Getting started with Account Based Marketing: what type of ABM is for you?

By Giles Shorthouse on 2nd November 2020

Heard everyone talking about the efficient brilliance of Account Based Marketing (ABM) and wondering how to get in on the action?

Long gone are the days of casting your marketing net far and wide, hoping you’ll get a bite in the process. ABM does away with the clumsy scope of bygone marketing techniques, and instead applies a highly targeted and personalised approach to help you win and develop the accounts you know will impact the bottom line.

There’s no doubt you’ve seen the rather daunting ABM pyramid at your share of events and nodded along as someone has stressed the importance of relationship-building as a cornerstone of ABM. But where do you actually start with this glorious marketing method?

Wonder no more. We’ve come up with a simple way to get you started: a seven-question quiz to identify the best type of ABM for you and your business. Simply note down your answers (A, B, C or D) for each of the following questions to reveal your results:

What is your average order value (AoV) of a client?

A – £1m +
B – £500k – £1m
C – £100k – £500k
D – Under £100k

How big are your target accounts?

A – Large enterprise: 5000+ people
B – Intermediate-sized enterprise: 250 – 4999 people
C – Medium (SME): Under 250 people
D – Small (SME): Under 50 people

How complex is your offering? How many decision makers are involved in purchase?

A –  Very complex: There is a large buying committee. It is a high involvement purchase. Complex integration. Mission critical.
B –  Complex: There are a handful of stakeholders. It is a high involvement purchase.
C –  Some complexity: You have one clear buyer and some influencers. Sign off is still by someone senior.
D –  Simple: Low involvement purchase and transactional or self-service.

What is the make-up of your sales and marketing teams?

A –  Sophisticated: You have a big in-house marketing team, pre-sales, sales and after sales reps.
B –  Solid: You have a few marketers and sales reps supported by outsourced agency help.
C –  Small team: You have strategic leads but not many team members.
D –  Minimal: You rely on prospects self-serving.

How aligned are your sales and marketing teams?

A –  Very aligned.
B –  You share a lot between teams, but it needs more work.
C –  You are siloed.
D –  You don’t have a sales team.

Which describes your sales plans best?

A –  You aim for a few high-value sales per year.
B –  You target a small niche market.
C –  You have a large addressable market but small amount of sales reps.
D –  You have a large target market and lots of sales reps or high volume/low cost sales.

How mature is your market? Is your solution new to market?

A –  Mature or saturated market: Known solution.
B –  Established market: Fragmented competition.
C –  New or immature market: Unknown solution.
D –  Mass market: ‘Me too’ product.

Hopefully you’ve answered the majority of the questions with a similar lettered answer. If so, read on. If not and you’re still feeling discombobulated by the ABM game, give us a call or drop us an email to find out how we can get you on track.

Your ABM solution

Mostly A:  Strategic ABM / One-to-one

Words to describe this approach could be ‘intimate’ or ‘deeply collaborative’.

If you answered mostly A, then you’re probably already familiar with carrying out request for proposals (RFPs) and bid support. Your deal sizes are in the millions and a couple of new clients per year will mean you’ll hit your sales targets.

If this is indeed the case, you’re prepped and primed to use ABM to its full potential as you can truly treat each account as an individual market. You’ll most likely have specific resources that you can dedicate to a single account and you can afford to do in-depth research into accounts and map out a broad range of stakeholders.

With Strategic ABM, everything is personalised. There are no “Hi [Firstname]” personalisation tokens in sight and you know exactly what’s keeping the CTO, CFO and CCO awake at night… Even if it’s just their dog.

First off, you might want to create a war room that looks more like a whodunnit game of Cluedo rather than a prospecting research strategy. And as you get to tactics, you’ll really want to buy advertising billboards outside people’s houses, but you’ll be too scared that they’ll be creeped out.

If your target accounts sneeze, you know about it. You’re in it for the long game and you’re always building on relationships.

ITSMA research shows the median number of accounts targeted with Strategic ABM is 13 and the median program spend per account is $59,000 per year.

Mostly B: ABM Lite / One-to-few

 Words to describe this approach could be ‘knowledgeable’ or ‘obsessive’.

 If you answered mostly B, then you might get more ROI from a one-to-few approach, as one-to-one will start getting expensive. Your targets – of which there could be around 50, give or take – have similar challenges, and you sell to a similar job title. As a result, you can get away with talking more about the sector with a smaller amount of customised content. Having amazing insight into the sector and the primary buyer will be as valuable as unique account information – you make any content you develop powerful for the sector and pay for itself tenfold. 

This pattern will continue across all marketing and sales efforts. Events and roundtables will differ from Strategic ABM (where these sessions are exclusively focused on one account), as you’ll have a handful of different non-competing prospects in attendance – all of whom will ultimately get value from meeting each other, too!

You won’t know what your prospect ate for dinner, but you’ll know what events they attend and value the most. You’ll have lots of market knowledge and spot any new players or potential disruption before your targets do, giving you lots to talk about within the sector.

If your competitors are spreading themselves across multiple sectors too thinly, you’re going to emerge as a sector champion and have the ability to punch above your weight when they opportunity presents itself.

You’re the Sherlock Holmes of the sector. You only take on knowledge you deem useful and have built a gleaming mind palace that others can marvel at and wish they had access to.

ITSMA research shows the median number of accounts targeted with one-to-few ABM Lite is 50 and the median annual program spend is about $4,000 per account.

Mostly C: Programmatic ABM / One-to-many

Words to describe this approach could be ‘analytical’ and ‘metronomic’.

If you answered mostly C, then you might ask yourself if it really sounds like ABM. You’re right to ask, as it’s basically segment marketing.

With Programmatic ABM there’s a big focus on scale and targets are in large clusters. Technology is your best friend: hence the term ‘programmatic’ is adopted for this one-to-many approach.

Customisation might be minimal compared to other types of ABM. The trusty [Firstname] tag is important in your marketing efforts as your email marketing and direct mail campaigns are sent to hundreds (if not thousands) of targets and can’t be customised too much due to cost.

Cost also plays a role when researching accounts. You can’t treat accounts as markets, so you’re only as good as your intent data. You might not be able to afford rich enough data to know what companies are in market to buy, so you need to be on point with your marketing and your brand awareness is paramount.

If you can get your tech stack firing on all cylinders, you’re going to see some great ROI. A combination of IP advertising, slick emails, customer web experiences and direct mails could open some profitable doors. But remember, you’re playing a numbers game and the competition might have better tech, better targeting, or just better timing. An always-on approach is the way to go.

With lower conversion rates and deal values, you’ll need to convert quickly to keep sales interested and stop opportunities slipping down the cracks between marketing and sales.

Channelling AlphaGo from DeepMind is the way to Go. See if Elon will let you have the Neuralink’s brain-computer interface before anyone else!

76% of ITSMA survey respondents reported greater ROI from their Programmatic ABM campaigns vs. traditional marketing efforts. The median number of accounts targeted was 725.   

Mostly D: ABM isn’t for you!

Sorry, it’s game over! Don’t waste your precious marketing budget on ABM. Save your coppers, find channels that work, and optimise. Simples.

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