This blog post is a 11 minute read.

The explosion of online marketing platforms over the past decade has created an abundance of opportunity for you to build deeper insight and more personal relationships with your customers and prospects.

I’m going to go out on a limb here an assume you have a pretty well-oiled inbound and content marketing engine in place to ‘cast a wide net’ and generate as many new leads for sales as you can. Having a content marketing strategy in place is absolutely good practice, however, if you are among the many marketing teams today looking to drive higher quality over volume then you will need a more targeted approach.

Think about the last time you were told ‘we want more clients like [enter your favorite client here]’. How did your team use that information? Focusing on targeting specific accounts that you want more of can be powerful but requires a new strategy and toolset specifically for account-based marketing. More on this later. Don’t fret, you can still use some of the same tools you have in your content marketing toolkit.

You’re probably dabbling in marketing automation to share your latest and greatest video or white paper–and while you may be seeing some good results–you probably struggle to capture the image of your ideal customer. Finding and securing your ideal customers could be a big win for you to help drive new and incremental revenue growth for your business.

And that’s where ABM comes in. The Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), a source of insights for B2B marketers, said that Account-Based Marketing “delivers the highest return on investment of any strategic marketing approach. Period.”

And we have to agree. Using ABM, you can re-leverage tools you’re already familiar with (along with a few you may not have heard of) so you make the right connections with the right people, and earn some great ROI while you do it.

And better yet, it will stop (or at least slow down) your sales team from asking you that age-old question marketing pros dread to hear from sales, “What have you done for me lately?”

Your Competitors Are Leveraging ABM

According to Sirius Decisions, 92% of B2B marketers believe ABM is very-to-extremely important to their overall marketing activities. So, there’s a good chance that your competitors are reaching out to your ideal customers and prospects through ABM right now. They are getting more personal with—and becoming more relevant to—your contact list because of ABM.

While you might not be able to stop the outreach of your competitors, you can take steps today to better target with your prospects to ensure they are YOUR ideal customers – the ones that drive new business and open doors to new opportunities. These are the customers who trust you because of the value you deliver.

A Little Background on ABM

The term Account-Based Marketing (ABM) was coined in 2003 by the ITSMA. That said, the idea behind what is now called ABM is a marketing technique that has been around much longer.

For years, sales and marketing have tried to target specific accounts. It just didn’t have the fancy name of ABM. This process has typically been referred to by sales as ‘Account Planning’ with marketing being brought in – usually after the fact. There was minimal collaboration between sales and marketing teams during the strategy phase of the ideal target account planning process.

Today, ABM has a very clear definition. According to TechTarget, it’s defined as a “B2B strategy that focuses sales and marketing resources on targeted accounts within a specific market.”

This is important because effective use of ABM strategy and tactics in B2B marketing ensure that both your marketing and sales teams collaborate to drive new, incremental revenue together. And where inbound and content marketing are focused on attracting as many possible leads as you can—and relies on deep persona work, ABM turns this around and drives you to work with your sales team to focus on defining ideal—or perfect target accounts.

Marketing and Sales alignment and collaboration… It sounds like a marketing pipe dream, doesn’t it?

It isn’t. No matter your marketing specialty or focus – content marketing, digital marketing, partner marketing, field marketing, corporate marketing, etc. – a solid understanding of ABM is important, but it can seem a bit overwhelming at first glance if you don’t have a strategy or game plan to get started.

That said, we’ve looked at how you can jumpstart your ABM activities with some free tools that will show your sales team the value of this approach to targeting their accounts. But we’ll get to that in just a minute.

First, let’s talk about what you need to do before even thinking about the free stuff – and that would be upfront planning and strategy.

Gone are the Days When Your Ideal Customer Just Finds You

You first need to do some serious, upfront work with your sales team to identify your ideal customer or target account as you start your ABM process. Collaboration at this beginning stage with sales is critical – and if it doesn’t happen, you’re facing an uphill battle and won’t get the results you expect or need. Your ideal customer isn’t going to just find you by coming across your website or a well-written blog.

Once you identify and define your ideal customer with sales, you can map out your overall campaign together. Keep in mind though; you are marketing and ultimately selling to a very specific audience within one account – this isn’t casting the net wide to hope you catch anything. It’s extremely deliberate and focused.

Working with sales, you’ll need to look at your target from both an inside and outside perspective. Internally, this means understanding the roles or personas within your ideal customer account – these are your buyers and influencers. You’ll need to identify what job or solution they would be ‘hiring’ you to do for them.

From an external perspective, a detailed review of the competition of your ideal account – likes names of real companies – is important so you can provide specific information on how your offering will help your ideal customer beat their competition.

Once you map out your ideal customer, the buyers and influencers within that account, and determine what they will need from you to have a competitive edge, you’ll be able to create unique content and messaging for your ABM campaign.

Below we have provided some useful, and nearly free to start, tools to get your ABM started.

