What is Account Based Marketing?
ABM, or Account Based Marketing is a new term for an old way of selling. Once upon a time, before the internet, companies selling to enterprise had a list of the top accounts they wanted to reach. Marketing worked with Sales to find different strategies to get to know the key people in that account. Marketing would create personalized materials, write letters, and send packages directly to key people in their target accounts. You knew who the key people were because you met them at a tradeshow or conference, or read about them in trade magazines and who’s who books that listed thought leaders.
Today ABM is a lot like it was back in the day. It involves a list of target accounts, and marketing directly to those accounts so that sales can build up relationships and start conversations easier. It could also be used in post sale marketing, for the land and expand bow tie approach I discussed in my previous blog post.
The TL;DR version of prepping for ABM is:
- Figure out who you are targeting
- Choose the accounts to target
- Create the materials or offer for these accounts
- Follow through directly
Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s a bit more than that.
Why do Account Based Marketing?
If you have a monthly SaaS service that costs $10 – $1000 a month, ABM makes no sense for your company. Account Based Marketing works when your end sale is well above $100k. End sale does not mean initial sale – that might be $15k just to get started, but the plan is to land and expand to over $100k. This is a model for companies that sell to enterprise and have Account Executives, Customer Success, and possibly Sales Engineers. Account Based Marketing takes time and money. It’s putting a lot of resources towards a single account, so it needs to make fiscal sense. If that account has the potential to grow to over $1M ARR, it’s worth it to put the time and effort into nurturing the account.
How to get started with ABM?
Create your ideal customer profile
Who are you targeting? You probably already have personas created. Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is similar to personas but it includes the details you’re looking for to better understand a full account, rather than an individual person. Your ICP should cover the following (this is just a general list to get started, your mileage may vary):
- Business objectives
- Pain point that your solution will help solve
- Is the company growing or receding
If you already have successful customers who are evangelists for your product and service then it would make sense to go for more companies like that. Listing the similarities of the companies who love you is a great way to pinpoint the traits you’re looking for.
There’s a lot more to it than this, but you get the basic idea. You probably already know who your best customers are, and what attributes you’re looking for in similar accounts so that your future accounts are as successful as your current ones.
Make a list of accounts to target
Take your ICP list and start mapping accounts for a single vertical. I know many companies aim for up to 3 verticals to start. If you have a small marketing team then I recommend focusing on one. Account Based Marketing requires creating a lot of original content, which means time and effort for your marketing team. If the team is small, you’ll get more coverage from focused content for one vertical.
When that one vertical is chosen, it’s time to start choosing accounts. Ideally you have a business intelligence tool like Mattermark or Hoovers where you can get information on the company and build a good list of accounts you’re going to aim for. If you don’t have these, I recommend spending the money to get them. Otherwise research companies through Google, their websites, and LinkedIn. Build a list of 20 companies that fit your ICP.
You may want to consider starting with companies that are already customers and use this as a way to expand the accounts. Account Based Marketing works really well with post-sale marketing, as you already know most of the players and it’s easier to create personalized content they will find interesting.
However, if you want to start with new accounts then you need to do the following:
- Map the players in the account. Enterprise sales now typically have 10 or more decision makers. Use your business intelligence tool to research and map who you think will be the decision makers in each account and build a loose org chart.
- Research each of the players in each of the accounts. Get to know anything you can about them, so that you can affiliate yourself with them on a personal level. For example, if someone I’m aiming for has The Humane Society on their LinkedIn, I always mention Layla, my Great Pyrenees dog that we rescued when she was 6 years old. Now, we didn’t get Layla for me to mention her in meetings, but that doesn’t mean I can’t mention her to build affinity. The point is to find what you have in common with the different players in the account so that you can find out what their pain points are, and you can show them how your product or service can heal that pain. But people don’t talk about their pain-points to people they don’t like. And we generally like people that we have things in common with more often than we like people who have nothing in common with us – so map those accounts and research your people. You’re not doing this to manipulate, you’re doing it to help. Also – do not lie here. The point is for you to become a trusted advisor. Large accounts are meant to be long term accounts. Take them seriously.
- Find their pain. The point of the research above is to not just build relationships, but get the information you need to help them. Once the relationship base has been established, it’s time to start asking helping questions.
Create the materials for the accounts
You’ve made a list of 20 accounts that you’re aiming for in a single vertical. You’ve found who has what title for at least 10, if not 20, key people in these accounts. Now it’s time to figure out what they will find interesting and make content that is specific to them.
Since this is so specific, we won’t go too deep on this one (contact us if you’d like a free 20 minute strategy consultation). Here are some of the engaging tactics you could be using:
- Email campaigns – but not the general ones. These are specific. “I’ve been looking at your website and saw XYZ” or “I saw an article about your company and it said you are doing ABC”. This shows you did your research. Make sure all of the information inside of the email is helpful. And keep it short. Do an email cadence of 8 to 10 emails. Make the emails specific to the interests of the individual. The Sales Director is interested in different things than the VP Customer Success is. Make your content appropriate.
- Private dinners. If you haven’t read my previous post about marketing to enterprise, now is a good time to go back and check it out. There’s more information on this there.
- Direct mail. Yes, what’s old is new again. What’s a great book that you just read and think that everyone else needs to read it too? (For me that book is Getting More.) Get numerous copies. Design and print a bunch of branded bookmarks and place them in the books. Write a personalized note inside the front cover. Make sure there’s a handwritten letter inside the package on company stationery. Everything you can to marry your brand to the great feeling of receiving and opening a personalized, thoughtful gift.
- Personalized video. If you know what a company could be doing, then do a short video of yourself starting an audit. Don’t give away the farm. Just enough to show you know what you’re doing, and get them to ask for more information.
Remember, the purpose of all of this is to start, or continue, the conversation.
Follow through directly
Ideally the companies you’re aiming for will come to you after your initial outreach for more information, but ideal rarely happens. Expect it to take several different methods of contact over time before that initial conversation happens.
TOPO has created a great account based marketing framework<
Tom Scearce wrote a post for TOPO, the sales and marketing analyst firm for high-growth companies, blog about ABM last year: The 2016 Account Based Marketing Framework. Above is the framework he mapped out, and it’s worth a look to get even more ideas how you can move forward on your ABM efforts.
Special hat tip and thank you to Jennifer Carey for the Feature Image above.