You may have heard a lot of mentions of account-based marketing (ABM), but not be entirely sure what it is, how to use it and what your campaign should consist of.

If that’s you, you’ve come to the right place – as well as explaining what ABM is, this blog explores five campaigns you can use that will directly increase your sales using ABM techniques.

So what is ABM? According to Marketo, account-based marketing is a focused approach to B2B marketing, in which marketing and sales teams work together to target best fit accounts and turn them into customers.

This means that we are really focusing on those companies that are most likely to become the best customers. This is really what drives ABM’s effectiveness and success.

But there are different types of ABM. For example, strategic ABM, which is basically a highly customised programme for individual accounts.

There is also ABM lite. In this, you cluster accounts together that might have similar issues or needs and build campaigns to suit those clusters.

Finally, there is programmatic ABM, which uses technology to allow you to tailor marketing campaigns for specific accounts at scale. Programmatic ABM lets you move from having a relatively small number of accounts to having a very large number of accounts, without needing huge marketing teams.

When it comes to practical ABM campaigns at Napier, we have a certain amount of overlap between the types, a kind of blend of two or more different approaches, to create an ABM programme that works for a particular client.

But why is ABM so effective? It’s because focusing allows your marketing to break through the noise – you can actually have a much higher frequency of interaction with individuals within the target accounts.

As such, it really lets you target ROI opportunities. Also, if your marketing is generating a certain conversion rate, the value of those conversions goes up the more you focus on key accounts. You can design campaigns to reach the right people, particularly with the customised ABM campaigns. And finally, one of the things that ABM is very important for is making use of synergies by sales.

So, ABM allows for very effective, personalised campaigns, particularly those using a mix between the ABM lite and strategic ABM. You can either do target accounts, which grounds you in the needs and requirements of a particular industry, or you can fully personalise and get down to individuals – typically, most ABM campaigns have personalization on the industry level and maybe personalization on the persona level too. But if you have a really major target, you can take that full strategic and personalised ABM approach.

What ABM is ultimately about is building trust with your customer by showing that you know what challenges they are facing.

Don’t sweat it

Although definitions of different types of campaigns are helpful, there is no hard and fast rule of which type of campaign to run. In fact, you need to be a bit relaxed with ABM. The goal is not to ‘do ABM’ – it is to get benefits from better targeting and integration, and better integration with sales is always a good thing.

The first question we need to ask is, should that client account be in our ABM programme? The answer is it really depends on the type and size of ABM programme you are running. If you’re launching your ABM campaign using 1000 companies, you can make it work before you scale up – it depends on your resources, technology, people and money. The great thing about ABM is it allows you to serve a very large number of accounts – if you don’t have the programmatic technology, you’re not going to be able to scale.

As well as adopting it at scale, you also have the choice of focusing on fewer accounts, the best two or three prospects.

It really is a balancing act. And how much you personalise the campaign can also affect the amount of work you do. Sales support can also have an impact, both within the campaign content and in which account to follow up.

How many accounts should be in your ABM programme?

Again, there is no right or wrong answer. Different campaigns will have very different list sizes leading to different tactics. Also, it should be noted that ABM campaigns are not just for new prospects – you should also run them for existing customers.

Ultimately, it’s all about a campaign that’s going to meet your needs, and help your business achieve its goals.

So, what are the actual elements of ABM campaigns, how can they work and how can they be more efficient – how do we actually run ABM rather than running more of a broadcast type approach?

Target your advertising

The first technique is targeted advertising. This is a really simple approach, but it means that you can provide advertising that your contacts care about. It also means you can do some customizations, so you could address for example, specific pain points. There are many different ways to run adverts, with LinkedIn being a typical way to generate leads.

On LinkedIn you would most probably promote content, offering other activities for the customer, for example, a webinar.

How you approach personalization really depends on how you want your brand to appear. You can put the target account’s name in the headline, or in a sentence, or target by industry or by company name plus the sector.

