Account-Based Marketing: Definitions & Strategies
Account-based marketing (ABM) offers organizations a significant return on investment (ROI) as they are faced with the need to acquire, retain, and grow high-value accounts. Get the lowdown on everything you need to know about ABM.
In this account-based marketing guide, you’ll discover:
- What is account-based marketing (ABM)?
- How does ABM work?
- Pros and cons of using ABM
- Common problems ABM can solve
- Components of ABM
- ROI of a successful lead generation program
- Planning your ABM strategy
- Frequently asked questions
Account-based marketing — or key account marketing — uses the combined expertise of the marketing and sales teams to target select groups of accounts that require tailored marketing.
To reach their goals, marketers must employ strategies that merge the sales and marketing teams’ expertise to:
- engage with
- and close deals of high-value accounts
Using marketing strategy to zone in on key areas that will be of higher value to the organization means the marketing and sales team can work on campaigns together that capture the attention of these accounts and turn them into customers.
ABM is important to get right as this could be the difference between the sales team hitting quota and exceeding it.
Benefits of an ABM strategy.
In the digital age, capturing the attention of potential buyers is harder than ever. This is where ABM can work in an organization’s favor. By identifying accounts sales want to pursue, the marketing team can tailor campaigns to them directly. To reach their goals, many companies seeking high-value customers often find an ABM strategy serves them better than casting a broad net.
Account-based marketing flips the usual marketing and sales funnel on its head. Instead of potential clients being led through the funnel, account-based marketing:
- looks at those accounts that sales want
- targets them directly with personalized content
- and then converts them into clients.
In general, B2B marketers tend to target leads more generally to appeal to as many companies as possible, but that doesn’t result in the best ROI.
With today’s technology, it’s now easier and more affordable to scale ABM to a variety of organizations, and marketers across the board are implementing an ABM strategy within their team to drive higher value outcomes. Using a tool like Marketo Engage can help a marketing team see metrics, analysis and keep updated on which ABM campaigns are working.
Many companies find success with an ABM strategy — 92% of B2B organizations said, “ABM is an extremely important part of their overall marketing efforts,” according to a SiriusDecisions report.
It’s important to continually follow the right steps, test and optimize your campaigns, to ensure positive results. There are three main ways ABM can work between the two teams:
- One-to-one. A dedicated senior marketer will work with the account team to find the best strategy.
- One-to-few. A marketer will work with 5-15 accounts, usually in the same industry and experiencing similar issues.
- One-to-many. Working with a high number of carefully selected accounts.
For high-value prospects, it may be better to use the one-to-one or one-to-few methods so the marketing team can personalize the campaign accordingly.
By using one of the above methods, the marketing team can then focus on the campaign. One approach to consider is the spearfishing method — targeting ideal clients and marketing directly to key decision-makers.
"ABM, to me, is fishing with spears by putting more resources and more energy into going after the right people, the right accounts."
Marketo Engage founder Jon Miller 
The three main stages to follow are:
1. Identification. Marketing and sales work out what accounts or prospects they’ll be going after and who in those companies will be the best person to target. Look at current clients as well their competitors.
2. Marketing. Create marketing campaigns aimed at those target accounts to attract them. You can personalize the message, web copy, email campaigns and even whitepapers. Personalizing it for those accounts will get better results.
3. Measurement. Implement a system where you can analyze the necessary metrics. These won’t necessarily be clicks, impressions or page views but will be social media likes and comments, and who is interacting with the sales team or website. If a particular account has become more engaged, it’s time for the sales team to reach out.
"Marketing is no longer a one-way street — you cannot simply shove promotions to your prospects. You need to engage in an active dialogue and ABM lets you do that with unparalleled precision."
- Shari Johnston, SVP of Marketing, Radius
There are many reasons why ABM might work for your organization. But there can be downsides too. It can be labor intensive, and campaigns demand lots of work. However, it can change how your marketing team works, prioritize key customers, and help you achieve your sales targets in a relatively short time.
Pros of ABM.
✓ ABM will change how you personalize your marketing campaigns.
ABM is all about targeted and personalized campaigns. With ABM, you can move away from everything sounding like it has been mass-produced.
But to get personalization right, you should do your research and focus on the correct pain points. This will show how your product or service can help to solve your customer’s problem.
✓ Show key accounts care and attention.
An ABM strategy will enable your sales and marketing teams to give the high value accounts the care and attention they need. Providing these prospects with valuable content will work in your favor long-term. These accounts will hopefully want to be part of your client base and will help to spread the word about your value.
Cons of ABM.
x Multiplying work across multiple accounts.
Depending on how many accounts you’re targeting, you will have to use the same content for each, with subtle changes to tailor it to the brand. This can be labor intensive and it’s why you need a great automation tool. Using Marketo Engage for your marketing needs, including ABM, can take the stress out of your campaigns and analysis.
x Works best with a few accounts.
As ABM can be labor intensive, it’s best to do it for between 5 and 15 accounts (one-to-few method). This way, you won’t have hundreds of accounts to keep updated and track metrics for. It can also mean those accounts get more attention and become a customer quicker.
Can change how you personalize your campaigns.
Multiplying work across multiple accounts — time consuming.
Much needed care and attention to higher value
Labor Intensive — works best with a few accounts.
A broad marketing approach may make sense at first in the B2B space, but it can drastically reduce your ROI compared to a targeted approach. A successful ABM initiative can boost revenue, optimize your efforts, and provide in-depth metrics that would be otherwise inaccessible.
