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ABM 101: Intro to Account-Based Marketing

Madison Logic Team
February 28, 2024 11 MIN Blog

Account-based marketing (ABM) is the most effective way to boost marketing efforts though a hyper-targeted and personalized approach to reaching and engaging in-market accounts.  While not a new concept, you and your team might not be fully maximizing the full potential of what an ABM approach provides without implementing the necessary data to identify the right accounts and understand buying committee concerns, activate personalized campaigns at every stage of the sales cycle, and measure performance and optimize campaigns in real-time to accelerate conversions.  

So, what exactly is ABM, why do you need it, and how do you build a stronger strategy with it? Read on to learn everything you need to know to become an ABM wiz in no time.  

What Is Account-Based Marketing?

Accountbased marketing (ABM) is a strategic, data-driven approach that aligns sales and marketing efforts to focus on targeting and engaging best-fit accounts. By prioritizing quality over quantity, ABM allows you to narrow your time and resources on accounts demonstrating the highest propensity to purchase and deliver more personalized experience across all members of the buying committee. The result is better engagement, faster sales cycles, and stronger relationships with accounts that will deliver more long-term value.  

ABM vs. Demand Gen: What’s the Difference?  

Conventional demand generation focuses on a wide-reaching approach—as long as marketing generates leads and fills the pipeline, they’re doing their job. The problem is that the volume of leads doesn’t signify the quality of the lead. Sales and marketing teams spend hours qualifying leads, which depletes the time they could spend diving deeper into their data for quality insights around their target accounts that impact their outreach efforts.  

ABM focuses instead on quality by identifying the key stakeholders within your target accounts and personalizing your marketing efforts to increase conversion and ROI. ABM isn’t just a top-of-funnel effort—it’s a unified and consistent approach to reach all decision-makers with relevant content and messaging throughout the entire buyer journey.  

The Different Types of ABM 

There are three types of ABM strategy you can implement depending on your goals and available time and resources. They are:  

  • 1:1 ABM—Also known as “Strategic ABM” or “Large Account ABM,” 1:1 ABM focuses on developing and executing a hyper-targeted marketing strategy for each individual account.  
  • 1:Few—Also known as “ABM Lite,” 1:Few ABM groups 5-10 accounts into a distinct audience segment to target with the same strategy. Each account shares similar characteristics, such as the same business challenges, similar buyer personas, and company size, that the customized marketing strategy will appeal to and lead down the sales funnel. 
  • 1:Many—Also considered “ABM at scale,” 1:Many ABM targets an audience segment on a much larger scale. Marketers create a personalized ABM strategy that speaks to each audience segment at large, which is especially beneficial when targeting large accounts with multiple decision-makers within a large buying committee.  

The goal of any ABM strategy is to provide buying committee members with the information needed to move with urgency along the sales funnel. A 1:1 ABM strategy may lead to enough attention on an account that they expand their services with you. If you want to improve conversion metrics, especially if you’re branching into a new market, a 1:Few ABM approach allows you to consider a larger target account list (TAL).  

Late-stage B2B companies (Series D and onward) have an ample inventory of historical data that helps to create audience segments for a 1:Few or 1:Many approach. Early-stage companies arrive to a point where they glean data around customers and build out stronger ideal customer profiles (ICPs) to create larger TALs, hence expanding from a 1:1 to 1:Few ABM strategy.  

Each method also results in different impacts across your company’s bottom line. While a 1:Many ABM approach reaches more accounts, the return on investment may yield lower returns than a 1:1 ABM approach. That said, a 1:Many ABM strategy can have larger effects in terms of brand penetration and awareness than the other methods, which can make larger impacts in terms of receiving new customers and growing the relationship with current customers. It’s important to align with your sales team to determine which approach to take and get their buy-in from the start of your program to increase its success.  

Why Do You Need ABM? 

Perhaps the question most asked by companies is why they need ABM in the first place, especially if traditional lead generation efforts are adequately filling the pipeline.  

