Account-based marketing (ABM) can bring you higher returns. But how do you get started? Riaz Kanani, CEO Radiate B2B, takes us through the three ABM strategies you really need to know.
So you’ve heard about account-based marketing (ABM) and how it might help you acquire accounts or companies you really want through targeted marketing plans. But where do you start?
If you’ve been trying to get your head around this conundrum, you’re not alone. Getting an ABM programme off the ground can be daunting at first. You may have come across terms like ‘strategic ABM’ and ‘programmatic ABM’ and ended up more confused. But I don’t like these phrases. Instead, let’s strip things back.
There are three main types of ABM strategies you’re going to want to get acquainted with:‘one-to-one’, ‘one-to-few’, and ‘one-to-many’. Much easier to remember, right?
One-to-one ABM is what some call ‘strategic ABM’. It’s the idea that you create a highly-customised marketing plan for every single potential client.
One-to-one is the purest form of ABM. If you rewind just five years ago, it was really the only type of ABM that existed. The problem was hardly anyone used it.
That’s because most companies do not have million-pound-plus contract deals and huge numbers of staff — both of which were needed back then for a successful one-to-one ABM programme. For the most part, it was only the biggest corporates who could afford to try it. And even organisations like these would only do it for a relatively small number of companies in the first place. So ABM was very niche.
But now, thanks to automation, one-to-one has become more accessible to mid-sized companies. Even so, don’t put all your eggs in the ‘one-to-one basket’, because it can be very expensive.
Luckily one-to-one isn’t your only option. Around 2017, this idea of scaling account based marketing came about. The choice in the middle is ‘one-to-few’. You might have heard it called ‘ABM-lite’.
It’s obviously not as a personal as a one-to-one campaign but it is usually much more cost-effective. And it’s often worth trying initially for your ideal customer profiles.
Here you’ll create customised programmes for clusters of accounts — ones that have similar needs.
One-to-few uses one-to-one principles but applies them to a greater number of accounts. You still identify the similar need across each account, but use your understanding to create one marketing plan for each cluster. This approach increases your chances of attracting a prospect who’s in market. Investment costs per account are clearly lower too.
More scaled up still is ‘one-to-many’ ABM. One-to-many often gets derided as being just B2B marketing on a large scale. I can see the argument. You’re taking 200-500 companies, and showing them messages you’ve spent no time on. Some of it will stick; some of it won’t. In some ways, that’s no different to doing a bulk email send to all your leads. It’s targeting a large number of people and it’s generic.
But where it differs is it allows you to really consider your market. Think of one-to-many as this big bucket of all your ideal customers that you are building awareness within. You’re dangling a hook that allows you to see whether you should accelerate investing more into winning them as a customer. This way, your budget is still only spent on your ideal customers and not the entire market.
How to get the right ABM strategies for your business
So how do you choose between the ABM strategies? The easy answer is: you don’t have to. I wouldn’t pick just one strategy. You’re probably best off with a blended approach.
Only go one-to-one if there is significant strategic value or you know the company is not too far away from the buying phase. Most businesses will typically have a very small number in this type of programme. They might have a few segments in one-to-few, however.
But the majority of organisations initially need a process to identify future prospects to enter these clusters in a cost-effective way. So alongside the other two strategies, you also need a one-to-many campaign that allows you to build awareness inside or find out levels of intent and use that knowledge to promote individual prospects into a one-to-few or a one-to-one programme.
Doing this will result in a feeder approach that allows you to almost guarantee that the companies you focus on are high value enough and at the right point in time for you to invest in.
And while there’s a lot to do in an ABM programme overall, start small and build steadily. You’ll soon start seeing results.