Your Complete Guide to Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) - 1
February 06, 2024
Written by
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

Your Complete Guide to Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Account-based marketing (ABM) might just be the smartest, most efficient use of your marketing spend, but we'd be lying if we said it was easy. However, easy rarely drives results.

Have you ever felt like traditional marketing is a bit like throwing darts in the dark and hoping one will hit the bullseye? That's because it often is. Businesses don't understand their audience or how to reach them, so they burn money trying different ideas and hoping something sticks.

ABM takes a different approach.

It isn't about casting a wide net—it's about zooming in on your most valuable accounts and tailoring your marketing efforts just for them. It's creating a personalized marketing plan special-made for the individual recipient.

In today's fast-paced, digital-first world, ABM has moved from a nice-to-have to a must-have for B2B marketers. Why? Because it's all about precision and relevance instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.

ABM lets you focus on the accounts most likely to drive your business forward by aligning all your marketing and sales effectors to target these high-value accounts. It's a risk because you're putting all your eggs into fewer baskets, but the payoff can be well worth the investment.

Interested? Stick with us as we uncover everything you need to know about account-based marketing to drive better results for your business and transform your marketing game.

What is account-based marketing?

ABM is a strategic approach where marketing and sales teams work together to target and engage specific, high-value accounts with personalized campaigns.

You're not blasting all your potential customers with newsletters, social media ads, and LinkedIn messages trying to get anyone's attention—you're using a direct line to communicate with accounts that you already know are interested and have the potential to make a big impact on your business.

Imagine you're a chef in a high-end restaurant. Instead of making a bunch of random dishes and hoping someone likes them, you find out who your guests will be and what they love—then cook a meal tailored just for them.

That's ABM in a nutshell: knowing your key accounts and creating marketing strategies they can't resist. 

This approach flips the traditional funnel on its head. Instead of casting a wide net and narrowing it down, you start with a laser focus on who matters most and then personalize your marketing to resonate with them.

The beauty of ABM is its precision. It's all about sending the right message to the right person on the right channel at the right time.

Benefits of account-based marketing

Focusing on high-value accounts with a personalized approach revolutionizes how you connect with your customers. We know it might be different from your traditional method, but take a look at the benefits below and see if you think it's worth it:

  1. Enhanced customer experience: ABM is all about personalization. By understanding and addressing the specific needs of each account, you create a more engaging and satisfying customer experience. Instead of meh for everyone, it's perfect for someone.

  2. Higher return on investment: ABM ensures your marketing efforts are more efficient by only targeting the accounts most likely to convert. This leads to a better return on your marketing spend.

  3. Improved alignment: ABM requires sales and marketing teams to work together, ensuring that both are focused on the same goals and accounts (for once).

  4. Better resource allocation: With ABM, you're not wasting resources on broad-brush strategies. Every dollar spent is targeted and intentional, leading to more effective use of your marketing budget.

  5. Increased engagement: ABM strategies are designed to resonate with specific accounts, leading to higher engagement rates than generic marketing tactics.

  6. Streamlined sales cycle: ABM shortens the sales cycle by ensuring that marketing messages are highly relevant, accelerating the decision-making process for customers.

  7. Better tracking: Focusing on a smaller number of accounts makes it easier to track and measure the impact of your marketing efforts, allowing for more accurate analysis and strategy refinement.

  8. Stronger relationships: ABM fosters long-term relationships with key accounts by demonstrating your commitment to understanding and meeting their unique needs.

How to identify and target the right accounts

Identifying and targeting the right accounts is the most important step in account-based marketing. Get this part wrong, and nothing else matters. You can create the most personalized messages with strong assets and massive marketing spend, and you won't see the results you want.

What I'm trying to say here is: don't skip or gloss over this step.

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you pinpoint and engage with the accounts that matter most:

1. Define your ideal customer profile (ICP)

This step outlines the characteristics of companies that best fit your product or service. Without a clear ICP, you risk wandering in the vast landscape of potential customers without a clear destination.

Start by analyzing your best current customers. What do they have in common? Look at their industry, company size, revenue, geographic location, and the challenges they face. Collaborate with your sales and customer service teams to understand why these customers chose your solution and how they benefit from it.