I’m not able to show clear ROI.
One of the main goals of account-based marketing is to prioritize ROI, resulting in clear business results. In fact, compared to other marketing initiatives, the 2014 ITSMA Account-Based Marketing Survey found that “ABM delivers the highest return on investment of any B2B marketing strategy or tactic”.
We’re wasting a lot of time, staff, and budget resources.
Since account-based marketing is focused on investing time in promising, high-value accounts, it allows marketers to focus their resources more efficiently and run marketing programs that are specifically optimized for target accounts.
I’m not seeing engagement with my audience anymore.
Since account-based marketing is so personalized, targeted customers tend to be more likely to engage with content. As it is geared specifically to them, their business, and their stage in the customer journey, buyers are more likely to interact.
I’m not sure what goals and metrics I should be tracking.
Account-based marketing makes it easier to analyze the effectiveness of your campaigns because you’re measuring a smaller set of target accounts across email, ads, web, and events. The data you collect will also be more detailed and can deliver insights you couldn’t collect otherwise.
Our marketing and sales teams are not aligned.
If your sales and marketing teams aren’t syncing up, ABM is one of the most efficient ways to get them on the same page. Account-based marketing runs similarly to sales, putting marketing and sales teams in the same mindset so they are thinking both in terms of accounts and how to target them, bring them to the table, and close the deal.
Learn more about how to solve these problems at your organization with our guide: Jumpstart Your Account-Based Marketing.Download Now
Account-based marketing consists of targeting, engagement, and measurement. Build these aspects into the foundation of your program and you’ll set your marketing team up for success.
Targeting and managing the right accounts.
ABM allows you to use technology to target and manage accounts that are worth your time and will result in the highest ROI. This gives you the ability to centralize account targeting and management rather than managing and syncing accounts and lists between several apps.
The type of accounts you target depends on your organization, but the following parameters are a good place to start:
- high yield
- product fit
- quick wins
- strategic importance
- and territory
Engaging across channels.
Design and run coordinated and personalized campaigns across each of your marketing channels from a single platform rather than managing each individually.
This requires an account-based marketing solution that knits each channel together and provides a foundation for you to deliver informed and comprehensive cross-channel campaigns to your target accounts.
Measuring and optimizing programs.
Your ABM strategy must be measurable for you to demonstrate success and improve over time. To do this, you should find a solution that helps you build account dashboards that look at specific accounts, programs, and targets, and provides coherent revenue-based account analytics — all in one place.
Learn more about the key to implementing a successful ABM strategy in our ebook: The 3 Essential Components of an ABM Solution.Download Now
The ROI of a successful lead generation program depends on determining qualified leads and moving them along the sales funnel at their own pace.
ABM drives ROI. Revenue won is the most popular metric for measuring the success of ABM. 
ABM is superior. 87% of marketers say account-based marketing strategies outperform other marketing investments. 
ABM delivers. Four in five (80%) marketing professionals say ABM has boosted customer lifetime values. 
The foundation of a successful ABM program is a list of carefully chosen high-value accounts. Once you define your targets, your marketing and sales teams can come together to craft and deliver personalized campaigns through the right channels to produce the best result.
Planning your ABM strategy is incredibly important to ensure:
- Your marketing is being targeted correctly
- Sales and marketing teams are aware what’s needed of them
- Campaigns are fully optimized before they go live
We’ll now detail 6 steps to follow when planning your ABM strategy:
1. Discover and define your high-value accounts.
Use all the firmographic data and business intelligence you can to help you identify and prioritize your high-value accounts. Consider revenue potential as well as other strategic factors, like market influence, likelihood to make a repeat purchase, and potential for higher-than-average profit margins.
2. Map accounts and identify key internal players.
Identify how your target accounts are structured, how decisions are made, and who the decision makers and influencers are.
3. Define content and personalized messaging.
An effective ABM initiative employs valuable content that addresses clear and significant business challenges that the target account faces. Think about how your messaging and content can address the target account’s specific pain points.
4. Determine optimal channels.
Communicate with your audience on the channels they leverage, including web, mobile, and email. Consider which channels will be most effective for the specific roles or industries you might be targeting and consider things such as opt-in rules and other restrictions in your region.
5. Execute targeted and coordinated campaigns.
It's critical to coordinate your campaigns across channels and align the marketing and sales teams’ efforts for maximum impact. Modern technology allows marketers to coordinate and execute ABM campaigns at a much greater scale and efficiency than was once possible.
6. Measure, learn, and optimize.
Be sure to test, measure, and optimize your ABM marketing campaigns to ensure they are effective and that your results will continuously improve. Be sure to analyze the results of individual campaigns as well as trends at the account level and in the aggregate (all target accounts) to get a more accurate picture.
Learn more about how to get ABM working for you in our Definitive Guide to Account-Based Marketing.
Who should be in the ABM team?
Within your ABM team, you should have a leadership team plus key members from your sales and marketing departments. You should then have people who can help you strategize and deliver the campaigns effectively.
Do we need special ABM technology?
It is always a good idea to have an automated marketing system like Marketo Engage to help you get the best out of your marketing strategy, but there is nothing additional needed to deal with ABM specifically.
Is ABM a marketing channel?
ABM stands for account-based marketing. It’s not a specific marketing channel in the same way as email or social. But it’s a digital marketing strategy used to create marketing that’s tailored to one or a number of prospects or client accounts.