Account Based Marketing and Sales (ABMS) is a strategic marketing approach adopted by B2B organisations where specific targeted accounts are regarded as individual markets in their own right. Any successful ABMS initiative requires both the collaboration and commitment of various teams and talent.
In the B2B marketing context, ABMS can best be described as the process of singling out your key accounts, gathering as much insight on them as possible, and then using this insight to align your proposition to the challenge(s) they're facing with the aim of crafting a personalised marketing campaign in order to win their business.
It's important to remember that the implementation of any ABMS initiative is complex and time consuming, which means that at times, your teams may feel understandably despondent. This makes commitment and a structured approach to the implementation phase crucial in working towards successfully achieving the end-goal.
To assist you in achieving ongoing ABMS programme success, the following 8-step framework is one that is widely adopted by many B2B organisations succeeding in driving well-executed ABMS programmes:
Before any tactics, data or technologies are considered, the ABM approach needs to be established. When it comes to making this decision, four main factors should to be considered, (I) your available resources, (II) team structure, (III) the size of the prize and (IV) the likelihood of conversion. Based on these considerations, three different approaches can be taken, namely 1:1, 1:few and 1:many. Read our article discussing these three ABMS approaches in greater depth.
Once you have chosen your approach, the target accounts need to be selected. At this stage you may already have your top accounts in mind, but it is imperative to follow a process to ensure the correct selection. As an account-centric initiative, arguably the most important step when it comes to ABMS is the selection of target accounts. As such, collaboration between sales, marketing, customer services and any other front-line team is essential to ensure various perspectives are contributing to the decision.
The data types to be considered when selecting accounts are also critical. Often organisations select accounts based on firmographic data only - a target company's industry, revenue bracket, and number of employees. However, it is of equal importance to analyse data points that indicate a company's behaviour and activities. These data types include technographic, 3rdparty intent and 1stparty intent data.
Once the set of target accounts has been defined, the next step in the framework is the gathering of account insights. This comprises collecting key information about the target account's sector, stakeholders, competitor landscape, financials and performance, operating environment and culture.
Significant effort is required during this phase as the greater the depth of insight gathered, the more relevant and customised the communication outputs in terms of messaging and content development.
B2B buyers are still people. It's therefore important to understand who is buying and how they buy.
When it comes to contact identification, this phase is two-fold. The first part of research is aimed at identifying the Decision-Making Unit (DMU) of the target account. By having sight of the DMU, the decision-makers, influencers, and other key stakeholders in the buying process can be identified. From this, key account prospects are then selected for target engagement.
The second part of research is aimed at gathering and enriching information on these key account prospects. Various tactics such as call-programmes, 1stparty/owned data analysis, email exploration, the purchasing of data, and desktop research are typically used in this process.
What sets ABMS apart from other marketing initiatives is the high level of relevance and personalisation of the messaging created. Great communication is always built from great insight. Here the valuable insights gathered in the previous phases can be harnessed to develop a unique value proposition (UVP) specifically tailored to the target account.
An effective UVP should aim towards providing a clear statement describing: (I) the benefits of the offering, (II) how this offering solves the target account's needs, and (III) the competitive differentiator of the offering.
Based on this, content is then created or repurposed to deliver the resulting targeted messaging in a way that creates strong resonance with the key account prospects.
Following content and messaging refinement, the ABMS orchestration phase involves the planning, technical set-up, and configuration of the platforms and systems required to optimally deliver on the ABMS programme.
The actualisation of efforts described in steps 1 to 5 above take place during the engagement phase. It is during this phase that all your previous efforts come together and it's finally time to engage with the right audience, on the right platform, using the right content and messaging. Here the engagement tactics will be informed by the research gathered in the account insights phase.
As with all well-executed marketing initiatives, an ABMS programme requires an iterative approach. It is only through ongoing accurate measurement and reporting of all ABMS tactics, content, and messaging that an ABMS programme can be continually refined and optimised to ensure maximum value creation.
It's important to remember that when it comes to B2B marketing, audiences are finite and so it becomes even more critical to ensure that all efforts are measured to accurately gauge the real impact and return on investment (ROI).
ABMS not only transforms the effectiveness of an organisations B2B marketing efforts but results in broader business benefits such as collaborative innovation. Its tailored and customised approach, with all combined efforts based on deep and contextual insights, can prove to be an invaluable reputation and relationship building tactic. Of course, it goes without saying that it all also results in a greater and measurable ROI.
Ultimately however, any effective ABMS initiative requires a predefined, structured approach. This framework aims to provide a guide to what will hopefully result in ABMS success for you and your organisation.