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What Is Account-Based Marketing & How Does It Fit With Inbound?

What is account based marketing

Just what is ABM? And how does it align with an inbound marketing campaign? Find out how each strategy runs, and how the two can run in tangent.

What Is Account-Based Marketing?

If we told you it was possible to precision target companies and individual buyers who are the best fit for your services and solutions, you’d be interested right?


That’s exactly what an Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategy offers; precise, focussed B2B lead generation and long-term customer relationships.


In an ABM approach, activity is designed to appeal to high yield prospects at a very detailed level, either focusing on best-fit individuals, or at a wider company/organisation level (best-ft budget, location, size etc). There can also be two approaches when considering revenue generation via ABM. In one instance you may be targeting multiple people within a target account who can each contribute increased revenue. Or, you may be targeting a combined panel of individuals, who together will make a single purchase. 

 

When aligned with an Inbound marketing and sales strategy, ABM activities give organisations the best chance to secure the very best fit opportunities for solid growth and revenue, and retain good-fit clients long-term.

ABM isn’t just about knowing which companies to target, but about which decision makers at those accounts to engage, and how to engage them. - Scott Vaughan, CMO, Integrate

Benefits Of Account-Based Marketing

84% of B2B marketers believe ABM provides significant benefits for retaining and expanding current relationships. - Sirius Decisons

Working to target exact company accounts, and build relationships with ideal prospects within them, offers multiple benefits. Companies using ABM to support their marketing approach can:

 

  • Improve marketing & sales alignment
  • Minimise both sales and marketing time/resource wastage
  • Reduce sales cycle length
  • Create more effective, personalised marketing strategies that achieve clear ROI
  • Develop stronger relationships with more valuable clients, and so reduce churn

How Does ABM Fit With An Inbound Strategy?

An Account-Based Marketing strategy is designed to appeal to high yield prospects at a very detailed level. ABM works to target specific company accounts and build relationships with ideal prospects within them.

ABM in itself has been around for a while, and is often known as Key Account Marketing. But while in the past key account targeting has been a labour-and-cost-intensive traditional method of selling to individual prospects or customer accounts, when used as part of an Inbound marketing and sales strategy, ABM technology and tactics can create a valuable account generation, contact and account nurture approach.

Inbound marketing campaigns specifically work to deliver value to prospects through relevancy, avoiding traditional or outbound marketing strategies that are poorly targeted and interruptive.

While some might consider ABM as a branch of outbound sales, in actuality, like Inbound, ABM is all about generating quality opportunities rather than quantity. It’s a tactic that values help-driven, relevant relationship building and communication, rather than persistently interrupting prospects, as outbound sales would.

 

Essentially ABM takes the buyer persona focus of Inbound to the next level. Instead of using a more generic (but data-backed) persona as the foundation of all campaign activity, the founding focus of the marketing strategy is a specific key account, a real-world company or set of individuals. As a result, ABM is a great supporting activity to consider when running Inbound activities.

Who Should Consider ABM?

Just like Inbound, B2B organisations with lengthy sales cycles tend to be those who reap greatest benefits from ABM, reducing churn and time-to-sale. Due to the ‘opportunity vs. resource’ investment required, ABM is typically suited to larger enterprise organisations with longer sales cycles, sizable customers, and complex solution propositions (such as IT and software companies).

80% of marketers measuring ROI say that ABM outperforms other marketing investments - ITSMA

What Is Account-Based Sales?

Companies are 67% better at closing deals when sales and marketing teams are in sync - Marketo

In modern B2B marketing, and in an Inbound marketing process, alignment between marketing and sales teams is crucial. Both sides need to work together to ensure that not only are leads generated, but that they are quality leads and a good-fit for the business.

 

Notably, for an ABM campaign to be successful, marketing and sales must also be aligned, using their combined business intelligence to form account-driven, relevant campaigns. Think of ABM as the ultimate alignment between marketing and sales.

 

In an Inbound sales process, the sales methodology can be considered in the following way:

 

  • Identify - Listen for active, persona-relevant buyers and prioritise active buyers over passive buyers.
  • Connect - Earn the trust and attention of today’s empowered buyers by leveraging context to begin personalised, valuable conversations that address pain at the appropriate buyer’s journey stage.
  • Explore - Focus on good-fit leads, explore their interest and leverage it to develop further trust and uncover deeper goals.
  • Advise - Continue to nurture and advise buyers, leveraging the information learned in the explore phase.

 

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In an Account-Based Sales structure, sales actions are similar, but with a starting point focussed around creating a single view of each target account, rather than a broader persona focus:

    1. Create a single view of each target account. i.e. focus on specific organisations (accounts) who are a best fit for your business, rather than in wider ‘lead generation’ terms.
    2. Identify target prospects within each account who make up the Decision Making Unit (DMU). Identify the best contacts within each account who make up the DMU to connect with. These may be key decision makers, those with purchase authority or they may be a group of multiple target individuals within your target account.  
    3. Develop relevant content. Successful marketing is fueled by relevant content, and ABM is no different. However, unlike regular persona-targeted content, ABM content is hyper-personalised to send a specific message to a specific account. You may have whole pieces of content, landing pages etc. dedicated to solving that account’s unique issues.
    4. Follow appropriate sales outreach. This is where the basics of the Inbound sales methodology comes in. For best results, connect appropriately (such as via social selling) and build relevant relationships with your target account prospects - on their terms and timescale. You can then work to better identify the challenges your key accounts have, and continue to refine your content and messaging to progress them exclusively through the funnel.

Understanding how to plan and implement effective ABM campigns can be complex. But for targeted, long-term B2B customer relationships, ABM offers some of the best results.