What is Account-Based Marketing really all about?

06 . 01 . 18

Unlike ‘touch base’ and ‘blue sky thinking’, ‘Account-Based Marketing’ is a buzzword that has earned its seat in the boardroom. And it’s not all hype. In fact, 87% of marketers say ABM delivers higher ROI than other marketing tactics. At the end of last year, the Radishes took to the annual B2B Marketing Conference, which focused on Account-Based Marketing, and in this blog, we share the best bits from the conference; the stories, tips and approaches of some of the world’s most successful brands so that you can decide if ABM is right for you.

What is ABM?

Whether you call it Account-Based Marketing, 1:1 marketing or pursuit marketing; at its core ABM is a highly targeted approach to marketing. It’s based around an individual’s needs and challenges, creating a highly personalised and ongoing marketing campaign. ABM essentially flips the sales funnel by beginning with identifying and targeting key customer accounts and builds the revenue model based on customer experience.

Many marketers talk about the ABM pyramid, which breaks down the three main types of ABM: one-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many, with strategic ABM at the very top. Fundamentally, strategic one-to-one marketing requires the biggest investment but gains the highest return. It is what many marketers consider true ABM.

A somewhat legendary example of this comes from British Rail. When the executive team visited a potential agency’s office, they expected to hear a pitch and to be treated as they thought a top UK transport provider should be treated, however, they were subject to the exact opposite. The lobby was covered in rubbish and the receptionist was rude, ignoring the team until she had finished her cigarette and then directing them to a waiting room filled with used newspapers, empty drinks cans and dirty cups. The executive team were made to wait, with no explanation of why or how long for. As the British Rail team stood up to leave, the agency’s Marketing Director appeared and boldly said “This is how your customers perceive British Rail’s service. We intend to change that for you.” They then led British Rail into the boardroom to reveal their vision of the future. The agency was hired and began work immediately.

Risky and bold, but highly targeted and entirely personalised- great ABM looks to this example as inspiration.

So why do Account-Based Marketing?

We’re going to be straight with you- ABM takes up considerable time and resource before you really see the benefits, so why do marketers do it?

87% of marketers say ABM delivers higher ROI than other marketing tactics.

Andrea Clatworthy, Head of Account-Based Marketing at Fujitsu, shared her experiences of creating a leading ABM program in Fujitsu and what it takes to be an ABMer. Her advice: if you’re going to start an ABM programme you will need to stop doing something else. Think about how and what that will be. In her experience, switching off demand generation and switching on ABM went unnoticed for a year, it wasn’t until the results of ABM began to flow in that stakeholders picked up on the change.

That is not to say that all other forms of marketing are redundant. In fact, for success, you’ll need to have the support of all marketing teams. Clatworthy states that you need to scale up support from your content teams, your comms team, your design and the whole marketing department. What we’re seeing today is that most businesses doing ABM are taking a blended approach, using different forms ABM alongside traditional marketing.

Is ABM right for you?

If you’re already utilising marketing automation and outbound marketing, ABM is the next logical step. Marketing automation can deliver thousands of leads, but they won’t all be aligned with your target account list. If you’re looking to acquire specific new customers or revive old leads, a highly-targeted ABM campaign could drive big results. The multi-channel, personalised and insight-led approach of ABM means that it’s not just a one-off sales-pitch, you can build on the relationship with your prospects with direct mail, email, phone calls and retargeting.

However, ABM takes the right sort of company, the right sort of client and the right sort of team to successfully do ABM. Our general rule and one repeated at the conference is to ask these three questions about your prospective customers and your marketing team/agency:

1.  Are your customers right?

Do they have scope to commit with significant growth potential? Is the current relationship built on trust? Or is it purely transactional?

2.  Is your sales pitch right?

Are your sales of high enough value to justify the investment? Can you tailor your pitch to the individual’s needs?

3.  Is your team right? 

Will your sales team work completely in tandem with your marketing team? Do you have a team of marketers who are creative, quick to respond, hard-working, hands-on, engaged and enthusiastic?

If you can answer yes to all three, then you’re in a good place. Take a good look at your customers and your team of potential ABMers, and before you start, make sure everyone is on board. Marketing and sales alignment is absolutely essential for ABM.

Michael Avis, Senior Director Oracle states “If you do ABM correctly, you’ll be guided by your sales team. They will dictate and you facilitate.”

To sum up

It’s an investment, but the potential reward makes it worth it, and if done right you can see a greater ROI than other marketing tactics. Success depends on buy-in from a multitude of stakeholders, and a committed and talented marketing team. Here at Digital Radish, we believe it’s an exciting and engaging marketing approach, and have seen first-hand the rewards and ROI it can bring in. Take a look at the ABM campaign we did for Unity technologies and see how a highly personalised approach helped the gaming platform break into a new market.

If you’re interested in hearing more about ABM and Digital Radish’s unique approach to B2B marketing, get in touch with us at hello@digitalradish.co.uk.