9 minute read

What Is Account Based Marketing & How It Beats Lead Gen [B2B Tech]

Today you'll find out why we upgraded from inbound to Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and why you as a B2B Tech business should too.

In fact, we at MAN Digital were able to generate over 228 qualified leads for our agency services by purely focusing on target accounts.

When it comes to predictive revenue growth, aiming at the widest audience is no longer a viable strategy.

Quality over quantity. In the world of B2B marketing, we call that Account-Based

Let's see what ABM actually means and why it wins over traditional lead generation.

To see the bigger picture right away, donwload our free ebook on Account-Based Marketing for Tech Business.

Table of Contents 

  1. What Is Account Based Marketing?

What Does Account-Based Marketing Actually Mean?

ABM meme 2

Doing less but with a bigger output sounds too good to be true. 

Account-Based Marketing is not about doing less, it's about targeting better.

As a B2B Tech company, you do not install billboards to promote your product. You target specific buyer personas via the channels they prefer, with a message that resonates with them.

Why? Because you want to be a good fit for them. Because it's always about the client.

Well, being account-based is the way to stay client-focused.

Here's how we at MAN Digital approach this.

TAM

Our Total Market is businesses looking to build and optimize their Marketing & Sales funnels.

Our Target Market consists of B2B Tech companies.

Our Target Accounts are specific Software Houses in Poland with 10+ employees.

Lastly, our Strategic Accounts, Opportunities, and Customers are all evolution stages of the Target Accounts as they move along the buying journey.

To keep track of all activity within and around target accounts, we use HubSpot. This way, we stay focused on opening the deals that matter most.

Target Accounts HubSpot

As you can see, ABM is a framework of very targeted marketing efforts.

When you re-distribute your marketing resources and focus on the accounts that are more likely to buy from you in the first place, you let go of the billboard (spray and pray) mentality. At least in its traditional sense. 

Now that you have an idea of how targeting in ABM looks like, let me give you the "official" definition of Account-Based Marketing.

What Is Account-Based Marketing?

Account-Based Marketing is a strategic approach that coordinates personalized marketing and sales efforts to open doors and deepen engagement at specific accounts.

What makes it tick is personalized experience.

With ABM, you go beyond buyer personas, i.e. semi-fictional representations of your perfect customers.

Instead, you focus on real-life perfect customers.

This requires extensive research but the payoff is a list of accounts you can target in a highly personalized way.

The easiest way to lay out the ABM philosophy is by using the TEAM Framework: Target, Engage, Activate, Measure.

TEAM squares

In ABM, target accounts is what ignites and shapes the whole framework. 

They're not just a reference point. They're actual businesses you research, develop content for, and then target in a personalized way.

Below is an example of an ABM framework we use for MAN Digital.

Target Engage Activate Measure
Software Houses in Poland above 10 employees Study Research on Top Software Houses Growth, Webinars, Ads Personalized Sales Sequence, Relevant Case Studies Opportunities generated with Software Houses in Poland

Remember our shifted billboard mentality?

An effective ABM strategy works like designing a truly relevant billboard that will appeal to a specific group of your target accounts, and then installing that billboard directly at their offices.

Why Account-Based Marketing?

Before we dive into specifics, here's a sneak peak at what you gain when upgrading to Account-Based Marketing.

why abm

1. Return on Investment (ROI)

You'll see ROI mentioned a lot in this blog post because with ABM, it's a game changer.

When you go from chasing numerous leads to pursuing a set number of target accounts of high value, your efforts pay off in higher ROI.

2. Win Rate

It's the fewer-accounts-but-of-higher-value logic all over again. 

Going for a limited number of companies with a high buying potential allows you to customize your approach and close more deals out of the total accounts pursued.

3. Costs

All of the above is a good enough pretense for lower customer acquisition costs. Plus, you can imagine how targeted marketing effort translates into little effort wasted. 

In fact, Account-Based Marketing is so efficient it is even referred to as 'zero-waste marketing' - more on this later in this article.

4. Velocity

ABM is a growth strategy that elevates and expands the contribution that Marketing makes to the Sales pipeline. By how much?

How does 50% faster marketing influenced pipeline growth sound to you? Keep on reading 👇

Account-Based Marketing vs Traditional Marketing

First things first: there's nothing wrong with traditional marketing.

Marketing strategies have been around for a while, and they were all effective at some point.

Traditional marketing is not wrong, it's simply less efficient. Now, what drives long-term revenue growth is flipping the funnel

Inbound vs ABM

1. Instead of raising brand awareness within a wide audience you do targeted campaigns with personalized touchpoints such as email outreach.

Personalized Outreach

2. Instead of SEO and keyword-driven content you produce relevant assets that resonate with your target accounts.

3. Instead of one-time closed deals you gain powerful advocates who'll be bringing you new clients by word of mouth.

ABM can bring quick wins, but on the other hand it requires commitment to building relationships

And solid B2B relationships, just like any other, take time and effort. 

Account-Based Marketing Stats

In the world of marketing, numbers speak the loudest. That's why the best way to understand ABM's potential is to look at the stats. 

