Account-Based Marketing: Keys to a Winning ABM Strategy

Roughly 20 years into its evolution, the popularity of account-based marketing shows no signs of slowing. In a recent survey, B2B marketing leaders agreed that account-based marketing produces better pipeline growth, revenue growth, and return on investment than competing approaches.

But there’s a catch: Without a strong data foundation, even the most thorough account-based marketing strategies will likely fail. 

In order to effectively unlock insights and engage customers at scale, go-to-market (GTM) teams must infuse data and insights throughout their account-based marketing programs, tailor their tactics to the most effective channels, and keep a keen eye on the metrics that matter. 

Defining Account-Based Marketing 

Account-based marketing (ABM) is the process of identifying good-fit, high-value accounts (not individuals) and targeting them with customized messages that speak to their specific needs. Successful ABM hinges on personalization, but timing is also a key part of the equation. 

Enriched data about lead accounts is important. It’s also critical to stay aware of where they are in the buying process. A highly tailored message sent at the wrong moment can be just as disconcerting as the generic “spray and pray” approach. 

The typical ABM motion looks like this: 

  • Creating ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and identifying customer accounts you want to target based on this information. 
  • Applying those ICPs to build relevant messaging that addresses their top concerns.
  • Delivering that messaging and interacting with your leads’ most-used marketing channels, on an ongoing basis to deepen customer relationships.

Of course, you’ll want to follow up on every ABM campaign by measuring its success and iterating accordingly — but we think of that as an exercise that’s outside of the core flow. 

Adding in Account-Based Sales

Account-based marketing makes for a scalable yet customized approach that places emphasis on the pre-buying experience — and preps leads for thoughtful customer support and sales team interactions.

It’s important to note that account-based marketing is at its most potent when paired with an account-based selling (ABS) strategy that picks up leads that have gone through the ABM funnel. Simply dropping leads out of the high-touch ABM environment into an antiquated sales funnel, where reps know little about their specific needs and don’t prioritize their experience, will hurt your chances of closing the sales cycle.

Benefits of Account-Based Marketing Strategy

Going from broad persona-based marketing to ABM campaigns will require many teams to rethink their processes, structures, and how they connect to the rest of the business. It will likely require a good amount of effort from decision-makers as well. While account-based marketing can be cost-intensive to kickstart, the benefits show that the investment is worth it. 

More Efficient Marketing Campaigns

Account-based marketing is a hyper-targeted strategy, which means you won’t waste money on unqualified leads. The ability to target good-fit accounts makes your campaigns more efficient. Marketers can be sure that only the best and most sales-ready buyers enter their pipeline. 

Optimized Sales

Personalization is the biggest selling point of account-based marketing. When you serve highly-targeted marketing content to an account, customers and prospects feel understood and that their experience has been carefully tailored to their needs, which expedites the sales process

Improved Retention 

Account-based marketing strategy can focus both on closing new business from target accounts and growing business from existing customers by nurturing the land-and-expand motion. This is a valuable benefit as market saturation rises and customer acquisition cost (CAC) continues to get more expensive every year.

Better GTM Collaboration

Account-based marketing is not just a marketing initiative, it’s a business-wide strategy that requires sales and marketing alignment to correctly identify and target agreed-upon accounts. This minimizes the age-old conflict over poor-quality leads, because both teams are defining and working toward the same goals.

Pursuing ABM can be a starting point for companies to create a modern go-to-market approach, which pulls every business unit — from the C-suite to customer support — to align around a strategy that drives account sales and retention through amazing customer experiences. 

The Foundation for Success: Account-Based Marketing Data

Strong data is fundamental for a successful account-based marketing strategy. And it’s important to consider the quality, coverage, and sourcing of your data — after all, ABM based on bad or incomplete data really won’t give your team the payoff it needs to succeed. While some platforms rely on CRM data — which can be notoriously incomplete and inaccurate — the most advanced platforms allow marketers to use first-party data alongside a comprehensive, constantly updated third-party data source, which greatly improves the depth, breadth, and bottom-line results of the resulting campaigns.

Here are four ways to use data to build your ABM program:

1. Create Your List of Target Accounts

An extremely important element of ABM strategy and campaigns are the accounts themselves. The key to identifying and targeting high-value accounts is developing an ideal customer profile

Analyze your contact and customer database to identify the characteristics of your best customers. These might include:

  • Industry
  • Company size
  • Revenue
  • Location
  • Average purchase size
  • Tech stack

Your ICP will serve as the blueprint for your account-targeting process. Once you’ve developed your ICP, you can target accounts with similar parameters. 

“Without strong data driving your ICP, you’ll miss the mark,” says Hussam AlMukhtar, senior director of customer expansion at ZoomInfo. “You won’t be able to identify the right accounts, and you’ll be back to spraying and praying.”

2. Identify Who’s in-Market

Timing is a huge factor for customers looking to make a major purchase.

A company can fit your ICP perfectly, but if it’s not the right time — maybe they just bought a competitor’s solution or they’re in financial trouble — they’re not going to buy your product.

Intent data can tell you who is currently in the market for a solution like yours. Marketers can prioritize “high intent” accounts that are looking to buy soon and send them straight to sales for proactive outreach. Conversely, they can identify accounts with low intent and drop them into a nurture campaign — before their competitors.

