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Account Based Marketing: 11 Tactics to Drive your ABM Process

Account based marketing is getting serious attention these days. Vendors, bloggers, and market research firms are fueling a resurgence in account based marketing’s popularity. ITSMA coined the phrase in 2004 and B2B vendors have been doing this type of marketing for years (but without calling it account based marketing). For the last several years, sales and marketing teams have been trying to re-think demand generation, understand technology such as marketing automation, wrap their hands around inbound marketing, and have now realized: “Well wait a minute, we sell to companies – we need to build our sales and marketing machine accordingly.”

Here is ITSMA’s definition of account based marketing:

“Treating individual accounts as a market in their own right”

A structured approach to developing and implementing highly-customized marketing campaigns to markets of one, i.e., accounts, partners, or prospects. This approach involves marketing and sales taking a close look at key business issues facing the target, mapping them to individuals, and tailoring campaigns to address those issues.

The core idea is to create a completely aligned sales and marketing process that builds relationships with a very specific and very targeted set of accounts. There are many fundamentals to consider such as account planning and mapping, sales-and-marketing alignment, offers, and metrics. In this post, we want to explore effective tactics to use with your account based marketing strategy.

account based marketing

There are eleven tactics that are critical to account based marketing:

1. Develop prospect-specific offers

One key to account based marketing is relevance and personalization. There are likely a small number of target accounts in a typical ABM program so campaigns and offers need to deliver high conversion rates. One idea is to personalize content marketing efforts by creating offers that are built specifically for a particular target account. For example, I once recommended to a social analytics company that they use their analytics to create 2-3 page social reports on their prospects. When reaching out to Walmart, they would send the “Walmart social media effectiveness report”. Most potential buyers feel compelled to open that report because it’s so personalized and valuable.

2. Develop “sales” offers designed to get meetings

99.9% of marketers create offers that are designed to generate leads from webinars and whitepapers. The “sales” offer is an offer designed to help inside sales or sales get prospects to agree to a meeting. For example, the social analytics company mentioned above could follow up with Walmart with an offer to provide an hour-long live research report analyzing Walmart’s social media efforts versus their peers. There are other examples of sales offers that are currently in practice such as free technology assessments or free security audits designed to get in the door. I have found that offers that have a “I’d like to tell you what the best companies in the world are doing” or “I’d like to show you how you compare to your peers” are very effective.

3. Use retargeting to keep your brand in front of accounts

Ratargeting is a great way to repeatedly engage a specific account as employees from that account consume online content. There have recently been some remarkable retargeting innovations that are directly applicable to ABM programs. Demandbase now has an Account-Based Insight and Targeting offering that uses ip-addresses to identify a vendor’s target accounts as they search the internet. When these accounts visit a site in the network of properties that host Demandbase advertisements, they are served the vendor’s advertisement. Using the social analytics company example again, as Walmart contacts visit different websites, they would be served advertisements from the company trying to target them. According to Forrester, 75% of buying activity happens before a “hand-raise” making retargeting a critical part of the account based marketing mix. This data really highlights how critical retargeting is for winning the hearts and minds of your target accounts. Other B2B retargeting companies to consider include Bizo and Retargeter.

4. Personalize the account’s experience on your website

Given the targeted nature of account based marketing, it’s critical that ABM programs deliver high conversion rates. Personalizing landing pages is one effective tactic for doing this. Marketers should create account-specific landing pages that display custom copy, images, offers, and forms depending on the person or account that is visiting the landing page. Using the previous example, the social analytics company would serve the Walmart Social Analysis Report when Walmart comes to their website or landing page. There are some deep personalization tactics available as well. For example, some marketers will display the name of the visitor on the landing page. Be careful here as some prospect’s may find this overly intrusive.

5. Create sales territories designed to convert

In the past, sales territories were based on fairness or equality, but what if you could assign sales people to a specific territory based on their likelihood to close a deal? My inspiration for this idea came from Greg Alexander at Sales Benchmark Index in a conversation we had about social proximity territories. Social proximity territory planning is a practice where a sales organization assigns their sales people to specific accounts based on the quality and quantity of their social connections to a particular account. Greg said to me: “The sales executive should answer the question: Which of my reps can quickly pick up the phone and get engaged with this account?” Social proximity territories is one way to go, but there are other territory planning options to consider. For example, organizations can look at previous selling relationships (e.g. a sales person may have sold to a key contact in the past) or past sales history (e.g. a sales person may be great at selling to automotive companies).

