Does your company devote precious time and resources to executing expensive marketing campaigns that don’t actually produce many leads? If so, it may be time to rethink your approach. Over the past few years, a growing number of B2B businesses have done just that by embracing account-based marketing (ABM), a strategy that turns traditional marketing on its head.

Traditional marketing is about casting a wide net, gathering as many leads as you can, filtering out the bad ones, and coming up with a list of prospects you think you can sell to. With account-based marketing, by contrast, you start with those very targeted prospects right off the bat. The idea is to work closely with your sales team to identify key prospects (and key decision makers within those organizations) that you then target with customized content, messaging, and events. Your goal should be to build on existing relationships and to ultimately create new sales opportunities.

The case for account-based marketing

Account-based marketing is particularly effective for B2B companies that have to target multiple buyers or stakeholders within a single organization because it helps connect them all into one sale and establish long-term relationships. In fact, companies that use account-based marketing report impressive results. According to the ABM Leadership Alliance, for example, companies that have implemented ABM have seen a 171 percent increase in average annual contract value.

Because account-based marketing is highly personalized and targeted, it’s more likely to resonate with your prospects. Plus, it’s more efficient because you spend far less time on dead-end leads and marketing campaigns that don’t yield results. Other benefits include the fact that it makes measuring ROI easier, shortens sales cycles, and increases customer retention. 

Building out your ABM strategy

Now that we have a general understanding of what account-based marketing is and why it’s worthwhile, let’s look at how to approach it. The main steps to follow include:

1. Identifying the high-value accounts you’re going to target

Working closely with sales, your marketing team should identify any existing customers that are worth going after. A good place to start are those customer accounts that yield the most monthly recurring revenue for your business. Once you have a list, start gathering information about those accounts that your sales team may already have, including things like their industry, company size, annual revenue, and profit margin. Make sure to also capture other key information, such as their likelihood of making a repeat purchase or any upsell opportunities. 

Once you’ve got your list of high-value accounts and some basic information about them, it’s time to dig a bit deeper.

2. Research your targets

Research is critical for successfully executing any ABM campaign. Knowing how the company is structured and who the key decision-makers and influencers are, for example, will dictate what content you create and how you structure your messaging. If your sales team can’t provide this intel, do some research on LinkedIn to try to build a comprehensive picture of who the right internal stakeholders are.

Next, try to analyze each of those stakeholders so that you understand what their priorities and preferences are, what marketing styles and tactics might resonate with them, and even where they’ve worked in the past. In the process, map out how each key contact relates to the others in that organization, including who reports to whom, who controls the budget, and who has the most influence. The richer the insights you gather here, the more targeted (and effective) your campaigns will be.

3. Create your content

Now that you have the names of the key players within each account, and know something about them, you’ll want to create highly targeted content for them. This content needs to address the pain points of that particular business and offer solutions based on the specific deals you’re hoping to make with that organization. It should also be targeted based on the individual you’re talking to, so that each person is receiving the messages that are most relevant to their needs.

Any type of content will work in your campaigns, provided that it’s useful and relevant. Having said that, use the knowledge you’ve acquired about your target audience to identify the topics and content formats that will resonate most.

4. Choose your channels and deploy your content

Before you can execute your campaigns, you need to determine which channels to use to reach your audience. Email is an obvious choice given that you’re already connected to at least some of the decision makers and influencers at each account. But don’t stop there. Try to figure out where else these people spend their time online and to coordinate your messaging so that it’s consistent across the board. 

Next start deploying your content in an orderly and well-thought-through process. You don’t want to inundate your audience with information nor do you want what you’re saying to one stakeholder to be at odds with what you’re saying to anyone else. Mapping out what you’re saying to whom and when will help you stay on top of everything.

As with any marketing strategy, make sure to iterate over time. Some things will work better than others and it’s important to learn and adapt as you go.

Switching focus to make big gains

While account-based marketing may not actually replace traditional forms of marketing, it definitely should be used in conjunction with them. With this target-first (rather than last) approach, you’re identifying the people most likely to want to hear from you, and developing highly personalized content that resonates with them. While it takes some work to execute a successful ABM strategy, given the upside potential, it’s definitely worth the effort.