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Accounts based marketing techniques can be used for small businesses too

Accounts Based Marketing: An Introduction for SMEs

ABM, or Accounts Based Marketing, has become something of a marketing buzzword in recent years. Traditionally used by businesses targeting large corporate clients, or those aiming to win big value contracts, techniques used in ABM can be used by any company looking to win over a new client. 

There is a whole world of expensive software and techniques to get the best out of your Accounts Based Marketing campaign. But, this isn’t that post…

In this article, we’ll look at what a typical ABM strategy entails, and even look at some ABM techniques for your own SME business. 

What is ABM?

Accounts based marketing, or ABM, is a coordinated B2B approach to target a particularly high value client.

By aligning your company focus to building and developing a relationship with a single large client, the theory is that you can treat a single client as a market in itself.

Usually, an ABM strategy will involve multiple departments working together to achieve the same goal. That is, targeting decision makers in a company identified as a ‘hot lead’, usually over a period of time.

Yes, it’s not a quick marketing win, by any means. But if you’ve ever wondered about how to win a big client for your business, the type who would cover your overheads for the year in one month, this could be a useful approach.

Typical ABM tactics will include:

  • Within your company, aligning your marketing, sales, C level executives and other departments to work toward the same goal
  • Using online marketing platforms, including PPC, for targeted and personalised ads to increase knowledge of the brand
  • Direct mail or personalised physical campaigns to reach out to specific people
  • Running ad campaigns designed to win meetings or presentations with high level executives and decision makers

Of course, you can still run your usual marketing campaigns as normal, with PPC ads, outbound and inbound sales teams and other online and offline advertising efforts.

The theory behind ABM is that winning such a large client will be worth the long game and the efforts of multiple team members. 

It’s worth pointing out too that you can also use ABM to target multiple large clients, if capacity allows. The whole point is that it is all about a converted effort to win a targeted high value client as opposed to a blanket approach.

Why use Accounts Based Marketing?

With traditional marketing, your net is cast as wide as possible, within a given area, and you hope to capture as many bites as possible for your efforts.

But, using ABM techniques, you’re aiming for a smaller pond but with much bigger fish. 

In fact, the traditional sales funnel is turned on its head when it comes to ABM. Instead of funneling your prospects down until a handful of them buy; you identify those most likely to convert, work to make bring them on-side and then aim to expand your business with them. 

accounts based marketing pyramid

Image ℅ SuperOffice.

It’s a classic example of quality over quantity.

Personalisation and retargeting have been shown to be effective forms of marketing, both of which are key features of ABM.

In a survey from 2014, it was shown that Accounts Based Marketing offers the highest return on investment of any marketing campaign. This is due to the high value stakes and targeting hot prospects who might already be on the verge of converting anyway.  

And ITSMA, the guys who carried out this survey, have found that ABM can result in an ROI of anything up to around 670%. That’s a pretty good return in anyone’s books.

Examples of ABM in action

An example of companies who might find accounts based marketing useful, or at least some of the strategies of ABM, are:

  • Product suppliers looking to be the preferred supplier for an industry giant or government contract
  • An institution offering high end training or support
  • A B2B service looking to target multiple specific industry players
  • Companies looking to reactivate dormant accounts or high value lapsed leads

Accounts based marketing does target single high value clients, but there is nothing to say you can’t target multiple clients across multiple companies or industries. 

When it comes to the nitty gritty, you’ll need to use a mixture of these marketing disciplines and techniques for an effective ABM campaign.

How does Accounts Based Marketing work?

The first step in any accounts based marketing campaign is to identify your target company (or companies). From here you’ll need to identify the specific accounts (people) that you want to target and understand if they’re worth targeting and if they match your client profile.

This is called the account assessment stage, and at this stage you need to have a very good idea about the client profile you’re targeting and ideally some details about them too.

As well as having profiles of ideal clients, you also need to have a very good idea of how your service can meet their demands and fix their pain points. 

Remember that accounts based marketing depends on personalised pitches, so it’s no good targeting ‘the CEO’ or ‘the HR department’. You’ll need:

  • Names
  • Job titles
  • Social Media accounts (Linkedin at the very least)
  • Contact details (ideally their email)
  • Work location (this can be very useful)
  • Details of past successes or other key professional achievements

The more detail the better when it comes to successful ABM campaigns.

Being creative with your approach is pretty much essential. An off the shelf approach to ABM strategy might work once you have a track record of success with it but, to start with, work on a unique approach.

An accounts based marketing campaign can be online, offline, or a mixture of both. These are some of the most common and effective tools used in ABM marketing campaigns.  Perhaps these will give you some of your own unique ABM ideas…

1. Personalised outreach

We all get tons of emails every day, so another email just ain’t gonna cut it when running ABM campaigns. At least, not to start with.

Direct mail is often held up as a great way to draw attention back to your company and ensure eyes on content. 

And being personalised, it’ll get a great response, right?

You don’t want to cross the line into creepy – so maybe don’t start buying stuffed toys for people’s kids, or inviting them to dinner at yours on the weekend. At least not yet. 

