What is account-based marketing (ABM)?

What is account-based marketing (ABM)?

Account-based Marketing is a relatively new term, but somewhat of a best-kept secret approach. A very small number of predominantly very large organisations have structured part of their sales and marketing approach this way for decades.

Account-based Marketing in a traditional sense does exactly what it say on the tin. It is marketing that targets specific companies. In an old skool sense, this meant concentrating pots of money to onboard that ONE customer, whether it’s ‘the big ticket’, or ‘the one that got away’. The theory was that in focusing in on that one account with effort and money, it increased the likelihood of closing them. It turns out it worked.

If it’s a proven way on onboarding big ticket customers, why aren’t more people doing it? I hear you ask in harmony.
Well, there’s a couple of probable reasons why:

  1. Money. Running an ABM campaign in this historic way takes a lot of time (and therefore money). It’s manual everything from planning who to target, to reporting.
  2. The ‘numbers’ paradox. People feel too comfortable standing up in meetings with the rest of the business and telling them whatever they think they want to hear. That’s basically targeting more business/impressions/leads and to heck with what outcomes it actually delivers. Everyone goes to bed that night thinking they’re doing everything they can to grow the business.

 

Changing times

Anything more than a cursory glance on LinkedIn will tell you now that something is going on right now in ABM. For something that’s been blighted in the past by expense and scale, there’s certainly a hell of a buzz about ABM.

Why have market commentators as wide reaching as B2B Marketing Magazine, Smart Insights and marketingland.com all named Account-based Marketing as one of their top trends for 2017?

As is always the case with anything these days, it comes down to technology. Notably, there are a couple of different technology vendors who have removed the barriers to adoption.
They have technology that:

  1. Reduces the cost of running an ABM campaign. This obviously means lower return thresholds and as such business cases that have become some pretty straightforward maths.
  2. Gives a middle ground on numbers: marketing, commercial and sales leads no longer have to go from targeting thousands or organisations to 1 or two, They can build a targeted list of 100 or so accounts that can be easily managed using integrated ABM tools for the same cost as targeting a single account using the historic ABM approach.

 

How does this new ABM (at scale work)

It works by following a basic four step approach:

  1. Defining between sales and marketing a list of accounts to target.
  2. Putting web tracking code on your website to see which accounts from your target list are coming to your website.
  3. Running ad campaigns online to target specifically the organisations that aren’t coming to your site.
  4. Serving specific banners, call-to-action buttons or messaging to your target accounts when they come to your site. Plugins are available for all major websites (like WordPress).

 

When you look at that list, it’s easy to see just how significant the part that technology plays is to its success. Indeed – the whole process is completely dependent on innovative, interrelated elements that make running ABM campaigns in the digital age a reality for the lion’s share of B2B organisations.

 

Which organisations can benefit from ABM?

Companies who are a good fit for ABM share some common characteristics:

  • They are Business to Business
  • They have a sales team
  • They are £20m or above in revenue
  • They have strategic or contractual deal sizes of over £250k

 

Who are the vendors?

There are a number of vendors who offer individual elements of ABM via  single channel. There are only really three games in town that offer anything like an integrated approach: Demandbase, Kickfire and Terminus. All three offer end to end functionality for ABM, albeit with a very different offering and using very different mechanics. We’ll cover a detailed head to head in a future comparison post on our blog.