The most successful high-end restaurants don’t get popular by promising to have the biggest portions at the lowest prices.

Usually, they serve pricey, small plates that are crafted to the highest standards and developed with a specific audience in mind, mainly foodies.

That attitude of quality over quantity, for a distinct audience is at the heart of account based marketing (ABM).

Lots of marketing takes more of a fast-food restaurant approach. Especially in the world of B2C, the game is to attract anyone and everyone with generic messaging spread far and wide.

With ABM, you are going for that high-end restaurant feel. You want your audience to feel known, appreciated, and understood. You want to help them understand that your product is well worth its cost because it solves their specific problems. And you want to be able to do that for different groups of people with different interests and buying tendencies.

ABM is especially important for B2B marketers, as enterprise deals have long sales cycles and multiple decision-makers. And applying ABM well can mean the difference between closing a huge account and losing out to a competitor who personalized their messaging just a little bit better than you.

In this piece, we’ll discuss what ABM is, what makes it unique and provide examples of how it can be used by sales and marketing teams effectively.

What is account based marketing?

Account-based marketing takes a qualitative approach to attract your ideal customers by identifying and segmenting multiple target audiences and tailoring your marketing to them based on firmographic and demographic factors. It’s the process of:

  1. Identifying who your ideal customers.
  2. Sending them the right message at the right time, based on where they are in the buying cycle.

ABM differs from a traditional lead generation approach

With an ABM framework, you narrow the focus of your marketing campaigns — sometimes down to just one target account —and engage them in a highly personalized way. In short, it’s the art of taking a personalized marketing approach and applying it to every segment you target. A typical ABM campaign will target high-value enterprise accounts with different messaging than it does to target net new SMB accounts, for example.

The benefits of account based marketing

The benefits of account based marketing are similar to the benefits of personalized marketing in general. ABM allows you to connect with high-value prospects on a deeper level so that you can close bigger deals with less time and effort spent.

It’s no surprise that marketers in one recent survey said they plan to dedicate 53% of their marketing budget to ABM approaches over the coming year, and 97% of those marketers expect ABM programs to have a higher ROI than traditional marketing.

1. Personalized marketing is powerful

The effectiveness of ABM makes intuitive sense when you think about it. What do you appreciate more: a thoughtful gift from a friend based on a shared experience you’ve had or a generic trinket someone bought from an airport?

The former is like personalized marketing, the latter is like a generic inbound marketing strategy.

ABM lets you humanize your marketing. When you know who you want to target at a company as well as the problems they face, you can market more efficiently.

But don’t just rely on intuition — the stats show that personalization is a powerful tool. A study from McKinsey showed that personalization reduces acquisition costs as much as 50%, lifts revenues by 5-15%, and increases the efficiency of marketing spend by 10-30%.

That’s not to say that disregarding personalization and casting a wide net with an inbound marketing strategy is bad. It’s just not the most effective way to fish if you are hunting B2B whales, not B2C minnows.

2. ABM allows you to get the most out of your own data

Before there was advanced user analytics data, there was no great way to do ABM. Without good data, it was difficult to figure out who was a valuable prospect and who wasn’t. As the old saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.”

Thankfully, most modern tech companies are sitting on a first-party data goldmine.

Every form entry, blog post read, and webinar watched can be tracked, logged, and analyzed. With the right tools, you can know when employees from specific companies are visiting your site, and even where they are located and what tech stack they use. All of this information can be used to construct new audience segments for targeting and nurturing with an ABM approach.

For example, you might analyze your internal data and learn that a visitor has been on your FAQ page and read about implementation best practices. That’s valuable information but still it doesn’t help you that much.

But what if you also know that this visitor:

  • Works at a tech company with 500-1000 employees;
  • Is based in Los Angeles;
  • Uses Marketo;

With that knowledge, you can construct very relevant retargeting ads based around how your product syncs well with Marketo and has helped tech companies similar to your prospect’s achieve success.

3. Adding in third party data makes an ABM strategy even more powerful

Today, there are plenty of third-party data providers that can be tapped into to augment your account-based marketing performance. For instance, you could hit Clearbit, Datanyze, or Full Contact to enrich your leads.

That way, you can start calling out your prospect’s unique wants, needs, and characteristics before they’ve even provided them to you. And today, this can be done with as little as an IP address or email.

Read more about how to think about data for personalization in our personalization guide. 

Another interesting source of data can be intent data from a site like G2 Crowd. When someone looks up your product on G2 Crowd, that sends a pretty strong signal that they are interested in your product. By gaining access to that data, as well as analyzing social media patterns and general web activity, you can start to put together a compelling account-based marketing plan.

Implementing account based marketing

Now that you know why ABM can be so effective, let’s talk about putting it into action.

Find your ideal customer profile

Finding the right high-value accounts to target is the key to unlocking ABMs effectiveness.

There are a few different schools of thought for constructing ideal customer profiles (ICPs), but it doesn’t have to be complicated. To start, just dig into your CRM and figure out the details of your top-performing accounts. A few questions to consider when analyzing your individual accounts are:

  • What industry are they in?
  • How big is the company?
  • What tech stack do they use?
  • Where are they located?
  • What was the role of the buyer? (manager, director, C-suite, etc.)
  • What problems do they face?

For ABM, finding your ICP is critical. Those that fit the ideal customer profile are the whale accounts that can provide tons of recurring revenue for your business.

You can also use this method to find sub-ICP’s for any specific segment you want to target. So if you want to only look at your ideal customers that also are based in Colorado and use Salesforce, you can easily do that breakdown and create a new audience to target.

