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Account-Based Marketing 101: A Strategic Approach for B2B Marketing

October 31, 2019 | Oro Team

Are you familiar with the latest trend in B2B marketing? Account-based marketing is a new approach that’s garnering attention because it gets results. It’s loosely based on the philosophy of the legendary Father of Advertising, David Ogilvy. He famously said, “Don’t count the people you reach; reach the people that count.” Account-based marketing for B2B is a strategic approach to marketing that focuses on the few instead of the many. 

If you haven’t heard about account-based marketing or don’t know if it’s right for your business, here’s an account-based marketing 101 primer. 

Account-Based Marketing Versus the Traditional Approach

In a traditional approach to marketing, you generally head out to sea and cast a large net in hopes of capturing as many leads as possible and drawing the leads you catch into your funnel to feed your sales pipeline. You pick and sort through what you’ve caught in your net, tossing back the undesirables and holding onto the “good” ones you hope to sell for a profit. It can be a messy business, but it does work.

Keep in mind that the majority of these activities are done on digital channels. If all this sounds new to you, you can start by reading our beginner’s guide to internet marketing for distributors. For even more information, you can refer to our complete whitepaper on digital marketing for industrial businesses.

With account-based marketing for B2B, you get in the boat and head to a specific fishing hole and get to work using a pole, bait, and tackle that is specifically designed to catch the fish you want. In other words, you are taking a highly targeted approach to catching one fish. Often, that fishing spot is in your own backyard.

Account-based marketing targets one company or one account and then further targets the decision-makers at this account with coordinated and highly personalized sales and marketing tactics. Instead of mass marketing, account-based marketing is singularly focused. That target may be either a high value target or a high-volume target.  Account based marketing turns the traditional lead funnel on its head. 

lead generation with account based marketing


Chances are, if your sales force has developed close relationships with many of your customers, they’ve been practicing informal account-based marketing without even knowing about it. Any time they pick up the phone or drop an email to discuss how a new product might improve the client’s business, they have been practicing a rudimentary account-based marketing.  But this is the digital age, and the time for rudimentary practices has passed.

Business That Benefit from Targeted Marketing

According to SiriusDecisions research, the largest adopters of account-based marketing aren’t necessarily the largest companies. Among those account-based marketers surveyed, their sales volumes were as follows:

  • 45% less than $100 million
  • 18% between $101 million and $1 billion
  • 36% more than $1.1 billion

The same study showed that 75% of the companies that used account-based marketing the most were enterprise-sized companies with more than 1,000 employees. That might be because they are using non-automated marketing (highly unlikely) but it’s more likely that in companies of this size marketing processes are established well enough to enable quick adoption of the newest marketing trends. They simply have more experience and resources, and are devoted to maximizing the amount of revenue from each account and opportunity.

But what about smaller companies? Can they benefit from account-based marketing? It’s quite possible. The ROI of ABM approach is known to be much higher than the one of traditional marketing, so budget-wise ABM is a good fit for smaller companies. One thing smaller companies should keep in mind though, ABM takes time – this is not a coincidental marketing hack. ABM can save your business and take it to a new level, but only if you onboard it as a long-term tactic.

If your current marketing strategy isn’t working, it’s certainly time to try something new. Look at your current budget and determine where you can allocate resources to trying this new approach. The Alterra Group looked at two sets of companies that were using account-based marketing. The leaders were companies that were implementing the strategy successfully. Laggards were the companies that weren’t seeing results from their efforts. According to this study, companies that benefit the most from account-based marketing for B2B dedicate the most resources to the effort.

Leaders also closely measure the impact of their spending on account-based marketing. The most successful implementers are also those that focus on measuring revenue growth as the single-most important measure ROI. They also discovered that in-depth knowledge of their industry as well as business knowledge related to the client’s industry was a deciding factor in the successful implementation of account-based marketing. Sales and marketing must understand the customer’s pain points and the ecosystem in which they operate.

Launching Your First Account Based Marketing Campaign

You aren’t going to get anywhere with this approach unless your marketing and sales teams are clearly aligned. Once you’ve aligned your sales and marketing teams and they are poised to collaborate with shared objectives and key performance indicators you’re ready to start.

Identify Your Targets. This is one reason that marketing and sales need to work closely together. In the identification stage, they aren’t developing personas, they are identifying companies to target. How many accounts should you target? You want a large enough pool to achieve success, but not so large that it’s impossible to develop a unique proposition for each target.

