An ABM strategy can increase B2B revenue by 208%. (Warc)
In the early 2000s, during my tenure as the Head of Marketing for SAP Indonesia, I had my first experience with the power of Account Based Marketing (ABM). It all began with our strategic account—the largest food manufacturing company in Indonesia. Although they had already implemented SAP ERP successfully, we saw an opportunity to expand our footprint by offering our HCM, SCM, and Procurement solutions. Little did I know that this journey would leave an everlasting impact.
I learned then that ABM is a true team sport. With high stakes and equally high potential returns, it calls for the collaboration of various teams. Value engineering experts, industry heads, professional services teams, local leadership, marketing, and, of course, sales all joined forces. Together, we meticulously crafted a comprehensive plan with clear timelines, action items, and accountability maps with expected outcomes clearly defined.
Our ABM strategy encompassed a range of integrated tactics, all working harmoniously under one umbrella campaign targeting this one account. The culmination of our efforts led to a grand-scale, full-day event dedicated to this account, with hundreds of attendees across their various buying centers.
Given the strategic nature of the transformation project, it was imperative to secure buy-in from the highest level, and we were fortunate to have the full support of the CIO back then, who rallied the multiple stakeholders. (Read my previous article Winning Over the C-Suite and Drive Faster and Larger Deals)
The ABM initiative proved to be a resounding success. I witnessed a substantial increase in pipeline and revenue from this single account. It was a testament to the power of ABM in enabling higher win rates and larger deal sizes. I was in awe of its ability to accelerate sales cycles and penetrate existing accounts with aggression – and I became a believer.
Since then, I’ve continued to run ABM campaigns. However, as it is a high-effort endeavor I made sure of the buy-in of the various teams, and that it was clear the potential returns were worthwhile.
ABM can get very complicated, but it doesn’t always have to be that way.
Having practiced ABM for multiple companies for over 10 years, today, I want to share with you the principles and steps for you to set up your ABM machine and gain a competitive advantage in the market. The concept discussed here is one of scalable ABM, specifically focusing on ABM that is one-to-few ( as opposed to the one-to-one approach discussed earlier, for example).
Let’s embark on an exciting journey of simplified ABM together!
But before we dive in, let’s understand how ABM sets itself apart from traditional B2B marketing.
In traditional B2B marketing, the approach involves casting a wide net and relying on inbound leads generated through demand-generation initiatives and enticing content/lead magnets. However, with ABM, we adopt a proactive stance by specifically targeting accounts that hold significant value for the company. Instead of waiting for leads to come to us, we actively pursue and engage with the accounts that would be a great fit for us and would be our ideal customers.
ABM enables us to focus our efforts on the accounts that truly matter, aligning our strategies and resources to build strong relationships and drive meaningful business outcomes. So, let’s get ready to embrace the power of ABM and unlock new possibilities for success!
To Simplify ABM, we can think of these 3 exact steps:
Step 1: Define Your Ideal Account Profile and Create Your Account List
Begin by envisioning your dream customers and accounts that align with your business goals and offerings. This process forms the basis of your ABM strategy. (Read how to effectively research your dream buyer by reading Part One: Getting to Know Your Dream Buyers in my book ).
Building an ideal customer and account profile is just the beginning. To bring your ABM strategy to life, it’s essential to pinpoint the actual accounts you want to target. Consider both the ideal customer profile and the actual and complete list of accounts to ensure a comprehensive approach. The number of accounts can range from 10 to 100, taking into account your target revenue, average deal size, win rates, and sales cycles.
Note: Your ABM Account List Should Be Flexible and Adaptive
It’s important to recognize that your ABM account list is not set in stone and should be adaptable as you progress along your ABM journey. As you implement your strategy, it’s crucial to monitor and evaluate the success rates and response rates of your outreach efforts. This data will provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your approach and guide you in refining your account selection.
Furthermore, as business priorities evolve, it’s necessary to reassess and adjust your account list accordingly. Stay attuned to the changing needs and goals of your organization, and be prepared to make modifications to ensure your ABM efforts align with the shifting landscape.
Step 2: Identify the Key Contacts Within the Accounts
Once you’ve identified your target accounts, the next step is to identify the key contacts within those accounts who hold influence in the decision-making and buying process. Aim to connect with 3-7 contacts within each account, gathering crucial information such as their job title, email address, LinkedIn profile, phone number, and any other relevant data. Additionally, keep track of their engagement with your content, competitor’s content, or subject matter related to your product.
This comprehensive contact list will become an invaluable asset, enabling you to tailor your outreach efforts for personalized and effective engagement throughout your ABM strategy. By understanding the key contacts within your target accounts, you’ll be equipped to forge meaningful connections and drive successful outcomes.
Step 3: Engage and Captivate Your Target Accounts
Engaging accounts requires a tailored and personalized approach.
Based on my experience, here are effective tactics to connect with your dream accounts and contacts. Shift your mindset away from generic ads and focus on building a genuine connection.
Start by conducting thorough research to uncover industry-specific hooks that will capture their interest. Develop content that addresses their unique needs and pain points, resonating deeply with their line of business.
A quick and effective ABM content strategy is to run research and create content around “What are the Top X companies in Industry X doing with Y.” This approach provides valuable insights and positions you as a thought leader.
Once you have developed the content:
- Forge an outbound machine, utilizing both emails and direct mail, with a compelling value proposition that resonates. (Direct mail is underutilized and when done right can be just the trick to win engagement from key contacts. It often has a very high open rate of more than 90%)
- Enhance your outreach efforts with targeted ads that reinforce your value proposition and provide comprehensive coverage.
- Leverage the reach of LinkedIn ads and outreach to amplify your message, generating intrigue and expanding your reach within your target accounts.
- Conduct value-packed webinars that showcase the power of your research data and deliver key takeaways. Summarize the webinar concisely, run personalized further follow-ups, and demonstrate your commitment to their success.
And finally, here, I’d like to share some additional Pro Tips to create impactful ABM campaigns:
- Harness the power of intent data, whether from external sources or by analyzing data from your own website, to identify accounts that are currently in-market and actively seeking solutions. These are the accounts you should prioritize.
- Embrace the “land and expand” mindset. Instead of chasing a large deal all at once, focus on landing the first deal by highlighting a specific use case that resonates with the customer. Once you’ve established a foothold, gradually expand the relationship by delivering exceptional value and addressing their evolving needs. This approach allows for manageable growth and paves the way for future opportunities.
- “Plan the Wedding”. Coined by TK Kader, the founder of the SaaS Go-To-Market Program, “Plan the Wedding” entails envisioning the customer’s journey beyond the initial deal, discussing customer success, onboarding, training, and ensuring ROI. By collaborating with professional services and trusted partners, we build trust and a strong foundation for future opportunities with the target account.
Conclusion: Account Based Marketing doesn’t have to be complex. By following these core principles and steps, you can simplify your ABM approach and achieve remarkable results. Embrace the power of scalable ABM and witness the transformation in your sales cycles, deal sizes, and customer relationships.