Six steps to building an effective account-based marketing strategy

Paul Charmatz, senior VP International at Avention, shares Avention's six step programme for building a game-changing account-based marketing strategy

Account-based marketing (ABM) allows you to ‘flip the funnel’ on traditional lead generation, creating a more targeted approach to B2B marketing and sales. It’s currently a hot industry topic and it’s no wonder: MarketingProfs reported that companies using ABM generate 208 per cent more revenue for their marketing efforts. But while many marketers have heard of the benefits, they still need to know how they can get started, and what it all really means.

Avention recently polled over 100 companies about ABM, and the figures speak for themselves: 86 per cent are confident that employing ABM techniques will help their growth in 2016 and 2017 and 90 per cent said ABM is relevant to their organisation. It is clear that marketers recognise the benefits of ABM: 38 per cent of our survey’s respondents said they are currently using an ABM programme, with another 36 per cent either trialing or planning to run one within the next 6-12 months. 

But, while the appetite for ABM may be growing, it is certainly not without challenges. To deliver an effective ABM strategy, you need to have a firm grasp on your data, but less than a quarter of survey respondents said they identified themselves as leaders when it came to using data strategically. Three-quarters of marketers still struggle to find contacts at companies matching their ‘ideal profile’ - more on this later - and over half have limited or no ability to get real-time updates on accounts.

The tools for implementing a truly game-changing ABM strategy are out there – you just need to know where to find them and how to use them. Avention works with some of the largest marketing organisations in the world and so we are fortunate enough to be able to collect and understand the best practices out there. We recommend a six step programme, with a particular focus on the initial phase of discovering and targeting key accounts - something that is often neglected. It follows that if you don’t identify accounts correctly in the first place then your engagement will suffer later down the line.

1) Know your market

It is amazing how many marketers don’t actually know their market. They might know it along a certain set of characteristics such as geography, industry or size, but generally they stop there. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of questions you should be able to ask yourself about your own particular market, including things like “what technologies are in use?” or “are they under new leadership?” All of these characteristics can be mapped to accounts to help you understand which companies are more likely to buy your products. This is where a data partner like Avention comes in; we can provide the insights that allow marketers to make the correct profiling account selection decisions.

2) Profile and target accounts

Once you have a comprehensive view of the market, you can build an ‘ideal target profile’; selecting target accounts that will be of interest to your company.  Think of it like a giant spreadsheet where every row is an account that you want to target, and each column provides the data that you need to engage with those customers (contact information, industry, growth trajectory, etc). This is the point where you decide if you are looking for existing accounts where there may be upselling opportunities, or if you are looking for new accounts entirely in order to expand your account base.

3) Understanding your contact points

The next stage is to identify and understand your contact points at target companies – which we would recommend you do based on function and role. You will then need information for each of these people so that you can customise your messaging. For instance, how long have they been at the organisation? How many people do they manage? Avention can help you assemble all of the insights for both your target accounts and your target contacts so you can start your ABM engagement.

4) Create account-specific messages, offers, content

Using the insights gathered above, you can generate or modify messages and content that is personalised for target accounts and contacts – either in real time or not. At its heart, ABM is all about tailored information.

5) Execute programme

You can now start to create engagement plans, from personalised marketing campaigns to direct sales.

6) Measure, refine strategy, expand

Finally, track the results and refine as needed, considering any account or market changes. One of Avention’s key strengths is that your account will be continuously updated with contact and market information that will help drive timely program updates and adjustments. This includes trend analysis and real-time alerts.

At the end of the day, you can’t have a successful ABM strategy if you don’t have access to the right data and the ability to leverage it. I really can’t stress the importance of the first three steps enough; if you can’t nail these down, you simply won’t be able to execute steps four through six at scale.