Account-based marketing, or ABM (because what’s a marketing term without a corresponding acronym), is a B2B strategy that targets specific, high-value accounts to convert them to a sale. The key differentiator between a traditional B2B approach and ABM is that the strategic focus for ABM is building relationships with specific accounts’ key decision makers that require a personalized experience to generate qualified leads and incremental revenue.
When initially evaluating how to implement an ABM strategy, you’ll likely be led to believe that you need to onboard specific ABM marketing platforms and measurement solutions in order to be effective. However, there’s a good chance that you already have the necessary tools to be successful – they just need to be reimagined with an ABM lens. Before opting to onboard new partners, read through our steps on how to implement an ABM strategy within your existing tech stack.
Reaching the Right Audience
The foundation of any ABM initiative is an audience targeting strategy that enables media to accurately reach in-market accounts. The traditional approach to B2B audience targeting through digital channels is centered on driving users to the site to fill out leads forms, which are then the accounts that are manually qualified and followed up on by the sales team. The opposite happens with an ABM strategy, which starts with identifying the core accounts to engage with and nurture to simplify the process of fostering a relationship with the sales team.
Developing an ABM strategy can feel overwhelming at first since it’s like trying to locate a needle in a haystack in order to reach key decision makers. However, it can be accomplished with strategic data partners that seamlessly plug-and-play within your key media buying platforms to maintain an integrated ecosystem. B2B data partners with ABM targeting solutions, such as Bombora and Dun & Bradstreet, can provide firmographic segments which use data to categorize organizations based on industry, location, technologies used, and more to identify and reach critical accounts. When evaluating data partners, it’s important to understand the methodology used to define audience segments to ensure the audiences are built to reach the intended users. Additionally, if your brand has existing CRM lists, ABM data partners can enrich the data to improve accuracy and scale.
Scaling with Contextual Targeting
Given the nature of ABM audience targeting being more of a one-to-one approach to reach accounts and their respective key decision makers, campaigns may be susceptible to scaling issues. To mitigate low reach and high expenses, leverage contextual targeting as a complement to the data-driven audience targeting strategy to add scalability to the overall marketing initiative. Using contextual targeting, media is able to reach accounts while they are actively researching content that indicates interest or intent in a relevant product or service offering. Engaging users with relevant messaging while in the proper mindset can capture attention and drive key onsite actions.
It’s important to note that contextual targeting has become far more intelligent than it was at its onset due to advancements in natural language processing and large language models. Contextual targeting is no longer a mass reach play, but rather an effective targeting strategy when executed with understanding of behavioral intent signals and corresponding keyword and top publishers research.
Nurturing Leads with Sequential Messaging
Since a key differentiator between an overarching B2B strategy and ABM is a focus on the individual account, delivering a personalized experience from the initial touch point to the sale is critical. Sequential messaging can be leveraged as a lead nurturing strategy that provides the key decision maker with the information they need based on their intent signals and current stage in their buying journey. Utilizing previous ad engagement and onsite actions as data touchpoints, sequential messaging can provide a series of ads to potential customers that tell a continual, highly tailored story to drive users toward conversion. For example, if a user downloads a whitepaper, signaling interest in a product or service but have not yet converted into a qualified lead, targeting them with tailored messaging to drive them back to the site with a specific offer could result in the acquiring of a new account.
Many programmatic buying platforms that are likely already part of your tech stack have sequential targeting logic incorporated into the audience builder, enabling re-engagement based on exposure to or interaction with a creative message or key actions taken on the brand’s site.
Determining Effectiveness with a Measurement Strategy
The first step to developing a measurement framework is implementing a pixel strategy that captures key onsite actions to both inform campaign performance and enable custom audience creation. It’s important that the pixel strategy complements the media strategy to ensure all intent signals are captured to monitor stages in the consumer journey. Intent signals should be used to better understand your audience and its current needs instead of pushing for leads straight away before they are properly primed.
That being said, paid marketing alone is rarely enough to fully nurture a lead into an account. But with an effective ABM approach, you can avoid clogging up your Salesforce with people who just wanted a whitepaper. Below are the key stages of the ABM journey and the corresponding key metrics to measure along the way:
- Educate: It’s important to establish the brand as a thought leader in the industry and showcase the product or service’s value to decision makers in order to break into their consideration set. The initial touchpoint with key accounts should be centered on the education of the unique business application of the brand’s offering, fueled by a carefully curated content strategy. In this stage, measuring metrics such as time on site and scroll depth will indicate that media is reaching a qualified audience and capturing attention with content that satisfies a current interest or business need. Also, measuring cost per unique reach will inform if media is efficiently scaling and introducing the brand to a breadth of key decision makers.
- Engage: The proper cadence of engagement with accounts is critical to a successful ABM strategy. Utilize intent signals and firmographics to understand the right time to engage with key decision makers, understanding what relevant information they’ll be looking for as well as typical buying cycles. It’s important to remember that each engagement with an account should bring value to aid in the decision making process. In this stage, measuring engagement metrics, such as cost per whitepaper download and cost per completed video view, will indicate if the message is resonating with the core target accounts to drive meaningful user activity.
- Qualify: The final stage of the ABM journey is focused on acquiring qualified leads that eventually lead to a high revenue sale. It’s important to identify the true value of a qualified lead prior to the marketing campaign launch to establish cost per lead goals that better inform the platform algorithms on the value of lead to prioritize media spend toward. This will ensure media is capturing qualified leads from key decision makers that are indicating intent to convert. In this stage, it’s also important to measure return on investment (ROI) since leads aren’t guaranteed revenue.
- Evaluate: While marketing is primarily responsible for marketing qualified leads rather than sales qualified leads, it can still be valuable to measure sales cycle efficiency. This metric determines the effectiveness of media touchpoints at driving key decision makers from the awareness of the brand to the point of sale. This can help inform if the messaging and audience targeting strategies are reaching the right users with the right message at the right time.
Planning and activating an account-based marketing initiative can feel overwhelming since it is presented under the guise of complexity and needing specialized tools in order to succeed. But if you peel back the layers of ABM, you’ll discover that its core components are not entirely different compared to a traditional B2B strategy. Before reinventing the wheel, consider your approach to digital media and how the existing tools within your tech stack can be repurposed to apply to an ABM approach before investing time and money in yet another platform.