Account-based marketing can give your business an edge over the competition, even if your operation is on the small side. Find out what account-based marketing is and what makes it effective, and learn the cornerstones of successful account-based marketing.
What is account-based marketing?
Account-based marketing is sometimes referred to as key account marketing, and it is a specific type of marketing strategy used for B2B endeavours that concentrate on winning large or high-value clients and client accounts by personalising your message to them to a high degree. Essentially, account-based marketing means setting up a fully immersive marketing campaign that is tailored with the goal of landing just one particular key prospect.
Generally, businesses that utilise account-based marketing effectively concentrate on several key prospects with individually tailored campaigns that run simultaneously. Even so, the core takeaway you need to remember is that each account-based marketing campaign must be highly personalised to a vertical demographic of one decisionmaker, business or account.
You can of course repurpose one account-based campaign in whole or in part for a new target prospect, allowing you to take some of the hard work out of each successive campaign; as long as your message is relevant, well targeted and fine-tuned for your new would-be acquisition.
How account-based marketing can help you to land bigger, better clients
Account-based marketing can seem counterintuitive at the outset, because it involves putting a lot of work, time and potentially, money into winning just one new prospect.
However, when it pays off and wins you that important account, account-based marketing tends to return a significant yield on your initial investment, both in the short term and in the long-term value that comes from building a strong working relationship with a big client.
Research conducted by ITSMA indicates that almost 85% of marketers say that account-based marketing campaigns outperform other approaches, with 50% of respondents stating that the resulting ROI is “significant,” even when several approaches are made and not all of them pay off.
When a business or organisation is considering making a large investment in the products or services of another firm, they will of course be very cautious about making the right choice and will put a lot of effort in on their end when undertaking their due diligence and research first. Putting the work in when it comes to identifying, reaching out to and swaying a large prospective client makes this easier for your prospect, and means that you will already stand out from the competition – if not bypass them entirely.
Aiming higher by concentrating on personalising your message to appeal to a specific B2B prospect and bespoke-tailoring your approach to address and meet their needs, tackle their pain points and provide value is not only the most effective way to win bigger, better clients – it is sometimes the only way.
Risk versus reward in account-based marketing
All businesspersons know that you have to spend money to make money, as well as time and other resources too. Put simply, you have to put the work in to return a good result, but being able to view the big picture and accept the inherent risks involved in account-based marketing when it comes to potential ROI is something that many first-timers find very daunting.
There is never any guarantee that you will win an account using account-based marketing (or any other particular approach), but you can weigh up the odds and develop a reasonable prediction of your chances of potential success with any given client by doing your due diligence before you make an initial approach.
It is this stage of the account-based marketing process that is in many ways the most important, and the one upon which your success or failure hinges most acutely; identifying the right prospect in the first place, and finding out about the type of approach, information and collateral that they want to see.
Getting that approach itself right is naturally also essential, but if you’re not targeting the right prospect in the first place your endeavours will be doomed to failure from the outset. Fortunately, whilst the research and diligence stage might be the most challenging and time-consuming, paying it the appropriate gravitas can help to ensure that you don’t subsequently spend a significant amount of your marketing budget on backing the wrong horse.
The principles of account-based marketing
Personalisation is the key to effective account-based marketing, and the more you can personalise your message for each account you try to win, the greater your chances of success. This is true for B2C marketing as well as for B2B, but somewhat easier to achieve across the B2B medium.
This is because B2B marketing involves selling to another business, which means that the amount of information and background you can find out about your prospect is much greater than it is for narrowly defined B2C buyer niches or individual shoppers.
Personalising a complete marketing campaign for an audience of one business might seem like a lot of work for no guaranteed payoff, but the greater the degree of your effective personalisation, the better your chances of winning a potentially lucrative account.
Harvard Business Review’s research indicates that supplier content that is bespoke-tailored to meet the needs of prospects results in a 40% increase in willingness to buy from the supplier in question.
Your prospect must be open to an approach in the first place (or your USPs and approach must be able to convince the prospect that you’re worth listening to, even if they were not actively seeking a service like yours) but once you have established this, the more effectively you can personalise the message you get across to them, the higher your chances of success.
Identifying potential prospects for account-based marketing
Let’s look next at how you can find and identify potential prospects for your first foray into account-based marketing.
During this stage of the process you should begin by casting your net fairly widely, and be open-minded about checking out prospects that might be somewhat outside of your normal target market. After all, the goal of account-based marketing is to find bigger and better clients, and this means being willing to step outside of your comfort zone, try new things, and adapt and evolve to meet the needs of businesses and organisations that can help your own operation to thrive and grow.
Many businesses that are just starting out with account-based marketing and even those who are old hands at the game begin with a target prospect in mind and attempt to fit their message and solutions to answer their needs, and this can be an effective approach.
