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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistThu, Feb 16, 2017 9 min read

6 Secrets To Account-Based Marketing Derived From Inbound Marketing

ABM Has Many Connections To Inbound Marketing; Take The Best Of The Science To Improve Results

Inbound marketing secrets to account based marketingEven marketing has its trends and today one of the biggest, most popular trends is account-based marketing (ABM). Everyone is talking about it and everyone thinks they’re doing it or getting ready to do it. Everyone is excited about its potential. But if you’ve never deployed an ABM strategy before, you might be surprised to learn there are very specific ways to make it work.

We learned through our execution of inbound marketing how to weave account-based marketing into an overall inbound program. This unique perspective provides interesting insights that are guaranteed to help you improve your overall revenue generation efforts.

First, is ABM a marketing or sales tactic? Honestly, I’m not sure it matters. If you think it’s a sales tactic because sales executes it, then it’s a sales tactic. If you think it’s a marketing tactic because marketing plans it, builds the assets, trains sales and then monitors performance, then it’s a marketing tactic.

Once you figure out who’s responsible, now you’re ready to get started. Here are the secrets that we’ve found are requirements for success with ABM.

Secret #1: Youre Going To Need Personalized, Relevant, Emotional And Disruptive Outreach

Let’s be honest: Account-based marketing includes outreach that is somewhere between cold and lukewarm. The best way to produce solid results given the interruptive nature of ABM is to create personalized, relevant and disruptive messaging. In most cases, the people you’ll be targeting don’t have pain, or else they’d be active in their buyer journey.

To bust through the prospects’ paradigms and preconceived notions, you should disrupt their status quo, and insights usually provide the best chance to stand out. For example, a cyber security client of ours used this message: “CIO Magazine’s recent research shows that hackers penetrate networks weeks before they attack. There might be hackers in your network right now. Let us help you find out for sure.”

This simple, disruptive, insightful message allowed them to connect with target clients and then start a conversation fueled with additional content and guidance. This is where most people make a mistake by sending a generic email or simply asking for an appointment. This will not be effective in starting the conversation that ultimately ends in a close.

Secret #2: Make Sure You Have The Right Content

Once you get a prospect’s attention within your ABM program, you should keep that attention and grow their interest. To be more specific, you must help them know, like and trust you, your sales rep and your company. Youre going to do that with content.

If you have a target account executive engaged, you want to create an experience that pulls them in and positions you as the company they desperately need. This means you should deliver content in context. You need content to support and guide them based on their issues, challenges and pains. Some of this content might already exist within your marketing, but other content might need to be created and should be created in advance of you starting your ABM campaign.

Secret #3: You Should Do Testing

Test Account Based Marketing TacticsIf you’ve been following along, you know we apply science to all our marketing tactics. This means you need to take a testing approach to ABM. Test the messages, test the insights, test the disruption efforts, test the content, test the emails and test the social outreach messaging. Test everything!

Plan on doing tests like this at all stages of the program. You’ll want to test outreach messaging up front to make sure you’re getting to the second stage of the program. You’ll want to test content and conversion during the middle of the program. You’ll want test closing tactics and content when you’re working prospects out of the bottom of the funnel as new customers.

Make sure you’ve budgeted for the testing and you have resources to handle the testing, data analysis and recommendations required to improve ABM program performance.

Secret #4: You Might Want To Consider Stepping Outside Of Digital

Here I am, the inbound scientist, suggesting that there might be options outside of digital. But the fact is good options do exist. For example, we used a disruptive 3D mailing for a client to get the attention of a targeted set of prospects. We sent a small trash can with a card that said: “If your software implementation is in the trash, we can help.” The card had a landing page URL and the communication was personal, supported by email and direct outreach.

Again, it would need to be perfectly integrated and planned so each element is executed in an orchestrated way.

Secret #5: It’s A Long-Game Tactic

Nothing about ABM should be considered short term. It’s going to take time to connect, engage target prospects in a conversation, understand their business, assess their pain, guide them through a buyer journey and then eventually close them.

Like most marketing tactics, there are no easy buttons. In some cases, this might take longer than some of the more popular inbound tactics that focus on people who are actively in a buyer journey. Again, it’s another good reason why ABM has to co-exist with other inbound tactics.

Secret #6: If You Blow The Execution, You Can Ruin Your Brand With Your Best Prospects

ABM is not without its risks. Perhaps because of its nature, it might be riskier than some other more traditional marketing tactics. Your goal should be to mitigate the risks as much as possible. For example, unsolicited outreach either direct or via social media might piss some people off. You mitigate that by making the outreach and the ongoing content insightful, helpful, educational and advisory.

Then, further mitigate this by looking at the sequences and timing of the outreach and follow-up. Don’t send an email every day. Make sure its extended in a way that matches a reasonable buyer journey and your standard sales life cycle. Longer sales cycles can support longer ABM programs.

Finally, ABM is highly data-driven. Watch for opt-out rates on emails, low conversion rates, low connect rates and low engagement rates. Flag these quickly in days, not weeks. Then, respond by changing your content, messaging or sequences to better match your prospects’ needs.

This article has hopefully helped you think about how ABM fits into your overall marketing efforts. In our opinion, ABM is a subset of inbound marketing. If you do ABM without any other inbound marketing, you’ll probably see lower-than-expected performance across your company.

When you look at what account-based marketing is, it’s just good, strategic, targeted marketing. And when you get away from the selected target accounts and start to apply ABM to broader market segments like verticals or a collection of profile clients, that looks a lot like inbound marketing to us.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.