ABM Simplified: Building Blocks for Success

ABM Simplified: Building Blocks for Success

November 2018 | Digital Marketing

Account Based Marketing doesn't have to be complicated. Get the basics right by using existing tools and familiar techniques to execute ABM effectively.

You know you want to run Account Based Marketing. Yet, you're stuck on the complexity of the typical ABM campaign. It's hard pulling together your target account list and writing enough personalised content for your target list to receive. It doesn't have to be that way. ABM doesn't need to involve writing bespoke content for each account or building a complex content hub. These things are definitely useful if you have the budget, but are not essential for success.

For a start it is perfectly fine to use the content you've already got. New content is useful if you've got gaps in your library, but the content needed for ABM is no different from that required for regular campaigns. It's still about identifying a need that you can address and then offering the product or service to solve that problem. The solutions and high level messaging relevant to your target accounts are the same as those needed for the rest of your prospect base. The difference between an ABM approach and the traditional approach is not what you're saying to your audience but instead how you say it.

ABM is best thought of as a nurture strategy. The goal is to 'land and expand' by identifying some initial interest and then building engagement over the medium term until the account is ready to buy. Unlike a traditional nurture campaign, individual leads are not viewed in isolation. This is the critical difference between ABM and traditional demand generation. The activity and profile of one lead at a target account is used when deciding segmentation or qualification for all leads at that account. If one individual is engaged with content surrounding a particular need or solution area, then you use that to send related messaging to everyone else at the account.

The problem is that out of the box, marketing automation doesn't do this particularly well. All the major MA platforms support accounts, but they're very much an afterthought included so that account information can be included in contact based segmentation. They rely on the CRM system to link new leads to account records, and don't allow you to segment or report on activity at the account level. This limits the capabilities of Eloqua or Marketo to support ABM, opening the way for a huge array of tools to support ABM campaigns in their place.

Building the Foundations

Fortunately, there are workarounds for those unable to invest in new technology. More sophisticated Eloqua users were building account based scoring even before people started talking about ABM. There are limitations in what you can do without the Eloqua or Marketo ABM modules, but building a simple account scoring model can be done in the base version of both platforms, provided you're integrated with a CRM system.

Much like traditional lead scoring, an account scoring model can be used to make decisions about whether accounts should be on your target list, whether you should be nurturing them or whether they are ready to be routed to Sales. If you have the right data in place account scores can also be used to identify which solutions or products you should be promoting to an account.

To make the most of account scoring, you need to have a process for matching incoming leads to your account target accounts. Otherwise, your account scores will be missing out on the activity performed by a large chunk of your database. The matching process can be done manually if volumes are low enough or through your CRM if you have the mechanisms in place to enable it there. Expedite this process by creating marketing automation workflows to identify leads that have the same email domain or company name as one of your target accounts.

Expanding an Account

Putting in place the right scoring and data setup allows a full ABM campaign to be run to known contacts at your target accounts with little difficulty. The challenge is in building up the list of known contacts to feed into that campaign. At a high level, this requires the same inbound tactics that you already use for your demand generation campaigns. Social, programmatic and paid all have their place here. The key is to use the audience selection tools of your chosen advertising networks so that you're only targeting relevant roles at your target accounts. Some of the more consumer focused tools don't allow you to filter by company though. The most important platform this affects is Google Ads a restriction which does limit the usefulness of Adwords in an ABM strategy.

One of the key selling points of a dedicated ABM tool such as Demandbase or Engagio is their ability to automate the inbound component of your account based campaigns. These platforms take your account list from Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics, match it against activity data from across the web and then target ads to the ones that have been searching for your keywords on search engines or publisher websites. Demandbase even runs your ad campaigns through their own DMP, so that results can be displayed in their reporting tools. All this can be done manually; it just takes more effort to run. After all, you or your media agency has been doing manually for years to run your other advertising campaigns. Targeting your ads based on company is not that much different from the other targeting criteria you were using before ABM.

Proving Results

The key advantage that the dedicated ABM platforms have is reporting. One of the main challenges marketers have is proving ROI on inbound activities. Using conversion pixels and Google Analytics UTM codes in your links helps, but there is still a disconnect between the known contact reporting you're getting from your marketing automation platform and the anonymous traffic reports you're getting from your media agency. Your web analytics will include most of the information you need. It just needs to be linked together with the contact data in your MA and CRM. The source tracking can be combined with the contact level activity data in your MA as well as the lead and opportunity data in CRM to build an end to end funnel view of every campaign. You just need a BI tool such as Tableau or Power BI to pull the three sources of data into one set of dashboard reports.

More importantly, combining all your different reporting sources together is the only way to show whether you genuinely are building momentum at your target accounts. If an account is engaging on a particular topic, send the key contacts more about it. As always, content is king. Matching the right message to each target account is where your campaign will succeed or fail. If an account in your target list isn't engaging, be prepared to send them a different message or replace them with a different company who are showing intent. It is important to give ABM time, whilst also remembering that many of your target accounts will be happy buying from your competitors. Focus on the easier targets rather than the glamorous ones.

Putting the foundations in place for successful ABM doesn't have to involve buying lots of expensive technology although doing so will make your life easier. Instead, it's about making sure you have the right data in the right places as well as the methods to reach that audience through the most relevant channels. The difficult part is then finding the message which is applicable to each account. Modern marketing is a conversation between you and your prospects. When you run ABM, that conversation becomes a group discussion between you and the entire buying team at your target accounts. This is why the strategy is so successful, but it does require getting the basics right first. Fortunately, there is more than one method of doing this. You just need to find the one which works for you and your customers.

Written by
Marketing Operations Consultant and Solutions Architect at CRMT Digital specialising in marketing technology architecture. Advisor on marketing effectiveness and martech optimisation.