6. Test direct mail with executives

Direct mail has been a direct marketing tactic for years. As digital marketing rose in popularity, direct mail was left for dead. Direct mail can be an effective option to reach targeted groups of executives. Why? Because executives don’t register for webinars or white papers, respond to unsolicited emails, follow companies or sales people on Twitter, and so on. Marketing expert Matt Heinz recently told me about his recent direct mail success: “We sent two-day packages to executives in advance of a big conference. The package was an empty iPad box. We wrote in the direct mail to come by our booth to pick up the iPad. Most executives came by just to compliment us. It worked.”

7. Use social intelligence to understand what matters to prospects

A core tenet of account based marketing is to personalize communications to an account based on their current initiatives and challenges. Companies evolve quickly so smart vendors monitor changes and trigger events at their target accounts. One method is to subscribe to public information service like Google Alerts to understand what is happening at a company level. Another important tactic is to monitor social activity. Unlike PR-driven articles and press releases, social data helps uncover what key prospects care about. For example, people often use social to share “good news” that matters to them such as recent achievements (e.g. a recent tweet I saw from a client was: “Putting the finishing touches on a new product that should amaze people! I responded immediately with a congratulatory email which got me engaged immediately). Social data is invaluable to the account based marketing model. When creating an account based marketing program, organizations should be agile and re-direct or re-message when new information is discovered. Sales applications for enterprise class social intelligence include InsideView or Linkedin.

8. Build a list of legitimate, role based contacts

There are vendors who can create lists based on role or responsibility and will guarantee that the contact is still active. This type of list build allows account based models to seed the database with the right contacts. Titles often don’t tell people enough. With a role-based list, a company can ask for roles like the “person in charge of it infrastructure”. Unfortunately, many companies just seed the database with as many names as possible regardless of the data quality. While this type of effort can still work, it is less efficient as inside sales has to spend valuable time hunting down the relevant roles. Companies such as Reachforce or Televerde can help build these types of lists.

9. Purchase white paper and webinar leads for target accounts

In the past, when a lead buyer purchased leads from a media company, they were only allowed to filter by selects such as company size, title, or geographic location. Recently, more online lead generation organizations are allowing companies to filter their lead purchases by company name. If you are focused on target accounts, then tell your lead generation vendors that you are only buying leads from these companies. The cost-per-lead will be higher but it’s certainly worth the price for supporting account based marketing efforts.

10. Create a one-to-one c-level campaign

Organizations can assign employees the responsibility for cultivating relationships with specific buyer personas at their target accounts. C-level to c-level outreach is an effective tactic for this. Assign the CEO to the CEO or another c-level executive to his/her peer at the target account. The campaign can start with an email or direct mail from this person and could follow up with a phone call. The outreach should be personal, real, and mention the business reason that these executives should connect. The organization should support all aspects of this campaign including writing the message. An inside sales person can follow up via phone to the executive’s admin to try to set up the meeting. After assigning the c-level executives, organizations can then assign VPs, inside sales reps, and marketing to prospects at target accounts. The goal is to try to match relevant employees with the prospect’s relevant employees.

11. Discover connections to target accounts via employees who aren’t in sales

We often overlook the potential relationships other employees in our organization may have into our target accounts. Linkedin Sales Navigator has a feature called TeamLink that provides visibility into the connections other employees in your company have with contacts at your target account. Often, there is an “in” that no one realized was there. Recently, I spoke to a VP of Sales who used TeamLink and found an engineer across the country from his organization who went to college with the VP of Engineering at the one of their target accounts. The engineer made the intro and they were in the account.

To hear more about account based marketing, I have a great webinar on the topic. Click here to view.

I’d love to hear your tactics for account based marketing. Please share them in the comments.

Craig Rosenberg is a co-founder of TOPO and the author of the sales and marketing blog Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter.

  • Great post! One area of account based marketing that has always interested me is the idea of mapping an account and understanding how decisions are made within an organization. Detailed account profiles that focus on organizational structure can be effective tools in this regard, but the holy grail is understanding how things like power structures, personalities, and coalitions impact purchasing decisions.

