A Shorter Road to Account-Based Marketing: Start With Current Customers

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Don't wait to get your new pipeline up and running if you adopt account-based marketing, Adi Aloni writes.
Don't wait to get your new pipeline up and running if you adopt account-based marketing, Adi Aloni writes. Credit: erhui1979/iStock

So you've decided to implement an ABM strategy. Now what?

For the uninitiated, account-based marketing or ABM is a b-to-b strategy focused in cultivating a smaller pool of high-value accounts you really want to target rather than marketing to a wide audience. Instead of the broad approach most traditional marketing models use, ABM nurtures the key people at a specific account in the same industry or territory. When done right, ABM brings value through connected efforts between your sales and marketing teams to deliver highly customized content, rather than a mass one-size-fits-all marketing approach.

The concept of ABM or targeted marketing isn't new, but the proliferation of technologies over the last few years is enabling it to happen automatically and on a large scale.

It's a safe bet if you jump into ABM you'll dramatically improve your marketing efforts -- most companies that adopt Account-Based Marketing increase their closing rates by over 30%, given how targeted their programs are. But deciding on ABM is just the first step. Implementing it is a big shift in methodology, and it takes time to identify each new target account and the right people on the buying committees in those accounts. Consequently, many marketers considering a move to ABM worry they'll lose precious time generating leads, sales and revenue while they build their new pipeline.

The solution? Don't wait for your new pipeline. Start by expanding your existing accounts.

Why current customers?

"All too often, the critical processes of cross-selling and upselling are left to chance in b-to-b organizations, which limits growth potential from current customers," according to a recent presentation by SiriusDecision analysts Kerry Cunningham and Bob Peterson titled, "The Science of Cross-Sell and Upsell."

There's often a lack of alignment between sales and marketing that causes inefficiency in cross-selling and upselling. The problem is even more acute in large, complex enterprises, which may also struggle with the change management required.

Implementing ABM with existing clients kills two birds with one stone. Because ABM requires sales and marketing to work together, it addresses the x-sell / upsell inefficiency challenge. What's more, ABM is easier to try on existing accounts, which can lead to some quick wins. Here's why:

  • You don't have to buy a bunch of predictive tools and build a target account list just yet -- you already have the list.
  • You have relationships, so it's not cold outreach, meaning they're more likely to listen.
  • You already know their business priorities, so you can be highly targeted.

How to do it effectively

Start by picking 10 of your highest-value accounts, based on their growth potential. You want to get buy-in from your sales account managers, and work with them to identify specific business initiatives within those accounts. From there:

  1. Divvy up responsibilities. Marketing owns program management; the development of a menu of touch-points and campaign options for sales to choose from; high level messaging, content and visuals; and the execution of targeted ad campaigns. Sales feeds account intelligence into marketing; executes touch-points and sales campaigns targeted at customers; and owns opportunity development.
  2. Design campaigns. Keep in mind that while your menu of touch-points will be similar to that of any new account (emails, ads, events, etc.), your campaigns needs to be focused on success stories within the target account. Also, event ROI is easier to achieve with existing customers, so consider hosting more events.
  3. Personalization. Given your existing relationship, you don't want these customers to feel as if they're in the generic marketing pool.
  4. Update KPIs. Be sure to include coverage and engagement. Track things like: How many contacts within the account did you engage? How many new contacts were acquired? How much time did people spend or pieces of content were consumed throughout the campaign?

When you're just starting out with ABM, you can't afford to ignore existing accounts, the low-hanging fruit. Note that these customers also represent an important revenue segment, as more and more companies move into subscription- and consumption-based pricing models. Bottom line: don't overlook current customers as you build your ABM strategy.

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