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What is Account-Based Marketing? (Simple Explainer Article)

4 min read2022-03-01Design,Development

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There are some marketing terms that we get asked about more than others. SEO, for instance. One of the most asked-about marketing terms is account-based marketing (ABM).

So, what is it?

Account-based marketing is an alternative to more conventional, ‘funnel-based’ marketing. Funnel marketing is when you generate leads from a broad audience of prospects, then filter out the unqualified leads through actions until you’re left with a small audience of customers. The funnel starts broad and gets narrow as you weed out the unqualified leads.

Account-based marketing does away with a funnel. It’s about winning specific accounts by targeting them with highly customized sales and marketing campaigns and materials.

Definition of account-based marketing

Per business consulting giant Gartner, account-based marketing is defined as:

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a go-to-market strategy targeting certain accounts with a synchronized, continuous set of marketing and sales activities. ABM activities engage those accounts and individuals through all stages of the buying journey.

Clear as mud, right? Let’s break it down.

What is account-based marketing?

Per the definition, account-based marketing is:

  • A go-to-market strategy
  • Targets certain accounts with synchronized, continuous marketing and sales activities
  • Engaging accounts and individuals through all the stages of the buying journey.

What does it all mean?

First, it’s a go-to-market strategy. A go-to-market strategy is simply an end-to-end strategy to reach a target audience and sell them a product or service. The big difference between a go-to-market strategy and a marketing campaign is that a strategy might contain many marketing campaigns. It’s a coordinated effort across sales and marketing disciplines to achieve a specific business action.

Account-based marketing focuses on the go-to-market ‘target audience’ part of a strategy. It takes targeting to the extreme. Account-based marketing targets specific customers rather than a customer persona or a type of customer. An account-based marketing strategy might only target a dozen accounts or fewer.

Our definition describes ‘synchronized, continuous marketing and sales activities.’ Let’s break that down. What is being described is a coordinated, consistent flow of sales and marketing activities. This means that there are options for our target accounts to engage across many campaign types throughout the sales and marketing process. The next step in the marketing journey is planned and accounted for — end-to-end marketing to specific accounts.

Account-Based Marketing Example

We specialize in B2B marketing for industrial manufacturers, so we’ll give an example relevant to that industry.

Imagine a company that sells custom components and fasteners for scaffolding systems. A niche market might struggle to reach customers with an inbound marketing strategy like content marketing. They may not get sufficient search volume on their most valuable keywords for paid search advertising to make sense. Instead, they employ an account-based marketing strategy.

The company performs extensive research on competitors and potential customers, building a deeper understanding of their market in the process. They identify potential customers who may be particularly ready to make a purchase — perhaps they are about to embark on an extensive construction project or have recently brought on new leadership in their purchasing department and are ready to make a change.

The company selects their ideal candidates from this research and develops a pipeline of content and an outreach strategy tailored to each client. Instead of developing general sales documents, case studies, videos, etc., they create a unique path for each prospect to follow, communicating the business’ value in a way that resonates specifically with each account.

This strategy is all about the close rate. For a more conventional, funnel-based approach, a close rate of 10% of top-of-funnel prospects might be acceptable. Due to the high cost of marketing to each account, the expected close rate should be much higher — maybe as high as 50%.

Is account-based marketing for me?

You may be wondering if account-based marketing is a fit for your business. Here are a few criteria to help you decide.

Account-based marketing may be a fit for you if:

  • You’re a B2B business
  • Your sales cycle is long, but each sale is worth a lot to your business (high margin, high dollar value products and services)
  • You have the capacity to develop custom-tailored content for your prospects in-house (or the budget to outsource content creation).
  • Your sales and marketing teams are coordinated and able to work together on long-term campaigns.

BlackBean Marketing is a B2B industrial marketing company specializing in marketing for tech and manufacturing businesses. If you need help crafting an account-based marketing strategy, reach out to us today for a no-obligation consultation.

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