What Is Account-Based Marketing (ABM)?

Updated August 8, 2022

Marketing strategies help a company's products appeal to potential customers. Businesses can implement different marketing strategies depending on what it's selling and to whom. Understanding the concept of account-based marketing and how to utilize it can help your business succeed in business-to-business sales. In this article, we discuss what account-based marketing is, detail how to use an account-based marketing strategy and present an example of account-based marketing.

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What is account-based marketing?

Account-based marketing is a marketing strategy that tailors resources to attract a particular set of target accounts. In addition to its traditional sales and marketing strategies for customers, account-based marketing allows a company to focus on larger accounts. In this way, account-based marketing serves as a tool for generating business-to-business—or B2B—sales.

As with traditional marketing strategies, the overall goal in account-based marketing is to produce sales leads to generate revenue growth in the long term. For account-based marketing to be successful, the business needs to personalize its sales and marketing techniques for each account. By focusing on unique sales and marketing techniques for individual accounts, the business builds a positive relationship with the account and can then deliver account-specific content. For example, instead of trying to appeal to a wide customer base, businesses using account-based marketing can determine their prospective accounts and then customize sales programs and products that meet the needs of those accounts.

Account-based marketing is important because it allows a company's marketing and sales team to focus on building relationships with key accounts. Typically, businesses focus on their higher opportunity and higher-value accounts. Establishing positive working relationships with accounts is crucial to gaining and retaining their business. When implementing account-based marketing techniques, personalizing the marketing and sales strategies for a company's accounts is vital to success.

Related: Business Development Skills: Definition and Examples

Benefits of account-based marketing

There are a few key benefits of using an account-based marketing strategy, including that it:

  • Promotes diversity

  • Boosts sales

  • Enhances marketing

  • Encourages better customer experiences

Promotes diversity

Account-based marketing strategies can be used in all types of businesses and industries in a variety of ways. Therefore, account-based marketing promotes diversity among businesses because even as the businesses are using the same marketing tools, their sales processes and messaging will be different for each account.

Account-based marketing can be utilized in B2B sales for companies that sell to a few sizable accounts and only for a particular size in a certain industry. Additionally, account-based marketing strategies can be implemented for B2B sales in businesses of all sizes, but the focus must be on the high-value accounts.

Example: Account-based marketing techniques can prove useful for both a small t-shirt company that has one or two large accounts and a huge technology company with numerous key accounts. In both cases, the same account-based marketing strategies can be applied to those businesses, even though the businesses vary by size and industry.

Boosts sales

Account-based marketing helps to boost sales because it correlates to an account-based sales approach that has already been implemented by a company's sales team. Marketing team members can help sales team members customize their processes and messaging for their accounts. Typically, targeting key accounts with personalized marketing tends to increase sales.

Example: Within a business, the marketing team works closely alongside the sales team to target marketing efforts towards several large accounts. The marketing team focuses on personalizing content and messaging, all aimed at the individual accounts. Also, the sales team individualizes and tailors its sales approach to each account. These strategies help to establish and build a solid relationship with the customer, even before the first sale is made.

Enhances marketing

Using an account-based strategy enhances marketing because as the sales and marketing teams are working together on the accounts, the marketing team gets acknowledged as valuable. Both the marketing and sales teams unite to define the target audience. Overall, account-based marketing enhances marketing because it helps the marketing team understand the target audience and how best to reach it. With a better understanding of the target audience, marketing strategies are directly aimed towards the customer in a logical and practical way.

Example: A company's sales and marketing teams have joined together to organize strategies for a few key accounts. The sales team shares its prospective customer list and ways it has attempted to attract these customers. The marketing team can share ideas of the best ways to reach these prospects through social media and promotional offers, among other methods. When the teams work together, they can brainstorm and produce creative marketing solutions that will help convert prospective customers into purchasing customers.

Encourages better customer experiences

Account-based marketing encourages a more positive customer experience because it is a personalized marketing strategy. Customers tend to prefer customized content and business interactions. With an account-based marketing strategy in place, businesses can deliver individualized content and sales pitches. Customers will appreciate the time and effort it takes to develop personalized content, and they are likely to reward the extra effort by purchasing your products.

Example: A furniture business is seeking to gain an apartment complex account. The furniture business wishes to sell kitchen, dining, living room and bedroom furniture to the apartment complex. To get this account, the furniture business has decided to use an account-based marketing strategy.