9 Free ABM Tools to Target Your Ideal Customers

By now you understand that ABM is a critical component to attaining marketing and sales goals for your company–small-medium or large. So if you believe in the value that ABM will bring to your business stop delaying and give it a try.

Consider these 9 free tools (at the basic and trial levels) as you plan your own ABM process:

1. Define Your Ideal Customer Accounts with Xtensio

This tool from Xtensio is a good first step to help you to define the ideal customers that you want your ABM process to target. Xtensio is free at the basic, entry level, with more structured pricing plans available that range from $5-20/month.

2. Find Similar or Lookalike Companies to Your Ideal Customer Accounts with LinkedIn Sales Navigator

You’re probably already using LinkedIn to research accounts today and are not a fan of the time consuming manual process. Thanks to LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can now reduce your time spend on developing lists using advanced filters and insights to hone in on specific ‘similar’ companies to your idea target account.

LinkedIn offers three plans of Sales Navigator including the Professional plan (includes a free trial and then costs $779.88 annually). There are also Team and Enterprise plans for collaboration needs – both of those offer free demos but not free trials.

3. Find Contact Information for Your Ideal Customers with Clearbit Connect

While LinkedIn is great at helping you to identify names within your targeted ideal accounts, you can only reach out to those people via InMail.

To find contact information for people that you need to reach out to, try Clearbit Connect, a free email plugin for Gmail and Outlook that allows you to search for people and company contact information to build your customized lists.

4. Set up your Marketing Funnel with Funnelytics

Once you identify who the contacts are within your ideal customer account and how to reach them, you need to put together your marketing funnel.

If you need help in this area, give Funnelytics a try. It’s free and the drag and drop interface lets you quickly map out the various steps of your marketing process, including your landing pages, emails, sales pages, ads, and more.

5. Reach Out to Your Ideal Customer Contacts with MailChimp

MailChimp is a good marketing automation to put your ABM plan into action. You can not only track your email campaign but you can also test your email subject lines, track email open rate, and collect other data that will help you to continually better target the contacts at your ideal customer account.

There’s an entry-level version called ‘New Business’ that’s free. You’ll also find other offerings called ‘Growing Business’ and ‘Pro Marketer’ with expanded features and functionality that cost up to $199/month.

6. See Which Companies are Anonymously Visiting Your Website with Kickfire

Kickfire has a free trial for LIVE Leads™ a tool that lets you identify your anonymous web visitors. Use the data provided by Kickfire to determine how these invisible leads who visit your website can be incorporated into your ABM activities.

You’ll need to contact the company directly for plan pricing after your trial offer.

7. Engage Your Leads with Interactive Forms using Brandquiz

Once your contacts hit your website, you can better engage with them by using Brandquiz. This tool offers a free entry-level option to create interactive forms like surveys and quizzes to help warm and qualify their interest and needs in your offerings.

8. Use Sumo Popups and Live Chat to Better Qualify Your Leads

To keep your web visitors more engaged and continue the lead qualification process, try Sumo. Their free tools include the ability to create popups and live chat to drive engagement on your website to help you to continually qualify your leads as they go through your buying process.

9. Use Hubspot to Drive Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

As you continue to engage your leads through the buying process, take a look at Hubspot for their free CRM offering. You’ll be able to organize, track, and nurture the leads and customers you’ve worked so hard to find, all in one place.

ABM + Inbound and Digital Marketing = ROI

These nine ABM tools are a quick way for you to jumpstart your outreach and ensure that you’re a step ahead of your competition while driving value for your sales team. But they shouldn’t replace a long-term strategy and approach for how your ABM tools fit into your overall lead generation strategy.

And we’re not the only ones who will tell you that – According to MarTechSeries’ Marketing Technology Insights, “Companies that had used ABM for at least a year said that they were meeting and exceeding their objectives through self-assessment and performance maturity programs. 54% of companies were successful in meeting their ABM objectives by virtue of investing early in ABM programs.”

A real-world example of this is Adobe, a $6 billion B2B software company. According to ITSMA, Adobe saw a 1,400% revenue increase over three years with its accounts they targeted with ABM.

That ROI is astounding. Think about the investments you’ve made across your marketing platforms over the past few years. The potential ROI for ABM is a strong justification to determine how to align all your platforms and tools so they all work seamlessly together.

If you’re already seeing a strong return on your marketing automation platform, this is the time to reap those rewards. The resources that you’re not using now that are performed by automation allows you to be more strategic and sit at the table with your sales leaders to grow your business with some serious ABM planning and strategy sessions.

By testing out a few no/low-cost platforms and seeing how ABM can drive new revenue for your business, you’ll have the ability to show some potential ROI specifically for your business to make longer-term investments.

We’d Love to Hear from You

If you need guidance, or maybe help building a case to incorporate ABM into your marketing strategy, let’s talk. We are helping other marketing teams spin up marketing strategies and can help you get started faster than going it alone.

Last, but not least, while we shared nine free ABM tools today to help you out, we also have information on over a dozen free social media tools for your ABM. Be sure to also take a look at our evergreen ABM infographic.

 

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