Deep Dive on Your Targets. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tells Scout “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Successful account-based marketing for B2B takes that advice to a new level. You’ve got to understand your target to understand their pain points. So, do a deep dive. You want to see what they post on Twitter and what tweets they like. What has their interest on their LinkedIn account? Does their company blog provide insight into what’s happening in their industry? Follow them, comment, and re-tweet their posts. But, don’t make a sales pitch or even mention your company. Just let them see you as a person interested in what they have to say. By simply noting what times of day they are active on social media you get an insight into the rhythm of their normal workday. This is the type of information you need if you are going to develop highly personalized content to show you understand their pain points and any disruption in their industry. 

Develop Unique Content. Now you know your targets, you should know their unique pain points and industry insights. This content is highly individualized. You aren’t trying to catch any other fish aside from this fish. So, if for example, you are aware of a disruption in the client’s industry, you might develop content that shows how your products or services help them adapt to the disruption. Or, you could possibly help them become more effective or efficient in their current business. No matter what approach you take, remember that this content is developed with this target in mind.

Pick the Proper Channels. Not only must you know your target, you’ve got to know where to find them. Determine where your target gets their information and use these channels for delivery. Be judicious. You don’t want to appear as Spam. For every touch point, you should have a plan in place that delivers unique and personalized content that is relevant to the target. Then interact where they prefer. You may even have multiple people provide content.  If for example your target is college-educated, aged 30-49, lives in an Urban area, and makes more than $75k a year there’s a good chance that you’ll find them on LinkedIn according to Pew Research.  


LinkedIn Demographics


So, in that instance, you are going to deliver your content on LinkedIn. As you can see from this example, account-based marketing for B2B is not only highly granular where content is concerned, it’s highly granular in selection of delivery channels as well.

Measure Your Results. Once your campaign launches, don’t forget to measure your results. These results are more than just the number of deals closed or the amount of revenue generated. Measure how your targets are engaging with your content. If your engagement hasn’t increased, go back and look at the target and the content to make sure they are properly aligned. Adjust where necessary. The information you gather about how your targets engage with your brand can be extrapolated to wider, traditional marketing campaigns.

Facing the Challenges of Marketing for B2B

Every marketing strategy has its own set of challenges. Account-based marketing is no different. The way to face these challenges is to prepare in advance with the proper tools.

One of the earliest challenges adopters of an account-based marketing strategy will face is the collection of data to develop the target list. You may want to start looking for good accounts and missed opportunities inside your current pool of leads. But prospective customer data may reside in silos throughout the organization or the CRM may not collect the data in the manner you need. You can resolve this problem by using a CRM that not only gives you a 360°-degree view of each customer, but also gives you a complete view of your entire customer and lead base. By using advanced search and filter techniques you can speed the development of the list while also improving its quality.

Moving onwards to the open sea looking for your perfect catch, you may want to consider ABM software that would aggregate and source relevant, high-quality accounts data for you to target. 

And speaking of quality, your sales team needs high quality, current data. Insights should be actionable. Sales needs to know what web pages your targets are visiting, if they are opening emails and clicking on links. The level of engagement should be used to prioritize their contacts. The right data tells your sales team when to literally strike because the iron is hot. That means they need real time data.

And last but not least is the creation of personalized, timely content. The message should focus on the recipient’s pain points and offer solutions. The personalized content should be timed for each stage in the contact’s purchase journey. Timing the content to the buying stage also increases the target’s perception of personalization. They feel like you are speaking directly to them, because you are! Make sure your call to action is personalized as well.  You can even add personalized videos or content to their personal digital catalog on your webstore.

Is Your Business Ready for Targeted Marketing Campaigns?

Account-based marketing for B2B is a trend that’s here to stay. Whether it’s used for inbound and outbound marketing or used to maximize the profit from each account, it’s clear it will continue to be used. CFO’s love the ROI compared to traditional marketing. An ITSMA survey found that account-based marketing returned about the significantly or somewhat higher results when compared to other marketing strategies.

account based marketing ROI vs other marketing initiatives



But just because it is a trend, it doesn’t mean it’s right for your company. Without the necessary alignment of sales and marketing and the right technology framework in place first, you may be setting yourself up for failure. If this 101-type primer has you interested in pursuing an account-based marketing strategy, lay the groundwork first. Make sure your marketing and sales are in alignment. These teams need to collaborate to identify KPIs and goals they will jointly work towards. And then, make sure you have the technology in place to digitize and automate the process from selecting targets to delivering content. You may find account-based marketing is the right strategy for your business

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