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What is account-based marketing (ABM)?

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If you are a small business owner, you’ve likely experimented with different ways of finding more qualified leads. But one method you may not be familiar with is account-based marketing (ABM). ABM is an effective lead generation and nurturing strategy that many of the world’s largest B2B and B2C companies use to target high-value accounts instead of large groups of customers. In fact, 70% of marketers worldwide used ABM services in 2021. 

Account-based marketing isn’t only an effective strategy for large enterprises, though; you can leverage ABM and unleash its power for your small business, too. 

Before trying out account-based marketing strategies on your own or hiring a lead gen agency to deliver ABM services for you, it’s essential to understand the concept yourself first. In this blog post, we provide an overview of ABM and discuss some of the key benefits of this approach for small businesses and startups.

Account-based marketing definition

Account-based marketing is in many ways a form of inbound marketing that uses a hyper-targeted approach to identify specific, high-value accounts and their key decision-makers. Once identified, these decision-makers are pursued directly with messages and content that are tailored to their unique needs. So rather than simply attracting these leads to you, you’re actively targeting them and positioning your business as the solution to their problems.

three benefits of ABM

The main thing to note here is that account-based marketing focuses on the quality of accounts over the quantity. This approach can have numerous benefits:

  1. Increase revenue and a higher return on investment.
    60% of businesses that used an ABM strategy for at least a year reported an increase in revenue.
  2. Reduce cost per acquisition.
    ABM users report typically saving up to 30% on customer acquisition costs.
  3. Improve alignment between sales and marketing teams.
    When sales and marketing teams work together on an ABM approach, they are 6% more likely to go beyond their original revenue goals.

The ultimate goal of account-based marketing is to turn targeted accounts into long-term, high-value customers. And while it requires a more strategic approach than other methods, it’s well worth the effort– 80% of marketers that use ABM report an improvement in customer lifetime values. Account-based marketing can be an extremely effective way to grow your business because it’s a more hyper-targeted approach to lead nurturing. You have a greater chance of demonstrating value to your new business relationships by repurposing and personalizing content specifically to serve their needs.

However, if you’re brand new to ABM, you may need help to develop an effective strategy for your small business. This is where hiring a lead gen agency that offers ABM services is a good idea to design your strategy, manage your account-based marketing, and create content for your company. In addition, an ABM consulting firm can help you with data scraping, data enrichment, and even help with training for your sales and marketing team.

Brief history of ABM

B2B and B2C businesses of all shapes and sizes continuously try to discover new ways to target prospects and convert them into customers with the potential for a high lifetime value. Let’s look at how the rise of the Internet presented new ways to qualify leads and how it evolved into the practice we know as account-based marketing today.

The rise of the digital age

The concept of ABM gained popularity in the B2B world started in the early days of the Internet in the 1990s. B2B companies began to see the benefits of the more brand-centric marketing approach already used in the B2C world. This new approach – coined “Integrated Marketing Communications” (IMC) by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) – unified marketing and sales teams to deliver a more brand-centric messaging across multiple platforms. As IMC evolved, it paved the way for B2B brands to find new ways to personalize customer-centric messaging with varied success.

After nearly a decade of experimentation in B2B led gen, the actual term “account-based marketing” was eventually coined by ITSMA in 2004. Once the concept of ABM had a name, it began a rapid, widespread ascent worldwide. In fact, exactly ten years later, the term “account-based marketing” was searched so frequently on the internet that it began appearing in Google Trends

From 2020 to now

While ABM remains a prevalent practice in large enterprises and more complex sales organizations, small businesses also realized the need for a more streamlined approach to lead generation. In 2020, it became apparent that small business owners needed to focus on marketing to qualified leads rather than casting too wide of a net. In part, this demand stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to evolve business practices to remain viable, efficient, and competitive in more challenging times. 

In fact, Terminus’ 2020 State of ABM report found that while 23 percent of responding companies did not have an ABM strategy in place in 2019 – just a year before the pandemic – by 2020, only 5.8 percent had yet to implement an ABM strategy. So in just one year, 17.2 percent of companies added an ABM strategy to their lead gen plan. That means that over half of the remaining resistant companies adopted an ABM strategy for their business.

