What is account-based marketing? A beginner’s guide

In the early 2000s, B2B marketers began using account-based marketing (ABM). It was a new approach to engaging and converting high-value prospect accounts. Today, ABM is a commonly-used tactic that many businesses leverage to close opportunities with prospects and upsell to existing customers. But what is ABM and how, when, and why should you use it? 

Let’s start with the “why.” Recent survey data indicates that 91% of respondents claim accounts won through ABM have a larger average deal size. They also report that a quarter of those deals are at least 50% larger than non-ABM deals.(1)

Moreover, as far back as 2016, companies using ABM were generating 208% more revenue for their marketing efforts.(2) That number is certainly higher today as ABM continues to grow. 

What is account-based marketing?

Instead of casting a broad net in hopes of capturing more leads, account-based marketers work with sales to identify and reach out to prospects that are the best possible fit for their product or service and are high-value. Ample research is involved, and we’ll touch on that below.

With ABM, you must treat each individual prospect as though they were a distinct, separate market with unique needs, challenges, and goals. There are no carpet-bombing marketing campaigns involved; all outreach is direct, one-on-one communication. 

Account-based marketing is almost exclusively used by B2B businesses. This is due to the complexity of the B2B sales cycle and the number of people involved in the decision-making process. 

Key considerations associated with ABM

Because ABM differs so significantly from traditional “bulk” marketing, it’s important to understand some key components of ABM and how it works.

Ideal customer profiles

Developing ideal customer profiles (ICPs) is similar to creating and aligning buyer personas with the buyer journey. But they differ in important ways. 

For example, two individuals at the same prospect organization may have competing objectives or conflicting opinions. That should be noted in your overarching ICP. Successful ABM requires you to take granular, detailed notes and understand your prospect in a much deeper, personal way. You must know and anticipate every minute detail that could impact the sales cycle and buying process.

Humanizing the prospect: high-quality vs. high-volume

The point of ABM is to focus on prospect quality rather than generating a high volume of leads. ABM lets marketing and sales contact pre-qualified leads rather than unqualified, cold leads. Lead scoring can help identify the most sales-ready prospects. Ultimately, one highly-qualified prospect with a proven propensity to purchase is worth 100 cold leads who’ve shown no interest.

When you first make contact, your prospect will feel as though they are communicating with an old friend, not a faceless salesperson. In this way, ABM starts to resemble humanized marketing.

Sales & marketing alignment

Sales and marketing alignment is vital in ABM. These two teams’ collaboration must be airtight for ABM to work properly. Once you’ve identified your target prospect accounts, you begin researching them individually. This kicks off a series of steps involved in successful account-based marketing.

Furthermore, sales and marketing will collaborate better with improved business transparency and if the entire ABM process is managed in a unified CRM.

ABM prospect research

Marketing and sales conduct exhaustive research on each individual prospect. They learn who the decision makers are, the company’s needs, pain

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