First coined by the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA, what a mouthful) in 2004, Account Based Marketing (ABM) has become a critically important tool used by B2B companies worldwide.
But what exactly is ‘Account-Based Marketing’? And why do some companies prefer it over conventional marketing methods?
From what I understand, ABM is largely considered to be a more specific and tailored approach to generating new customers.
In other words, instead of targeting thousands of potential leads through the traditional approach, ABM allows you to identify several high-value accounts which will be targeted with tailor-made campaigns.
Illustration by Max Altschuler via Inside Intercom
The reason for choosing solely high-value accounts is to maximise ROI, instead of spending your entire marketing budget on generating broad awareness among large numbers of potential customers. This gives companies the ability to choose customers that would most likely represent larger deals.
Here’s a useful analogy I found from Max Altschuler, CEO of Sales Hacker, which nicely describes ABM:
“Using a traditional marketing approach, you cast a wide net. The market is broad and in turn you catch many small fish. With account-based marketing, you get in the water and use a spear.”
Cloud computing and data warehousing company, Snowflake, is one example of how account-based marketing is put into practice.
Founded in 2012, the relatively young company has managed to make a significant dent in the cloud computing industry. Snowflake provides businesses with quick and easy-to-use solutions related to data storage, processing, and analytics.
The software company set out to adopt ABM with the goal of reaching specific high-value accounts and having them click on their ads.
To reach this goal, Snowflake created a new team which comprised of 6 account-based marketers, who were overseeing 500 parallel ABM campaigns. These campaigns were created using the help of the sales team who had the best knowledge of the accounts.
The company then established specific personas based on its pre-existing high-value accounts. It managed to use these personas to launch ads that are targeted at distinct audience groups, and at exact times within the buying lifecycle.
However, these ads were gated, and their goal was not to produce conversions. Instead, Snowflake used them to engage with the target personas, and to gain credibility and trust among its potential accounts.
The company then used retargeting ads that were directed at the engaged personas, as well as conducting weekly demos and free trials for them; with the hopes of ultimately leading to a conversion.
After 15 months of ABM, Snowflake saw an increased growth rate of over 300%, an increase in click through rates of up to 150% on 1:1 ABM ads, and they added 4 new employees to the sales team to keep up with the accounts.
US-based electronic agreement company, DocuSign, is another example of how account-based marketing can be more effective than traditional methods.
Founded in 2003, and with an annual revenue upwards of $1.5 billion in 2020, DocuSign is the market leader in the eSignature tools segment. The platform allows companies to manage electronic agreements using its eSignature feature, which is backed up by the DocuSign Agreement Cloud.
Through the implementation of ABM, DocuSign sought to boost click through rates to gated content, and to increase conversions from high-value accounts.
The company’s ABM strategy involved launching a display ad campaign to over 450 enterprise accounts. These ads contained personalised messages for businesses according to which stage of the buying cycle they were at.
DocuSign then created a list of six target industries, and built industry specific messages, testimonials, peer logos, and content to be used. This was integrated into the company’s web platform to be delivered to its targeted accounts.
DocuSign also used web analytics to obtain greater understanding and visibility of potential customers, and managed to adjust content offerings based on that.
As a result, the company achieved a 59% increase in engagement rate, a 300% increase in page views, a 22% increase in the sales pipeline, and managed to decrease the bounce rate from 39% to 14%.
As such, it wouldn’t take much effort to see that the implementation of ABM had positive effects on DocuSign’s sales and marketing operations.
O2 UK is another case study that demonstrates the potential benefits account-based marketing can have for a company.
Founded in the UK in 1985, O2 is a British telecom giant which provides mobile and broadband services to consumers and businesses across the UK. With revenues of $8.2 billion in 2020, the company is one of the largest telecom providers in the country.
O2 sought to use ABM to create a more personalised marketing approach towards potential accounts. This was done with the goal of generating greater brand awareness, and penetrating the C-level audience segment of its enterprise-level customer targets.
During their ABM campaign, O2 targeted over 2000 employees and board members of potential customers to build individual reports for each company. Using data from each of these companies, O2 highlighted in each report how much money could be saved if that company switched to O2’s services.
Following these reports, members of O2’s sales team would reach out to the customer to ask for face-to-face meetings, which would then involve trials or demos to demonstrate to the customer the benefits of switching to O2.
As a result, O2 increased their sales qualified lead conversion rate to 67.5%, achieved a 50% increase in new opportunities, and boosted their audience engagement by 130%. To top it off, O2’s ABM campaign was fortunate enough to be named the Most Commercially Successful at the B2B Awards in 2017.
All in all, account-based marketing allows companies to develop a tailored and customer-specific approach to generating leads. In this way, high-value accounts receive additional personalised content and a more engaging experience, ultimately leading to greater probability of customer conversion.