Last year, businesses continued to utilize and experiment with account based marketing (ABM), with many describing 2021 as “The Year of ABM.” Overall adoption rates grew from as low as 15% in 2020 to 70% or more in 2021, based on HubSpot’s State of Marketing report.
But don’t interpret that as the ABM peak passing us by. In reality, we’re just getting ramped up — and 2022 is shaping up to be “The Year of Smarter ABM.”
This is because what distinguishes a good ABM program from a mediocre one is the continuous expansion and refinement of actionable account (or company) and buying committee insights.
The trick is to know before you go — gathering as much intel as possible on where your target accounts are on their buying journey, how they approach it and how the buying committee members are engaging with your solutions or services vis-a-vis those of your competitors. Only then can marketing and sales leaders devise strategic and targeted outreach plans that encompass content, email, display and social — and even direct mail.
In other words, if 2021 was the year to throw spaghetti at the wall to see what would stick, then now it’s time to peel off those sticky bits — and get to work integrating them into your overall strategy.
The ABM Strategy
In the B2B space, ABM is an alternative approach to marketing that can be likened to fishing with a spear as opposed to casting out a wider net. By focusing on specific accounts and the stages of the buying journey, ABM flips the traditional lead-based marketing and sales funnel into an account-based one, activating the collaborative potential of marketing and sales teams.
The art of the ABM points to creating initial campaigns to measure and score potential targets so you can identify those high-priority opportunities for more customized outreach. As with any well-thought-out and orchestrated marketing and sales motion, you need to know what you need to measure and at what stage.
Here’s where you can start. You need to initially measure and then score against three core metrics: reach, engagement and interest:
Honing Your Account-Based Insights
ABM is designed to gradually enhance marketing efforts through a process of experimentation. Before you can customize or go even deeper and personalize, you’ll need to cultivate a thorough understanding of your account prospects’ journeys.
Are they early in the process, researching category options or are buying committees starting to look at specific options? Even if they are down the funnel, do you know how good of a fit these accounts are to what you have to offer? Engagement with industry content and campaigns can be a proxy for how you gather deeper insights and adjust your ABM.
Identify Priority Opportunities With Deeper ABM Insights
To start understanding what engages the audience in your target industries or accounts, start by leveraging your planned assets, messages and offers across channels. You can start with your current industry-based segmentation while monitoring the types of accounts visiting your website.
If you have already built a predictive model and identified a list of target accounts based on industries of interest, you may want to consider using specialized tools to further segment those categories.
For example, platforms like 6Sense, Terminus or Demandbase can provide an extra layer of nuance by showing you where accounts are in their buyers’ journey and if they are actively searching for your solutions or services.
Such insights place target accounts into defined stages of a buying journey, thereby enabling your marketing team to align efforts squarely with the goals of your business.
Sample 6sense dashboard mapping accounts to buying stages.
If you are looking to create a new category, focus on accounts that have not started the journey yet (target), or are very early in it (awareness). Doing so will enable you to set the buying criteria for the category before any of your competitors do. If you are looking to capture those accounts in the middle of the funnel, you will focus on the "consideration" stage. And if you are looking to win accounts over from your competitors, you will focus on "decision and purchase."
Now, not everyone can afford ABM platforms. But don’t despair. If you are looking to learn and build the case for such a platform, you have other options available.
You can "hack" your ABM approach using tools like Leadfeeder, which identify some, if not all, of the accounts coming to your site — anywhere between 20-50% of these accounts can be IDed easily through such reverse IP lookup tools.
Sample Leadfeeder account dashboard.
Knowing the specific accounts that are browsing your website makes it easier to identify the members of their buying committee by using tools like ZoomInfo, Apollo, Infotelligent, or more specialized sales outreach tools like RightBound.
A Cookieless Future = a More Relevant ABM Future
With Google set to eliminate the use of third-party cookies in 2023, you’ll increasingly need to rely on first-party IP-based analytics to drive your ABM strategies and outreach efforts. Narrowing your focus to first-party data makes it easier to identify relevant information and become more intentional with your overall approach.
Remember that today’s B2B buyer isn’t flying solo, but serving as a member of a larger buying committee. These buyers tend to conduct their own research (and don’t like filling out forms), so you’ll need to be sure that all channels effectively communicate your brand story, your understanding of customers’ pain points and all of the differentiators that make your business stand out from the competition.
While modern applications are still relatively new, ABM continues to prove itself not only as an effective marketing strategy, but also one that will continue to improve by the virtue of its own design, particularly for those who utilize customer insights in increasingly smart and innovative ways.