Before we get into what Account-Based Marketing Strategy for B2B SaaS is, let’s start with this:
Not everyone is the right fit for your product/service.
It won’t take long for a customer who isn’t the right fit for your product or service to realize this and leave. So, why would you devote sales and marketing resources to a customer who is likely to leave in a short period of time?
Selling to the wrong people is like throwing money down the drain. In fact, research shows that more than two-thirds of sales reps are not working on high-priority accounts or following up with leads because they’re busy chasing lower-quality opportunities.
So, what should you do?
Well, that’s where account-based marketing comes into play, and that’s exactly what we are going to talk about today!
Is account-based marketing a tactic or a strategy?
There is no correct or short one-sided answer on this.
It all depends.
If you’re focused on old-school demand generation programs and providing more and more leads, it’s a strategy.
If you’re a smart modern-day marketer, accountable for new revenue, you’re already using a blended approach.
What that means is you won’t stop using demand channels and programs that are working for you at the top to continually bring in new leads. You’ll use a more targeted ABM approach to engage those leads that fit your ideal account profile once they’ve entered the funnel.
If you have a budget and the right people in your team, you should definitely implement it!
Let’s take a look at what account-based marketing is.
What is account-based marketing?
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a sales and marketing strategy that involves sending highly targeted and personalized communications to a specific company to win new business (or an account).
Rather than launching a wide marketing campaign that attracts thousands in the hopes of nurturing only the few who show interest, ABM focuses on specific companies to engage key decision-makers and then build on that relationship to open up potential sales opportunities.
Despite the fact that account-based marketing has been used as a strategy for more than 15 years, companies are only now starting to understand the value of providing highly personalized and relevant campaigns to their target audience.
That’s why, according to a SiriusDecisons study, 92% of B2B marketers consider ABM to be extremely important to their overall marketing strategy.
In fact, account-based marketing is so important that it’s the second-biggest priority for B2B tech marketers right after video marketing. But where does all this excitement come from? Let’s take a look.
What are the key benefits of Account-Based Marketing Strategy (ABM)?
When considering a new marketing strategy, you need to be convinced that it’s right for your business. And if it is, you must still sell the idea internally.
With ABM, many marketers say that their biggest challenge is getting top-management buy-in.
So, let’s talk about that.
What are the benefits of implementing an ABM strategy for your company?
Based on my research into account-based marketing statistics, I’ve discovered that businesses that successfully implement an ABM strategy benefit from closer alignment between sales and marketing, a higher return on marketing investment, and higher revenues.
Let’s take a look at the main business benefits in more detail.
1. Sales and marketing alignment
The benefits of bringing sales and marketing teams together are obvious:
Sales and marketing efforts that are aligned produce more revenue, improve brand awareness, and raise average deal size.
Account-based marketing is one of the most effective methods for bringing all teams together.
For decades, marketing departments have created strategies to draw new leads so that sales reps can sift through the clutter and locate a few leads who could actually buy.
The aim of ABM is to close a single account, which means all teams are focused on the same business goal.
When a new lead from your target account comes in, both teams are following the same lead. As a result, instead of wasting time following up on unqualified leads, sales reps spend more time cultivating a qualified, targeted lead.
2. High Return on Investment (ROI)
Tracking the Return on Investment (ROI) is important for any department in your company, but it’s especially important for marketing, which is usually seen as a cost center.
So, when we invest our hard-earned marketing dollars, we want to see a positive return on our investment, right?
The good news for ROI enthusiasts (aka CFOs) is that account-based marketing is the most effective marketing channel for generating a positive ROI.
ITSMA research found that 87% of marketers that measure ROI say that ABM outperforms every other marketing investment!
ITSMA also discovered that investing in ABM yields the same, slightly higher, or dramatically higher returns than investing in other marketing initiatives, making it a zero-waste strategy!
Because of results like this more and more companies are using ABM.
When sales and marketing teams work together to target the same account, they put more of their time into engaging with that customer. This means less wasted resources on activities that do not move your buyer through the buying stages.
Rather than investing $100,000 on a generic branding campaign that covers many markets, you build smaller, more targeted campaigns aimed at a single account and its key decision-makers.
The more specific your marketing campaign is, the less it costs you and it will result in higher conversions and higher ROI for each dollar spent.
3. Increased revenue
You can ask any CMO: “What is the goal of your new marketing initiative?” and they’ll tell you that it’s to boost revenue.
