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3 steps to account-based marketing (ABM) breakthrough

Customers want to be engaged and feel like a product is tailor-made for them. Businesses are no different, which is why a shift toward an account-based marketing approach should sound appealing.

At its core, ABM is a strategic method of B2B marketing that targets companies and concentrates marketing and sales efforts on a prioritized set of accounts. The idea is a more personalized strategy marketed toward the accounts’ key stakeholders.

In other words, ABM is a way to apply one-to-one marketing techniques to an individual company. Each strategy’s success depends on an ability to stay hyperfocused, to gain a deep understanding of your target, and to build a relationship with it over time.

Moreover, successful ABM marketers know an audience isn’t simply one key decision maker within an organization; rather, it’s a team of people, each with unique pain points and motivations. ABM, however, isn’t a quick fix if sales are lagging or you’re just looking for ways to spend the remainder of your marketing budget by year’s end.

It’s a long-term strategy that can be hard to pull off, but a successful ABM effort can also land you your biggest clients. That's why B2B companies incorporating ABM tactics into their larger growth strategies is becoming more popular than lead-based and other more traditional types of marketing.

Tools of the trade

ABM needs a certain set of tools to be effectively implemented. Its recent rise in popularity is due in large part to the emergence of a number of new marketing technologies. Using those resources to narrow in on an audience and target specific accounts is the first and most crucial step to take.

In the marketing tech space, big companies like Oracle and are fighting for dominance, providing businesses with marketing automation platforms like Salesforce's Pardot and Oracle's Eloqua, which allow users to efficiently build and deploy fully customized campaigns.

Plus, technology providers such as Terminus and Demandbase allow marketers to focus on the delivery of their digital advertising, enabling them to serve ads and personalize web experiences. No more blasting emails to everyone from the CEO to the janitor within your target organization, and no more generic website experiences.

Finally, an effective ABM initiative takes optimization, and many different tools are available for reporting attribution and providing analytics. While all the marketing platforms mentioned above allow users to track campaign performance metrics, a growing number of options specialize in just performance tracking.

In particular, the analytics capabilities of applications like SumAll, Klout, and others let users attach real numbers to their social media marketing efforts. Every marketer knows the importance of being able to clearly track ROI. These tools make our lives much, much easier.

Trials and tribulations

Not every ABM initiative will be successful. Pitfalls are inevitable for companies implementing the strategy for the first time. But anything worth doing is hard, and ABM is certainly worth the effort.

An ABM strategy instantly identifies an ideal customer profile, which helps reduce the time and money spent on marketing to the wrong audience. The expedited process produces more qualified leads, drives up close rates, and gets customers through the sales funnel faster. To maximize the impact of your ABM program, adopt these three tactics:

1. Make sales and marketing alignment a priority

Both departments must work in tandem to identify target accounts and build relationships with them. If only marketing is involved, your ABM tactics look no different from a typical advertising campaign; if sales isn’t there, it’s essentially a cold call.

Additionally, it's important to keep in mind that ABM is a strategic, long-term play that requires a sustained vision for your business. If your company is constantly changing directions, it’ll be hard to build credibility with your target organizations. You need to know your identity, then make ABM a part of it.

2. Let strategy drive everything

If your company vision is what steers you in the right direction, your strategy is what moves you forward. When it comes to ABM, the smaller decisions you make should always coincide with your overall goals.

Oftentimes, marketers focus so much on overcoming daily pain points that they’re unable to view marketing holistically. Combine that with the fact that technology providers are increasingly eager to sell their products in a heavily saturated market, and you get marketers who are buying up technologies without considering how their implementation and use affects existing processes. This can be a huge mess and can turn technology into a barrier rather than a solution.

3. Leverage your expertise

From technology integration to strategy development, you need experts to implement and execute an ABM initiative that gets real, transformative results.

The sheer amount of available tech products is mind-boggling. Sifting through such a crowded pool will require help from people who know not only how to use the available tools, but also how to implement them into current processes, administer them, manage them, and integrate them with other tools. The key is to make sure they’re delivering against the strategic goals of your B2B sales and marketing funnel.

There’s a reason 90% of the people who’ve bought these types of technologies believe they’re underperforming. Getting the most out of them requires a level of technical expertise that few people possess and a level of familiarity with existing processes that takes time to acquire.

Luckily, there are companies that specialize in getting to know your business and helping you implement the technology stack that’s right for you. Outsourcing the decision-making, implementation, and management processes can often allow you to focus more energy on developing a sound segmentation and targeting strategy and eliminate the internal gridlock that tends to hamper those processes.

Regardless of whether you decide to outsource key functions or make finding the right tools for the job an internal priority, your ABM program’s success will depend on your strategic vision. Keep in mind that technology is only part of the equation. How you use it is equally, or perhaps even more, important. ABM doesn’t pay off in a single day. But if your daily decisions remain anchored by a long-term strategy, then it will certainly pay off one day — and the rewards can be great.