Personalization does involve a bit of manual work. There are tool sets available, but typically, there’s no end-to-end solution for creating and delivering ads. This is why we’ll continue to see ads personalised on the fly as they are delivered to potential customers. Ultimately, what it means for us is we’ll probably see our companies’ names in more and more ads as people target us.

Targeted advertising is a very simple approach, particularly if you’re looking at industry sector targeting, as you can reach them all with a single advert.

Content offers

Essentially, this is about creating particularly relevant downloadable content, either market specific content, or fully personalised. There are lots of tools that can create dynamic PDFs, ranging from simply putting your target customer’s logo on it to actually completely changing the content within a PDF.

An example campaign that we ran at Napier, was focussed on Nokia, showcasing the work we’ve done with some of the Nokia divisions to encourage others to work with us.

With your campaigns, you really need to understand how much personalization you can do without becoming a little bit creepy, as some people may be a bit uncomfortable dealing with such content.

Show them you know them

Very much related to a content offer is personalization in general. And the big issue here is looking at how you personalise elements for the customer.

Try to go beyond the basics of ‘Hello first name’ and look at the job role the person might play in the decision-making unit, perhaps look to understand the buyer’s journey stage and their past engagement with you. If you know the pages that someone has visited, you can get a good idea of where they might be on their buyer’s journey. You can then deliver personalization to suit their stage.

There are lots of different personalisation tools. Marketing automation platforms can provide website dynamic content, email personalisation and segmentation. But there’s also IP based and cookie-based website personalization.

Another option is dynamic email. The great thing about this is it’s always done automatically, so we can deliver content to each client in the full email without having to edit once we’ve set up the email.

A great mailer

Another approach would be a great mailer. This is maybe a little odd, but as people return to the office it can work really well. ABM allows them to be high value and high impact – it’s really about creativity, so go beyond the printed card, and do something very clever.

Often these are called door openers – on one campaign we ran for prospective clients, we sent a stone from the beach, with a message of ‘we’d love to work with you, you’re only a stone’s throw away.’

This resulted in us convincing the company to work with us, and the marketing manager posted a blog saying the reason he gave us the business was the creativity of the mailer, and not our pitch.

Mailers can be really useful and there are different services that will actually automate your mailers for you. These include Alice, which is very well known in the States, but which currently also operates in the UK and across Europe.

Personalised video

Consider using video personalization. It’s easy to create a video and they can be personalised manually.

You can automatically convert it with something as simple as adding in somebody to the video and a button saying ‘click here’ that lead to a personalised document. There are also services to help you personalize video at scale, such as Vidyard and Motionlab.

Give free stuff

A bonus idea is to give a freebie – a ‘give to get’ approach, where you give them something and they feel morally indebted to you and much more likely to take the sale. It’s very simple to do because you can do it with vouchers electronically (for example a Starbucks voucher to get a coffee together) and it also scales very easily. Definitely put the effort into personalization if you are spending money on vouchers.

Avoid the pitfalls

There are certainly pitfalls to avoid. These include having too many accounts on the programme or having too few; and remember there is a difference between personalisation and being creepy – don’t ever cross the creepy line.

Another pitfall is not having enough investment to break through the noise that bombards people with messages every day. Also, don’t focus on the tools – ABM is about achieving marketing breakthrough and the tools are just there help you achieve that.

Failing to personalise, failing to integrate sales and marketing and not putting in place measurement processes are also major mistakes.

Key Pro Tips

To end, I wanted to share these key pro tips: Remember, all B2B marketing will become ABM in the future, so get on board. Start small, be creative and see if your ideas work. And if they do work, scale them up. Definitely use the technology but don’t be driven by any technology or tool.

And don’t forget to get the sales team excited – the great thing about ABM is it can generate sales results, which is what we all want to see.


For further information on ABM campaigns and techniques you can implement to be successful, why not check out our ‘Five ABM Campaigns to Increase Sales’ webinar.