For B2B companies, winning and retaining large enterprise customers is essential for driving growth and revenue. But with limited marketing resources, spreading efforts broadly makes it difficult to engage decision-makers at key accounts. This is where account-based marketing (ABM) comes in. By aligning sales and marketing on targeted accounts, ABM provides a strategic approach for B2B success. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore how implementing ABM can maximize value from high-priority accounts. 

What is Account-Based Marketing?

Account-based marketing, or ABM, is a strategic approach that focuses marketing efforts on a select group of target accounts. The goal is to personalize campaigns and messaging to resonate with these accounts and the decision makers within these organizations specifically. 

Rather than taking a broad, generic approach to reach all potential customers, ABM narrows in on acquiring and growing business from high-value accounts. These accounts represent the greatest revenue potential, whether they are existing customers or net-new prospects. 

ABM typically focuses on enterprise-level organizations due to their large size and complexity. Because these accounts have multiple stakeholders involved in purchase decisions, tailored marketing is required to engage them. 

For example, companies like Adobe have seen a significant increase in their deal sizes by implementing ABM strategies, highlighting the potential benefits of ABM in a B2B context. 

This concentrated approach allows sales and marketing teams to align activities on what matters most – winning and expanding business from the accounts with the greatest potential value. Tailored solutions can address each account’s unique needs and challenges. 

Account-based marketing and Traditional marketing

The Strategic Value of ABM for B2B Goals 

At B2B companies, the ultimate aim of marketing is to drive revenue by acquiring new accounts and growing existing relationships. With its focus on targeting and engaging named accounts, ABM can be a critical strategy for achieving key B2B marketing goals: 

  • Generate more qualified leads by engaging multiple decision-makers through account-specific campaigns instead of just broad lead generation 
  • Improve conversion rates by personalizing messaging to resonate with each account’s interests and demonstrating value 
  • Increase customer retention and loyalty by building individual relationships across accounts and becoming a trusted partner 
  • Gain deeper customer insights to develop informed strategies and innovative solutions by analyzing account data in CRM and marketing automation systems 
  • Allocate marketing budget and resources more efficiently by investing in high-value accounts with the largest return potential versus spreading efforts thinly across all possible targets 

ABM, considering its focus on expanding wallet share within existing accounts as much as acquiring net new customers, directly serves B2B strategic goals around growing and retaining accounts. 

According to research, ABM delivers 208% higher ROI over scattershot approaches by increasing account engagement. Given the immense lifetime value of enterprise customers and the potential impact of ABM on revenue, it is a top-level marketing strategy. 

How to Identify and Select Priority Accounts 

Choosing which accounts to focus precious marketing resources on is one of the most critical steps in ABM planning. 

The common criteria for identifying potential targets are listed below. 

  • Company size and industry: Enterprise-level companies in sectors aligned with the product offering tend to have the highest potential deal size. 
  • Growth: Companies that are rapidly expanding and innovating often have a greater need for solutions to support changing demands. 
  • Position in value chain: Targeting companies higher up the value chain, like distributors versus retailers, can maximize downstream sales potential. 
  • Technologies used: Companies upgrading their tech stack or with outdated systems may be looking to invest in new solutions for digital transformation and modernization. 
  • Geographic location: Proximity to vendors can sometimes influence vendor selection, especially for higher-touch enterprise deals. 

In addition to looking at firmographic data like this, analytics can help model and predict which accounts are most likely to convert based on historical patterns and past prospecting results. AI-powered solutions can score accounts on potential value to prioritize the highest returns. 

For example, Salesforce uses predictive analytics to identify high-value accounts, segmenting them based on factors like industry, company size, and potential revenue. 

However, it’s also critical to collaborate with sales when selecting target accounts. Sales teams often have insider knowledge of prospects’ current challenges, plans and timelines, and what solutions they are considering. This context is invaluable in tailoring messaging and campaigns to each account. 

Research indicates that aligned teams, who work collaboratively and share account insights, can achieve a 19% increase in sales cycle efficiency. However, when selecting accounts for engagement, it is crucial for marketing teams to conduct this process ethically. They must prioritize fair representation and avoid excluding underserved groups from their campaigns. Ensuring an inclusive approach is essential to maintain ethical standards and promote equal opportunities for all potential customers. 

Tight Alignment Between Sales and Marketing Enables ABM Success 

As ABM relies on account insights to personalize campaigns, sales and marketing need to collaborate closely. 

