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The 5 Things to Know About Account-Based Marketing

  |  March 20, 2014   |  Comments

Account-based marketing (ABM) is being adopted at a much larger scale than ever before. So here's a look into why account-based marketing will be one of the biggest revenue drivers for B2B business in the very near future.

If you’ve been keeping up with new terms in B2B marketing, by now you’ve likely heard of account-based marketing (ABM). The term itself has been around for years, but with recent advances in technology, this tactic is now being adopted at a much larger scale than ever before. Still, surprisingly, I find that many B2B marketers are in the dark when it comes to ABM. So here’s a quick look into the future of B2B enterprise marketing, and why I think account-based marketing will be one of the biggest revenue drivers for B2B businesses in the very near future.

It’s About Collective Decision-Making:  

Account-based marketing theory is based on the collective decision-making process. It takes into account that most B2B buying decisions are not made by a single person, but rather by a collective group of people. If you are only looking at an individual, you may only get a part of the picture; seeing the collective acting together helps you to truly understand how interested an account is in your solution. 

Targeting the collective with your ad messaging requires you to have a way to group people together, even without having prior engagements. This is where account-based marketing’s IP-based targeting comes in handy. Since each company has its own dedicated IP address (or many), it is easy to identify the collective by looking at IP addresses. So if you want to target an account (or a number of accounts), you can target those IP addresses specifically, ensuring you are marketing to the correct group of people in the most efficient way possible. 

It Uses Brand-New Technology:

New marketing techniques are constantly emerging. Some are adaptations of existing technologies or adjusted ways of thinking, and some are quantum leaps from what we once knew. Account-based marketing is the latter; it uses brand-new technology and opens up a new world of marketing possibilities. With a combination of real-time ad buying and IP-based identification, ABM is a highly targeted and real-time marketing technique unlike anything we’ve ever used before. 

Account-based marketing is only going to get bigger in the future because it allows you to buy one highly personalized ad, in real time, for one account. Consider the following situation: You’re trying to sell to GE, and you know you have a person in a buying cycle, but want to make sure you can reach all of the other decision-makers with relevant information about your brand. Account-based marketing would allow you to show ad impressions only to the GE employees from the office you are targeting, in real time, with a very small advertising budget. You may only get 40 ad impressions, but those impressions are by the correct people, at the correct time. This is the future of B2B marketing — a combination of 1:1 marketing and online advertising methodologies. 

There is a level of tracking involved with ABM, so you may think there are some crossovers with marketing automation. The difference between marketing automation and ABM is that marketing automation uses cookies to target individuals, whereas ABM uses an IP address to target an account. For marketing automation to do personalized marketing, it would require a cookie to be placed on a lead. This means you have to have an interaction with them before you target them. ABM is the opposite — you do not have to have a previous interaction with the account since you are using the IP address as the identifier.

It’s a Fast-Growing Market:

The account-based marketing world has only a few major players. However, we have started to see some consolidation in the space. Marketo bought Insightera for $20 million in 2013, which allowed them to step into the account-based marketing world. Demandbase is currently the leader for B2B account-based marketing due to some patented IP-mapping technologies, giving them an edge over the larger Bizo, and the smaller Insightera. But as with any technology sector, this is a fast-growing space and new vendors are popping up rapidly. Adoption rates are still very low with this technology, and it is currently seeing a larger adoption with companies who sell to very large enterprises and mid-market companies. This means we are less likely to see an adoption as ubiquitous as email marketing, but it will still be a mainstay for those companies trying to sell into the enterprise for a long time to come, because it is the most effective way to target enterprise clients using online advertising.  

It Works Like Gangbusters:

The results of account-based marketing can be quite amazing, and it’s not hard to see why. When you understand that you can buy a single ad impression in real time, target it to the account you are trying to sell to, and have the ad trigger dynamically off of their actions — well, you can easily see why this technology is going to be the future of B2B. All future marketing is going to have to find a way to cut through the noise that we have created; ABM is simply the most effective way to deliver a relevant ad to the correct person at the correct time. Here are three of the best ways to use account-based marketing:

New Account Acquisition: Consider looking to ABM to acquire new business. Make a targeted list of companies you’d like to get into, and then consider creating a specific piece of content for them. This may be a custom presentation, webinar, video, infographic, or whitepaper. Then build your advertisement messaging based on modern stage-based marketing theory (explained more thoroughly in this article), and you should be able to begin driving engagement within your target account base.

