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What is Account-Based Marketing? (ABM)

May 7, 2020

By Blake Williams, 8 minutes read

Account-based marketing is an approach to winning your most desired customers, and often most valuable from a profitability perspective, by rising above the noise in the market and becoming the only option.

  • ABM is a Go to market strategy that is used to drive significant revenue growth. It’s more holistic than a list of tactics, and campaigns

  • ABM goes beyond personalization to leveraging all relevant information about accounts to maximize the relevancy and timeliness of sales and marketing efforts.

  • ABM is for teams that want to intermingle and align the activities of both sales and marketing.

  • ABM is directed at 3 primary outcomes: Winning business at new accounts, increasing wallet-share within the current customer base, and elevating the B2B buying process to an experience.

  • ABM focuses your resources on those accounts that will mean the most to your company’s growth.

It’s important to understand why ABM is valuable.

Blake Williams

7 minutes read

Traditional vs. ABM buying Experience

Scenario 1: Traditional

You meet a highly valued account at an event, or online, and generate a reason to meet at another time. You find out in your first call that you can solve a problem they have. Your contact is bought in but now he has to go sell the solution to 5 other decision-makers. You send over your best whitepaper, a polished deck, and even craft some emails about the business case for your champion to lead with.

The sales cycle takes a few months and you make it to the final 3. You’re invited to pitch the entire team and the sales process results in a price negotiation where most things are equal. At this point in the process the buyer could go either way, the RFP council score all responses and yours came back in the same high and favorable range as your competition. At this point you either win it or lose, there’s nothing left to argue, no case to make, it’s just up to the decision-makers preference in the team.  

This plays out over hundreds of sales cycles for you and your team a year. You win some accounts and potentially lose others, and hopefully, the net result will be that you surpassed your goal.

Scenario 2: ABM

Your team is leveraging data about your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) to monitor activity in a few different categories: Retail, Insurance, & Artificial Intelligence. Over the past few months, you’ve been tracking unstructured data about competitors, searched keywords, firmographic data, psychographic data, published white papers, 10k reports, positions being hired for, and positioning within social content. Out of all of these categories your monitoring for a certain market basket of activities, unique to your company, indicating very high buyer intent.

In fact, your monitoring this activity for 500 accounts that have your best-matched prospects from a personality standpoint, as well as from a buyer intent standpoint. 

When accounts demonstrate high buyer intent, they graduate to an orchestration of efforts where you reach out to multiple points of penetration into the account that would likely be in your target audience. Not only that, but you identify those people who have a complementary personality to yours using their personal activities on the internet and tailor your approach so they’ll be more receptive to your approach.

Your team is running display ads to pre-target the prospect days just before you reach out so your brand is top of mind. When you reach out on day 5 of pretargeting, your prospects will have likely seen your ad and maybe even clicked through but that’s not the goal, not yet.

At the same time, you’ve scraped the website of the target account and also pulled out the name of reviewers they have published and reached out to them in the same manner. The goal is to meet with their customer, likely a valued one, and create a relationship with them simultaneously. Being avid fans of your target accounts service, they are likely to make a connection if they think it could add value. 

A summarization of what we’ve done so far would sound like this.

You’re monitoring real-time data from many highly valued accounts and waiting for them to demonstrate a high buyer intent and then you are leveraging personality assessments to align with people within the account who you have a higher potential to create a strong relationship with and then also doing that with their highly-valued customers. A select group of roughly 50 people related to the target audience is seeing ads with your brand as they use the internet. 

You’re successful in getting just one meeting with a potential point of entry into the account at the right level because the ask for a meeting happens to be serendipitous. It just so happens that you reached out for a 1:1 conversation that was very relationship and thought leadership focused and the prospect was very receptive after looking at your Linkedin profile and glancing at your website to understand what you do. 

The conversation goes very well and the prospect becomes a lead and sets up another meeting with more decision-makers.  In this meeting, you’ve tailored the content to illustrate how you are doing things differently and changing the game. Based on the initial meeting they want to involve high-level leadership so they can “come and see” what you’re doing in the space. In the time before this meeting, your team creates multiple ad sets specifically speaking to pain points brought up by the individuals in the decision making team and speaks to their concerns. In fact, you include at least 20 people in each of the decision-makers teams and start pretargeting them with the same process.

Before the 3rd meeting, your team sends direct mail to 50 people at the account with something unique about their goals and how you’ll help them accomplish it. 

You’ve also armed your champion with a well-produced video (intro with music, iPhone recording, outro) about how you’re solving some of their biggest challenges, and maybe include a 20-second video chat with a satisfied customer for a great brand you work with.

You’re also putting out social content on twitter and LinkedIn that is interesting and driving engagement about a topic that should be top of mind for your account and connecting with everyone you meet along the process. This is a way to get in front of them without continually asking for their attention.  When your copywriters incorporate issues the account cares about, they will engage, and if nothing else will see the consistency in your thoughts about their problems.

The ad set that we put together was designed to speak to the personality type of all those in the account. Those that favor collaboration got an ad about it. Those that favor credibility and track record got an ad about a use case. Those that favor big ideas get an ad about changing how people X. 

Each of those ads links back to a 3-page document that was written by copywriters to speak to the very thing that they care about most without the extra noise. Each personality type cannot see what the others are experiencing and we are not asking for any commitment since this is not a lead generation exercise. We are simply asking permission to get more of their attention and trying to maximize their return on that attention with something created just for how they intrinsically feel about certain things.

When it comes down to any final pitch, you will have gotten past the general personalization of {first_name} that your competitor is doing and reached your buyer through an omnichannel ABM program that considered specific account information and focused on creating an amazing customer experience starting before the buying process. By comparison, when the key account shops for an alternative and they come at them with the basic Scenario 1 routine it will pale in comparison. The power of the B2B marketing and sales process curries affinity before the buying decision. The final outcome gets individual accounts to align with your long term vision.

An ABM strategy is simply trying to win on purpose, by design, and with intent. It’s about leveraging the most sensible resources to invest in non-scalable activities from marketing and sales teams to stand out above the competition to become the only option instead of just another option. At a philosophical level, you start to elevate the profession of sales and marketing when you start treating prospects as ends in themselves with their own wants and desires instead of just a means to your sales ends.

ABM campaigns are special and they are supposed to feel that way for everyone involved. My wife makes an effort to create a gift basket for anyone, literally anyone that comes to start at our house. It has extra toiletries, snacks, little pieces of comfort that alone would not add up to a gesture of note, but together standout as something designed with so much care and attention that everyone feels incredibly welcome.

When you align sales and marketing and orchestrate campaigns during the buying experience for your most valuable accounts, you will stand out, and they will feel the welcoming love.

Any thoughts?

Did you enjoy this read? If you’d like to learn, how ABM could boost your current sales activities – reach out on Linkedin.

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