What is a good example of a personalised direct mailing or outreach?

  • A glossy print out showcasing your service alongside some tasty treats
  • A cool desk toy of gift that you *know* they would appreciate
  • Something tangible that will sit on their desk for weeks to come and remind them of your business and your service. No, not a pen or a mug
  • An invitation to an event that your company is sponsoring or running (more on this in a moment)

This is where it pays to get creative and understand what makes your decision maker tick. 

Some clever examples of direct mailings as part of ABM include:

RollWorks – Used a direct mailing to lapsed prospects which included a notebook and pen. The notebook featured a checklist of what they needed to get started on their new ad campaigns. These ‘door opener kits’ resulted in a boost in 50% appointments and 20% conversions from lapsed leads. 

GumGum – AI and media company GumGum managed to win a new contract with McDonalds, by sending decision makers personalised and custom made packaging from the fast food giants. 

2. Targeted social media

Even C level executives spend their time scrolling through social media. But which one to target?

Well, that will depend entirely on your prospect of course. 

The professionals choice is Linkedin, but if you’re running a particularly visual campaign you might prefer to use Instagram, Facebook or YouTube.

A clever example of using social media as part of an ABM marketing campaign is Boston based conference and office space scheduling software company, Robin.

They used a visual campaign of some of their client’s offices on Instagram to boost leads from prospects by 20%. Even though they don’t supply office space, the campaign was the sort of visually engaging approach that captures the attention.

3. PPC Audience targeting

Google Ads actually offers some great pay per click tools which are perfect for this kind of personalised ad targeting. 

A good option for audience targeting for ABM is customer match, which is designed to use a mixture of online and offline data to retarget prospects.

Customer match can be used to display search results in Google, or to display video results or banner ads on Google’s display network. It can even show ads in your prospects Gmail inbox. 

To use Customer Match, you just need to create a new list in your Google Ads dashboard from your email list. 

You can then create a personalised or customised pay per click campaign.

A similar option could also be Similar Audiences or even RLSA (Remarketed Lists for Search Ads), which are both useful tools for specific targeting.

4. Radius Targeting

Google Ads also allows you to target a specific area with your pay per click ads. This allows you to target a specific building, perhaps the offices of your prospects for example. 

Although a little less refined than using the Google Ads audience targeting, as an ABM tool, this can be very effective. Especially if you’re trying to improve brand recognition among the staff of a company in general.

Of course, you’d want to only run your PPC ads during office hours so that you’re not just throwing your money away. 

5. Events and real-world visibility

Face to face meetings are often the best ways to build a relationship within an industry and even seal the deal. 

An effective accounts based marketing technique is giving your prospects an appealing reason to meet up in real life. Hosting an event such as breakfast networking event, or a talk with an industry expert for executives can be a real draw and a great way to put names to faces.

For those who don’t quite have the budget or capacity to put on lavish events like this, sponsoring one event or hosting a talk at a conference can also be a good way to catch the attention of prospects. 

If you have a foot in the door already, sending an exec from your team to their site can also be a good way to get that final handshake. Reasons for the visit?

  • To showcase your product or how a new feature works 
  • Offering your own experience and advice on an industry problem
  • In the name of market research and feedback

6. Email targeting

So, at the top of this list, I mentioned that email wasn’t going to cut it in ABM campaigns. Well, there is a time and a place for emails, and that is after you’ve got the attention of your prospect.

A well targeted and personalised email can be just as effective as all of the other techniques on here, if executed properly. 

This could be a whole article in itself, but emails for accounts based marketing might be short and sweet, or they might be a video presentation or some other way out there marketing idea.

You might need to send them regularly, or you might need to send them sparingly. 

There are no hard and fast rules, but like every other aspect of ABM, care does need to be taken to ensure your message is read.

ABM marketing strategy requires a unified approach across your business

Final thoughts on accounts based marketing 

Whether you’re running an established business hoping to add a big player to your portfolio, or you’re a startup looking to play with the big boys, accounts based marketing can be an effective tool. 

It can also serve as quite an inspiring way of creating marketing campaigns, even if you don’t follow accounts based marketing strategy itself.

Like all marketing strategies, care does need to be taken in both the targeting stage and the actual content used. If you’re going after warm prospects, it can be frustrating when they go cold on you, despite your best efforts. 

Using social media and search engines for your targeting is always an incredibly useful tool, but make sure to keep an eye on those KPIs. If something isn’t working, stop using it before you waste too much money. 

Going back to the drawing board is better than wasting your marketing budget for nothing. 

Don’t forget that if you’re running pay per click campaigns, even targeted and personalised, there is always a risk of click fraud. Make sure those PPC ads are only seen by the people who you want to see them, not bots, click farms or vindictive clickers.

Read more about click fraud in our in depth guide.

Oli

Since working for ClickCease, Oli has become something of a click fraud nerd, and now bores people at parties with facts about click farms and internet traffic stats. When not writing about ad fraud, he helps companies to optimise their marketing content and strategy with his own content marketing business.

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