Inbound marketing is my favourite marketing strategy.
And most marketers agree.
That’s why Inbound Marketing is searched for about 12,100 times a month in France and its Outbound counterpart only about 1,900 times.
This is why the process has become increasingly complex and has resulted in very sophisticated content-based funnels.
However, these tactics hide a little secret: They have very low success rates in B2B markets.
According to Forrester, less than 1% of B2B leads eventually become customers.
If we’re talking about large companies, which is the focus of this course, the numbers are even worse.
That’s why, in this lesson, although it’s my favourite marketing strategy, we’re not going to talk about Inbound Marketing as usual.
We are going to talk about ABM, Account Based Marketing.
What is ABM (Account Based Marketing)?
The first time I heard about ABM was from Steve Watt, founder of the Toronto ABM Summit and one of the most authoritative voices in the industry.
He was speaking at a conference about his first major ABM effort.
And it was an action centred around a miniature red Ferrari.
Steve Watt was hired at a company as vice president of demand generation and ran into a problem.
The team he was leading was already doing an incredible job of Inbound and Outbound Marketing.
There was very little room for improvement.
Yet even so, there were many companies who, despite being perfect customers for them, not only didn’t enter their sales process, but didn’t even know them.
As we’ve said before, less than 1% of these prospects convert.
So he devised his first large-scale ABM Account Based Marketing strategy.
He first identified 100 such companies that would be a perfect fit for his goal.
These were medium-sized investment banks and high-flying consultancies, and given their limited numbers, they were able to analyse them very well.
And in that analysis, they discovered that the real decision-makers on whether to buy their product were not the senior executives, but the analysts and partners.
In such companies, the associates are almost always young employees from good universities, highly motivated, working 80 or 90 hours a week and earning a lot of money.
But if they continue to work as hard and get promoted, they start to earn even more money.
And Ferraris and Lamborghinis become a reality for these young people.
And really, a lot of people want this moment.
But how do you get the attention of a highly motivated young person who already works 15 hours a day, 6 days a week?
Steve Watt and his team did just that by sending these young people the Ferrari to scale and a personalized note.
They suggested that their software was the Ferrari of their industry and that if they said they worked with them, the success would be so great and the partner’s career would accelerate so much that the real Ferrari would be closer.
Then, by email, they invited them to a 20-minute demonstration.
If they simply agreed to the meeting, they would also receive a $50 Amazon card.
The results were extraordinary.
They implemented the strategy with a total of 700 associates and completed 80 demos.
They also ran a control group of 500 associates with the same email, but without the free gift and personalized note.
They only closed 2 demos.
If, after hearing this strategy, you fell in love with it like I did the first time around, let’s find out a way for you to start implementing it in your business to attract key accounts.
How to implement an ABM strategy
To implement an ABM strategy you need to keep 4 things in mind:
- The team that will implement it.
- The accounts to be impacted.
- The journey those accounts should take.
- How to generate a real and meaningful impact on these accounts.
What does the team for an ABM strategy look like?
For all strategies used to sell to large companies, there needs to be good alignment between marketing and sales, but for ABM strategies, this is even more important.
By doing such specific work on each account, the cost is multiplied and you can’t afford to lose accounts because of failures in this direction.
This means that the project should not be driven by marketing with sales approval or vice versa.
And the best way to achieve this is for it to be led by a cross-departmental team.
For Leticia del Corral, an expert in B2B sales and ABM, there are also other key actions:“For marketing and sales to work as one, it is essential that they share KPIs.
In fact, with ABM, the most important KPI for marketing should be sales, and this alone is an important link between the departments.
In terms of team configuration, there needs to bean ABM manager to lead the project.
If the aim of the ABM strategy is to sell more to the customers you already have, you will probably need to include people responsible for customer development.
Finally, although they are not usually part of the team, one of the keys to making an ABM strategy work is management support, both from senior management and from sales and marketing, without this support it is very difficult for the strategy to happen.
How will the accounts be affected by an ABM strategy?
When implementing these strategies for the first time, it is very tempting to make one of three mistakes:
- Use a list selected by sales.
- Use a list searched by marketing.
- Use a list such as the CAC 40 or similar.
To avoid these 3 mistakes, the best thing to do is to make a list from these 3 points.
- Companies that perfectly match the type of company we are looking for in terms of size, sector, media, etc.
- Companies that benefit a lot from our solution.
- Companies with which we have already interacted or with which we have real possibilities of interaction.
Based on these 3 precepts and a Venn diagram, we can find the perfect companies to define this preliminary list.
Based on this list, you can refine it further based on marketing and sales criteria to rule out accounts that, for reasons other than the previous 3, don’t make much sense to make an impact. To refine the list, we asked Leticia del Corral how she locates these companies.
“If the goal of the strategy is to capture new accounts, the best thing to do is to see what your Pareto accounts are (the 20% of your customers who make 80% of your revenue) and see what they have in common and from that extrapolate what 5-10 accounts you want to get.
If the goal is more about customer development, the key is to look for accounts you already have that are similar to your Pareto accounts, i.e. accounts that may not buy you much but have the buying potential of your Pareto accounts.
Also, when you are starting out, it is better to do a “one to few” strategy for 5 to 10 key accounts than to start with a “one to one” strategy to capture one account or try to reach too many accounts at once.
Once you have the accounts you want to target, the next important step is to define very well the buyer personas that will make the decision or include them in the company, as they are the ones that will be the focus of the ABM actions.”
The journey these accounts should take
As Leticia del Corral said, ABM strategies are not exclusively about getting new leads from 0 and new customers.
They can also be used to :
- Improve the success rate of opportunities that are already in the sales funnel.
- Increase the closing speed of opportunities already in the sales funnel.
- Increase the size of opportunities already in the sales funnel.
- Improve retention of existing customers.
- Stimulate referrals from existing customers or partners in your sector.
- In short, for any objective that can be pursued with another marketing strategy
Depending on the objective you are pursuing, you need to project a very clear path from point A where the prospect or customer we are going to reach is, to point B where we want them to arrive.
For example, if a SaaS wants to get new leads that become customers, the steps that each account should take would be:
- Contacted prospect.
- Scheduled call.
- Demo scheduled.
- Demo in progress.
We could include other relevant information in the prospect’s journey, such as which accounts have closed the door to other contacts, who made the call, or how many demos were given.
Based on this, we could create a simple dashboard in which we see how, step by step, the strategy is progressing or not.
This is one of my favourite examples:
How to generate real and meaningful impact on these accounts
This is, ultimately, the heart of the matter.
What completely differentiates this marketing strategy from any other.
And it’s precisely for this reason that you need to think about it 100% in terms of your case.
For Steve Watt, the Ferrari was a perfect insight, because of what it meant to his buyer and what it said about his product.
G2 Crowd, a product evaluation company, got a lot of leads by sending their potential customers piñatas with comments that real customers of these companies were already leaving on their website and candy.
Other companies do not even send gifts, but create highly personalised content.
Many companies organise exclusive networking events.
The list of options is endless.
The keys to making it work are:
- Consider the cost of the action, the conversion rate you can achieve and the expected return on investment.
- If Watt had sent real Ferraris, he couldn’t have done the math.
- Everything you use as a hook must be absolutely personalised.
- Your hook must make sense with your product or value proposition.
Of course, once you’ve defined the team that’s going to do the work, what it’s going to be about, which accounts you’re going to focus on and which way they’re going to go, you need to get in touch with them.
And that’s precisely what we’ll talk about in the next chapter.
If you don’t want to miss anything, you can leave your e-mail here and I’ll let you know when I publish the next lesson.
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