The secret behind successful B2B marketing is engaging a few but extremely knowledgeable and conscious buyers, each with different needs.
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach used by marketers to support a defined universe of accounts. It's often deployed to target highly desirable individual accounts.
ABM lets marketers engage those buyers during different stages of the buying process. It also reflects alignment of the sales and marketing objectives and helps to evolve the role of marketing.
Moreover, marketers can segment the market to the granular (account) level. ABM delivers valuable insights into the accounts that must be targeted and helps marketers devise custom campaigns for each opportunity. ABM also provides a measurable way of evaluating marketing impact beyond demand creation within these accounts.
The Real Value of ABM
Though ABM's importance is well-understood by seasoned marketers, the real value in ABM centers on ROI measurement, a criteria that varies depending on the type of account shortlisted for ABM activity.
For example, different ROI measurement criteria will be established for accounts where a company has significant market share and the primary strategy is to protect "turf" or incumbency, compared to the accounts where market share is low and the primary marketing objective is to significantly scale up revenues by charting new territories.
Here's how ABM can be in those two different cases.
Account "Turf Protection"
In many B2B-focused organizations, the bulk of business is derived from a finite set of accounts. In those scenarios, those accounts have grown over years and are treated as its cash cows. They have a significantly higher contribution to the organizations' revenue compared to others.
Generally speaking, building such accounts is difficult. And it is harder to retain them. Therefore, it is imperative—especially in highly competitive industries—to ensure consistent marketing engagement with these accounts and ensure that they receive the attention they deserve.
In absence of a structured program, some of those accounts can easily be missed out.
One strategy to prevent that scenario is to establish an internal categorization of accounts and segregate them. An organization then can establish special initiatives that recognize the importance of these accounts and to structure programs aimed at engaging the key decision makers in these client organizations. Marketers don't market to buildings or lists; we engage with people who happen to drive major decisions.
Moreover, marketers need to organize networking events in a neutral environment to deepen relationships and to ensure that there are no conflicts between the customer and the partner. Third-party customer satisfaction surveys also give a clear indicator of the account performance, and help develop a course-correction plan.
Another proactive approach to account protection is to create a vendor or supplier-initiated event where both the vendor and customer meet to discuss the problems, issues, opportunities, and advantages otherwise left unspoken in a traditional, formal business meeting. This type of event can be moderated by an independent professional development specialist who is a neutral third party.
Thinking beyond the standard business-as-usual activities, B2B marketers must ensure that the top accounts always receive optimal customer experiences. How well is the client's needs, likes, dislikes, preferences, and behavior patterns and associations understood? Is the account team prepared to win what we call as the "cigar challenge?" After a hearty meal at a global customer gathering, a client thinks about needing a cigar, and suddenly a sales rep just pulls one out of thin air.
Are we as marketers sure that the top 10% of contacts within the account are getting the best experience at every touchpoint in terms of content, thought leadership, etc.?
Other critical account protection methods include maintaining consistent messaging across various departments and stakeholders. So whether this involves a capabilities presentation to the customer or the experience the customer has when reviewing a proposal or even their digital experience with your brand, a consistent theme will reinforce key messages and benefits, and increase brand recall. All those points presume, too, that the customer truly feels that his business pain points are well-understood.
Charting New Territories
Though account retention is important, all marketing organizations must generate growth both within those existing accounts and with new ones.
ABM can act as an enabler in upselling and cross-selling initiatives, and also in acquiring new accounts by competing against incumbents and other vendors. ABM should be extensively used in all strategically important deals.
These efforts begin with identifying the key people in the customer organization, including decision-makers and then running numerous programs to ensure that this target group is aware of the partner's capabilities and synergies with the target account.
ABM also plays a key role during the decision stage where a sales team can develop successful themes, create customer workshops, and plan other activities to ensure the partner is positioned as a capable and trusted one.
A carefully structured ABM program combined with the classic attention-interest-desire-action (AIDA) framework can strategically enable an organization's growth.