Consider DocuSign’s use case. They employed account-based marketing and built a hyper-relevant Web experience in an effort to gain new business. They wanted to have their website change for each company that visited. They used ABM to dynamically change their calls to action and messaging for each targeted account who came to their website — so, for example, a T-Mobile employee would have a very different experience than Wells Fargo employee. This dynamic content increased their page views from targeted accounts by 300 percent, and led to a 22 percent pipeline growth in their top six industries.

Account Nurturing: If you need to nurture accounts that you are already working with, consider using your account-based marketing tool to show nurturing content on your website, rather than via email. This can easily help you obtain more mindshare with the targeted account, so when it comes time to make a decision for renewal, you’ve managed to stay top of mind without having to spend massive amounts of money. 

For DocuSign, they needed a way to re-engage inactive accounts. Using their ABM solution, they were able to target accounts that had not interacted with their marketing for more than two months. Their account-based re-engagement strategy increased activity from their non-active accounts by 29 percent, with a five-times increase in CTRs on those advertisements vs. non-targeted online advertising.

Account Growth: Many enterprise accounts are a "land and expand" game. Since enterprises generally operate divisionally, cross-selling into other divisions is another great use case for account-based marketing. Consider creating content targeted to existing customers, helping them to see the benefits that their co-workers are already getting out of your solution.  

ArcSight (now an HP company) used an ABM solution for creating dynamic experiences and saw a three-times increase in conversions on their website. If you are trying to cross-sell more technologies, consider using ABM to showcase complementary solutions to your current customers when they visit your login page.

Pros and Cons:

Account-based marketing, like any other technologies, has pros and cons. In my opinion, the pros greatly outweigh the cons, but here is a list so you can make your own determination:

Pros:

  • Real-time ad buying: allows for highly targeted programs with minimal costs.
  • IP-based targeting: Allows for highly targeted ads to people you have never interacted with before.
  • Automated: The system is automated, allowing you to set up programs and run them for a period of time with minimal management.
  • Fairly easy to implement: Setting up an ABM tool isn’t as extensive as setting up a marketing automation tool. It does require some basic IP mapping, but does not require extensive integrations to start out.

Cons:

  • Early adopter technology: The adoption of ABM is still in the early adopter stage, which is a pro and a con, depending on your appetite for new technology.
  • Requires some manual work: There is some manual work involved in mapping IP addresses due to the way many companies set up their IP networks. Some vendors offer special technologies to help with this, but may require a few extra hours to set up.
  • Requires a platform: This technology is another platform you need to invest in. So there are some costs involved in getting it going.
  • IP networks are your limitation: Most vendors use a pooled IP lookup tool, which is not always 100 percent accurate. So check with your vendor to see how they perform their IP mapping, and be aware that if you can’t identify an IP address, you can’t target that account.

If you’re looking for something new to try, you should consider ABM. There are multiple vendors to choose from, and lots of use cases where this can easily lift your conversions. Consider using ABM as a very easy way to create a much richer, dynamic online experience, or to get in front of your target accounts in a more effective way. Regardless of your current strategy, ABM should be in your near-future plans.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mathew Sweezey

Mathew is the head of thought leadership for B2B marketing at Pardot, a Salesforce.com Company. A consummate writer, he has been featured in numerous publications such as Marketing Automation Times, DemandGen Report, Marketing Sherpa, ZDNet, and is the author of Marketing Automation for Dummies (published by Wiley February 2014). As a speaker Mathew speaks around the world at events such as Conversion Conference, Dreamforce, SugarCon, and to companies including Microsoft, Investec, NetJets, and Restaurants.com, to name a few.

Follow @msweezey.

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