Best Practices for Account-Based Marketing
Account-based marketing, or ABM, has risen in prominence among B2B marketers looking to reach priority customers and decision makers at businesses that hold growth opportunities. A recent study by HubSpot found that over 70% of B2B marketers have leveraged ABM as a marketing approach, up a staggering 15% from the previous year.
But our media experts have found that ABM can mean different things to different marketers, leading to confusion over what ABM actually is. So, let’s keep it simple. Collective Measures defines ABM as a marketing strategy that leverages precise targeting to reach specified users at priority accounts using deterministic data to verify place of employment, job title, and job function. It is a growing, efficient way for B2B marketers to reach employees at specific companies or industries that can position brands to (1) deliver customized content tailored to the targeted company’s needs or (2) focus media delivery to a client’s high-value companies or industries.
ABM is nothing new at Collective Measures. It’s a solution that we have successfully deployed for B2B clients for years. More recently, the industry has reframed and repackaged this practice to expand the potential of what ABM can accomplish. So, what should marketers know before investing in or further developing their ABM strategies? Our team of media experts compiled a list of best practices for B2B marketers and brands to keep in mind.
Strategies for success with ABM
Leverage account-based marketing throughout the entire sales funnel
In the past, marketers have largely leveraged ABM to drive demand and generate leads, which are then passed on to the brand’s sales team to nurture through to the final sale. But the ideal state and key to successful implementation of ABM moving forward will rely on the inclusion of marketers throughout the entire customer journey. According to Marketo, when sales and marketing teams are aligned, leads are 67% more likely to become clients, conversion rates are higher, and companies experience 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates.
Marketers should take measures to break down silos between marketing and sales teams. By integrating efforts throughout the sales funnel, marketers can gain valuable line of sight into the brand’s efforts, from site design and user experience to follow-up messaging and revenue data. Sharing this knowledge will further inform precise targeting (explained in further detail below), enabling marketers to ensure that media efforts and targeting are precise, and that customer experience is consistent throughout their journey. This, in turn, can ensure that high-value users are engaged from the first touchpoint to final sale and customer loyalty and retention are maintained.
Drive paid media success with sophisticated targeting
Successful implementation of ABM in paid media efforts does not necessarily require new or additional channels, but rather, additional data and targeting. Internet protocol (IP) targeting used to be the gold standard. Marketers could identify devices matched to known IP addresses, such as those located at headquarters of high-value companies, and serve ads to users connected to that network. But Marketing Brew reports that recent steps taken by tech giants like Google and Apple are hiding IP addresses from advertisers as part of ongoing data privacy measures. And while geo fencing has historically been a valuable option for reaching those at specific account office headquarters, the shift to remote and hybrid work models in the pandemic has impacted the scale and accuracy of this kind of targeting. Which means that today, the most successful ABM paid media campaigns must leverage precision targeting tactics beyond IP address, geo fencing, and basic demographic. To further home in on specific accounts and identify areas of opportunity, marketers are turning to more sophisticated targeting methods, detailed below:
- FIRST-PARTY DATA | Brands can use their own CRM data or other first-party data segments to reach users in their database with relevant messaging. A brand’s records can be matched to data providers’ information to target these specific users across the web. Here, reach coincides with scale. This means that the more user data you have, the more scalable your campaigns can be. Utilizing first-party data is also a future-proof approach that will not be inhibited by the eventual loss of cookie-based targeting on web browsers. If user data is limited, first-party data can be highly valuable as a complement to other targeting tactics provided by data firms.
At Collective Measures, clients can connect their CRM data directly into Practix, our proprietary intelligence engine, enabling our media and measurement teams to gain direct line of sight into how media activity impacts specific account-based results. For example, if Nike employees were in a client’s target list, Collective Measures could layer on-site browser data with platform data into Practix’s consumer journey analytics and modeling tools to not only report and provide insight on how those exact employees interacted with paid and organic media touchpoints, but also which employees are most likely to convert. This additional data and insight can be ported back into paid media platforms to drive greater efficiencies, leading to faster optimizations and shorter sales cycles.
- PLATFORM TARGETING | Utilizing platform data where users have opted to provide professional information is an effective way to accurately deliver media to those that fall into a brand’s target account group. Take LinkedIn for example. LinkedIn users see an immense benefit to keeping their roles, employers, industries, and skills up to date for community-building and networking purposes. These platform-provided data can be leveraged to create greater accuracy when creating audiences or applying media target parameters to people with the roles, employers, industries, or skills your brand would like to reach. The best part? Leveraging these target segments does not require owned first-party data, nor is it an incremental cost to use. Although advertisers pay a premium to reach LinkedIn audiences, the data accuracy limits media waste and places brand messages in a highly relevant environment.