Stats ABM

Account-Based Marketing is not a new thing. But every new thing needs some time to take over the industry.

Today, over a half of brands have implemented ABM to some extent. 

For those that have, the payoff was worth the transition.

Don't take this at face value. Look at what we did together with Skyrise.tech.

In under 3 months, ABM brought them 58 qualified leads and 3 high ticket opportunities of 6-figure value.

207 Leads 

Q1 - 2020

58 Qualified Leads

Q1 - 2020

3 high ticket opportunities in the pipeline valued at 6 figure deal (EUR) A long term ABM strategy for both Inbound and Outbound Lead Generation 90 hours of calls (reviews, project management, strategy) - Q1 2020

And this is just the beginning precisely because ABM is all about the long-term.

It's no wonder that the overwhelming majority of marketers who've adopted ABM see it as a winning strategy. And you know it's hard to get 87% of marketers to agree on any one thing 🙄.

Benefits of Account-Based Marketing

You've seen ABM stats, now let's look at the structural perks of going account-based.

Sales and Marketing alignment

For ABM practitioners, i.e. sales and marketing pros, targeting specific accounts rather than buyer personas is a win-win. 

According to SiriusDecisions, all companies practicing ABM claim marketing alignment with sales, with 34% saying they’re tightly aligned. 

Targeting, research, and outreach are all joint efforts. This means that Marketing and Sales contribute with their own vision and expertise while speaking the same language.

Aligning sales and marketing is a winning strategy in itself. ABM is sales and marketing alignment on steroids.

Clearer ROI

ABM is not only a better way to market. It's a better way to measure the results, too.

With a targeted approach and a Service-Level Agreement (SLA) aligning Sales and Marketing, metrics and results are much clearer to the whole team.

The sharper the focus, the easier it is to assess campaign efficiency and translate it into ROI.

Stay with me to see exactly how to measure ABM campaigns.

No team effort wasted

To quote Joe Chernov, "ABM aspires to be zero-waste marketing."

Not all Marketing-qualified leads become Sales-qualified leads. And even fewer make it to paying customers. The result: tons of wasted effort.

Meanwhile, focusing on the accounts accepted both by Marketing and Sales means no more resources wasted on companies which simply aren't a good fit for your offer.

Personalized customer experience

Marketers are always busy creating diversified content for every step of the buyer's journey. This not only takes time but also doesn't fit each individual customer.

Creating a personalized experience for each individual account, on the other hand, is not only doable but also self-evident.

The more time is spent researching target accounts, the more equipped the team gets both with content creation and campaign development.

Types of Account-Based Marketing

If you're reading this, I managed to convince you - Account-Based Marketing is the way to do B2B marketing.

So what's next?

Next is defining the types of ABM.

ABM types

Account-Based Marketing comes in three major types. They all reflect the number of target accounts pursued at one time.

One-to-one ABM is a high-end variety of Account-Based Marketing. It's deployed when going after accounts with the absolute biggest value.

In reality, this means targeting 5-10 individual accounts with highly customized programs.

One-to-few ABM is a way of marketing to account clusters. With this approach, target accounts are grouped by shared attributes, i.e. similar issues and needs.

With one-to-few approach, personalization is still there but it's applied to clusters and not individual accounts.

One-to-many ABM is deployed when dealing with hundreds of target accounts. These are usually average-value deals that require the lowest degree of personalization.

The fewer accounts you choose to target, the greater your investment per account becomes. Naturally, this means higher ROI per account as you're pursuing high-value deals.

Unsure about the type? Not to worry.

ABM relies on automation platforms that help along the way. Right tooling & automation is what makes personalized customer experiences possible in the first place.

Got the right ABM tech stack? Now you can learn from successful ABM practitioners and settle on your own target accounts strategy.

Target accounts persued ABM

With best industry practices in mind, you can start with One-to-Many ABM and personalize marketing campaigns along the way for specific, named accounts.

Once you get a grip on the process, you can move to a more granular approach. 

Account-Based Marketing Target Focus

Before we proceed to the metrics used to measure the success of your ABM campaigns, there's one thing to be clarified about targeting and segmentation.

Focusing on a set number of accounts doesn't mean they're all new accounts you start building relationships with.

Your current client relationships also require upkeep, and you need to remember that when strategizing. 

Out of the accounts you'll pursue at a time, there will be a share of long-term customers you expand relationships with

Your partners also get a share of the ABM efforts pie. Ultimately, you're left with a breakdown that looks something like this.

ABM pie chart

Another thing about segmentation is that you'll deploy different orchestrated plays with different target accounts.

Here, you have 4 types:

  1. Engagement plays
  2. Meeting plays
  3. Velocity plays
  4. Expansion plays

Types of plays

Depending on the shares of current customers vs. net-new acquisition vs. partner accounts you'll be pursuing at one time, you'll use different types of orchestrated plays in varying proportions.

Account-Based Marketing Objectives & Metrics

We talked about a clearer ROI earlier in this post. But what are the specific metrics used by Marketing and Sales to measure and optimize ABM campaigns?

