Lead generation is a commonly-used buzzword in the marketing industry, but without context, it really doesn't mean anything. We all want more leads, but even more we all want more quality leads.
There are many ways to implement a lead generation campaign, but if you have an idea of exactly whose attention you’re trying to capture, one of the most effective methodologies is account-based marketing. Account-based marketing (ABM) is a tactical method of finding leads at highly specific organizations and targeting key decision makers. This strategy will require extensive client research, but if done right, ABM can yield extraordinary results.
Understanding Account-Based Marketing
To understand what account-based marketing is, it helps to think of your business as a farm and sales as the harvest. Every good farmer knows it takes time to yield a good harvest. They spend days, months, and years cultivating the environment for their seeds to develop into crops. Successful plants require a combination of sufficient moisture, sunlight, and rich soil to grow.
When a farmer plants their seeds, they understand which crops are easy to grow and which will need more support. Knowing this helps them respond to each plant with the right approach. Much like a farmer’s crop, every growth campaign should begin with the same foundational elements of inbound marketing that support lead generation: understanding your audience, creating valuable content, and SEO best-practices.
That same farmer also understands that other seeds on the farm require a more high-touch approach to thrive. Think of a peach tree, for example. This is a much larger plant that produces a highly valuable crop. It takes longer for the tree itself to mature than a seasonal crop planted each year. Each seed needs to be nurtured in its own way, so you can only grow a few at a time. This is similar to account-based marketing.
ABM is the marketing equivalent of planting specific, high-value seeds instead of spreading a wide array of non-specific seeds into the dirt.
When to Consider ABM for Lead Generation
An ABM campaign can have an impact for any number of companies in diverse industries, but there are certain scenarios where an ABM campaign can be more effective than a lead generation campaign with wider reach. Here’s where the results of ABM stand out:
- Your product costs a lot
- If purchasing your product typically requires approval of a finance department, ABM can help you streamline the process, talk to the right people, and get that approval.
- You have a finite number of prospects
- If you can only sell your product to the biggest companies in the world or to companies in a specific niche, ABM can help you target those companies.
- You sell to a buying committee
- If you regularly sell to buying committees of at least three people, ABM can help you assemble that committee and win them over.
Build Your ABM Task Force
The first step to any good account-based marketing lead generation campaign is building a task force with a team of at least one marketer and one sales person that markets and sells to an assigned list of target accounts.
For account-based marketing to be done well, you will need to rethink the way your marketing and sales team is organized, if both teams aren’t already regularly collaborating. ABM requires a high level of sales and marketing team communication to effectively attract attention from your specific list of leads.
When building out your task force, start small: one marketer, one salesperson. As you scale, add sales people first. One marketer can support up to ten salespeople. You might also limit the number of accounts based on the number of salespeople. One salesperson can typically support up to ten accounts.
The most important component of your ABM campaign is ensuring that your marketing and sales team agree on which accounts they are targeting. The task force should build an account plan and work together to map out the sorts of people they need to attract and engage. They will creatively collaborate to determine what content they will need in order to do that (we’ll cover ABM content down below).
Account plans can be similar from account to account, but they will never be identical. Keep them simple by answering these two questions:
- Who will be on the buying committee?
- What content will you need for each member of the buying committee?
Your ABM task force should consider how to win over the committee members. To do so, you should determine each individual committee members’ needs, how to influence them, and how to get them to influence other members of the committee.
Three Major Benefits of Implementing ABM for Lead Generation
The first is an increased deal size. ABM is about focusing your efforts on the biggest opportunities. Particularly if you are a business who sells to very specific markets, you know who your buyer personas are, and you can identify key players in the industry you want to target. You want to get the most out of your lead generation campaign, so by using a focused ABM approach you will naturally close bigger deals.
The second benefit of an ABM strategy is better collaboration between marketing and sales teams. ABM transforms marketing and sales from separate departments to a focused, collaborative task force that builds better buying experiences and drives better results. For this style of lead generation to work properly, the task teams will need to collaborate about who, where, and when they want to target with lead generation campaigns. Then decide how they want to communicate to the target accounts and what they want to say. Sales and marketing teams need to be intertwined throughout the nurturing funnel.
The third benefit is an improved sales velocity. Not only will your deals increase in size, but they will also close faster because of your improved focus, better alignment, and increased competency for handling large deals. Your teams will work together to know exactly who they are targeting, and work to understand the type of campaigns that will resonate with these individuals. The goal is to connect directly to the decision makers at your targeted accounts.
How to Identify Target Accounts
We always recommend utilizing the inbound marketing methodology regardless of whether you’re using ABM or other lead generation tactics. When you focus on providing valuable content on your website, search engines such as Google recognize your business as a trusted thought leader and resource for information. Make sure you are following SEO best practices to make sure your website is ranking for results and maintain best practices in the inbound marketing methodology.
When determining target accounts for your ABM strategy, pay attention to your website traffic — specifically who your visitors are and how they are finding you. Many ABM target accounts can be found in current and historical deals. Consider what open deals you have in the pipeline and which ones you would like to move faster. Your task force should work together to provide opportunities for upsell on current deals. Look into your biggest closed deals. Determine if there is more value that could be provided to those accounts or if there are similar companies in the industry who could be a good fit for your products or services.
Your best resource for identifying target accounts is research. Research companies that you would like to be doing business with, that are similar to other accounts you’ve already closed, or who would be ideal promoters of your services. Determine the brands that align with your business goals and objectives and who have the potential to benefit from your valuable product, service, or information. These will be your best fit for ABM targeting.
Ultimately, creating an ideal customer profile (ICP) will be the most beneficial in-house asset to your task force as you develop your ABM lead generation campaign. Identify what traits your most successful clients have in common, then determine where you can find more companies with those traits. Spend time thoroughly researching with multiple tactics and resources to determine which audience is best for your business.
Content Ideas For ABM Lead Generation Campaigns
Your task force should be creative with a customized approach to lead generation. However, there are some common content ideas you can include in your ABM campaign. Look at repurposing content from your general marketing efforts, personalized website pages, special events, evaluation reports about target accounts, and customized gifts to be sent to committee members.
Your ultimate goal is to attract new contacts and get conversations started with these decision makers. Continue to utilize inbound marketing best practices throughout your ABM lead generation campaign to attract visitors to your website. The more organic traffic you bring to a website, the more connections you can make, and the greater your understanding will increase of who your target audience is.
If you are implementing proper inbound marketing and SEO practices, chances are you will already have contacts from your target accounts. If not, find out where your target contacts go to learn about solutions like yours and make sure your company is well represented there. Some good places to find contacts include conferences, industry newsletters, review sites, industry influencers, LinkedIn, advertisements, and sponsored social media posts. There are many outlets to reach people, but pay attention to which ones make the most sense for your business. Limit yourself to places your target contacts will already be, content they’ll find engaging, and tactics that are within your budget.
Executing On Your Campaign
To summarize, the steps needed to execute a successful account-based marketing lead generation campaign require many moving parts. You first need to organize a task force split between your marketing and sales team. You will need to work together to identify which accounts to target. You will build account plans on a case-by-case basis.
For more information about account-based marketing best practices, check out this HubSpot lesson on getting started with account-based marketing. Be sure to look at the resources section of the lesson to read more information about HubSpot’s account-based marketing approach.