However, there is some danger inherent to this approach that you should be aware of and work to mitigate, because it can lead to a tendency to shortcutting the research stage of the process and attempting to force a fit between your brand and your desired prospect. Instead, concentrate on being impartial and objective about whether or not what you can offer will genuinely appeal to your prospect and be likely to succeed.
Begin by clarifying what you can offer, and what type of needs or pain points your offerings can answer before narrowing down your potential prospect pool to those that are seeking or would benefit from these things.
Next, you need to take a deep dive into your potential prospect’s business, which may or may not be quite time-consuming depending on how much information is out there about them and what you can find out.
Does the company have the funds and potential interest in spending them, and can you determine who the key decisionmakers are that you will need to impress? If you’re not clear on these things from the outset, you either have more work to do before you begin setting up your campaign, or you may wish to move on to another prospect and begin again.
Personalising your message
If you’ve done the groundwork and identified a potential prospect for an account-based marketing campaign, the next step is to personalise your message to make it stand out and catch the attention of the decisionmakers you are targeting.
If you can answer a challenge or pain point that the company is quite open about facing, you have a head start – but if you can provide a solution to an issue or challenge that the company might not even realise they are facing or could face, this might give you the attention capture you need to get a foot in the door.
Whether or not your prospect knows that you have targeted them and deliberately worked to identify and answer their needs with your approach is something you have some degree of control over, and there are both pros and cons to letting your prospect know that this is the case. However, at the end of the day, if your message is well timed, well executed, and insightful and personal enough, the hows and whys are unlikely to matter.
Getting your wider marketing collateral on point before you make a first approach
Before you first reach out to a decisionmaker at the business or organisation you are targeting, you should ensure that your wider marketing collateral and the information out there about your brand and business itself all reinforce and support your message.
Gaining your prospect’s interest and attention is the beginning of the potential payoff for your hard work, but never lose sight of the fact that the first thing your prospect is going to do, probably before they even respond to you to let you know they might be interested, is check you out.
They’ll want to find out more about your company, background, services, track record and potentially, other key clients, and are likely to spend just as much time looking into your company as you did to theirs.
If your prospect isn’t impressed with what they see or if what they can find out for themselves is anomalous with the claims or promises you made, they won’t proceed, and it is hard if not impossible to undo this type of error later on.
This means that you need to review your company’s online marketing collateral to ensure that it gels with your message and shows your company in the best possible light, highlighting your USPs and success stories and supporting your approach itself.
Reaching out to your prospects with an account-based marketing campaign
How you reach out to your prospect is something that you will need to decide upon by taking all of the relevant factors into account. These include things like the company culture and industry norms for the business you are targeting, and the preferences of the decision makers you are reaching out to.
The channel or channels you use to make your first approach are also things you need to consider carefully, encompassing a wide range of different options such as phone, email, social media interactions and much more. Again, take the time to learn more about the decisionmakers you will be targeting and the type of channels they use to communicate before you decide on the right method of approach. Where possible, a face-to-face meeting is best, but a phone or video call or other personal interaction is always preferable to email or messaging.
Your initial and follow-up approaches should again be as personalised as possible in their tone, style, content and call to action, and if you can personalise your message to not just the company but the individuals you have identified as those that hold the power within it, so much the better.
Measuring your success and fine-tuning your approach
Chasing the big bucks with account-based marketing can be very worthwhile, but it is not a sure-fire guarantee of success, even if you do everything right on paper. Even though account-based marketing means creating a highly personalised message for an individual account, it is a good idea to target and develop a plan for several accounts simultaneously, or at planned intervals.
This provides you with the motivation and incentive you may need to persevere if you hit a brick wall with one campaign, or are sure that your message and approach was sound even though it didn’t pay off on that occasion. It also helps to negate some of the “all eggs in one basket” element of personalised account-based marketing.
You should maintain and review analytic data for your success and failures, and where possible, solicit feedback from failed prospects on what made them decide against proceeding, and what you might be able to do better in the future.
Over time, you can use this feedback and analytic data to develop a more comprehensive outline of what works and what doesn’t, to help you to improve your future account-based campaigns.
Account-based marketing can be something of a gamble given the time and potentially, money you need to put into winning a single new client, but when you get the formula right it can be highly lucrative in the long term.
Doing your research and ensuring that your message is personalised and supported by your wider marketing collateral is vital, as is being willing to adapt and improve on-the-go as a result of feedback or supporting information you collate.
Polly Kay is a British copywriter and content writer with a digital marketing background. After studying Marketing (BA Hons) at university, she first honed her skills as a copywriter by working in-house for an award-winning creative agency in London before branching out on her own in 2012. Today, Polly Kay Copywriting and Content Writing serves clients ranging from small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK to well-known multinational brands. Polly specialises in SEO-friendly content writing for online use, and both brand-led and direct response copywriting for all applications.Read full profile