I have been a marketer for decades, and have seen many evolutions in marketing best practices. First, we saw the rise of digital marketing vs. offline marketing. Then, we saw the rise of social media marketing within digital marketing. Which was followed by marketing automation technologies, replacing human marketing tasks. There is a new trend that is starting to take off called Account-Based Marketing (or ABM for short), and it has the potential to change everything for B2B marketers.
How Have B2B Marketers Historically Marketed
Most B2B marketing campaigns are designed to support the B2B sales team with their selling efforts. That includes building all the internal collateral materials, doing inbound “pull” marketing including content marketing, doing outbound “push” marketing including the search engines, public relations and lead generation efforts, trade marketing at events or related media, and business development channel partnerships, to name a few. Re-read this article I wrote on the basics of B2B marketing, as a refresher.
The goal here was to make everyone and anyone that could be interested in your product or service aware of your company using techniques like this. The problem with this method is you may be able to narrow down to companies within an industry, but not all companies in that industry are created equal. Maybe you need to better focus on companies of a certain revenue size who can afford your product or service, or companies within a certain geographic region, as examples. This means there may be a lot of wasted efforts and spend in this campaign.
What is ABM and How Is It Different
ABM turns this model upside down. It basically says you tell me the top specific company accounts you want to be targeting, and we will put a marketing campaign in place that only speaks to those specific accounts/people. Presumably, with no wasted marketing spend, as 100% of your dollars are targeted towards those exact accounts. And, hopefully, with better automated efficiency, than a human sales team would have calling into those same accounts manually.
If a normal B2B company spends 80% of its sales and marketing budget on sales team related expenses and 20% on marketing-related expenses, ABM could result in material dollar savings, replacing expensive outbound salespeople with much more affordable ABM marketing campaigns, automation technologies, and inbound order takers. This works particularly well for B2B companies with less complex products at lower price points, that doesn’t require in-person selling to strategically sell and nurture enterprise clients buying expensive solutions with long sales cycles.
ABM Best Practices
A good ABM campaign requires the following. First, you need to have a good list of targets to go after. Use a service like Experian, Acxiom, Hoovers, D&B or ZoomInfo to help you find the right specific titles/contacts of individuals, at the right specific companies in your industry, who have the other right specific characteristics you require to maximize success for your business (e.g., revenue size, geographic location). The key here: we are targeting specific people, not specific companies.
Once the list is built, now comes the fun part. You can upload those email addresses into your Google advertising account, and if you are a whitelisted emailer, Google will target advertising to as many of those people as they can match in their system, regardless what websites they may be visiting online (assuming it is part of the Google ad network). You will set up email campaigns and automated nurturing to those exact people, using 6-7 content pieces. You will set up your LinkedIn advertising through InMail and personally connect with those exact people. You will target those same people on Facebook, etc. Your target contacts won’t be able to miss your advertising messaging, because they will see it all over the internet at multiple times, presumably resulting in increased odds they will want to work with you given the increased frequency of seeing your messaging.
It is important to note, where possible you should customize your messaging to that specific user. For example, if you are selling through multiple channels, have a unique set of content for each channel you are going after (e.g., client direct, their agency, different departments, different use cases). And, even better, if you can make it look like you are speaking directly to that individual—their company, their role, their needs—your results will be even better.
You can either manage your ABM efforts yourself. Or, there are several ABM focused agencies that can do the work for you (e.g., Ignitium, Iron Paper, Yesler, KEO Marketing, Square 2 Marketing, The PMG Company, OBO Agency, MRPfd, and Momentum ABM, to name a few). And, several ABM technology platforms that can help you (e.g., Triblio, Engagio, Everstring, Inside View and Terminus, to name a few). I have not researched all of these companies, so be sure to do your homework before engaging them, as I simply learned about them doing ABM research on Google.
Restaurant Furniture Plus Case Study
Back in 2018, we acquired Restaurant Furniture Plus, a seller of furniture to restaurants. The business was 100% dependent on Google for leads. But, there is no quality control with Google. You never know whether the click is going to be a consumer, a single location restaurant, a small chain, a large chain, or whatever. Our target is small growing chains that best need a service like ours. So, only a third of the clicks we were buying were our exact target. Said another way, we were wasting 67% of our spend on stuff we didn’t want.
By employing an ABM strategy, we are better able to only target the desired small growing chains we want, no longer wasting money. In the process, we are watching our average order size increase, losing the small orders from single locations. We are watching our business become more efficient; we don’t need as many transactions to drive the same amount of revenues. And, we are seeing our base of repeat revenues growing, as small chains are opening new units every year (as compared to a single location that is “one and done”). You tell me which marketing route is better for our business!
If you are not using ABM marketing techniques today, you probably should reassess your entire B2B sales and marketing strategy and execution efforts, to see if ABM can help save you time and money with your go-to-market plans. My guess is, you may be wasting a lot of time and money today that ABM can help you recover. It will be very interesting to see how ABM techniques and demand evolve over the coming years, but there is no time like the present, in terms of being an early adopter of ABM.