The problem is that the B2B buying process has changed. Purchase decisions are no longer made by a single person—instead, they’re decided by a buying committee consisting of four to six members (on average), which can grow to 10+ participants with more complex and expensive solutions. These individuals each come to the purchase decision with their own perspectives, concerns, and pain points. They also hold different roles across different departments and range in other demographics across genders and age groups—all of which impact their decision-making process. 

With deals taking longer to close and decision-makers increasingly needing to demonstrate ROI to justify their spending, buying committees need relevant information to reach a purchase consensus. Buyers no longer want personalized experiences—they demand it. Crafting these experiences involves more intelligent targeting and a better understanding of their individual needs to deliver more relevant content and messaging across the channels they use the most. 

By leveraging data to understand the accounts showing purchase intent, the personas making the purchase decisions, and the content that will ultimately drive them to that sale, ABM is the answer to overcoming today’s complex marketing challenges.  

A common view of target account research, engagement activity, and key performance indicators (KPIs) ensures your sales and marketing teams work more collaboratively to deliver a unified, “always-on” approach that guides buyers through the sales journey faster and establishes a better connection that leads to a stronger business partnership for years to come. 

ABM helps you: 

  • Maximize your marketing budget by targeting the accounts and buying committees most likely to convert now. 
  • Saves you time and effort with a persistent experience in the market that delivers a personalized experience and drives engagement with the accounts that matter the most. 
  • Demonstrate success by measuring engagement in real time and augmenting content to yield higher conversions. 

Marketing and sales teams collaborate to develop content and messaging that speaks to buying committee members across their target accounts. By incorporating personalized, targeted content developed specifically for the accounts you want to reach, ABM can help you generate more data, drive higher engagement, accelerate the sales cycle to deliver positive ROI, and makes it easier to share the results of your efforts across your organization. 

How Do You Get Started with ABM? 3 Steps of a Successful ABM Strategy

The most effective ABM strategies dynamically target, nurture, and convert accounts through a full-funnel, always-on strategy. To get the most out of your approach, you’ll need to align your efforts with sales and ensure you’re working cohesively and toward shared goals. Consider the following three steps to create a stronger ABM strategy.  

Step 1: Identify and Prioritize the Right Accounts, Personas, and Content 

Everything starts with data. For your campaign to be effective, you need to prioritize in-market accounts, identify which personas to engage across the buying committee, and understand what content is most likely to convert them. ABM moves away from generalizing a dream list of clients and thinking you know what they care about toward using data to focus on the accounts demonstrating readiness to engage and creating content that supports their concerns and buying behaviors.  

Intent data is key to identifying in-market accounts based on their online research and content consumption behavior. This data not only helps you narrow your efforts on those accounts with the highest propensity to purchase, but also indicates how the accounts you’re actively engaging with are moving through the purchasing process based on buying committee behaviors. Combining multiple sources of data provides a differentiated and multi-faceted view of buyer intent. Here are a few sources to use: 

  • Owned Data: This includes first-party account and customer information found in your customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation platform (MAP).  
  • External Behavioral Data: This proprietary data purchased and used with permission from other businesses uncovers the behavioral insights from key members of buying committees engaging with content. Examples include hosted events, online communities, tradeshows, and review websites. 
  • Third-Party Data: The two main forms of this data include technographic data, which identifies the technology that accounts are currently using and researching, and B2B research data, which provides insight into account content consumption behaviors relevant to your solution.  

Once you’ve used data to decide which accounts to prioritize, you need to determine who to engage within those accounts and what content and messaging will resonate with them the most. Understanding the individuals to engage provides the blueprint to approach your business targets effectively.  

Each member of the buying committee has specific concerns and wants to find a viable solution to solve them. The end user who will likely use your solution every day will have different concerns from a senior or C-suite decision-maker. Data-driven insights around these concerns allow you to create content and messaging that educates buyers about your solution, motivates them through the funnel, and persuades them that you are the ideal solution to partner with to reach their goals. It also helps you align your content with the trending topics your target customers are researching.  

