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Blog post By Paula Chiocchi on 2017-01-25

As obsolete, one-to-many marketing tactics (think print or yellow page advertising) continue to wither and die, other marketing trends have emerged to take their place (such as email retargeting, social media, mobile marketing, etc.) One trend that is gathering steam is account-based marketing (ABM).


ABM is a strategic approach in which marketers communicate with prospect or customer accounts as targeted “markets of one.” The goal is to treat individual accounts as markets in their own right. This approach can lead to more relevant messaging, allow sales teams to engage earlier in the sales process and, ultimately, enable businesses to get more value from precious marketing dollars. Altera Group reports that 97% of marketers who employ ABM strategies had a somewhat higher or much higher ROI than standard marketing initiatives.


To this point, ABM has typically been employed by larger B2B companies targeting larger accounts, but experts are saying the approach is steadily moving into the small- and medium-sized business (SMB) realm. How can B2B email marketers employ ABM to increase sales, especially in targeting SMB clients? Here are six tips:


  1. Define your ideal accounts and target segment(s): Using data on your existing accounts, think about other similar companies that would make ideal customers. When doing this, identify the types of companies these represent (such as banks, hospitals, accountants or attorneys) as you work to prioritize high-value accounts. Be sure to consider not only sales revenue, but also those businesses that are most likely to renew and who are the most profitable to you overall. With this data in hand, the insights you gain may lead you to target a specific type of company or vertical market. (Many small companies have grown into larger ones by concentrating in this way.)


  1. Identify the key players and purchasing process: With your ideal accounts identified, you’ll want to determine how they are structured – who are the key decision makers and influencers, and how are purchasing decisions made? Perhaps there are multiple people or titles that make the purchasing decisions – or maybe an intricate request for proposal (RFP) process is involved. Note that when targeting SMBs, corporate structures may vary and purchasing processes may be more “loose.”


  1. Prime your email data: The next step is to sort through your existing prospect lists and segment those targets that match up the best with your ideal accounts. But, to cast a wider net, more than likely you’ll need to acquire email data. Be sure to work with an experienced email data provider who focuses on highly targeted B2B acquisition data that spans your ideal customer accounts. If you can license their data for unlimited use for a full year, as opposed to buying a one-time use list, you’ll be able to maximize your marketing dollars. Licensing the data will also ensure it is regularly cleansed and maintained, since you’ll be able to purge hard-bounced, invalid email addresses throughout the year. Also, look for an email data provider that offers a written data quality guarantee of at least 90%.


  1. Develop focused, prospect-specific messaging: All the targeting efforts in the world won’t matter if your message falls flat. For the best results, be sure to carefully develop content that addresses the specific business challenges faced by the target account (including both the company and the targeted decision makers). The content approach you take may vary depending on where the prospect is in the sales process, but a good place to start is to offer proven, real-world guidance for overcoming pressing business challenges. Many marketers will feature potential solutions employed by other, similar accounts – perhaps even companies the prospect might recognize within their business space. You can also take the effort a step further with a link to an account-specific landing page or dashboard that you have customized for your prospect, proving that you have studied their needs and can accelerate the steps to solving their challenges.


  1. Integrate and amplify: Be sure to integrate your email campaigns with your other marketing initiatives, such as your website, social media, events (trade shows, webinars or hosted conferences), digital advertising, or other promotions or communications (including e-books and e-newsletters). When your marketing channels are in synch, you can amplify the message and increase the chances for it to be seen and heard.


  1. Measure and optimize: Gather input from your sales teams and existing accounts to assess your messaging. Is it helpful and on point? How has your message been received and acted upon? Has it earned lots of reads and has your call-to-action earned plenty of clicks? Or was your message forwarded to another person within the account organization or (worse) ignored? What course corrections need to be made to improve results?


While account-based marketing is growing in popularity, there will be some necessary tweaks to make when using ABM to reach SMBs. After all, their organizational structures will vary more, they respond better to relationship building, and they need their vendors to show an ability to add value more quickly than larger companies. But taking a targeted, account-based marketing approach may yield faster, better results—and that’s one big reason to consider putting it to work for your business in 2017.




Outward Media’s accurate, targeted email data can help you achieve better email marketing ROI, and convert more prospects into customers. Ask us how. Also, take a look at our complimentary new e-book on building a successful B2B email marketing database.


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At OMI, we believe good things happen when you share your knowledge. That's why we're proud to educate marketers at every level - in every size and type of organization - about the basics of email marketing and the contact data that powers it.

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