  • Great advice, thanks Craig. Are these recommendations in priority order? How should someone attack these if they don’t have time to do them all at once?

  • ralf vonsosen

    A theme I see is the ability to create more meaningful conversations and relationships.

    • Absolutely. Part of the problem with most sales and marketing today is they take a scripted message to an account and hope it hits. If you want that account to become a customer, find out what they care about and make that the basis of the relationship.

  • Ardath Albee

    Hi Craig,

    I love a lot of these ideas. My question, from a demand gen perspective, is whether you think it’s possible to scale account-based marketing programs? And, if so, which of the above tactics would you use? If not, why?

    • Account Marketing

      Hi Ardath,
      We enable organisations to scale account-based marketing by connecting deep account insights with relevant account specific marketing. One of the biggest challenges I find when scaling is sales engagement and remaining “close” to the account to best support the account with marketing- this can be overcome with the right methodology. You can find out more using our best practice guide here: http://www.momentumabm.com

  • Pingback: Account Based Marketing Mailbag()

  • Mike (Insightera)

    Great post Craig, our customers do a lot of ABM and Ill make sure to share this post with them, you’ve definitely hit a the key components to making it happen. As per point #4, there are technologies today that are able to personalize the online experience to the visiting accounts, not just on landing pages, creating a personalized, account-based messaging theme.
    Thanks again,
    Mike, Insightera.

  • The power of personalisation! It takes time, has added costs, requires a higher level of skill and understanding but in the long run it will return better results. In the old days they had phones for this kind of thing or so I’m told 😉

  • Account Marketing

    Hi Craig, We are the worlds largest specialist account-based marketing agency, and spend thousands of hours every year delivering account level marketing in all shapes and sizes from Account based marketing programs, through to key account and bid marketing.
    Our blog should provide some useful insights into trends, best practice and ideas we are finding in the market: http://www.momentumabm.com/blog

  • Mani Iyer

    Craig, Nice post. A few points that I wanted to add to this discussion.

    – Jon Miller (Engagio) has a nice E-Book just released on ABM.
    http://www.engagio.com/clear-and-complete-guide-to-account-based-marketing/

    What I especially like about Jon’s guide is how it frames the different steps in an ABM process. Also interesting is how Jon has started to categorize the different players and their platform and service offerings as it relates to ABM.

    Some solution providers are “ABM-only” (whether as a platform or service) while others offer ABM as a part of a broader mix of solution capabilities. And its a good thing for the overall market, for customers now have a starting point for their discovery process.

    Jon’s guide is one good tool – and I am sure the analyst firms will not stand idly by – we will soon see a market map for ABM from the likes of SiriusDecisions, Gartner, Forrester and others. (Also from TOPO?)

    – We at Kwanzoo think ABM advertising programs should be part of a broader “Always-On” marketing approach, where B2B companies think “programs – not campaigns”. The idea is to plan and deploy year-round programs (site retargeting, email retargeting, third party direct buy display, programmatic display) that are continuously optimized to hit the Company’s pipeline and revenue goals, quarter over quarter.

    – The goal becomes delivering a personalized experience with EVERY content and media impression delivered, using all available data, whether MAP contact data, account-level data, or third party cookie data) to maximize ROI and drive pipeline. And of course, constantly re-adjusting media budgets, spend against target-account-coverage, account-specific engagement – all aligned to sales pipeline and revenue objectives. Have smart ways to detect if a specific user (whether anonymous or known MAP contact) is “in-market” and relevant, or not a fit.

    – As we know, its also critical that customers can start small, and scale up their programs over time, no matter what data assets they want to tackle first (site traffic, email lists, account lists)….

    – We also think it’s important for customers to be able to make the choice as to WHAT platform will serve as their “source of truth” across their ABM programs. It could be their CRM (e.g. Salesforce), an ABM analytics platform (e.g. Engagio), an external reporting repository powered by BI tools (e.g. Tableau).

    – We think both depth and breadth of “out-of-the-box” integrations via APIs between systems are critical for ABM program success, especially as it goes from the “training wheels” phase to core infrastructure at B2B companies. After all, a LOT of time goes into both building and maintaining integrations otherwise – and that’s not where B2B marketing teams really want to be spending their time….

    Great post, and love the insights. Let’s keep it going here!

    Regards,
    Mani

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