Account Based Marketing (ABM) leads in the buzzword bonanza that captures the imagination of marketers.  And, what’s not to like about it? In principal it’s a great idea – treat each client or prospect company as a unique market with tailored messaging and programs. However, as with most hyped marketing ideas, the devil is in the details.  Many have tried, and failed, to execute ABM initiatives. A reason for this is that the personas, content, tools and methodologies are not in place. Organizations try to use or re-purpose existing assets and quickly find that the gaps hinder success.

While resources can be stretched and ingenuity can fill deficits, the reality is that most organizations’ ABM failures are the result of trying to do too much too quickly. Success comes with investing time and resources.

Account Based Marketing Strategy

A successful Account Based Marketing strategy starts with taking the time to learn about the account types selected for ABM and target audiences within them. Once this is understood, data must be gathered to enable effective outreach to key personas in different organization types. It is also important to pair messaging with the right communication channels.  When getting started, the mechanics of how the message is delivered is less important. It is not necessary to have ABM-specific tools at the outset.

Invest in data and content before spending time and money on new tools.  Although most marketing automation tools were not purpose-built for ABM, they can be used to test and prototype programs as you learn what works for your company.  This is a more cost-effective way to determine not just how to best execute a program, but also to determine if your organization is ready for ABM.

Using existing resources for a small pilot program (ideally ~20 companies) provides an opportunity to test, get results and learn.  Starting small makes it easier to understand what works (and doesn’t). It also helps provide the information needed to effectively select the right tools to support a more extensive program as well as set up the correct processes and methodologies to support ongoing programs.  This includes seeing how data works, evaluating efficacy of target roles and testing content that is aligned with personas. And, of course, tracking, reporting and analyzing results. In addition to helping with ABM, these learnings will also provide benefits for day-to-day demand generation.

Must Haves for Account Based Marketing

The fundamentals of Account Based Marketing programs are not all that different than traditional marketing programs – identify the right targets, understand the persona, then provide content relevant to their stage in buyer journey.  Failure lies in not taking the time and effort to truly treat each account type like its own market and developing a strategy tailored for them. This includes investing the hard work to identify the best target account types and related messages.  

For each company, it is critical to understand priorities from a solution perspective – be sure that the right products and/or services are being presented at the right time.  Next, identifying key roles then profiling them to create target personas to ensure that the messages are delivered to people who can and will influence purchases.

Ongoing Success with Account Based Marketing

The key to success is investing the time and effort to customize campaigns for each company type then having the systems to execute and analyze.  From target lists and personas to collateral and Web content, this specificity is what makes ABM effective. Layer on the right people, processes and systems and ABM will be successful.

As with all marketing, TEST, TEST and TEST again.  Starting small and gathering data about what works and doesn’t in terms of people, processes and systems is also critical.  This will ensure that the right investments are made to support ABM, but also instills confidence in everyone who is being asked to make adjustments to support the new approach.  With the growing demand for analytics to back spend and strategy, testing will prove invaluable in both the adoption and ongoing success of ABM.