirely new accounts to which to sell.

Understanding your contact points

Now you need to identify and understand your contact points at these prospect companies, and the best way of doing this is by focusing on function and role. The information you collect for each contact will help you customise your messaging. For example, you may want to tailor your communication with a contact on the basis of how long they have been at the organisation or how many people they manage.

Create account-specific messages, offers, content

Using the insights gathered above, you will be able to generate personalised messages and content for target accounts and contacts. After all, ABM is ultimately all about customised information.

Execute programme

At this point you can start to create engagement plans - from personalised marketing campaigns to direct sales approaches.

Measure, refine strategy, expand

The last step involves tracking the results and refining them as needed, considering any account or market changes that might have had an impact. Using a data partner that can continuously update key contact and market information within your accounts is invaluable here, and will help drive timely program updates and adjustments.

It is a simple fact that without access to the right data and the ability to leverage it, you won’t be able to execute a truly successful ABM strategy. Make sure you really focus on getting the first three steps nailed down; without these, you just won’t be able to carry out steps 4, 5, and 6 effectively at scale.

Paul Charmatz, Senior Vice President, International, at Avention