Sales teams manage direct engagement with prospects and customers. They can provide valuable input on each account’s value drivers, pain points, and timelines. Marketing brings expertise in branding, messaging, and campaign execution to amplify sales’ efforts. 

Alignment allows both teams to coordinate on shared accounts instead of working in silos. Fully aligned sales and marketing teams provide the foundation for the  success of ABM. 

The teams can align in several key ways, as listed below. 

Marketing provides multifaceted support to sales: 

  • Conducting detailed customer segmentation to divide target accounts into cohorts based on firmographic and technographic commonalities.; developing detailed buyer personas within each segment to inform messaging. 
  • Mapping the buyer’s journey for each segment to identify key phases and stakeholders involved; creating customized content and campaigns to reach accounts at each stage 
  • Using intent data and predictive lead scoring to identify when accounts are researching solutions.; nurturing them proactively with relevant content which is passed to sales as high-quality leads. 
  • Building a comprehensive database of target accounts with enriched firmographic, technographic, and individual contact data; maintaining clean, updated data in a centralized CRM system accessible to both teams. 
  • Executing orchestrated, omni-channel campaigns drawing from marketing automation, digital ads, email, events, and more; tailoring messages and offers to resonate with each segment’s needs and interests. 
  • Equipping sales with customer intelligence reports on target accounts before meetings to provide historical context, upcoming projects, pain points, and recommendations. 
  • Producing customized sales enablement materials aligned to each segment, including presentations, case studies, sample call scripts, competitive analyses, and conversation guides. 
  • Developing segmented content offers like whitepapers, assessments, and guides which sales can provide to accounts to advance discussions;. creating customized RFP response documents and negotiated proposals. 
  • Providing rapid post-meeting follow-ups, such as sending requested information, adjusting campaigns based on feedback, and keeping sales updated on marketing initiatives related to their accounts. 

For example, at LinkedIn, the sales and marketing teams work closely together in their ABM efforts. The marketing team generates targeted content and campaigns, while the sales team uses these resources to engage with key accounts. 

Meanwhile, sales enrich marketing’s insights by:

  • Sharing first-hand insights into each segment’s business priorities, challenges, goals, reasons for considering solutions, and what messaging resonates most. 
  • Providing details on main buying group contacts such as name, title, bio, personality, and preferred communication channels; suggesting appropriate call and email cadences. 
  • Conveying market trends and developments observed through conversations that may impact product roadmaps, positioning, and messaging. 
  • Reporting win/loss analysis detailing why accounts selected or declined proposals so marketing can continuously refine targeting and campaigns. 
  • Giving feedback on content effectiveness in advancing sales discussions so marketing can double down on what moves the needle and improve or eliminate less effective materials. 
  • Contextualizing broader trends and research reports with real examples of how they manifest for customers; this makes concepts tangible. 
  • Participating in initiatives like account planning, content brainstorming/review, and campaign kick-offs to collaborate based on field experience. 

This level of tight collaboration requires mutual commitment from sales and marketing leadership. Ongoing communication channels, shared accountability for revenue goals, and joint metric-setting ensure continued alignment. Research by Aberdeen Group shows that sales and marketing alignment can deliver a 36% higher customer retention rate. 

For Example, a tech company implementing ABM may convene an integrated account engagement team with sales reps paired directly with marketing specialists for each strategic account. Meeting weekly, they can discuss upcoming marketing campaigns and priorities to coordinate their outreach. 

Crafting Personalized, Account-Specific Campaigns 

While traditional demand generation uses broad-based messaging, tailored outreach is at the heart of ABM. Campaigns should speak directly to each selected account’s needs, challenges, and goals. 

Adobe Campaign is an apt example of personalization in ABM. We can create customized landing pages for each of the target accounts, boosting engagement significantly. 

Campaign personalization entails: 

  • Addressing the account by name in emails and ads 
  • Highlighting product benefits that specifically meet their use cases 
  • Developing content like case studies focused on the specific industries in which these companies operate. 
  • Sending personalized emails that are manually tailored to individual stakeholders 

Research shows that, 80% of B2B buyers say personalized content has a significant influence on purchasing decisions. 

Beyond outbound campaigns, ABM can also include personalized events providing exclusive one-to-one experiences. For example, a software vendor may host private dinners or workshops for CIOs and IT teams from strategic accounts, during which their tech priorities and roadmaps can be discussed. 

However, marketers should be transparent about targeted advertising and respect privacy concerns by allowing accounts to opt out of data collection or messaging. Ethically obtained first-party data helps ensure relevance without being intrusive. 

