Headlines are awash with stories of targeted advertising. Phones seem to listen to us as we shop, and our Facebook feeds are flooded with curiously creepy ads that seem to know what’s on our mind as we browse so mindlessly!
While these examples of targeted advertising are certainly dubious, they’re undeniably effective; Facebook enjoyed $7.86 billion in advertising revenue in 2017 alone. But what of your business? The technology to target decision markers at an individual level is finally here, and the results on offer are startling to say the least.
Account-based marketing – ABM for short – leverages the latest tech to entice your prospects, with the promise of exceptional ROI and the ability to maximise the effectiveness of your sales team by providing highly qualified leads. In this article we’ll be covering:
- The past and present of ABM
- Its benefit to the sales and marketing mix
- How to qualify whether ABM is ideal for your business
- A case study review of an ABM campaign undertaken for our client Fujitsu
After reading, you’ll have a buzzword-free sense of where account-based marketing has come from and where it is going, as well as a more informed understanding of what type of business suits it best (and whether that is yours or not).
Account-based marketing: Past and present
Despite its surge in recent popularity, ABM as a concept has been around since the 90s saw the rise of ‘one-to-one marketing’. In a business landscape absent of the internet, mass marketing techniques remained capable but were improved upon by pioneering companies such as Hewlett-Packard. Their ethos of pursuing quality over quantity – and targeting individual prospects to an unprecedented level – rapidly showed promise.
Fast-forward to 2018 and it’s easy for anyone to see why the current iteration of ABM is even more enticing. Specifically, three areas have increased ABM’s viability: Data, analytics and technology (think CRM platforms). With these developments, outbound and inbound interactions can be targeted accurately and scaled smoothly. That’s perfect news for a marketing approach that’s all about identifying individual, high-value prospects and adjusting to the characteristics and needs on a prospect-by-prospect basis.
That’s the heart of ABM. A simple premise made feasible with the help of modern technology, and a salve for traditional marketing frustrations as much as it is a tremendous opportunity for securing the most valuable clients for your company.
Sales, Marketing and ABM
Conflict and tension between marketing and sales teams are, as the saying goes, as old as the hills. Traditional complaints between the two arise from a lack of coordination and shared priorities; the marketing team believes the sales team to be myopic and focused on the short-term; the sales team often finds itself frustrated by unfair shares of the budget with which to hire key talent and offer greater commissions to drive performance.
Worse still, misalignment between sales and marketing directly lowers the efficiency of both parties. A sales team that is obsessed with fulfilling demand will never operate effectively alongside a marketing team that is unable to link advertising spend to sales figures. Marketers struggling to prove their ROI is a long-familiar challenge and is one that is poorly addressed by a team that acts in isolation.
Companies that adopt account-based marketing approaches commonly report improvements to the alignment of their sales and marketing teams in addition to tighter control – and sharing – of available budgets.
Further reading on this interesting conundrum is well served by the Harvard Business Review publication Ending the war between sales and marketing.
Is ABM right for my business?
Always be wary of any suggestion that one approach suits all in the marketing world! While ABM has distinct advantages compared to other approaches, these benefits are best suited to businesses of certain structures and priorities – yours may not be one of them.
B2B and B2C companies will respond differently to the ABM approach. It’s easy to see why on the surface; a business that sells in high-volume to consumers will find little value in a highly targeted manner, while a company that sells low-volume, high-value products or services could see significant profit-per-lead from ABM.
This distinction carries further to the model of your business and its sales arm. High-volume and low individual value again make ABM a poor choice, whereas a shift towards prioritising larger individual accounts to ‘break in’ to makes ABM’s quality over quantity style a perfect match.
What we’ve learned so far
- ABM has been around since the 90s but is increasingly valuable due to modern technology and the increased availability of data and powerful analytics software
- It offers the potential for sales and marketing teams to become more aligned, resulting in more efficient work and collaboration
- This approach isn’t ideal for every business model – it’s important that you analyse yours to see if it matches such a small-number, high individual value approach
- ABM can work alongside your current marketing activities to exploit profitable but limited opportunities and can scale effectively
Case in point: Fujitsu
Our work with Fujitsu is a prime example of the laser-focused potential of ABM. As the world’s tenth-largest IT services provider as measured by revenue, it’s no stretch to say Fujitsu was a big client!
In 2017 QliQ supported Fujitsu with a campaign targeting high-value prospects at a large government organisation. The goal: to build relationships and awareness of their proposition.
An eight-month ‘influencer campaign’ was created with an ABM-based approach, making full use of QliQ’s very own HeartBeat CRM platform. Here’s a run-down of the nitty-gritty.
- Audience: Director level IT professionals and programme directors
- Creation of a miniseries ‘Fujitsu’s Expect More’ including landing pages, video and email highlighting how Fujitsu’s technology can improve operations and reduce admin and hard costs
- 233 prospects targeted through a range of digital channels leading to a video landing page
- Full tracking of individual actions, leading to personalised scores for every prospect
The results became profitable within weeks. Over 800 opened emails led to an exceptional click-through rate of 10%, with notable levels of engagement from 51 high-value prospects.
In record time, Fujitsu’s objectives were achieved, and their opportunity exploited to its maximum potential. A modest campaign in reflection to Fujitsu’s wider scale and size, the results nevertheless speak positively to the potential of account based marketing in the modern age.