B2B Sales (Digital Marketing)

Understanding Account-Based Marketing: A Complete Guide How to Close Bigger Deals Faster

Account-Based Marketing is a very vast topic, and in this blog, we will go through the basics of it. We will understand what ABM is and what it isn’t, and how it challenges so many of the beliefs, practices, and metrics have taken for granted in almost every organisation.

This blog is the first step in understanding how we can close bigger deals and that too quickly. In this lesson we will go through the following addresses:-

  • Understanding ABM and how it is better than conventional organisations sales.
  • Understanding the three different types of ABM, how to best assess your company’s needs, and why a blended approach is very likely the best approach.
  • Deadly ABM mistakes and how to avoid it.

So, let’s get started!

What is Account-Based Marketing (ABM)?

In elementary words, ABM is a focused growth marketing strategy that is a sustained, coordinated, strategic approach to identifying, engaging, closing, and growing the accounts that we know we should win.

It uses a personalised process designed to engage each account, basing the marketing message on the specific attributes and needs of the report that continually gets more powerful as we move ahead.

ABM takes a more holistic view as compared to the traditional B2B sales. The process of marketing to existing or new customer accounts to encourage upselling is one of the keys to getting the most value from your largest accounts.

How is it different from conventional B2B sales?

Conventional B2B sales are straightforward. In that, we move our customers from the awareness stage to the consideration stage then the decision stage, and finally purchase.

Source: CXL INSTITUTE

Then came in social media and search engine advertisements which helped marketers to create more awareness and then bring more leads down the funnel. Then the marketing automation guys came and said we would make the process much easier for you. And finally came content creation guys and said content is the king.

Source: CXL INSTITUTE

And all of these things made B2B marketing more efficient and more effective than it had ever been before. But interestingly, it was still really inefficient and ineffective and remains that way today.

According to Forrester, still, only nearly 1% deals get closed to revenue, and in large organisations even less than that. Not only this but the number of people involved in making a purchase has increased as well, and as a company, we need to impress all of them. Even in a small organisation, there’s a whole team that decides to purchase. According to CEB, approximate 6.8 people are involved in making a purchasing decision.

So when we’ve got a lot of people involved in the buying, and we’ve got a slight lead to purchase, we have a big problem in front of us.

That’s where account-based marketing comes into the picture.

In ABM, it’s all about identifying the right people in the proper account and moving them forward towards becoming your customer. ABM acknowledges all of the different people involved in the purchasing decision and incorporates all the different viewpoints that comprise each account.

ABM is about engaging. It’s not logo splashing, and it’s not interrupting, it’s a full-court press to build robust engagement across all the right people in all the correct accounts. It’s about closing deals. It doesn’t stop with tossing leads over the fence, like so much of B2B marketing does.

Again, it’s all about going after accounts we know we should win.

Simply put, ABM is multi-threaded and multi-channel. The flipped funnel has become a prevalent and useful metaphor in ABM.

ABM starts with identifying the right accounts, then the right people within those accounts, then on to what are we going to say to them, what are the insights that we need to become highly relevant and move these people? And then how are we going to reach them? What’s our multi-channel, multi-touch engagement strategy?

The output of this should be a highly efficient and highly effective sales pipeline and revenue driver.

You can think of it this way: “Conventional B2B marketing is excellent if you want to catch a lot of fish. If you’re going to acquire particular, high-value fish, you need ABM.” - Steve Watt, instructor at CXL Institute

So at the top of the pyramid, we’ve got our strategic, one-to-one ABM. That’s where we’re talking about very complicated, huge deals, probably going after quite a small universe of accounts and going incredibly deep to move mountains on these big deals.

At the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got programmatic ABM. Here we’re going after hundreds, maybe even a few thousand accounts in a less strategic, less customised, more tech-enabled way, but it’s still ABM.

Then between those two extremes, we’ve got one to few, or ABM lite, as it’s often called. It’s kind of a mixture of the two. It is researched; it is highly targeted. It’s very focused, but it’s usually focused on a cluster of accounts within a particular industry or a separate, rather than being one to one like it is at the top, or one to many at the bottom.