For an advertising platform targeting media companies, tailored display ads specific to their unmet needs combined with a custom whitepaper on monetizing digital content could pique interest. 

ABM misconceptions

Distributing Relevant, Account-Specific Content 

While many B2B marketing strategies start by pushing messaging out, ABM takes more of an “outside-in” approach. Engaging content distributed through the right channels pulls target accounts into the sales process. 

Some best practices for developing and distributing account-specific content include: 

  • Creating detailed buyer personas for mapping content topics according to each account’s interests and media preferences 
  • Leveraging channels each account already engages with like podcasts, webinars, or trade publications in their industry 
  • Promoting content through targeted social media advertising focused just on the target audience to drive downloads and engagement 
  • Optimizing content and landing pages for account-specific search terms they are likely to use when researching solutions 
  • Developing case studies featuring competitor companies or industry/regional peers that strategic accounts can relate to 

For example, Terminus, a leading ABM platform, creates engaging content tailored to each of their target accounts, including personalized webinars, eBooks, and blog posts. 

When crafted based on each account’s role, position, and interests, the content becomes inherently more relevant and valuable for them. Research shows that ABM content generally achieves about 70% higher conversion rates compared to more generic content. 

For an ERP software company, creating a podcast focused on digital transformation in retail and promoting episodes through LinkedIn ads targeted only to retail executives could attract engagement from target accounts. 

Key Operational Factors for Successful ABM Execution

ABM’s immense potential notwithstanding, precise execution is required to achieve the desired results. Some vital operational components for executing ABM programs successfully include: 

  • CRM and marketing automation systems can be used to track account data. This information can help teams coordinate and engage with accounts in a more organized way. 
  • Smaller target account groups for focus – Prioritizing fewer accounts at a time (typically around 100 or lesser), instead of diluting efforts across too many targets, ensures campaigns stay highly relevant . 
  • Executive buy-in for significant investment – The high-touch approach requires budget to research accounts, create customized content and campaigns, and hire dedicated staff. 
  • Specialized skills and training – ABM requires specific expertise in orchestrating multi-channel, multi-touch outreach. Investing in training for research, content development, sales enablement, and marketing technology maximizes results. 
  • Potential IT and sales collaboration – To realize the full benefits of technology and CRM systems, collaboration between IT and sales is a must. Only this will ensure marketing insights translate to revenues. 

For example, Marketo, a marketing automation platform, uses a variety of tactics in their ABM strategy, including targeted emails, personalized content, and account-specific webinars. 

With the right technology, resources, and skills in place to support precise account execution, ABM programs can be scaled across the organization’s priority accounts. 

An enterprise software firm implementing ABM at scale may hire a dedicated account-based marketer to oversee the operational aspects. With executive support, they can work cross-functionally to facilitate sales and marketing coordination on targeted accounts using CRM systems and marketing automation. 

Analyzing the Costs and Potential ROI of ABM 

Due to the highly personalized approach of ABM, it requires greater investment than more generalized marketing strategies. Some major costs include: 

  • ABM technology platforms – Account insight tools, CRM, and marketing automation systems require significant investment, especially at an enterprise scale. 
  • Target account research – Services to provide data related to identifying and selecting accounts involves costs, whether through third-party vendors or in-house analysis. 
  • Account-specific content creation – Custom content like individual proposals, specialized assets, or 1:1 experience have high time and resource demands. 
  • Campaign execution – The automated and manual outreach required for orchestrated, omni-channel campaigns also represents a cost. 

According to ITSMA, organizations spend around 20-40% of their B2B marketing budget on ABM specifically. But because ABM builds meaningful engagement with potential high-lifetime-value accounts, the return on investment can exceed that from other lead generation approaches. 

For example, a recent report by ITSMA found that companies implementing ABM strategies saw a 171% increase in average annual contract value. 

Some key metrics to quantify the ROI include: 

  • Cost per acquisition – How much is invested per new account won? Lower is better. 
  • Average deal size – Are ABM accounts yielding larger deal sizes due to their potential value? 
  • Revenue attributed to ABM – Linking campaign influence to closed sales helps measure direct impact. 

Demonstrating the clear tie between ABM programs and revenue growth can continue justifying the higher investments this strategy requires. 

For example, Adobe calculated that every $1 spent on ABM generated $39 in new business. With returns like that, the case for increased budget allocation becomes straightforward. 

