What is ABM and How Can it Help Your B2B Tech Company?
I recently had a conversation with a client that owns a consultancy that specializes in Sharepoint and Office 365. He’d recently read a LinkedIn post by Mark Schaefer on whether or not you can afford to do inbound marketing, and he wanted to get my perspective on (spoiler alert for this blog post) whether Mark was onto something (he is), how I felt about that (I agree wholeheartedly), and what my client should do about that (he should focus on ABM).
Mark theorizes on why inbound might not be working for the company that has invested heavily in promoting it—read his post for that. He also includes a great look at the circumstances under which inbound could actually work for you, including…
“if you are in:
- a new industry that has been under-served with content
- an industry with very few competitors
- a situation where competitors are not creating content
- a business that offers content that is significantly and sustainably different from competitors
- a market where many people are searching for content with narrow search terms.”
Since my client is not in a new industry, has many competitors, and his competitors are creating A LOT of content, we’re helping him focus his inbound efforts on developing content that is significantly different from others, and focuses on a few niche—or fringe content spaces.
In doing this, we’re also developing key components of an ABM strategy for his practice—one that if leveraged, will help deliver more of the same types of ideal customers he already has, while he avoids wasting time on prospects that would never be a good fit.
A Technology Company Struggling with Marketing?
In the crowded world of technology, effective marketing is vital. It can make all the difference between a company that succeeds and one that had an even better idea but never got noticed.
Unfortunately, many tech companies struggle with finding the best approach—even when guided in partnership with a digital marketing agency. The combination of short client lists and long sales cycles makes it difficult to retrofit traditional marketing models into something that will work.
The good news is that ABM has proven to be a very real solution for tech companies that can’t afford to disappear into the crowd.
What is ABM and How Does it Work?
ABM stands for account-based marketing. As an account targeting strategy, it zeroes in on specific prospects, as opposed to taking the traditional broad approach. B2B companies can take a much more customized approach with ABM, meaning the potential for greater conversions.
One way of thinking about it is the difference between fishing with a net and fishing with a spear. If all you care about is the number of fish you catch, it’s hard to argue against repeatedly throwing a net into the water.
However, if it’s more important to you that you catch a specific type of fish—especially when you’re looking to break into new markets, you’d be much better off taking your time with a spear. This combination of planning and precision is what makes ABM so effective.
Though it is certainly a novel concept, ABM’s roots go back to the 1890s. Nowadays, ABM is becoming more and more popular as the ideal digital marketing strategy for B2B companies, especially in tech.
What Developing a Marketing Strategy Should Entail
For most tech companies, it’s long been clear that the traditional marketing strategy that works for other B2B industries just doesn’t cut it.
However, before you can make the switch to taking an ABM approach, you have to understand what it entails. Here are the six parts that must make up an ABM digital marketing strategy for B2B tech companies.
1. Align Your Company’s Sales and Marketing Teams
A major benefit of this digital marketing strategy for B2B tech companies is that sales and marketing teams are brought together with AMB, meaning they work toward a shared goal. We’ll cover this point in more detail below.
For now, it’s worth noting that ABM only works when these two teams are working together. In many ways, this forces the marketing team to think more like a sales team because they have to think in terms of the unique aspects of each account and what will be required to target them, individually.
2. Mine Data to Decide on Which Accounts to Target
Once you have achieved alignment between your sales and marketing teams, you can begin researching which accounts would be best to target. Again, you’re moving away from the traditional approach of populating the top of your funnel with “literally anyone who stands a chance of being interested in what we do.”
Instead, you’re looking at a combination of:
- How much would this account be worth?
- What are our chances of converting them?
Of course, there may be a number of other considerations you want to make unique to your company. Part of adopting the ABM approach will be focusing your new strategic sales and marketing team on thinking about which other metrics matter.
3. Determine the Decision Makers for Each Account
After you’ve come up with a list of targets, your account targeting strategy will move to listing the decision makers of each company. Your efforts at ABM will only prove successful if you’re able to aim them at the people who can actually pull the trigger. Otherwise, you’ll just end up spinning your wheels.
Finding decision makers these days is a lot easier than it used to be. Check to see if you have any common connections with someone at the company via LinkedIn and simply ask them. Otherwise, go through a list of the usual suspects (e.g. VPs and directors) and look to see who has the most experience. You can also check their list of skills and endorsements for a sense of their responsibilities at the company.
4. Customize the Messaging Based on Each Account’s Unique Needs
Even when you are laser-focused on the decision maker at a company, you still need to get the messaging right or all your hard work will fall on deaf ears.
If you’ve ever had to hire someone, you know what it feels like to read cover letters that clearly were not written with your company in mind. You want to avoid this at all costs.
Your strategic sales and marketing teams must take the time to consider what it is your company can do to help your targeted account. Dig deep into their history and reference any events that may be relevant.
Aside from the fact that this can help prove your company’s value, it will also show the decision maker that your team has put a lot of time and effort into their research. It stands to reason that the same amount of care will be taken if they give you their business.
5. Identify Which Channels Work Best for Communicating with Each Account
Your research into a targeted account and its key decision maker(s) should have also revealed which communication channels will serve your goals best. This could involve any combination of display, social, video, or mobile ads.
