You’ve heard your B2B CMO buddies gabbing around the campfire about it. You’ve read those Forrester articles extolling its virtue. You’ve even possibly attended a conference during which thought leaders and impresario’s whispered in hushed tones about those three letters on which an entire B2B marketing strategy can hinge:
A… B… M…
“Account-Based Marketing” comes up meeting after meeting with the inevitable rejoinder: “So, what’s the plan?” But you’re not about to make the same mistake as Joe Schmo, CMO, who jumped headfirst into implementing a complicated tech stack. Six months and a quarter million bucks later, they’re drowning under the constant demands of personalized content generation without the team, process, or creativity to make it work.
Nope. You’re no average Joe, and you’re certainly no schmo.
But the truth is, the buzz is real. ABM does one thing better than any other B2B marketing tactic: it unifies sales and marketing. When done correctly, it nurtures key accounts to make selling easier and marketing more effective, and the results are insane.
🔥For example, Gartner reports that companies saw a 171% increase in their average contract value when implementing ABM. 🔥
ABM is an amazing approach to marketing that’s transformed B2B, but we aren’t keeping these insights to ourselves. At The Imaginarium we bring ABM “in-house” by helping to plan and build the right technology to deliver powerful, personalized content to your target accounts. This strategy allows you to build awareness across your category and then convert customers showing high intent.
What fuels ABM’s success is creative and thoughtful content that connects a B2B brand with its target accounts. What trips up ABM practitioners is the need for a complicated tech stack that aligns the marketing and sales motion… but it doesn’t need to be so difficult. We’ve put together a strategic framework for implementing a highly effective ABM approach, and we’re sharing it here.
This paper outlines the key components of a successful ABM or ABX program, including strategy development, MarTech tool evaluation, target account selection, media and content planning, personalization techniques, analytics and measurement, and optimization strategies. It’s a version of the playbook we use every day to “in-house” ABM for our amazing clients.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you think we might be able to help you audit and implement the right martech, and then operate your ABM growth engine using rich data-driven insights, creativity, and analytics.
ABM was born from one simple insight: that B2B companies do not sell to a single consumer. Businesses generally make their buying decisions as a committee, with various stakeholders offering input along the way. When you target an account instead of just a “lead,” you unlock a whole toolbox that can help accelerate sales. Lucky lucky, this playbook’s built to show you exactly how to maximize the impact of ABM for your business.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” — Robert Frost
Modern B2B CMOs have their choice of two different paths: use ABM or traditional marketing approaches. That decision will have wide-ranging implications for technology, for how closely sales and marketing will work together, and for the kind of content that will need to be created to spark meaningful engagement.
Traditional B2B marketing employs a wide-net strategy, casting messages to a broad audience. In contrast, ABM focuses on a select group of high-value accounts, tailoring messaging and campaigns to their specific needs – think of it as fishing with a spear instead of fishing with a net.
ABM emphasizes personalized experiences and relationship-building, aligning marketing and sales efforts. Traditional marketing aims for mass reach but lacks the precision and personalization of ABM – and it’s far less aligned with sales.
ABM offers several benefits, making it a powerful strategy for B2B organizations. ABM has shown significant impact and positive outcomes by personalizing marketing efforts and targeting high-value accounts.
The meteoric rise of ABM is built on performance. A thoughtful and manageable ABM process drives better ROI, customer acquisition, relationship-building, LTV, and sales and marketing alignment. By leveraging the benefits of ABM, organizations will very quickly see the impact of a more personalized and strategic approach as sales and marketing work together.
At The Imaginarium, one of the pillars of our bespoke “in-housing” approach to ABM is our mantra:
Start small, grow big!
Developing an ABM capability that’s right for you right now begins with a thorough and thoughtful strategy. A well-defined strategy should align sales and marketing efforts, identify ideal customer profiles, and map the buyer's journey from the start.