ROI per account

Tracking KPIs to Gauge ABM Success 

Determining how effectively ABM campaigns hit the mark requires monitoring the right metrics. Key performance indicators to track include both marketing outputs and sales outcomes: 

Marketing KPIs 

  • Account engagement through clicks, content downloads, email responses 
  • Event registration or attendance from target accounts 
  • Reach and click-through rates for targeted ads 
  • Website traffic and pages visited from account domains 

For example, Snowflake, a cloud-based data warehousing company, uses a range of KPIs to measure their ABM success, including account engagement score, pipeline velocity, and deal size. 

Sales KPIs 

  • New customer acquisition and retention rate of targeted accounts 
  • Sales cycle length and deal sizes for ABM accounts 
  • Revenue growth and customer lifetime value from accounts 
  • Win/loss analysis showing close rates of engaged accounts 

Both sides together can paint a full picture of the business impact achieved through ABM. But qualitative feedback also provides valuable color. Surveys, interviews, and reviews can capture first-hand how accounts perceive ABM content and outreach. 

Going by recent research, ABM leaders are 76% more likely to measure impact on pipeline and revenue. Monitoring the right metrics ensures teams can continuously refine ABM strategy. 

For a technology services firm, tying closed deal revenue back to specific account-targeted campaigns in the CRM system illustrates which segments and messages are moving the needle most. 

Maintaining Ongoing Account Relationships with ABM 

Unlike transactional lead generation efforts, account-based marketing requires nurturing relationships over time. To grow accounts, teams need long-term engagement across multiple buying cycles. 

Ongoing account management may involve: 

  • Reviewing account data and insights regularly to inform campaign adjustments 
  • Shifting focus between retention and expansion based on where each account is in the customer lifecycle 
  • Gathering feedback through surveys and interviews to optimize targeting and messaging 
  • Exploring new strategies like ABM advertising or partnerships to take campaigns to the next level 

Cisco’s ‘Lifecycle Advantage’ program is a great example of ongoing account management. They use automated email campaigns to engage with customers throughout the sales cycle, from onboarding to renewal. 

As sales and marketing teams continue collaborating on accounts, ABM can evolve into a sustained competitive advantage for winning enterprise deals. 

Even after the deals are closed, the work continues by way of providing value and maximizing renewal opportunities. For example, customer success teams can leverage account insights to proactively upsell additional solutions aligned with plans on the technology roadmap. 

With continuous optimization based on accounts’ ever-changing needs, ABM fosters the long-term relationships that turn strategic accounts into true partners. 

The Bottom Line 

For B2B companies seeking higher return from their marketing investments, account-based marketing presents a focused approach to maximize value from high-priority accounts. By taking a consultative approach tuned to each account’s needs, ABM helps convert and expand relationships with the greatest revenue potential. 

Although executing ABM requires greater budget and coordination, the rewards can far outweigh the required investment when implemented strategically. With the right technologies, skilled teams, and executive alignment behind the approach, ABM has the power to become a top-level strategy for accelerating growth. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The main benefits of ABM for B2B companies are increased conversion rates and deal sizes from high-value targeted accounts. By personalizing messaging and campaigns, ABM also improves customer retention and lifetime value from strategic accounts.

Traditional demand generation uses broad-based messaging to reach all potential leads. ABM takes a more focused approach, concentrating marketing efforts on a select group of target accounts with the highest revenue potential. Outreach is customized for each account.

ABM is best suited for B2B companies selling high-value, complex solutions to enterprise-level organizations. The larger deal sizes and multiple stakeholders make tailored messaging more effective than a spray-and-pray approach.

Key metrics to measure ABM’s effectiveness include account engagement, deal size, new customer acquisition, and revenue growth attributed to ABM. Cost per acquisition and win/loss analysis also quantify ROI. Surveys provide qualitative data on account perceptions.

Key factors include CRM/marketing automation systems, executive buy-in, specialized skills and training, smaller target account groups, and collaboration with sales, IT, and other departments. Investing in the operational components ensures effective execution. 

By building individual relationships across accounts, ABM fosters trust and loyalty. Tailored messaging focused on needs demonstrates value and partnership potential. Ongoing nurturing continues engaging accounts across the lifecycle.

Criteria for selecting accounts include company size, growth potential, position in value chain, technologies used, and geographic proximity. Predictive analytics can also model account value. Collaborating with sales provides insider knowledge. 

Tactics include addressing accounts by name, showcasing specific product benefits, developing industry-specific content, sending customized emails, and hosting exclusive events. Transparency and opt-outs maintain trust.

Best practices include developing detailed buyer personas to map content, promoting through channels the account engages with, optimizing for account-specific search terms, and leveraging peer content they can relate to.