Use this information to build a profile that represents your ideal customer. This profile will guide you in identifying similar companies to target with your ABM campaigns.

2. Gather data and insights

The more you know about a potential account, the better you can tailor your approach. You need to understand the company's needs, challenges, and decision-making processes. This information helps you create a marketing strategy that resonates with each target account on a deeper level.

Use various data sources like LinkedIn, industry reports, company websites, and news articles to gather information. Pay attention to any mergers, leadership changes, expansions, or other events that might influence their needs. Also, leverage tools like CRM software and marketing automation platforms to collect and analyze data about potential accounts' online behavior, such as website visits, content downloads, and engagement with your marketing materials.

3. Leverage technology and tools

Tech tools can help segment accounts, track engagement, personalize content, and measure your campaigns' success. They provide the infrastructure needed to execute ABM at scale.

Start by choosing an ABM platform that integrates well with your existing CRM and marketing tools. Look for features like account identification, target account list management, account-based content personalization, and analytics. Tools like Marketo, HubSpot, and Salesforce offer ABM features that can be essential in implementing your ABM strategy.

4. Start social listening

Social listening in ABM is about tuning into online conversations to understand your target accounts' interests, concerns, and opinions. It offers real-time insights into what's top of mind for these companies and their key stakeholders, allowing you to personalize your messaging and engagement strategies.

Use social listening tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, or Mention to monitor mentions of your target accounts, their competitors, and industry keywords. Pay attention to the tone and context of these conversations. This insight can help you identify pain points, industry trends, and opportunities to engage with content that addresses their current interests or challenges.

5. Collaborate with sales teams

Sales teams have direct interactions with customers and prospects, providing valuable insights that can refine your ABM approach. Fail to use them, and you risk missing out on in-depth insights only they can provide.

Set up regular meetings with your sales team to discuss target accounts. Use these sessions to exchange account activity, feedback, and engagement information. Encourage sales reps to share their experiences and insights from the field.

6. Score and prioritize accounts

Account scoring in ABM evaluates and ranks potential accounts based on their likelihood to convert and their value to your business. This prioritization focuses your marketing efforts on accounts that offer the highest potential return.

Develop a scoring model that considers factors like fit with your ICP, engagement level, market influence, and potential revenue. Use data from your CRM and marketing tools to score accounts based on these criteria. Regularly review and update your scoring criteria to reflect changes in the market or your business strategy.

7. Develop customized outreach strategies

A one-size-fits-all approach won't work with ABM strategies. You'll need segmented, personalized, and tailor-made outreach to win these accounts. Yes, it takes time, but the return is worth the investment.

Use the insights gathered from your research to develop customized messaging for each account. This could involve personalized emails, tailored content offerings, or direct outreach from sales.

Creating personalized marketing campaigns

We glazed over that last step about developing customized outreach strategies, but that's the most important part of the entire ABM process. So, we decided to dedicate an entire section (and some additional help in the next one) to nailing this part of your campaigns.

When we say personalized, we're not just saying to use your account's first name in the subject line. Sure, that's an element of personalization, but it doesn't distinguish your company at all as a partner who truly recognizes, knows, and understands the business.

Personalization isn't just about addressing a recipient by name—it's about relevance at every touchpoint, showing a deep understanding of the account's business landscape, needs, and objectives.

  1. Analyze accounts: Begin with a thorough analysis of each target account. Delve beyond surface-level details to understand their industry position, market challenges, competitor landscape, and internal dynamics. If you followed the steps above for identifying the right accounts, you're golden.

  2. Segment: Group accounts with similar characteristics or challenges. This allows for scaled personalization, where you can craft campaign messages that feel individualized, even when they're targeting a segment of accounts with shared attributes.

  3. Customize content: Tailor your content strategy to address each account or segment's specific interests and pain points. Develop blog posts, white papers, case studies, and videos that speak directly to these areas. The goal is to position your offering as the solution to their most pressing challenges.

  4. Engage across channels: Personalize interactions across all channels, from email to social media, webinars to direct mail. Each touchpoint should reinforce the account's unique narrative with consistent, customized messaging that builds a cohesive, engaging customer journey.

  5. Leverage technology: Use marketing automation and CRM tools to deliver personalized content at scale. Advanced platforms can trigger specific actions based on account behavior to keep your messages timely and relevant.