In fact, according to a study conducted by Demand Gen Report and LeadData, 54% of marketers consider the “influence pipeline” to be their primary ABM metric.
And what better way to boost revenue than using ABM?
ABM not only helps sales and marketing teams align and generate a positive ROI but has also been shown to increase revenue.
A study has found that 60% of companies using ABM saw a revenue increase of at least 10%, while 1 in 5 experienced an even greater 30%.
Now you are probably thinking: How?
Well, the answer is in the average deal size.
According to a SiriusDecisions study, 91% of companies using ABM were able to increase their average deal size, with 25% of respondents claiming a 50% or greater increase!
This is backed up by the ABM Leadership Alliance, which found that after introducing their ABM plan, B2B marketers saw a 171% rise in average annual contract value.
Increasing the average deal size, of course, does not happen overnight.
It all starts with a re-evaluation of your ideal target customer and who you want to sell to.
Weed out the smaller (micro) customers you’ve recently gained using a CRM, and learn more about the customers with a high average deal size. Take what you learned from selling to them and look for businesses that are close to them to target.
These types of businesses are more likely to do business with you as a result of your previous success, increasing your average deal size over time.
How to get started with account-based marketing
We’ve explained what ABM is and how it can help your business.
Despite the fact that it is a top marketing priority, only a small number of marketers are currently using account-based marketing. So, let’s look at how you can get started with ABM and start your first campaign.
1. Identify a list of target accounts
Since account-based marketing is all about tailoring campaigns to individual accounts, the first step in your strategy should be to identify a list of key accounts.
So, where should you begin?
Targeting ideal accounts is cited as one of the top three ABM challenges, so that’s the first obstacle many B2B marketers face.
Asking the sales team which accounts they would like to close is the easiest way to target ideal accounts. However, much of this is based on guesswork and is not data-driven.
Instead, start with the information you already have about your existing customers.
What do I mean by this? You should take a look at companies that you already worked with that match your ideal target customer. This will help you identify which type of companies are your ideal client.
After you have a list of companies, start by using the same social selling strategies that are currently working for you on LinkedIn to find their profile pages and “similar” company accounts.
Similar companies are recommended by LinkedIn’s algorithm based on company size, industry, company type, and specialties. In a matter of minutes, you’ll be able to find companies that suit your ideal customer profile.
Now, some companies on LinkedIn will not fit your ideal customer profile, so the next move is to study each of the “similar” accounts you find.
2. Research each account
Unlike persona analysis, ABM isn’t about focusing on specific individuals.
Account-based marketing requires account-based research!
So, what information do you need to gather during the research phase?
We suggest that you begin your research with the following:
- Market: industry, company size, competitors
- Company: revenue, marketing share, history
- People: management, buying power, key roles, influencers
- Relationships: organizational structure, reporting, buying teams
This information will, in most cases, be publicly available and can be found on the company’s website, in press releases, or in annual reports.
During the research phase, one of the most important aspects is to identify and get access to key decision-makers. And like you probably guessed, it is the biggest challenge for sales teams!
The earlier you can identify key decision-makers, the higher your chances of success.
Identifying business contacts early on is critical to successful ABM campaigns- but it’s not always easy!
Buying power used to be limited to a team of one (or two), but today the number of people involved in making a decision is growing. According to Gartner research, an average of 7-8 people is involved in buying decisions in a typical company with 100-500 employees.
That’s a lot of people to convince, right?
Well, let me tell you some good news…
You can convince them all using content.
I knew you would ask that… Read on.
3. Create relevant content
Do you know what kind of content engages B2B buyers?
Let me tell you, it’s personalized and relevant content.
The more personalized and relevant the content, the more likely a customer will engage with you. And when it comes to the most effective ABM tactics, personalized content is at the top of the list!
So, how do you make content personalized and relevant?
It’s entirely up to you how far you go to make the content relevant.
For B2B marketers, the most popular ABM approach is to develop content that is tailored to a specific industry, but you can also tailor content to specific roles or accounts.
But, before you create any new content, start by reviewing your existing content.
Consider how blog posts, case studies, white papers, and e-books can be relevant to your ideal target customer. Then, to get a full picture of all existing content, categorize it by stage in the sales funnel.
This way, you’ll know exactly what kind of content to send based on the buyer’s place in the funnel.
If a mid-sized IT company with 50 employees is your ideal target account, look at your website and see how many case studies you have that match this profile. Is it still relevant to use these case studies? And how do you make it easier for IT businesses to find this content?