You can also use first-party data for key information about anonymous visitors to your website. People who have visited high-value pages on your company website are excellent prospects for account-based marketing, since they’re already familiar with your product and potentially interested in purchasing.

3. Ensure Optimal Coverage

Account coverage refers to the ability to penetrate a large number of key accounts. Remember: Accounts buy, but people decide. If you’ve identified your target accounts, but can’t reach any key contacts within them, you won’t be able to convert those targets into customers. 

There are two primary types of data you need for optimal account coverage: 

  • Business structure data: This is information about a company’s hierarchy and decision-making structure. Use organizational charts to identify an account’s key stakeholders and try to connect with every decision-maker, buying committee member, and company champion.
  • Contact data: You can’t reach key stakeholders if you don’t have their accurate contact information. Direct dials are particularly important, especially when targeting upper-level stakeholders.

4. Use Intent Data (Again) to Inform Content Strategy 

Once you know which accounts and individuals to target, you can use intent data to tailor your content offer. For example, if a prospect has little intent to purchase, you could nurture them with thought leadership materials that describe a relevant problem and how they can solve it.

However, if they have strong intent to purchase, you could deliver solution-focused content and direct response offers, like “get a demo” or “start your free trial.” The more relevant and personalized your message is to their current situation, the more likely they are to convert.

Deploy Your ABM Strategy on These 4 Marketing Channels

Ready to run your new ABM strategy? Begin with these four channels for maximum impact. 

1. Events: Virtual and in-Person

Apply an ABM approach to in-person events with personalized invites to key prospects from your target accounts, bespoke gifts and swag that align with what you know about them, and customized follow-up after the event to further nurture and grow that business relationship. 

Webinars offer a way to host events in an online setting, which is perfect for far-flung accounts and anyone who doesn’t want to gather in person for any reason. Just like in-person events, tailor webinar invites and experiences for each target account. 

You may be able to develop even deeper connections via digital events. It’s a lot easier to make time and have one-on-one conversations with a lead in a private online “room.” Especially when you’re not trying to orchestrate all the moving parts of a large in-person event. 

And of course, you can still ship customized gifts and personalize your post-webinar follow-up just the same as you would with an in-person ABM event. 

2. Email Marketing 

Account-based email marketing creates and sends customized messages to each firm and person, as opposed to a volume-based marketing strategy that often employs templates.

However, this strategy doesn’t mean you have to start doing everything manually. Apply marketing automation to trigger email sequences, pipe important account and behavior data between marketing tools, and surface information to create highly personalized emails for critical accounts — even at scale.

3. Paid Ads

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads and sponsored social media posts are both popular methods of generating attention from target accounts outside of your owned media. 

Many social platforms make it easy to customize your ads based on a person’s company, role, and industry. And technologies like IP targeting and retargeting ensure that your budget is being used efficiently by focusing on accounts that have either already interacted with your brand or are on your short list of target companies. 

4. On-Site Personalization

Your ABM strategy doesn’t end when targets land on your website. 

Look for modern A/B testing tools for real-time experimentation to identify and shift content to what is most relevant to the prospect. Then continue with personalized, retention-building engagements for your most important accounts.

How to Measure and Analyze ABM Performance

Planning and executing an ABM strategy won’t matter much if you can’t measure what’s working and what missed the mark. To measure the success of your tactics, start by defining what success means for your team. 

Your ABM objectives could include: 

  • Developing new revenue streams
  • Generating fresh sales opportunities
  • Reviving opportunities that stalled out
  • Boosting customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • Building measurable retention 

To measure performance on those goals start with comparing key performance indicators (KPI) from your previous sales and marketing activities to results from your ABM efforts. Helpful metrics include:

  • Number of opportunities 
  • Number of target accounts engaged
  • Number of marketing-qualified leads (MQLs)
  • Average deal size
  • Win rate
  • Deal-to-close time

Since you’ll be using a variety of strategies, tactics, and channels in your ABM efforts, understanding the impact of each of these approaches will be essential to know where to spend your time. Things to think about when measuring how specific ABM campaigns are doing include: 

  • Content consumption: Are target accounts reading and interacting with the content and campaigns you’re serving? For how long? Which elements are they engaging with the most and which can you remove?
  • Email engagement: If you’ve invested in email marketing, are the customized messages you’re sending being opened, read, and acted upon? What parts are generating this engagement and how can you improve them?  
  • Social media activity: Are you connecting with your target accounts on their chosen communication channels? At what rate are they sharing, liking, and commenting?
  • Click-through rate (CTR): CTR measures the percentage of people who interact with content and arrive at the intended end-point. Measure CTR on ads, in-content buttons, and links to track the impact and success of your messaging and targeting. 

Automate and Upgrade Your ABM Efforts with ZoomInfo 

High quality data is core to any ABM strategy — but it is not the only element of success. You also need an informed deployment strategy, a plan for tracking performance, automation for engagement, and sophisticated B2B marketing intelligence to sell more than ever before.

Request a ZoomInfo Marketing demo today to get the tools you need to upgrade your ABM success.