- THIRD-PARTY DATA PARTNERS | Bombora and Dun & Bradstreet, two of the industry’s leading data providers, offer an exact, one-to-one targeting approach to reach users within exact companies and positions. These partners curate data from more than 30,000 sources worldwide. They then anonymize the information before sorting it into targetable categories, which can be imported into a variety of channels for a precisely targeted, diversified media mix. Once a list of desired companies to reach has been identified, we can utilize these firms’ data to match back to users they have access to, which can then be used as a targetable audience. Working with these data partners provides immense benefits, but there are two important things to note. First, it can take several weeks to receive partner data and import them into platforms. Second, data fees require incremental investment — typically charging 10%–20% of media spend — and vary by partner. That said, while data partners can be more costly and time consuming, more precise targeting leads to more effective media, reducing media waste and cutting costs in the long run.
- PREDICTIVE TARGETING | Another successful approach is the use of intent data in predictive targeting, which leverages artificial intelligence to identify new, relevant customers by pinpointing users who show interest or purchase intent based on their online activity rather than focusing solely on their employer or job title. Predictive targeting, like lookalike and similar audience targeting, can be bolstered by first-party data and third-party data partners. In essence, it can pair the accuracy of one-to-one targeting with predictive data in order to scale and optimize campaigns. Intent data, which includes users’ online research and behaviors, are often collected when users submit information on-site. But Bombora, for example, uses its “Content Consumption Monitoring” technology to observe online activity and content interaction across 2,300 topics. Bombora then uses the intent data collected to categorize users into topics, which can range anywhere from finance to healthcare and can dive more granularly into specific areas within these overarching themes, such as taxes and Medicare. These topics can, in turn, be used by brands in predictive targeting to reach those in-market for relevant products. Bombora also shares these data with programmatic partners, many of which offer similar approaches to collecting intent data built into their own predictive models.
Consider co-optimizing paid and organic media for a cohesive approach
When thinking about account-based marketing, many marketers think of paid media alone. But Collective Measures has found that regardless of tactics or strategy, paid and organic media can drive incremental success when they work together. This is also true of ABM.
Although ABM has historically been focused on lead generation, B2B audiences need the same full-funnel treatment as B2C audiences. Purchasing cycles can vary across industry and account, so it’s important to stay top of mind with evergreen awareness media, have robust informational content to support audiences at each stage in the journey, and a strong lead nurture program to keep potential customers engaged. In today’s fragmented media landscape, a co-optimized paid & organic approach is vital to stand out and maximize impact.
As marketers explore the world of account-based marketing, it’s important to note that success relies on more than just accurate and precise targeting. B
elow, we’ve outlined key considerations for clients to keep in mind to ensure future ABM aligns to best practices:
- Balance granularity with scalability. With ABM, tailored and precise audiences are key to connecting with high-value priority customers. However, it’s essential to ensure that audiences are large enough for platforms and providers to match back to a usable volume of priority users. This also allows for scalability, expansion into high-potential customers outside of the account list, and key optimizations for future campaigns and iterations of media.
- Approach ABM through the entirety of the sales funnel. While it’s easy to solely focus on lead capture, it’s important to remember that B2B targets experience a full consumer journey for business purchases just as they do as a consumer. There is immense value in building awareness and aiding demand generation with upper and mid-funnel media to support the brand or a new product offering in tandem with low-funnel, lead capturing efforts.
- Break down silos between marketing and sales teams. Aligning ABM tactics with sales team initiatives can help accelerate the sales cycle and ensure consistent messaging and experiences across brand efforts. Streamlining efforts will drive a lift in media performance to ultimately generate greater revenue and return on investment for your business. This can be as simple as integrating CRM data into media reporting to understand how marketing efforts impact the sales process.
- Engage leads with customized content. Customers are more likely to engage with content tailored to their specific role or needs because they can better understand the value of what the advertiser has to offer. In fact, MarketingSherpa reported that 82% of prospects value content made for their industry and 67% say the same of content customized to their specific job functions. As such, aligning dynamic creative and landing page messaging with customers’ needs — based on their industry, vertical, or role — will drive higher engagement and give B2B advertisers more bang for their buck.
With these considerations in mind, your brand is ready to go forth and conquer the practice of ABM!