Defining clear objectives and goals is crucial when implementing ABM. Start by identifying the specific outcomes you want to achieve. Some examples of potential outcomes might be increasing revenue from target accounts, improving customer retention, or expanding into new markets. Align your ABM objectives with broader business goals to ensure they contribute to overall success, not just marketing success. Break down these objectives into measurable and actionable goals, such as securing a certain number of meetings or increasing deal size. By defining ABM objectives upfront, you provide a clear roadmap for your ABM strategy, enabling effective planning, execution, and measurement of success.
By jointly defining target accounts and developing strategies to engage them, sales and marketing can work in unison towards shared objectives. ABM facilitates closer collaboration and communication, enabling both teams to align their efforts, share insights, and coordinate activities. With ABM, marketing can provide highly targeted and personalized content that aligns with the needs of specific accounts, equipping sales teams with valuable assets. By leveraging ABM, sales and marketing can bridge the gap, fostering better cooperation, improving lead quality, and ultimately driving higher conversion rates and revenue growth.
Reimagining the most powerful way to identify and address your target audience is at the core of a great ABM program. All your marketing outreach needs to be orchestrated to get in front of the right person(s) within an account, with the right content, at the right time.
To create this level of engagement, you need to know exactly who you’re targeting at an account level. To get to that detail – begin with thoughtful ICPs. Doing the strategic work upfront will make you much more successful when you apply those insights to the data.
Start developing an ICP and the personas that make up part of the buying process by following these key steps:
Once you have your ICP codified, the really fun part comes: translating these profiles into TALs. This is the heartbeat of a strong ABM practice.
The yin and yang of developing your TALs are using your existing stakeholder and CRM data, and pairing that with buying signals detected by your MarTech, such as intent data from Bombora or another predictive analytics platform. These two lists will be the foundation for making content and channel decisions that generate high ROI engagement.
Here are some key MarTech tools that can support your ABM strategy effectively.
It's important to assess how well the tools align with your ABM goals and how seamlessly they can integrate with your existing tech stack to ensure a cohesive and efficient ABM implementation. This is an area where many companies either go too big to start or don’t consider the effort the technology will take to execute within the ABM program. Definitely an opportunity to repeat our favorite mantra: Start small, grow big!
Intent and predictive analytics can massively improve your ability to target “in-market” buyers. Data from companies like Bombora and platforms like 6Sense are invaluable assets for your ABM program. Intent data uncovers the online behavior of target accounts, allowing you to identify buying signals and engage with accounts showing strong intent. Predictive analytics looks at historical data to prioritize accounts with the highest conversion potential, enabling personalized outreach and tailored messaging. These analytics tools provide insights into account interests, content preferences, and conversion likelihood, empowering you to drive engagement by allocating resources effectively and personalizing content. By leveraging intent data and predictive analytics, you can optimize your ABM strategies, increase conversion rates, and generate higher ROI from your targeted efforts.
Once your target accounts are identified, you’ll need a well-defined media and content plan to engage and nurture them effectively. It’s absolutely crucial to remember that ALL YOUR STRATEGY AND MARTECH ARE IN SERVICE OF CREATIVITY! If you go to market with the appallingly lame content that most B2B marketers seem to think is compelling, then you’ve wasted an enormous amount of money and time. This doesn’t mean you need horses leaping out of the surf – it simply means you must generate content that is empathetic to your customer's emotional connection with your product and category.
Once you’ve codified your ICP and TALs, you’ll begin building a plan to engage them. While there’s definitely a time and a place to buy a table at a local chamber of commerce function, using digital media to engage your customers is a much more powerful way to nurture a relationship and use data to ensure your message is optimized. Here’s a good look at a powerful full-funnel content and media framework:
This is where creativity can really make the difference between a wildly successful campaign and a stinker that needs to be explained to an impatient board. Unfortunately, this is an area where a playbook can’t show you how to apply creativity to your message. However, suppose you’ve really listened to your customers and the data coming from places like Bombora’s Insights Platform to understand the content your high-intent customers are looking for. In that case, you’re in a great place to speak clearly, honestly, optimistically, and passionately to your customers about exactly the challenges keeping them up at night.
