What is Account Based Marketing?
Well, for once, it’s not the latest fad in marketing despite what some young marketers, and especially digital marketers, might claim - it’s simply new terminology for something that many have practiced for years.
In essence, Account Based Marketing (ABM) is an alternative to mass, generic B2B marketing and a collaboration between sales and marketing departments to identify a list of key accounts and personalise marketing messages to the decision-makers within these organisations via specific channels with the results being more easily quantified to establish the RoI or Return on Investment.
Let’s say, for example, your company has 100 or so accounts or customers, but you can identify the 10 highest value of these – different companies use different criteria here but all will include an indicator of profit or potential profit. Other factors may include revenue, speed of remittance, likelihood of repeat purchase, power as an influencer or simply how much you enjoy, or don’t, working with them.
Having identified these 10 key accounts, which may be actual or potential, you research how the accounts are structured, who and how decisions are made and what influences these people. You then address the business challenges they face with personalised and targeted content in a channel you know they are receptive to and regularly use – this may be direct mail, web, mobile, personal meetings or email but the message, whilst generic in nature about your own company, is highly specific to address the needs and challenges of your target – these may include cost, quality, lead time, reliability or other factors you have pre-identified.
Having initiated the campaign, you then carefully analyse and quantify the results, tweaking future campaigns to address the weaknesses and move on to the next set of clients or potential clients.
We have used this approach for many years as a part of, and it’s important to emphasise ‘part of’, our own marketing, targeting and acquiring specialised engineering clients, particularly in the offshore and Hazardous Area sectors where we have unique experience. By attending trade shows (obviously not over the last two years...) and being well known within the main trade media, we have grown our reputation in this niche market, but not to the detriment of other clients within different trade sectors, whether this be the built environment, education, health or professional services.
So what’s the downside? I would suggest that ABM can be very effective but should be used only as part of an organisation’s overall marketing, rather than relying solely on it. Not all accounts will return a better performance from relatively expensive ‘hand-crafted’ campaigns whilst many will also share common challenges which can be addressed generically and far more cost-effectively. Developing 10 different messages for your 10 key accounts will probably take far longer and cost more than two or three messages for the 100 accounts?
Similarly, it may be just as effective to target ALL customers and most B2B brands grow by targeting mass clients rather than concentrating on individual targets. Whilst we all like ‘heavy hitters’, they’re rare beasts and sometimes a higher number of light buyers are just as profitable? OK, it’s a B2C example, but the giant Coca-Cola organisation, for example, reports that half of their UK customers only buy one or two cans per year…
Like most marketing, I’d suggest there is no right or wrong solution or strategy to individual organisations’ challenges. People often ask where the name Silver Bullet came from and whilst the main influence (apart from Bob Seeger obviously…) was the idea of winning, unbeatable strategies, it was also based on our idea of having a very specific ‘sniper’s’ approach to marketing. The norm back in the 1990’s, when we began trading, was far more of a ‘shotgun’ or one-size creative fitting all accounts in all sectors which we rejected for individualised approaches.
With ABM you therefore have the option of a sniper’s rifle but that doesn’t mean you should abandon the shotgun, to continue the bellicose analogy – they work best, and kill more vampires, when used together.
Do you need some assistance with your marketing, PR or design? Do you need to review your strategy or do you want to know how we can help your business? Email your questions anonymously to us today firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet us (not so anonymously) @SilverBulletPR.