Therefore, the furniture business tailors its sales and marketing to this specific apartment complex. The furniture business uses social media, blogging, targeted messaging and promotional offers to attract the attention and gain the trust of the apartment complex. The apartment complex is impressed by the furniture company's efforts, and it rewards the furniture company by purchasing from them.

Related: Marketing's Promotional Mix: Definition and How To Use It

How to use an account-based marketing strategy

To apply an account-based marketing strategy to your business, follow these steps:

  1. Determine highest-value accounts.

  2. Connect key individuals to accounts.

  3. Develop customized campaigns.

  4. Implement your campaigns.

  5. Track results.

1. Determine highest-value accounts

Before you can create an account-based marketing strategy, you need to identify which accounts you will be targeting with your account-based approach. Ideally, you will choose to focus a large amount of resources on those accounts that have the highest value to your business. Evaluate all accounts and determine the ones that hold the most profitable, long-term, satisfied customers.

These are the accounts to focus on because they provide value to your business and are a fit for your company culture. You can look at existing accounts that are seeking to grow their business with you as well as new accounts that arise. It's important to adapt your account-based marketing strategy accordingly to gain and retain these accounts long term.

2. Connect key individuals to accounts

In B2B sales, you will need to discover who makes the financial decisions for your account, and then appeal to that person. By connecting these key decision-makers to the accounts, you can fit an account with a person and then personalize your strategy for that person. If you cannot appeal to the decision-maker, then you will not gain their business. Your goal is to identify, engage and persuade the financial decision-maker to take action and purchase your products.

For example, a software company using an account-based marketing strategy is identifying the decision-making roles within its key computer accounts. These computer decision-makers are employees such as the executive managers and the chief financial officer. The software company contacts these computer decision-makers, establishes relationships with them and explains how their software products can benefit their computer company. In this way, the software company is initiating an agreement by the computer decision-makers for the sale.

3. Develop customized campaigns

After you have chosen your high-value accounts and connected the decision-making individuals to those accounts, you will have to create personalized marketing campaigns for those accounts. In account-based marketing, establishing and building relationships with customers is vital to success. Customers tend to buy from companies that are relatable, reliable and honest and provide valuable products.

Customized marketing campaigns should include consultation and education about the products, personalized messages for each decision-maker and interactive and engaging content that drives the customer toward a purchase. Personalizing your message and content shows that you value the account and have spent time and energy tailoring your sales and marketing approach to meet their needs.

4. Implement your campaigns

Once your marketing campaign is personalized to each account, it is time to apply your account-based marketing strategy. Within an account-based marketing strategy, you can use a variety of techniques to relay your content, including email, social media, special events, standard mail and advertisements. Additionally, use any personal connections between a member of your team and a member of the account.

For instance, if a member of the company's marketing team went to the same university as a member of the prospective account, then use that relationship to establish a point of contact and to build trust with the customer. The team member with the connection to the account can make the introductions between the business and the account. Once you have an introduction established, you can implement your customized account-based marketing strategy for that account.

5. Track results

For account-based marketing to be successful, marketing and sales must work together to attract and generate sales. It is important to track progress and results as you implement your account-based marketing strategies so that you can optimize and improve any weak areas. Optimizing allows you to adjust and modify your account-based marketing strategy as necessary to obtain the highest-value accounts.

For example, you could track account interactions, leads and accounts that were converted into purchasing customers. For purchasing customers, you can also track that account's value to identify which accounts are your highest-value accounts.

Related: Creating a Successful Social Media Marketing Strategy

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Example of account-based marketing

Here is an example of an account-based marketing strategy:

An automotive paint company is seeking the business of a car dealership. To attract the attention of the car dealership and raise awareness for its paints, the automotive paint company employs the use of educational content including interactive guides, blog posts, infographics, workbooks, webinars and white papers. This educational content helps to provide insight into the company's supply of automotive paints, including how the paint is made and why it would be valuable to the dealership.

If the automotive paint company writes a detailed blog post regarding automotive paints and maintenance and can tie in information about the dealership, they can appeal to the dealership because the paint company has affirmed the dealership's expertise on the topic of automotive paints and maintenance. Also, this affirmation has been published on the internet for all to see, which may help to drive sales to the dealership.

Using account-based marketing in this way helps a business interact with the target account through the blog and serves as an introduction between the paint company and the dealership. If successful, this strategy will lead the dealership to respond to the paint company's content, and possibly express interest in the product, or at least ask for more information.

For a purchase to be made, the customer has to view the product as valuable. Using educational content to create demand around your product and awareness of your company is essential for a business to succeed.

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