There’s one area of “creativity” that’s changed dramatically recently. That’s the power of AI to help inspire. There are remarkable tools out there that can help you and your agency partners generate the right kind of content. Here’s a list of some those powerful tools you can use in service of your creativity, but the list is changing at the speed of technological innovation, so definitely do your own investigation.
Wahoo!!! You’ve built remarkable content that’s about to generate a meaningful connection with accounts that are just perfect for you. We’re getting excited. Psyched even. Yes, psyched!!! It’s time to distribute all these great messages.
Here are a few things you’ll want to get right if all the work you’ve done is going to pay off in transformational growth (oh, and it will!)
Content Orchestration: Think Mahler. Think Brahms. Now think HubSpot, Pardot, and Marketo. Yes – orchestrating organic outreach is a huge part of getting your message out. The lovely news is you don’t need to deploy your media dollars, and when done right, the engagement is extremely powerful. The flip side is that your content must be thoughtful and personalized to be effective.
Media: Nothing scales and drives growth more powerfully than a full-funnel media plan. You might not realize this, but we are entering the golden age of ABM – yep, you heard it here first – there are new innovations that will bequeath great rewards to those who invest in account-based media. The Trade Desk and Bombora have JUST teamed up (those brilliant rascals), which allows smart B2B marketers like you to buy programmatic media at the scale of The Trade Desk using account-based targeting and measurement. Hint: this unlocks CTV as an ABM tactic.
Sales Enablement: Using the deeply personal insights and analytics that help create unique content for outreach needs to inform powerful marketing materials. From effective sizzle reels to a toolbox of exceptional pitch material, the sales team’s content must be developed with the same level of care as the marketing team's. That’s the beauty of ABM – it’s a full-funnel and holistic approach to driving growth – and every touchpoint between the brand and the customer is carefully considered.
Do you hear that? The gentle plucking of an electric guitar as Stairway to Heaven begins. Oh, it’s the last song of this magnificent dance. Let your eyes cast around till… yes! You find your partner and begin to sway to the lyrics,
“If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now. It's just a spring clean for the May Queen…” (Yes, those are real lyrics to the most famous high school dance song ever… but we digress)
But what really matters is that you and your next customer have found each other. Why? Because the data tells us so… it really does, and we know exactly what to attribute this connection to! We’ve been measuring and analyzing every interaction.
As we’ve mentioned, there are powerful analytics tools that will translate all your marketing analytics into account-specific insights. While we’re partial to Octane11, other great options like Leadfeeder can be a great solution.
We hope that this has been a useful overview of the most powerful B2B tactic to drive growth and unify marketing and sales. However, one of the most common mistakes we see is misalignment between MarTech and content creation capability. It’s important to remember that every tool has a job to be done – and while automation can help drive scale, it still needs to be thoughtfully managed and fueled with creative, personalized content.
We’ve said it before. At The Imaginarium, we have one foundational mantra: Start small, grow big! Making thoughtful decisions about what technology is right for your right now is crucial. Your energy needs to be focused on engaging your target accounts – and all your systems should be enabling that and never distracting you from that key goal.
What a journey!
Now it’s up to you and your incredible team to put all these exciting capabilities and innovations to use in service of your brand. At The Imaginarium, we work with great B2B brands to implement a structured and powerful ABM strategy.
We make sure you have the right MarTech and that it is implemented properly, then help you find your target accounts, generate the content that will engage them, distribute through organic and paid digital channels, and measure and optimize to make sure we only get more and more effective.
If you’d like to learn more, contact us here, and maybe we can run an audit on your current capabilities to help build a more powerful growth engine using Account-Based Marketing.
Start small, grow big!