Alec Ross, formerly the Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has a story he likes to tell of how he got a non-profit off the ground. Rather than doing an expensive campaign for donations from the general public, Ross set his sights on much bigger fish: Billionaires. Ross spent hours sending emails to addresses of every conceivable variation that a fortune 500 CEO might have, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc. Until, finally, he got a call to meet and pitch his organization.
Ross may not have known it, but he was engaging in Account Based Marketing (ABM). Not all companies need thousands of clients to succeed. Sometimes, all you need is a handful of relevant, important companies at your side to make your business soar. This approach sets aside the anonymous target audience in favor of focusing on just a limited list of potential leads that the marketers know as much as possible about – enough to even address their personal email.
The Missile Launcher vs. the Lone Archer
The “vanilla” template of digital marketing is based on covering as much ground as possible. The more people see your product and engage with it, the better. This is a brute force approach, akin to that of a missile launcher: useful, but not entirely accurate. There are, of course, several tools in the digital marketer’s toolbox that can make the process more efficient and precise, but the overall method is often a numbers’ game. Few of the many, many leads you’ll gather will surely become clients, eventually.
ABM, on the other hand, is akin to a lone archer trying to hit the bullseye on several targets, taking his time to aim each arrow so that it’ll have the best chances of scoring high. Accuracy is the name of the game. Each arrow the archer lets fly, and each message the marketing manager sends should have every effort behind it to make sure it hits its mark. The fact that there are not many targets to aim for does not make the task simpler.
No single approach is better than the other, only an approach that is more suitable for getting a specific job done. Companies that can benefit from ABM are companies who are counting a small but stable client base, that have a unique but relatively niche product, or a combination of both.
The Starting Point: What You Know:
If you decide that account based marketing is right for you, be it as a single campaign or a robust marketing strategy, the first place to start should be writing down everything you know about your potential leads. You should know who they are, what they do, what’s their interests and where on the internet they might be found. Remember, these are not amorphous, nameless leads – these are people, and your efforts to gain their attention begins by finding out any relevant details about them.
General information such as name, position, title, age, and place of residence are a good first step, but to do ABM properly, you’ll have to go deeper. Note the behaviors of your leads, especially when it relates to using social media, known associates, and general openness to learning about new solutions. Think of their circle of influence: who they report to, who reports to them, and with whom do they consult. Try to figure out as much as you can about their decision-making process. And finally, list their gains and pains to understand how to approach them fruitfully.
Once you’ve researched and gathered all the information you have on your leads, you should already know how to reach them. It doesn’t matter much if you’ve reached out through LinkedIn, email or a professional forum, what matters is that your message is precise and personalized to have the most impact on your potential client.
ABM is not technically a product of the digital age. It’s been around, under different names, for quite some time now. It is, however, impacted by the tools that and social media brought with them. The tools at your disposal allow you to reach out to leads regardless of geographic distance and follow them around the digital landscape.
The success of ABM campaigns is that of quality, not quantity. In a sea of potential leads, casting a wide net might indeed yield an impressive haul. But ABM has its sights on loftier goals: it looks to score the leviathan.