  6. Gather feedback: Establish mechanisms to gather feedback from your targeted accounts. Use surveys, social listening, and direct conversations to refine your understanding of their needs and adjust your campaigns accordingly.

  7. Measure, adapt, and optimize: Track the effectiveness of your personalized campaigns with metrics that matter to ABM, such as engagement rates, account penetration, and pipeline impact. Use these insights to continuously refine and enhance your personalization efforts.

Account-based marketing strategies and tactics

Diving into account-based marketing requires more than just a shift in tools or technology—it demands a strategic overhaul in how you view and engage with your target accounts. While every industry will vary in what works, here are a handful of ABM strategies and tactics to consider:

1. Email outreach

Email remains a powerful tool for direct communication. Personalized emails can significantly increase open and engagement rates by delivering content that resonates with the recipient's specific challenges and goals.

Use insights from your account research to segment your email lists. Tailor your messages based on the account's industry, role in the buying process, and specific pain points. Automation tools can help you scale this personalization, triggering emails based on specific actions or milestones.

2. Social media engagement

Social media provides a less formal, more interactive way to engage with your audience. It's perfect for building relationships and increasing brand awareness among your key accounts.

Use social listening tools to monitor mentions of your target accounts and identify opportunities for engagement. Share content that addresses their interests and challenges, and don't shy away from joining conversations or commenting on their posts to increase visibility.

3. Direct mail campaigns

Direct mail still has a place in modern-day marketing campaigns. With so much emphasis switching to digital marketing, a physical piece of material can stand out from the crowd. It can make a memorable impact and show a high level of investment in the relationship.

Send personalized notes, gifts, branded swag, or informative materials relevant to the recipient's business needs. Make sure it's something valuable or useful to ensure a positive association with your brand and kickstart the conversation.

4. Targeted advertising

Use digital advertising platforms to serve ads specifically to individuals within your target accounts. Targeted ads can increase your visibility with key decision-makers, keeping your brand top of mind and potentially driving action.

Platforms like LinkedIn allow you to target ads based on company, job role, and industry. Use compelling, personalized ad content that speaks directly to the viewer's needs.

5. Event marketing

Exclusive events provide a unique opportunity for deep engagement and personal interaction with your target accounts. It's a chance to engage beyond text and develop meaningful relationships.

Create event experiences, either virtual or in-person, exclusively for your target accounts. Host webinars, roundtables, or workshops that address specific industry issues or trends relevant to your target accounts. Invite guest speakers from within the industry to add additional value and draw attendance.

6. Content marketing

Content marketing helps establish your brand as a thought leader and trusted advisor in your target accounts' industries. Create and share blog posts, case studies, white papers, and videos about your target accounts' problems or opportunities. Use account insights to guide your content strategy and ensure relevance.

7. Executive engagement

Sometimes, the best people to seal the deal are the executives. When that's the case, skip the frontline sales and marketing attempts and seek to connect your executives with your target companies' executives. Executive engagement demonstrates a high level of commitment to the account and can help build strong relationships at the highest level.

Arrange for your executives to meet with their counterparts in your target accounts through exclusive events, direct outreach, or mutual industry forums. Or, through the stereotypical means of golf...or ping pong, or really anything.

Choose Twilio to power your account-based marketing

Launching your account-based marketing campaigns can seem a bit daunting at first, but things get a whole lot simpler when you find the right partner. And, fortunately for you, you don't have to look too far—Twilio has everything you need to bring your ABM strategies and outreach to life.

Our comprehensive suit of communication APIs lets you engage with your target accounts exactly how and where they prefer, whether through email, SMS, voice, or even chat apps.

Our platform is designed to integrate effortlessly with your existing CRM and marketing automation tools, giving you a unified view of each account's engagement and precisely orchestrating your campaigns. From segmenting your audience to delivering personalized messages at scale, Twilio provides the reliability and flexibility you need to reach your most valuable accounts.

Ready to elevate your ABM game? Start a free Twilio account and get access to Twilio, SendGrid, and Segment (no credit card required).

Recommended For You

Most Popular

Send With Confidence

Partner with the email service trusted by developers and marketers for time-savings, scalability, and delivery expertise.