Another example would be to look at your CRM for IT companies to see how many people entered a sales process after downloading content from your website. Is the content on this page up to date? Is it possible to make this piece of content more tailored to your ideal target customer?
Both of these strategies will help you get started with an ABM campaign quickly.
If you don’t have any content that is relevant to your ideal customer, interviewing existing customers who suit their profile is the perfect way to learn about their top business challenges.
Customer feedback in this form is extremely powerful.
Without interviewing current customers, the content you produce may not be relevant – and irrelevant content is the main reason why customers don’t engage with brands.
To get inspiration for creating engaging content, you can ask them questions like:
- What made you search for a new solution?
- How can you narrow down your vendor list?
- How do you test your product?
If we take the example of a midsize IT company with 50 employees as your ideal target customer, you might build relevant content on topics like:
- Top 10 technology trends based on the leading IT companies
- What are the benefits of [your product niche] software for IT companies?
- 3 methods by which IT companies choose [your product niche] vendors
- What’s the right way to put a new product to the test? Find out what the IT experts have to say about it.
Since you’ll need more than one piece of content to develop a successful ABM campaign, you should create content based on the customer journey.
Relevant content that moves a buyer from one stage to the next is crucial not only for lead nurturing but also for persuading a buyer to choose one vendor over another.
Once you’ve created the content, it’s time to distribute it right.
4. Distribute content to the right person
Any piece of content in your ABM campaign should aim to reach the right person at the right account so that you can engage, nurture, and grow the relationship.
So, what’s the best way to get your content in front of the right person?
You can use email to send highly relevant content to a single contact at an account, a group of people inside the account, or a handful of companies that match your ideal customer profile, assuming you have permission to send campaigns.
Let me tell you something, emails are not just for marketers.
Sales reps can use them too!
Unsolicited emails are acceptable as long as the provider can show genuine interest.
And you know what? Cold sales emails still work.
Consider the following stats from ITSMA:
- Unsolicited email is read by 92% of executives, even if it comes from a company with which they have never done business.
- 1 in 4 executives would read unsolicited emails containing ideas that might be relevant to their business.
- A cold email prompted 78% of decision-makers to schedule appointments or attend an event.
IP-tracking and retargeting paid social ads, and retargeting through the Google and Facebook ad platforms are some of the other distribution channels. However, if you’re looking for something truly unique, direct mail (yes, I said it!) is another option.
With direct mail, you can target specific people inside a specific account and customize the content for them. If you’re printing an article, a white paper, or a magazine, direct mail allows you to personalize the material by including company logos, names, and job titles.
5. Measuring the results
Once the ABM campaign is live it’s time to see how it performs.
A successful campaign used to mean a large number of visits or company leads.
However, this isn’t the case with account-based marketing.
The goal of account-based marketing is to develop and nurture relationships within your target account, moving them from one stage to the next. This could take months, if not years, in some cases.
As a result of this, traditional metrics such as the number of leads, website conversion rate, click-through rate, and cost-per-click (CPC) aren’t used to assess the success of account-based marketing campaigns.
So, what does ABM success look like?
To measure success, you’ll need to look at wider metrics like awareness, engagement, relationships, and ROI.
- Website visits, social media mentions, social shares, and/or email responses can all be used to measure awareness within your target account
- You can use your target account to report on website behavior, such as page visits, return visits, time spent on site, and email permissions, to measure engagement.
- You can monitor the number of decision-makers reached, content downloads, and product trials or sign-ups to measure relationships.
You’ll also want to report on the campaign’s overall success, particularly if you still have to convince senior management of the value of your ABM initiatives.
To measure campaign success, compare the sales cycle length, deal size, and total revenue from each new sale that resulted from your ABM campaign to the customers you acquired from non-ABM activities
ROI is another important success factor. How do the overall cost and sales of the campaign compare to traditional lead generation methods?
Being able to show a high return on investment, increased average deal size, and total revenue is a surefire way to persuade the company’s top management that ABM is the best way to create new business in the future.
Account-based marketing isn’t a new concept.
Sales and marketing campaigns that are highly targeted have always outperformed generic, non-targeted campaigns. It does, however, necessitate a shift in mindset.
You are no longer monitoring the number of impressions, website visits, or leads. Instead, single-digit accounts will be used to track activities and engagement.
Does this mean a decrease in vanity metrics? Definitely.
Will there be an increase in revenue? Without a doubt!