In the last 18 months, account-based marketing or ABM has become the hottest thing for B2B marketers.
I have been conducting ABM workshops for large technology companies and developing ABM marketing plans since 2007. At that point, ABM had a very clear definition, courtesy of ITSMA: “Treating individual accounts as a market in their own right,” or, more specifically, “A structured approach to developing and implementing highly customized marketing campaigns to markets of one, i.e., accounts, partners, or prospects.”
With technology available now to support a more account-focused approach, ABM has taken on different meanings depending on the context. ABM can now be divided into three categories:
|Number of Accounts
|Up to 10,000
|Concentrated effort on understanding accounts interacting with your marketing, and aiming outbound efforts at those accounts only. Targeted batch and blast directed at key segments.
|Offering tailored for the segment
|Vertical or sub-industry effort
|Vertical messaging using industry terminology with a deep understanding of the issues and challenges facing that industry
|Offering applied with a vertical or sub-industry customization
|Strategic Key Accounts
|Knowing each account individually. Deep research to understand each account and their key business challenges and needs.
|Messaging customized to the key business issues facing the account and tailored to the individual(s) trying to address the challenge. Truly one-to-one marketing. Message is focused on the client. You learn about the client so you can deliver what is important to the client. It’s the intersection of what you want to say but only saying what your customer needs to hear to address their challenge.
|Packaged and marketed as tailored to their particular need. May be customized to meet the unique needs of the account.
Understanding the different types of ABM allows you to determine the approach that’s best for your company. For example, do you focus on:
- Volume/segments (i.e. SMB, Mid-Market, Enterprise, Federal, State/Local, etc.)
- Vertical/industry (financial services, healthcare or even sub-segments such as hospitals, home health care, or pharmacies)
- Key accounts (must-win strategic companies)
No matter which approach you choose, the underlying principles don’t change—what changes is the level of specificity.
The key to success with any market approach is to understand your buyer and their buying process, and let that insight inform the strategy, process and technology. The fundamental design of your marketing has to be patterned on the buyer. This is where the type of ABM you choose comes in:
- What are the issues facing the segment or industry or account/buyer?
- How will your segment, industry or account/buyer address those challenges? What are their strategies and initiatives for ensuring they are winners in their marketplace?
- What information does your segment, industry or account/buyer need to determine what solutions can help with their challenges/initiatives?
- What information does your segment, industry or account/buyer need to evaluate their options?
- What information does your segment, industry or account/buyer need to address any concerns they have?
- How will your segment, industry or account/buyer make a decision?
Will the information you gather be at the segment level, industry level or account level? With the ABM technology available today, you can deliver information tailored to the questions buyers need answered at each stage of the buyer’s journey. However, addressing those questions at a segment, industry or individual account level can involve varying degrees of effort—from general market understanding to vertical expertise to in-depth research on individual accounts. Your company, go-to-market, product and solution price point will determine which method is best for you.
ABM is an idea whose time has come. Think about where it can fit in your go-to-market strategy and how it can make your company more successful in winning deals. Because at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
To learn more about account-based marketing check out “The Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing”. It not only defines ABM clearly but also shows how to implement ABM efficiently and effectively. If long-cycle deals are critical to your company’s success, you couldn’t ask for a better roadmap.”