For the past decade, B2B marketing has mostly been exemplified by lead generation. Vendors use social media, SEO, and marketing automation to draw traffic to their site, capture contact info, and nurture contacts into qualified leads.

With the right nurture process and a stellar sales team, you can get a lot of return from “traditional” lead generation. But it has its weaknesses. Most notably, lead generation focuses on marketing to individual leads, which doesn’t always account for the complexity and scale of an enterprise purchase — often made by a diverse team of stakeholders after months of deliberation. According to CEB, the average B2B purchase now requires 5.4 signatures.  

Why Account-Based Marketing?

Account-based marketing, or ABM, helps marketers compensate for this complexity by directing message and medium at buying groups within named companies, rather than individual leads. Let’s say you’re an HR software vendor, for example. Instead of trying to draw interest from anonymous hiring managers and COOs, you could name companies that are a good fit for your product (because of size, industry, etc.) and specifically target those companies.

By starting with named companies and delivering ads and content to groups of decision influencers at those companies, you cut out the whole process of discovery and capture, which can significantly shorten the sales cycle.  

The idea of dedicating resources to specific accounts is by no means a new concept, but the nature of those resources is changing in a way that makes ABM accessible and affordable. The new league of ABM platforms give marketers the ability to target accounts by IP address, opportunity size, or sales stage and track engagement at a much more granular level.

DemandBase
Software vendors like Demandbase provide ABM analytics to help marketers
see which accounts are interacting with digital content.

It hasn’t taken long for ABM to prove its weight in gold. A SiriusDecisions report from this year found that 92 percent of companies recognize the value of account-based marketing, even if they haven’t used it. As ABM finds its place in the industry, you’ll need to answer the obvious question: Is it right for your business?

Here are five key indicators to help you decide. If you identify with any or all of these statements, ABM is probably a good fit for your marketing strategy.

1. You Have a Highly-Skilled, Well-Resourced Marketing Team

One of the most evident barriers to ABM is a skills gap. Roughly 47 percent of B2B companies feel they lack the skills and support to succeed at account-based marketing. So if you’re already there — if your team has a good handle on which companies to pursue, how to create the right messaging, and how to implement new technology — you’re about nine steps ahead of the competition.

Maybe your lead generation efforts are performing as expected, but aren’t exactly taking anyone’s breath away. ABM is a great way to step up your game and create some bigger revenue opportunities for sales. Just make sure you have a system in place for tracking these accounts through the sales development process.

2. Your Product Sales Are Driven by Buying Groups

The executive lead who single-handedly approves large purchase decisions is every marketer and salesperson’s dream. But in many cases, decisions are made by larger buying groups, which means they will take longer and require a different kind of support. Where focusing on the person can sometimes backfire  (drawing more attention to disparate objectives), account-based marketing focuses on inspiring consensus within diverse buying committees.

Of course, this will depend on the nature of your product/service offering and the size of the companies to which you market. If your product is a simple web app for time tracking, you can and should go after individual decision-makers. If it’s an enterprise resource planning solution, on the other hand, you’ll need to get buy-in from executives, IT managers, financial consultants, and even middle managers.  

3. You’re Struggling to Maintain Lead Volume

In a sense, the success of traditional lead generation depends on your ability to keep a steady flow of leads running through your sales pipeline. Generally, that means you need to bring in a high volume of top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) leads, nurture them, and zero in on the most qualified.

If you’re having a hard time pulling in volume at the top, it’ll be nearly impossible to reach economy of scale with your lead generation. If you’re a smaller business, expanding your reach may not be an option yet. But then, maybe it’s a myth that you need to attract hundreds of thousands of prospects just to convert a few. Why not start with the few and concentrate on nurturing and expanding those relationships? That’s ABM.  

Some analysts even say this new approach calls for an upside-down funnel (i.e., a pyramid), where specific accounts are the target audience and advocacy is the desired end result, instead of the typical lead to purchase path.

FlipMyFunnelCredit: FlipMyFunnel

4. Your Sights are Set on Specific Prospects

Whose business do you want?

If your answer is “mid-market organizations in the banking and financial service industry,” your best approach is probably to generate leads in that industry and follow up with the most promising ones. But if your answer includes the names of specific companies, you might be a good candidate for ABM.

From an outbound perspective, that means retargeting named companies by IP address and tailoring content to the right decision influencers. From an inbound perspective, it means tracking engagement metrics at the account level — e.g., page views, downloads, video views from Company X).  Having a holistic view of how multiple stakeholders from one company engage with your content helps you improve their experience and generate revenue faster.

5. You Want to Sell Beyond the Sale

In the age of revenue marketing, it’s easy to develop a kind of tunnel vision for sales. All of your efforts start to revolve around pitching products and services, incentivizing buy-in, and converting leads into deals. These are all important functions of marketing, but they aren’t the complete picture.

Purchase Funnel

There’s an entire relationship that begins immediately after the buying transaction, and if you manage it properly, you can turn a positive customer experience into loyalty and advocacy, which means cross-selling, up-selling, and referrals … which means more revenue. Maximizing your relationship with specific accounts through ABM is one of the best ways to turn loyal customers into effective advocates.  

Account-based marketing may seem complicated, but technology aside, it’s a matter of priorities. If you want to drive revenue, you can either rake in as many leads as possible (the shotgun approach), or you can focus your efforts on the most valuable accounts (the dart gun approach). That means naming them, engaging them, measuring results, and maximizing value through loyalty and advocacy.

Chris Klinefelter