It seems that the pandemic may have affected those companies who were still resistant to giving ABM a try. The difficult circumstances that many small businesses found themselves in forced them to try something new, often with fewer resources. As a result, many found that ABM was the answer to their problems. 

5 phases of ABM

So how does ABM work? Account-based marketing campaigns typically involve five delivery phases: identify, expand, engage, advocate, and measure.

5 phases of ABM

Identify

The goal of the first phase of account-based marketing is to search for and discover potential high-value accounts. To accomplish this, you can use tools like buyer personas or ideal customer profiles to determine the daily challenges and nuances of the target buyers’ lives and how best to approach them. Then, once you have identified the target customer profiles, create criteria to benchmark and prioritize high-value accounts. This way, when you begin to analyze data such as the size of the company, the annual revenue, the number of employees, etc., you can separate potential high-value accounts from those that don’t fit the bill. 

Expand

This is where hyper-targeting really comes in on a deeper level to harness the power of ABM as a B2B marketing strategy. When working with another business, there are usually several decision-makers who each need to be convinced that your product or service is the right fit. During this phase, the goal is to expand the campaign’s reach so that everyone involved in the purchasing decision is addressed appropriately in your messaging and content.

You can organize your decision-makers in your CRM by using a tool called the “RACI” matrix, documenting who is “Responsible”, “Accountable”, “Consulted”, or “Informed”. For example, the CFO may be most interested in the cost and is consulted in the purchase, while the CMO or CSO may be your primary point of contact for the project and will be responsible and accountable for the success. You will need to provide uniquely targeted, gripping content for each of the decision-makers involved to successfully convert prospects to buyers.

Engage

Some people prefer a phone call, and some people prefer email. Nowadays, some even prefer to communicate through DMs on social media. When it comes time to engage with the key decision-makers the marketing team has identified, ABM can be used to communicate with each segment of targeted decision-makers through the method they prefer. Catering to each individual’s preferred method of communication will go that much farther toward creating a positive impression of your business in the mind of a prospect.

Advocate

Now is the time to foster relationships with the key decision-makers you’ve identified and carefully constructed content to read. This is when you continue to provide value for these individuals through your targeted content and bring up the product or service when it naturally fits in conversation. The key in this advocate phase is to be so valuable to the prospect that they can’t ignore you and are compelled to advocate for you, sharing the content you’ve provided to them.

Measure

Measuring the outcomes of this process is the best way to accurately determine what is working and what isn’t so that you can improve and pivot your ABM strategy as you go. Data to measure include average deal value, sales cycle length, and win rates. Keep in mind that your average deal value for ABM sales should be higher than other avenues because of all the work that’s been put into the hyper-targeting process. For the same reason, the sales cycle length may be longer.

ABM’s impact on today’s businesses

person searching for leads

Account-based marketing (ABM) is one of the hottest topics in today’s business world. And it’s no wonder why. ABM helps businesses worldwide – from Nashville to Dubai – to focus their marketing efforts on specific target accounts, tailoring their message and approach to improve their chances of success. In many ways, ABM is the evolution of traditional account-based selling, taking advantage of modern technology and data analytics to provide a more targeted and personalized approach.

With ABM, businesses can identify and target their ideal customers, making the most of every marketing dollar. This hyper-targeted approach can often lead to a more successful outcome than traditional marketing methods, resulting in increased sales and ROI while creating more trusted relations with clients. In today’s competitive landscape, businesses that adopt an ABM strategy will be well-positioned for success.

Ready to implement ABM services into your business?

It’s not always easy to find and identify high-value accounts. With help from a Nashville-based lead gen agency like Take the Stairs, you can uncover these potential high-value accounts and reach out to them to create a long-term relationship. Account-based marketing is a valuable strategy that could be the next big step for your business. Want to learn more about our ABM services? Contact us today!

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