Personalize the on-site experience

ABM goes beyond retargeting, email campaigns, and social media ads. What happens on your site can play a huge role in nurturing leads and closing deals.

Use live chat

Companies such as Intercom and Drift use live chat to level up the account based marketing experience. When you collect the right firmographic and demographic data on your visitors, you can know when someone that fits your ICP is on your site. Then you can engage them with customized chatbots that call a visitor by their name and offer to help them.

Use chatbots to give the target accounts on your site a warm welcome that feels more like a conversation than a pitch. This approach gets the right kind of people engaged — 41% of people that start online chats with businesses are executives.

Develop custom landing pages

Personalized landing pages with relevant content give your high-value prospects the bespoke experience they deserve. With the right tools, such as Experiences, you can instantly incorporate firmographic data points into your landing pages so that they speak to the unique needs of a specific audience.

For instance, if a VP of Product comes to your site, they might see this:

While a designer visiting the same page could see:

Custom content is proven to boost conversions and build brand affinity.

Target appropriately across the customer lifecycle

With an ABM approach, you can target the right person at different stages of the buying funnel. Remember, the B2B sales cycles can be as long as a Midwestern winter. That means a point of contact will change and other bits of data will decay over time. You have to do the research to target the right person with the right messaging or use a tool that can sync with your CRM and automatically keep your audiences up to date.

For example, It’s a waste of money to show an ad encouraging people to sign up for your free trial if they’ve already done so. But with ABM you can minimize that sort of wasteful spending and ensure that each ad a prospect sees is genuinely helpful.

Account based marketing examples

Sometimes the best way to learn is by looking at real-world examples. Let’s look at four different examples of companies that used an ABM approach to level-up their marketing campaigns.

The importance of selecting target accounts with ABM realized that in order to find the highest LTV customers, they would need to be systematic with how they constructed their ideal customer profile. So they started looking at all potential customers through a rigorous, ABM focused lens.

First, they used third party data to append firmographic and technographic information to prospects. They categorized by company size, the size of the sales team (Chorus is a sales enablement tool), tech stack, and location. Then they mapped out what their targets looked like.

Examples of how Chorus tiered their accounts. Source: Chorus.

This process allowed them to get laser-focused their marketing efforts and it greatly improved Chorus’ ability to route qualified leads to their sales team.

After implementing ABM, Chorus’ marketing director Kristin Malkovich had this to say: “The biggest benefit I’ve noticed with our data system in place is that these back-and-forth conversations are gone. Marketing and sales teammates all have an account’s info from the beginning.”

An old-school account-based marketing approach

Influitive, a company that creates brand advocates, turned to account-based marketing as a way to incorporate more data into their sales and marketing. They developed a strategy for three different ABM campaigns that leaned heavily on personalization. Their approach involved:

  • Direct mail — They sent a handwritten note via snail mail detailing how Influitive could help a business get more positive reviews. This is a bold strategy in an era where almost all things are digital, but it was a low-cost experiment that resulted in a solid 29% response rate.
  • Personalized videos — Their team made custom videos congratulating prospects on an achievement. They were a success, generating a 17% response rate.
  • Quirky packages — They sent actual piñatas to target accounts, inside of which was a customer testimonial. This approach led to a 36% response rate.

These strategies are indicative of the mindset “do the things that don’t scale”, and they show that deep personalization and creativity can go a long way toward winning over B2B prospects.

10x growth with systematic ABM

Snowflake, a cloud-based data warehouse, used ABM to turbocharge their growth over the last few years. According to their marketing director Daniel Day, they did that with a four-pronged ABM approach.

  • Focusing on the ideal customers — Snowflake uses data to determine which prospects have the highest intent to buy, generate lists, and concentrate their efforts on those opportunities.
  • Lead scoring — They leverage tools like Tableau and Looker to go even deeper than most B2B companies with regards to data analysis in order to generate effective lead scores the sales team can be more efficient.
  • Personalized content — They make sure their prospects are always seeing information that is highly targeted, relevant and speaks to their pain points.

Through these methods, Snowflake was able to grow their customer base 10x over the last few years.

An ABM focused on quality over quantity

Robin, a company that sells workplace experience software, used ABM to run a campaign that focused on sending engaging images to lookalike audiences.

They found photos of offices that used their software and dug through the data to find target companies with similar offices. Then they developed personalized campaigns that sought to show their ideal customers what their offices could look like if they started using Robin’s software. According to their Director of Marketing, it was their most successful ABM experiment ever, increasing site traffic by 50% and leads by 20%.

Their way of leveraging their current customers to get new ones shows how you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to be successful with ABM.

The power of landing pages

Here at Proof, we wanted to find a way to boost engagement and build our funnel without breaking the bank. This led to the development of software that can personalize landing pages based on a visitor’s industry.

Now we can use the same marketing funnel as always, but when someone gets to our site they are instantly met with compelling and relevant messaging tailored to their individual needs. We tested our custom strategy against a generic one and got amazing results — a 54% increase in demo registrations and a 32% increase in new trials.

People want to be treated as if brands know and understand them, and personalized landing pages are a great way to accomplish that.

No more “spray and pray”

You are not going to close many B2B deals with a “spray and pray” strategy that involves blasting out ads to anyone and everyone. To stand out over a long sales cycle, it’s important to do account based marketing.

It’s important to note that ABM is not the right approach for every organization. For instance, B2C companies will probably do best to abide by a more traditional outbound marketing strategy. But for many B2B businesses, ABM allows for the most efficient and effective way to target, nurture, and close high-value deals. Use ABM to get personal, get creative, and increase your revenue potential.