The 4 Tactical Approaches to Account-Based Marketing

4 tactical approaches to ABM

What makes account-based marketing (ABM) so popular is that it can be adapted to virtually any B2B company’s needs. No matter what you sell or who you sell to, account-based marketing can help you generate demand, close more deals more quickly, and improve your lifetime customer value.

But ABM cannot be a one-size-fits-all strategy. After all, every B2B company has unique processes, goals, and target account lists. To help marketers get started with the right ABM strategy and campaigns, we’ve created an account-based marketing framework that provides the foundation you need to create an ABM program that works for your strategic initiatives and existing processes.

One of the most basic but most important steps to building an ABM program using the framework is selecting your tactical approach to account-based marketing. There are four types of ABM that you can choose from based on the strategic and monetary value of your target accounts, the marketing technology you use, and the number of accounts you plan to target.

The Four Types of ABM Are:

Let’s take a closer look at each of the four tactical approaches to account-based marketing and when you would employ each of them.

1:1 ABM (also called a strategic account or named account strategy) is the traditional “Mad Men” approach to winning business, in which an ABM team is focused on a strategically selected handful of high-value accounts — usually between one and ten at a time — that warrant a highly personalized approach to ABM.

Although this is the most well-known ABM strategy, marketers who are assigned to these strategic accounts often make the mistake of only using a small selection of channels to reach their buyers. Usually it’s an over-reliance on in-person events — often a generic experience like a steak dinner.

"I'm gonna have that third steak after all." – Ron Swanson

To really make an impact on your target accounts, though, you need to broaden your approach and consider digital ads, personalized content and digital experiences, and compelling direct mail to complement events and sales outreach.

Remember: Alignment and research are critical. Marketers should have just as deep an understanding of these strategic accounts as the account executives who are working them.

One of the most common objections to ABM stems from the misunderstanding that all ABM is 1:1, only targeting a few select accounts and requiring extensive time and resources. Don’t forget, ABM does scale. As we’ll explore, 1:1 is only one of four tactical approaches to ABM. The three other types of ABM we’ll cover are much more scalable.

As first defined by ITSMA, ABM Lite is a one-to-few approach in which ABM teams target a selection of accounts that share similar business challenges, needs, and firmographics.

Accounts in an ABM Lite program need to have a large enough opportunity size to warrant more spend and resources than the typical deal, but not large enough to justify a 1:1 approach.

A common approach is to develop an ABM strategy focused on shared pain points among accounts and personas within those accounts. This is complemented by strategic personalization, such as adapting content to fit their needs, running targeted account-based digital ads, and using website personalization.

ABM Lite campaigns are a great way to do agile account-based marketing and see what works before you scale your ABM program. Do this by demonstrating how this type of campaign can be replicated and repeated on a larger scale as you begin to see positive results. ABM Lite is a great way to approach a new segment, find success with a smaller list, and prove out ABM as an effective marketing strategy so you can scale it to a more programmatic approach.

With the right technology in place, Programmatic ABM is a highly scalable approach to marketing and sales that justifies focused targeting and personalization.

Programmatic ABM involves targeting lists of 100 to 1,000 accounts that share common traits and business challenges. Traditional lead-based marketing, on the other hand, is about using mass marketing techniques and channels to drive as many leads into the funnel as possible with no real way to filter out unqualified leads until they’re already in your database. These lead generation activities result in a lot of noise in the top of the funnel, wasted time and money, and a lack of collaboration between sales and marketing. It’s the reason less than 1% of leads become revenue, according to Forrester Research.

Programmatic ABM, enabled by marketing technology, allows marketers to scale to reach a large group of target accounts efficiently and effectively. It results in better win rates, larger deal sizes, more opportunity creation, and ongoing revenue growth from current customers.

Big deal alert

We sometimes see marketers who believe they are doing account-based marketing but are really just continuing to “spray and pray” because they’re targeting a large list that has no meaningful segmentation. It’s best to keep target lists smaller and your campaign planning, execution, and review cycles shorter. This agile approach to ABM will increase your likelihood of success. If you’re taking a programmatic approach, we recommend starting with account lists no larger than 500 accounts, and preferably closer to 100 to 250.

A huge challenge with lead-based marketing is that it violates a basic truth of B2B marketing: you’re selling to an organization, not an individual. In the majority of B2B sales, marketers need to engage the entire buying committee, but lead-based marketing relies on one or two individual contacts to communicate your message to the rest of the company. This leaves little room for you to control the narrative and speak directly to each person, addressing their individual needs.

Bolt-On ABM solves this basic problem by allowing marketers to engage the rest of the buying committee while still marketing to one specific lead. Here’s how it works: a lead comes in via inbound efforts and is then qualified, routed, and worked by sales or placed in a nurture campaign. A Bolt-On ABM strategy uses technology to trigger actions that engage other personas from that particular company when the lead comes in and as it progresses through the funnel.

Technology like Terminus allows marketers to automate Bolt-On ABM with account-based advertising, even without requiring contact data for those other people in the account. As the lead moves through the marketing and sales funnel, their colleagues also receive targeted communications from your company, so when the time comes to have a sales conversation, the entire buying committee is familiar with your solution.

Bolt-On ABM improves opportunity creation rates and overall account engagement, but you should not expect the same results as you get from the other, more robust approaches to ABM. Often, Bolt-On is a good first step for an organization that is generating a lot of leads and is seeing success with their lead-based program, but they want to slowly shift to ABM. Note that Bolt-On ABM is also limited to demand generation and is not a fit for pipeline velocity or customer marketing campaigns.

Build Your Next Account-Based Marketing Campaign

Learn how to put these four types of account-based marketing into action for your next B2B marketing campaign. Download the Blueprint to Account-Based Marketing Campaigns to get worksheets, real-world examples, and tips for ABM success.

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