Source: ITSMA

So ITSMA has some exciting stats herein terms of the median number of accounts that organisations focus on in each of these areas and also on the media spend. Just guidelines and experiences will vary. I find that this framework is precious, and this median spends, and median account numbers are useful guideposts to help you make your own decisions.

Questions for considering the right ABM strategy for your organisation.

Of course, your own decisions in this regard are going to depend on many factors, but here are some questions I look before choosing the correct strategy:

  • Deal Size
  • Current Perception of the firm
  • Competitive Environment
  • The complexity of your product or solution
  • Strategic Importance of Particular Clients

All of these things are going to come into your consideration set, in terms of figuring out what kind of ABM we’re going to start with, what type we’re going to evolve to, and making sure that we can kind of moderate our approach so that we’re ambitious enough.

ITSMA also shared some interesting information here that most organisations doing ABM are doing more than one of these types of ABM. Many are doing two, and some are doing all three. And they also show us that those organisations that are most successful with ABM, they have the most profound results, are doing more than one type of ABM.

Secret Pro Tip: So likely what you’re headed towards is at least two of the three types, possibly all three.

We’ve all been part of marketing initiatives, business strategies, growth strategies that didn’t work well, and we must learn from them.

Everything has problems, and so do ABM, We’re going to discuss the two most prominent ones:

  • Lack of Executive and Sales Alignment: People say that alignment is critical, but often they stop there, and they don’t provide advice and guidance as to how to achieve this alignment.

There’s a process where you have to start with creating experiences for them that cause them to change their own beliefs, which then enable the changes of actions. And if you try just to tell people what to do, they’re not going to do it. And if you try to tell people what to think and what to believe, they’re going to disregard you.

We have to start at the bottom; we have to start with the experiences. We’ve got to bring people together, make this a collaborative exercise from the beginning. People have got to feel that they are co-owners of this. And when you create those sorts of experiences, that does change people’s beliefs.

  • Skipping the Pilot: Do not ignore the Pilot!

How do you go about planning a pilot? Well, I believe that it needs to be large enough to be material and small sufficient to be safe.

What I mean by that is, if you run a pilot that’s, even if it’s hugely successful, it doesn’t move the needle at all, and nobody cares, well, you haven’t accomplished anything.

At the other extreme, if you build a pilot that’s so big that if it fails your job is in jeopardy, then you’ve probably set out on the wrong path as well. We need to find that place in between.

So, how do we know how the size of the pilot is big enough to matter and small enough to be safe?

We need to focus on. Focus on creating an impactful, delightful user experience. Remember, these people aren’t coming to you. This is not inbound. You need to cut through the noise; you need to delight them and engage them and pull them into a conversation.

We know that they’re the right accounts to do business with you, they just don’t know it yet. It’s essential. Maybe you’re going to be sending gifts. Perhaps you’re going to be doing other things that they don’t worry about in the early days about how scalable it is. If it works well, if it moves the needle, you will figure out how to scale it.

And lastly, make sure that learning is very central to this. No matter what the results of your pilot are, if we have not learned important things about what audiences, what channels, what tactics, what tools, what assets are highly effective, then we’ve missed an enormous opportunity.

A quick recap of what we learned in this lesson:

  • ABM can blow open the doors on hard to reach markets.
  • Traditional “big funnel” demand generation is often inefficient and ineffective.
  • “Flipping the funnel” changes every aspect of how you plan, execute, and measure.
  • ABM comes in three essential varieties, and you’ll likely employ more than one.
  • Executive and sales alignment is vital.
  • It’s crucial to run a smart pilot (more on that in the next lesson).

Thank you so much for going through this blog.

Let’s connect if you want to know more about Account-Based Marketing or Growth Marketing. You can reach out to me at LinkedIn at Shreyansh Goel or email me at shreyanshgoel16@gmail.com.