You also need to map personalized content and messaging for each buying committee member based on each stage of the buyer’s journey. This ensures that you’re presenting them with the content and messaging they need at each stage to get them to that decision faster. Keep in mind that not all personas progress through the funnel at the same rate. One person can be in the consideration stage while everyone else is in the awareness stage. Use engagement and intent data to identify where each buyer is and to signal when they have moved to a new stage. This level of personalization will pay off in the end.  

Step 2: Activate Relevant Content for Each Stage of the Buyer’s Journey 

ABM is all about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. But buyers research solutions on various channels and their journey isn’t confined to one place. You can’t dictate where they research and explore solutions, nor can you expect them to waste time looking for the right information. If you want to remain top of mind, you need to surround the buying committee with a persistent and cohesive experience across the channels they’re already using. Those include:  

  • Connected TV: A category of over-the-top (OTT) streaming devices that connect to or are embedded into a television to support video content streaming. As more buyers shift to more independent research methods, a CTV marketing strategy helps raise brand awareness with buyers. 
  • Content Syndication: Amplify reach and strengthen brand visibility through republishing efforts that reach your target accounts. Following these content syndication dos and don’ts will help you navigate syndication with precision to generate high-quality leads.  
  • Display Advertising: Includes rich media and standard display, such as banner ads, that appear across the Internet and apps, and are particularly strong at reinforcing messaging, delivering content, and encouraging high clickthrough rates and webpage visits.  
  • Social Advertising with LinkedIn Ads: Including LinkedIn in your unified ABM strategy helps you own the experience on the largest B2B social network and deliver more dynamic ads directly where your target accounts will see them.  

While you don’t have to use every channel available, you should prioritize the channels buyers spend most of their time on, while also getting the highest quality engagement possible. When you’re developing your multi-channel strategy, consider how each channel fits into your strategy and integrate them thoughtfully based on the needs of each persona and the goal you want to achieve. Ensure you have enough material to serve their needs, alongside what content performs best per channel. 

Step 3: Measure Performance and Optimize Campaigns in Real-time to Accelerate Conversions 

All good things take time, and it can take a while for your ABM efforts to pay off. ABM programs often take up to nine months to see full fruition, from generating engagement to a closed deal. That’s why it’s important to measure campaign performance against your KPIs regularly so you can optimize your approach in real time instead of waiting until the end to determine what went wrong. Quickly identifying trends, adjusting strategies, and making data-driven decisions will improve the effectiveness of your campaigns in the long run.  

Instead of looking at vanity metrics like impressions, open rates, site visits, and downloads, focus on data points that help drive improvements over time. Metrics that uncover the key drivers of performance with your ABM strategy include:  

  • Volume: The number of sales opportunities and deals created from each ABM campaign 
  • Value: The average revenue value of opportunities in the sales pipeline and closed deals 
  • Velocity: The average time it takes to convert your target accounts into customers 

Remember that ABM campaign success isn’t necessarily measured by the quantity of account leads gained. Instead, focus on the quality of accounts converted. One enterprise account that you’re able to grow and retain for years to come is much more valuable than landing several low or mid-level accounts that won’t benefit from your solution in the long term and will move to a competitor solution.  

Power Your Growth with ABM 

ABM doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By employing the three key steps of Identify, Activate, and Measure to your ABM strategy, you can dynamically target, nurture, and convert your best accounts to accelerate the buyer’s journey. 

Download the 2024 Full-Funnel ABM Playbook to dive deeper into why adopting a full-funnel ABM approach is your best bet to align your strategies, maximize budgets, and improve operational efficiency.  

Looking for an easier way to approach your ABM efforts? With a holistic view of your unified strategy and efforts, the centralized ML Platform is the premiere solution for modern marketers to power their growth and drive higher conversions. Accelerate every stage of the buying journey with the only ABM activation platform that combines three sources of intent signals, four leading media channels, and ROI metrics to drive more quality conversions. request a demo to learn more.