Account-based Marketing part 1 – Marketing made to measure

| January 07, 2020 | Sales & Marketing Strategy | Reading time: 6 Minutes

ABM-Serie Part 1

How does Ac­count-based Mark­eting work? In our new series, a ficti­onal com­pany breaks new ground in Digital Marke­ting. In the first part, you will learn what diff­erentiates ABM from other methods and how to aim for cust­omers.

When talking about targeted B2B marketing, there is no getting around the keyword "Account-based Marketing" ("ABM"). While this method is slowly but surely extending to Europe from America, we accompany a fictitious enterprise during its ABM initiative. Join our protagonist on the journey and learn how realistic Account-based Marketing works: Starting from central concepts of ABM, up to the planning and implementation of a successful campaign.  

But first we would like you to meet the main actor of our series: Long-established company Mooser, supplier of system solutions for mechanical engineering in the Salzburg area. And there are exciting news: An expansion is in full swing. Over the past few years, the company has grown to 90 employees and is now significantly expanding its product range. The growth is related to a specific goal of the management. Mooser aims to assume a pioneering role for innovative and custom-made mechanical engineering solutions and at the same time, increase sales with a few, but loyal target customers in Austria and internationally.

Something else has also become evident: The old marketing strategy has had its day. In order to achieve the goal, new methods and an agency that gives the internal marketing department the right equipment are needed.

One shot, one hit

"How can I reach specific customers and retain them for a long time?", after extensive research on marketing agencies, the management of Mooser is now sitting in the office of their new marketing partner and immediately raises the decisive question. The solution: Content Marketing as a solid foundation, Inbound Marketing to generate leads and Account-based Marketing as the crucial feature to achieve the new goal.

But what is Account-based Marketing anyway? 

The sales method of Account-based Marketing focuses on unique content that is perfectly tailored to a specific account (i.e. a company). The strategy also includes companies with the same requirements or needs, who are operating in the same industry. This content is in turn delivered to selected decision makers in the relevant companies. The targets are potential customers on the one hand, and on the other hand existing partners, for the purpose of customer care. Each account, whether it is still a vision or already reality, is treated individually and advertised with the means of Content Marketing. 

The exchange between internal marketing and sales will be an essential part of this process. Since important (potential) customers are treated as separate market segments, the entire communication shifts from addressing a target group with personas to addressing individual "Markets of One". While other strategies aim to reach as many people as possible, ABM targets a segment as precisely as an archer aims for his target.

Flip my Funnel

Account-based Marketing will come as a surprise for those, who have just taken their first steps in Inbound Marketing. In the classic Inbound Funnel, website visitors are guided through the 3 stages Awareness, Consideration and Purchase, from initial contact to the conclusion of the sale. The focus lies therefore on generating and qualifying customer contacts, called leads. Interested parties are introduced to the services and products of a company over a sometimes shorter, sometimes longer period. Leads decide individually, based on their level of knowledge and interest, which content they want to consume. A system in the background classifies at which stage the lead is currently and guides him or her through the funnel with additional content. You can find out what Inbound Marketing is all about and how you can easily implement this method in our eBook The Playbook

The familiar approach is flipped upside down, so to speak, by the creation of accounts and "Markets of One". The ABM funnel looks more like this:

  • Identify customers: Your employees in the marketing and sales departments combine the accumulated wealth of experience and knowledge about the market and target groups to identify the ideal customer profile together. 
  • Expand reach: Purchase decisions in a B2B environment often involve very large sums of money and a long decision-making process – and are therefore rarely made by one person alone. On average, up to 17 people are involved in a purchase decision within a company. Try to expand the points of contact with an account by reaching out to as many people, as possible.
  • Engage the network: After researching, you know exactly who your buyers are. Use their favourite channels to network with them: e-mail, social media channels like LinkedIn, physical events like trade shows, or direct marketing are just a few examples.
  • Create advocates: After you have successfully turned prospects and potential buyers into customers, you have the chance to turn them into regular customers. Happy customers also become advocates for your company and may help you to win new prospects. Ask for statements about your cooperation or create case studies.
  • Measure success: Not analysing means not evolving. Measure the success of your campaign based on the commitment of your accounts and specially defined key figures. Analysis is also important during an ongoing campaign. In order to optimize results and costs, campaign steps can and should be specified or adapted at close intervals. For example, is the reaction time of the sales team not fast enough, the target group for social media ads too imprecise or the content offer not interesting enough? With an analysis, it is possible to intervene in time.

The Mooser management is on track with these steps as a process of an AMB campaign. But one detail bugs them: "If the processes of ABM and Inbound Funnel are so different, how can we include inbound methods? Why would we even want to do that?"

A pinch of Inbound 

At first glance, Inbound and Account-based Marketing pursue different goals – but that's not quite true. Both ABM and Inbound Marketing follow a pull-approach and both have the goal of delivering customer contacts to the sales team. It should always be clear, at which point the customer on the Customer Journey is. In addition, both methods follow the adage "Content is King": Leads are given targeted, informative and often entertaining content instead of platitudinous advertising messages. On the contrary would be Performance Marketing, which specializes in transactions with a large number of users and is called the direct marketing of interactive media. ABM and Inbound are more about conveying expertise: customers should be convinced that they have made the right choice with the greatest possible benefit. And while the personas used in Inbound Marketing arise from statistics and assumptions, they are brought back to a more realistic view in ABM. Here, targets are based on specific company research and are therefore even more effective.

If we mix the approaches of Inbound with those of ABM, it gives us the opportunity to refine and spice up the strategy according to individual wishes. Mooser's marketing agency lists the advantages:

  • Interested leads can find you via 2 funnels:

Above all, choosing two approaches has the advantage that leads can become customers through several channels. While ABM is all about a very narrow selection, you may attract further interested parties via Inbound Marketing. On the other hand: If you choose only Inbound, the process could take too long for your business requirements. By mixing those two, both groups are reached and you get more and more direct opportunities to attract new customers.

  • The approaches complement each other:

A specific company is on your wish list – according to the ABM funnel, the next step after research is engagement. This is where inbound methods come into play to help you create a successful first impression. Great content on the company website and social media channels increases interest in your brand and can be the decisive point for further collaboration. If the Inbound Funnel has also shown its effect and a high-quality lead has reached your e-mail distribution list via this channel, you have the option of converting it into an account. 

  • Content once produced helps you on both fronts: 

If you take the goals of both approaches into account when creating content, you can produce content that covers important points for your accounts as well as helpful search terms for Inbound leads. In this case: Strategy is key! Why work double the time, if the content pieces complement each other?

Addressing individual accounts and at the same time providing incentives for a somewhat broader target group – Mooser's management is convinced that this is the way to go. The first step has been taken in this initial meeting, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Motion sequence of a successful campaign

In order to hit the target precisely, Mooser now has to work on the development of the first ABM and Inbound campaign. If they can hit the bull’s eye, is depending on the following questions:

  1. Aim at the target: What are the tangible goals? And who has to be contacted?
  2. Nock the arrow: Which targets have to be met in which time frame?
  3. Draw the bow: What are the steps leading to the implementation and what requirements should the content fulfil?
  4. Send the arrow: How are the advertising measures implemented? What has to be  considered with LinkedIn?
  5. The bull’s eye: How can success be measured? What can be done to improve results?

In the coming weeks, the company Mooser will pass all these stations and hopefully arrive at a successful campaign. After the initial meeting, the workshop date is being scheduled. On the agenda: Which target group does Mooser want to reach? And what influence does the expansion have on the chances and possibilities of the company? Can the goal be achieved without compromise? These questions are open, at least until the next meeting and the next article in this series.