What you need to know about Account Based Marketing

All articles | Strategy
Published Nov 30, 2017 | Written by Keith Errington

Marketing is often seen as getting your message out to the maximum number of people, which seems logical. Surely, it follows that the more people you reach, the more prospects you should get, and therefore the more sales you will make?

Certainly in the B2C arena, this strategy can pay dividends with mass market products.

But there are a number of reasons why a different approach needs to be taken for B2B marketing. Products are more niche, so mass broadcast is not practical or cost effective. And the truth is, that in order for many small to mid-sized B2B companies to succeed, they don’t actually need thousands of leads; what they really need is a reasonable number of high value clients.

And this is what Account Based Marketing (ABM) is all about – targeting a few, high value potential customers with your marketing resources, rather than taking a scatter gun approach and hoping for the best.

An old idea given new life by technology

ABM is not a particularly new idea as this quote from Matt Heinz explains:

“In its purest form, account based marketing has been around forever. Account based marketing is simply instead of fishing with nets, we’re fishing with spears. You identify exactly the prospects you want to do business with and then you market very precisely and narrowly to them directly. I think we have a renewed interest in ABM now, because there’s an advancement in tools and technology that make it a little easier to execute – but the idea of doing target account selling and target account marketing is not new.”

Identifying accounts by working together

When taking an ABM approach, the first step is to identify those few valuable prospects you wish to gain as customers. This is an exercise that should involve the Marketing and Sales departments and any directors involved in the company’s business strategy: because it’s important that the right kind of target accounts – those that further your company’s business strategy – are targeted.

Aligning Sales and Marketing

Even at this first stage, we can see that Marketing and Sales need to work together, in fact in order for ABM to work, there should be a very close alignment between marketing and sales. Not only do they have to work together, but for both departments; their motivation and rewards have to be linked to the sales revenue they bring in. For example, a typical metric for Marketing is the number of leads generated, or prospects converted, but this is clearly not appropriate when you are only targeting a handful of accounts.

Researching your target accounts

According to HubSpot:

“Once you determine who your targets are, they goal is to treat those companies like big, organization-level personas. Remember - we’re not trying to develop personas for individual people here. However, it can help to have that detailed information and representation of your ideal business customers.”

The more you know about your target accounts, the more likely it is that you can attract and convert them with your content and marketing strategy. You should start by looking at a company’s structure and finding out who the influencers and decision makers are. LinkedIn’s search is a great tool for discovering who’s who at a company. Once you know who’s who, monitor their social media posts and blogs (if available), to build up a better picture of the individuals and their role within the target organisation.

Whilst doing this, identify where they ‘live’: where they hold their conversations and where they do their research. Is it through reading blogs? Internet searches? Or through a particular social media channel? Do they attend events to find out more? This knowledge will guide you when it comes to choosing the best channel to publish your content on.

Using any and all information you can find out about a company, build up a profile. Target specific deals or business that you want to win, and look at the teams of people you need to influence in order to achieve that goal. This is more a process of compiling business intelligence and is not the same process as creating a more generic buyer persona.

How does ABM and inbound marketing work together?

ABM does not replace inbound marketing, it merely gives inbound a sharper focus. You still create content and do all the other inbound tasks, but they are focussed on a few, high value accounts. Content and Calls-To-Action are all personalised for these target accounts. You need to create content aimed at the account’s key players, content that addresses their issues, answers their questions and speaks to their situation.

Can you mix ABM with a general approach?

Many companies use a combination of ABM and conventional marketing – and this is probably the best possible approach – if you have the resources. However, this mixed strategy requires more careful managing of your content publishing as you can end up sending repeated messages, or worse; mixed messages, to your valuable ABM targets.

Has it worked?

In theory, it should be easier to measure the results of your account based marketing as you can easily track the revenue they specifically generate. But this only tells you how well you’ve done – it doesn’t help on the way. For this HubSpot suggests also measuring other factors such as :

  • Are we growing our list of known individuals within the target account?
  • Have there been any changes to the way these accounts are engaging with our brand and its content?


When you consider that, according to Demandbase; 82% of visitors to B2B sites aren’t even actual prospects, it’s easy to see how B2B marketing resources can be wasted or spent ineffectually.

One final thing, bear in mind that you need to do ABM well, as you are effectively putting all your eggs in the same basket. You often only get one chance at a high value prospect – mess it up and that potential revenue could be gone forever. So it needs a lot more planning, thought and care than a general approach.

But for smaller companies, companies with few marketing resources, companies that have a tight control on their marketing spend – or just companies who like to gain more for less work, ABM makes sense.

Remember the Pareto Principle as applied to business by people like Richard Koch? 80% of sales come from 20% of clients.

Using your marketing resources efficiently to target that 20% is the essence of account based marketing. 

Sales and Marketing Alignment Guide

Published by Keith Errington November 30, 2017
Keith Errington