Leveraging account-based marketing to grow your business

In my previous role as Director of EMEA Marketing for a silicon-valley B2B SaaS company, one of my favourite parts of our marketing was involving customers in our thought leadership. The power of having the voice of our customers not only positively impacted our reputation and lead generation, but also the growth of that existing customer base who joined in on our marketing.

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy that has become pretty popular in demand generation teams, as it’s viewed as a super-targeted approach to growing revenue. This approach entails targeting specific customer accounts, companies, and industries with personalised content and messaging to maximise the potential of the engagement with your customer, ultimately to drive more revenue within those accounts.

In this article, I’ll cover what account-based marketing actually is and how you can adopt this approach in your business to drive growth across your existing customer base.

What is account-based marketing?

Account-based marketing is a B2B marketing approach that focuses on targeting specific accounts or companies that are seen as high value, serving them with personalised content and targeted campaigns. Instead of targeting a broader audience, ABM narrows down to the individual accounts that are more likely to buy from the business.

There are three main types of ABM strategies: one-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many. The first type is called a ‘strategic’ or ‘one-to-one’ ABM approach. This approach delivers unique content and campaigns directly to tier one target accounts. The ‘one-to-few’ approach focuses on second-tier named accounts, with the sales and marketing teams choosing five to ten target accounts with similar challenges, goals, and needs. The marketing activities then include creating and grouping ideal customer personas, profiles, and segments to create specific campaigns to engage this identified target.

The last type of ABM is named ‘programmatic’ or ‘one-to-many’. Programmatic ABM is a combination of the first two that allows for marketers to run personalised campaigns to a wider, but still specific, segment of an audience with clear commonalities.

Programmatic ABM is usually done in response to the question ‘how do we scale ABM?’ and so in reality, this type of marketing approach is actually just personalisation, and not true ABM due to the wider target audience.

Think of these three strategies as a hierarchy with ‘strategic’ ABM at the very top, followed by one-to-few, and then programmatic. The top of the hierarchy will demand more investment, but hopefully result in stronger ROI. Depending on your goals with employing an account-based marketing strategy, you can either focus on one or use a mix of all three.

It’s important to note that in order to run effective ABM programmes, you must have a deeper understanding of the target accounts, including understanding all decision-makers, influencers, and what is involved in the buying process. It’s really knowing who your buying committee is and how to reach them in a meaningful way. A deep knowledge of your target audience will ensure you’re creating the best content possible that will address their key problems and provide them with valuable resources, making them feel more positive about your brand and increasing trust.

How to implement an ABM program

1. Align your sales and marketing team to identity and select key accounts for growth

2. Create account plans (you can find templates for this online) to ensure you know absolutely everything about your customer; research as much as possible to ensure a high level of detail

3. Assign a budget: consider ROI; what accounts do you expect the best return on?

4. Have a dedicated person/team to drive engagement with those accounts (sales and marketing)

5. Create bespoke content to engage this audience

6. Select the relevant channels to engage with this key audience

7. Test, learn and iterate: based on feedback, you may want to amend the content/campaign channel

Examples of ABM tactics

There are lots of different campaign types that will engage your key accounts for growth, some include:

1. Customer specific newsletters with bespoke content

2. Private events: lunch and learns/premium engagement events

3. Targeted LinkedIn campaigns, using ABM whitepapers/other personalised content

4. Webinars co-hosted with the customers themselves or key partners

How startups can use ABM to grow their business

Depending on your growth strategy, startup organisations can benefit from implementing an ABM program through doubling down on their happiest customers. If you are currently working with a type of customer that is absolutely delighted with your product or service, then it’s beneficial to seek out similar companies or even see if growth within that customer account is possible.

There are of course considerations to take into account, such as size of company, growth opportunity based on your customer’s needs and budget availability. However, if you already have your foot in the door in a larger organisation, it may be worth examining which other teams in that account may benefit from your product and if you’re able to cross-sell into new areas within that customer.

Implementing an ABM strategy also allows your team to focus on specific areas, as we know one of the challenges of small marketing teams in startups can be trying to do too much with a lack of a consistent direction.

In conclusion, account-based marketing can be a powerful and effective marketing strategy when done right, helping to increase the value of one customer account, sell to more areas in that customer account and develop a stickier relationship with that customer, hopefully benefiting retention and overall business growth.

This article originally appeared in the March/April issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe