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Back To The Future With Account Based Marketing

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Posted by John Beveridge on Sep 22, 2016 11:59:28 AM


Account based marketing is the topic of the day for many sales and marketing teams. For those of us who have been around for a while, the basic idea is not new at all. Account based marketing involves finding a limited number of prospects that really hit your sweet spot and approaching them with personalized outreach. 

The idea behind account based marketing goes back a long time. What's new is that modern sales technology allows businesses to do it really effectively. This post will explore how to get started with account based marketing and how to use technology to personalize your sales outreach.

Choosing targets for your account based marketing strategy

The first step in implementing an account based marketing strategy is to develop your ideal customer profile - the sweet spot customer that you can serve well and profitably. Your ideal customer profile is usually defined by demographic data like industry, location and company size. We recommend a focused approach rather than trying to be all things to all people.

For companies with relatively small customer bases, this is done through your experience. You know those industries and company sizes in which you have expertise and can define them fairly easily. You might define your ideal customer profile as professional services companies with between $5 million and $100 million in California.

Companies with larger customer bases use predictive analytics to define and identify companies matching an ideal customer profile. They may be segregated by industry, company size or some other factor - predictive analytics will identify the factors that correlate with being a good customer for the business.

Both of these techniques pre-qualify companies for the account based marketing target list. As mentioned earlier, the idea is to identify a limited number of companies which you will actively pursue. The number of prospects on your list will be determined by your average deal size, your sales goals and your closing ratios. Here is an example.

Annual Sales Goals      $1,000,000      divided by Average Deal Size     $100,000      equals number of deals needed     10  

Number of deals needed    10     divided by close ratio      33%             equals number of accounts to target           30   

In this case, the business would need 30 targets for its account based marketing list. The next step is to choose the 30 businesses to target based on the ideal customer profile criteria. Again, this criteria could come from looking at your customer base through the lens of experience or using a predictive analytics model to identify the criteria. This is accomplished through market research.

 Build your marketing process around accounts, not leads

Research shows that sales processes are getting longer and more people are involved in the decision making process. The account-based buying process is made up of an aggregate of individual buying processes.

For example, a simple buying process for employee benefits for a mid-sized company could involve an HR Director (referred to as a User Buyer) and the CEO (referred to as the Economic Buyer.) You're not going to make the sale unless both of those people agree that you're the best fit. In reality, there are probably 3 to 4 other buying influences in the buying process for employee benefits.

Let's say that the HR Director comes to your website and downloads your eBook, The Five Essential Elements of An Employee Benefits Plan. You nurture the lead with email marketing. She downloads more content and finally converts on a free consultation offer. The marketing side of the business passes the lead to a sales professional, thinking the deal is a slam-dunk.

The sales professional comes back to marketing and says something along the lines of, "that lead sucked." The problem was that marketing didn't take into account that there was a CEO involved in the process with her own set of needs and wants. The sales person found out that the HR Director was primarily interested in getting educated with your content so that she could vet your competitor that the CEO brought in.

Here are some of the elements involved in building and account-based marketing process.

  • After you've defined your ideal customer profile, the next step is to identify who (job title) is typically involved in the buying process and the pain points of each buying influence.
  • You need to create different pieces of content for each buying influence and/or address all of their pain points in a single piece of content. For example, a case study for our employee benefits consulting firm should address both the needs of the HR Director as well as those of the CEO.
  • For the individual accounts you're targeting, you need to identify all of the buying influences (names) at each account. The right marketing automation software will help you serve each of these buying influence according to their unique needs.

One of the things that should be apparent is that account-based marketing requires close coordination between marketing and sales. For those of us who have been selling for a while, this process should be very familiar. What's different about the way it's being used today is that marketing is approaching their role using the same framework.

Using technology to personalize your account-based marketing

The key to a successful account-based marketing strategy is your ability to personalize the buyer experience for your targeted prospects. Today's sales and marketing technology can help you successfully execute your account-based marketing strategy. 

Rapidan Inbound is a HubSpot Certified Partner and here are some of the ways you can use the HubSpot suite of products to personalize your approach to your targeted buyers.

  • HubSpot's SMART Content feature lets you personalize your website content to match the visitor's demographics. For example, if an IP address attached to one of your contacts visits your site, the content they see can reflect the fact that they are a CEO at a technology company in Texas. The next IP address that visits is attached to one of your contents that is a CFO at a healthcare company in Massachusetts. This visitor will see content related to their demographics. Taken one step further, you can customize content by company. 
  • HubSpot Sales gives you insight into your contacts interaction with your marketing process. You can see what website pages they've visited, what content they've accessed, which emails they've opened and which links they've clicked. By combining this lead intelligence with research on sources like LinkedIn, you can structure highly personalized outreaches.
  • Forms on your lead generation offers can collect information to help you segment your contacts to provide them with a more relevant, personalized lead nurturing process.

New entrants into the marketing automation field like Triblio take it one step further. Triblio personalizes web content based on IP addresses associated with specific businesses.

In many ways, account-based marketing is nothing new. On the other hand, today's technology can fuel a highly efficient ABM process. As my friend Shawn Cook says, "the days of spray and pray have gone away," An account-based marketing strategy should be at the core of your new business planning process.

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Sales Process

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