You’ll still want to leverage A/B testing and other methodologies to refine your approach, but again, the idea is that you’ll be picking different channels for each different account.
6. Evaluate the Effectiveness of Each Attempt and Adjust as Necessary
This last piece is very important and something we will revisit in the next section.
However, here are six ways you can measure the success of your ABM approach:
- Account Selection – Before you have any chance at success, you need to pick the accounts that are most likely to become clients.
- Insights – Create specific objectives for marketing to each account based on the problems you can help them solve.
- Content – Your content must speak to an account’s specific requirements in order to generate engagement.
- Orchestration – It’s important that you always stay relevant with your ABM strategy, which means knowing when to shift content based on an account’s status in the buying process.
- Distribution – Measure which channels did best for each account.
- Measurement – Your analytics should be focused on accounts, engagement, and full-funnel marketing.
Whenever you review your ABM strategy, be sure you focus on these six areas so you’re able to improve results.
6 Reasons ABM Works as a Digital Marketing Strategy for B2B Companies
Although it’s been around for decades, ABM works just as well today as a digital marketing strategy for B2B tech companies. In case you’re still not sold on ABM as your new digital marketing strategy for your B2B tech company, here are six reasons to love it.
1. ABM Leads to Sales and Marketing Alignment
You’ve probably added this term to your collection of “Marketing Buzzwords” a long time ago, but for those who are scratching their heads, “smarketing” refers to a tight alignment between a company’s sales and marketing teams.
There are two very real benefits of tight alignment between a company’s sales and marketing teams. According to a study done by SiriusDecisions, companies that have highly-aligned sales and marketing teams enjoy:
- 19% faster revenue growth
- 15% greater profits
As we covered earlier, developing a marketing strategy using ABM requires these two teams to come together in order to identify which accounts will be targeted. So, right away, ABM achieves this kind of alignment by focusing sales and marketing on the same goal.
It also means that the tension between marketing and sales teams that exists in almost every company is largely dissolved. Sales can’t blame marketing for bad leads. Marketing can’t blame sales for messing up good leads. The two work together on deciding on the leads in the first place and then how best to reach to them.
2. An Improved Marketing Budget
With the traditional digital marketing strategy for B2B companies, a large sum of the budget – even the majority of it – needs to be spent on generating leads for the top of the funnel. Then, further investments must be made in qualifying them. Of course, part of this means giving up on leads that are seen as having low chances of converting, despite the money that was just spent on attracting them.
A much more efficient digital marketing strategy for B2B companies would involve first determining which accounts are most likely to become valuable clients. ABM does this and then fixates on which channels will be most effective for reaching them (e.g. at events, online, through social media, etc.).
3. Quicker Sales Cycles
Long sales cycles usually mean more overhead. They definitely tie up your resources, which means you can’t apply – and profit from – them elsewhere.
An ABM digital marketing strategy for your B2B company shortens the cycle by putting the right messaging in front of the decision makers of accounts that have already been verified as being worth the effort.
4. No More Cold Calling
Even though the world of marketing has come a long way since the days of “dial for dollars,” it doesn’t always seem that way. A lot of tech companies still generate their leads (or at least try to) with cold emails and other efforts that don’t do much to guarantee success.
An account targeting strategy will make much better use of your sales team’s time. Long before they ever approach a buyer with the request to talk, that decision maker will have already been exposed to the company’s messaging.
We all know how important first impressions are. An account-based strategy ensures tech companies are able to make the right one – one that is customized based on an account’s unique properties.
5. Clearer Conclusions
The success of a digital marketing strategy for a B2B tech company will largely be judged by how well it performed in terms of bringing in clients. However, the strategy is lacking if it doesn’t also deliver key insights that can be used to improve it in the future.
An ABM approach is able to do this because it works with a smaller set of accounts, instead of a large number of leads that populate traditional funnels. You can realistically expect to go through the six metrics we outlined earlier on each account you targeted.
6. A Custom Experience for Each Buyer
On that note, one last benefit of an account-targeting strategy is that the buyer isn’t forced to take broad marketing materials and decipher if a product/service makes sense for their company.
You’ve been a customer before. Which do you prefer: being treated like a number or like you’re the only prospect on the planet?
Buyers want to explore their options on their own terms and only hear from vendors when the communication is relevant to their company’s needs. A detailed marketing strategy that delivers this kind of customization is only possible when you adopt ABM practices.
A New Digital Marketing Strategy for Your B2B Tech Company
By now, it should be clear that ABM is the ideal digital marketing strategy for your B2B tech company if you have a small client list and prospects that require a lot of attention before coming onboard.
Best of all, if it seems like an intimidating change to switch to ABM right away, you can start slowly by using this account targeting strategy on one business first while you maintain normal operations elsewhere.
Give it a try, review how you did, and then improve your process. Over time, your sales and marketing teams will become more comfortable with this new approach, at which point you can begin fully leveraging it.
Having trouble figuring out what your ideal client is, how to find them, or what content to create that will help convert them into a customer? Contact us today to start the conversation.