Below are a few data pointers to help you navigate the ABM space.

Engagement by account

This metric is a starting point for understanding leads' engagement within individual accounts. Here, you measure the initial response to your outreach and identify accounts closest to buying.

You could do that by looking at visits to your website, downloads of e-books or other assets, engagement on social, email open rate, etc.

Basically, any specific action that reflects engagement with your content helps determine which accounts demonstrate the highest purchase intent.

Meetings within accounts

This is how you know if there's enough interest within your top accounts to talk to Sales.

At this stage, you do two things. 

1) Track the number of meetings your target accounts have had with your sales team.

2) Measure the quality of these meetings, i.e. whether the accounts are moving closer to purchase. 

Opportunity Rate

Not all target accounts are created equal when it comes to progressing to opportunities.

Within a target account, once a lead becomes an opportunity, you need to start engaging them in a whole different way.

Therefore, it's important to track the number of new opportunities within your target accounts as this will guide you in switching from one type of orchestrated play to another.

Account Conversion Rate

There's nothing more telling of a marketing campaign's performance than its conversion rate. 

Same with ABM: to measure the success of your campaigns, you need to track your target accounts' conversions into paying customers.

METRIC BENCHMARK CALCULATION
Engaged Account Rate 42% Engaged Accounts / Target Accounts
Opportunity Rate 21% Accounts with one or more new opportunities / Target Accounts
Account Win Rate 11% Closed-Won Accounts / Target Accounts

Source

What's important to understand about measuring the efficiency of your ABM campaigns is that you need to define your own measurement model.

The metrics we reviewed here are just the starting point. Marketing and Sales need to agree on the set of KPIs most relevant to them within any given ABM campaign. 

Account-Based Marketing in B2B

If you think about it, Account-Based Marketing is B2B.

Marketing to accounts as opposed to buyer personas means targeting businesses. So does it mean you've been doing ABM this whole time?

The answer is yes and the answer is no. It depends on how far along you are with aligning Marketing and Sales.

The closer your Sales and Marketing are aligned (not only philosophically but also in terms of metrics and goals), the higher your ABM potential. 

ABM Maturity Model

In addition to Sales and Marketing alignment, you can assess your business' ABM maturity by looking at where you stand in terms of target accounts, marketing programs, and measurement.

Building and implementing an ABM strategy takes time, and so does moving from one tier of ABM maturity to another. 

Use this model as a growth framework and trust your processes. The rest you can always measure and optimize along the way.

Account-Based Marketing and Inbound Marketing

ABM and Inbound marketing have their differences. But it doesn't mean they can't be used in parallel. Let's break it down.

  Inbound Marketing ABM
Focus: Markets/Industries Accounts
Measure of success: Quantity of Leads Quality of Accounts
Objective: New Business Land & Expand
Research Tool: Buyer Persona Ideal Customer Profile

Source

Meanwhile, there's something very important ABM and Inbound marketing share. Just look at the definitions.

Inbound marketing is a growth strategy built around providing value through content that matches the stage of the buyer's journey.

ABM is also about providing value but with a more targeted approach

See the pattern here? Value is at the heart of both inbound and ABM, and together they form a super-growth strategy.

Inbound marketing vs ABM

Implementing both inbound and ABM within your B2B marketing strategy comes with benefits.

  • You've paved the way for ABM

Inbound marketing is a solid foundation for ABM. You're already focused on engaging and delighting your leads, but now you can also improve targeting and put high-value accounts into focus. 

  • You boost your global inbound strategy

ABM programs developed and executed within your global inbound strategy boost it in the long run.

For example, our global inbound strategy at MAN Digital is focused on B2B Tech. Meanwhile, we're currently running an ABM Program with Polish Software Houses as target accounts.

When the ABM program comes to an end, we keep executing our global inbound strategy and develop new programs.

  • You find the perfect balance 

Inbound attracts more leads but of varying quality. ABM focuses on fewer accounts but with higher ROI. The result: you get the best of both worlds.

  • Your content lives longer

Inbound marketing relies on personalized content that corresponds to different stages of the buyer's journey. With ABM, you can build up on that content but customize it to your target accounts.

  • You use automation platforms to their full potential

The software you use for automating inbound marketing is very likely a good fit for ABM as well. Combining the strategies, you get the most out of your resources.

Wrapping up

ABM is a growth strategy centered on high-value accounts. 

As it's trusted and financed by more and more businesses, it's becoming the gold standard of marketing, especially in the B2B environment.

ABM Benchmarks

The entire approach to Account-Based Marketing can be summarized as a recipe of four parts.

  1. Target a limited number of accounts identified by Sales and Marketing together.
  2. Research and approach each account / account cluster in a personalized way.
  3. Develop targeted content and campaigns.
  4. Measure and optimize for a pre-defined number of high-value accounts.

Any one of these would be enough to improve a traditional marketing campaign. When you put all four together, though - that's when magic happens.

And if you need help of qualified ABM wizards - get in touch with us.

Originally published Nov 2, 2020 12:00:00 AM , updated April 10 2021

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