How AI Changes the Game for Account Based Marketing

What is Account Based Marketing?

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a personalized approach to GTM that has gained popularity due to its ability to target high-potential accounts effectively. Unlike traditional marketing, ABM focuses on tailored campaigns for specific segments rather than casting a wide net. A 2021 survey by Demandbase revealed ABM outperforms other marketing initiatives for 87% of B2B marketers, with an average 171% increase in deal size. 

ABM can be right for companies of all sizes - large enterprises with complex sales cycles can cater to their highest-value accounts, mid-sized companies can easily test new markets, and small businesses can more efficiently allocate limited resources. Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, Adobe, and Hubspot are a number of companies that have successfully implemented ABM to win key accounts and drive higher conversion rates, revenue growth, and customer retention.

How to set up ABM 

Implementing ABM for the first time requires a company-wide commitment to a customer-centric approach and a willingness to iterate based on feedback and results. The success of ABM hinges on the collaboration between Marketing and Sales teams through three crucial phases.

  • Identify Target Accounts: The Marketing team takes charge of identifying high-value target accounts that align with the company's Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Through comprehensive research, Marketing gains insights into the pain points of each target account, creating clear buyer personas. Simultaneously, Sales actively nurtures relationships with key decision-makers, providing feedback to enhance engagement strategies.
  • Develop Personalized Content: Leveraging various channels such as landing pages, email sequences, social media, and case studies, Marketing crafts personalized content tailored to decision-makers at each target account. Sales contributes its deep understanding of the target accounts to ensure that the messaging remains relevant and compelling. For larger accounts and upsells, Customer Success may be involved as they focus on offering personalized support and providing feedback on key customer painpoints to both Sales and Marketing.
  • Iterate and Optimize: Key performance metrics to monitor include engagement, conversion rate, and overall ROI. Continuously reviewing campaign performance allows for iterative optimization. The collaboration between Sales and Marketing remains pivotal during this process, refining their understanding of what resonates with buyer personas and enabling better engagement with the target account.

To effectively execute a new ABM strategy, revenue teams need to shift their organizational mindset, commit to data-driven decision-making, and be willing to invest in building longer-term relationships with key customers.

Types of ABM Strategies

ABM can be categorized into three main types based on focus and personalization levels. We'll use Salesforce, the global leader in cloud-based CRM solutions as an example for each type.

  • One to Many (1:Many): This is closest to traditional marketing and requires the least amount of investment as only minimal personalization is required. Efforts are directed at a large group of accounts with similar characteristics. ie: Salesforce creates a webinar series for Fortune 500 companies.
  • One to Few (1:Few): This approach targets a smaller group of accounts that share more specific similarities or interests - ie: Salesforce runs a campaign targeting Food and Beverage enterprises.
  • One to One (1:1): This offers the highest level of personalization, creating customized campaigns for individual high-value accounts. ie: Salesforce creates a full marketing campaign for just Coca Cola - a customized landing page, email sequence, eBook, and whitepaper.

The choice of which ABM strategy to use depends on a company's resources, target audience and objectives. Naturally, the highest level of personalization requires the most intensive resource commitments, but also generally leads to the highest ROI for key accounts.

Challenges of Implementing ABM

While ABM can be a transformative strategy for companies, it also comes with significant challenges. Here are some of the most common pitfalls:

  • Sales and Marketing Alignment: As discussed previously, effective ABM requires close collaboration between Sales and Marketing. Breaking down silos to align strategies requires a cultural shift within an organization and buy-in from stakeholders to champion a new approach.
  • Data Accuracy:  ABM heavily relies on accurate data about prospects to prioritize targets and to tailor messaging appropriately. Gathering and integrating reliable data across multiple sources to maintain a unified view of target accounts can be complex and time consuming.
  • Content Personalization: Companies constantly need to balance personalization and efficiency as mass producing personalized content at scale is resource intensive.
  • ROI: ABM typically targets larger accounts with longer sales cycles. Companies need to be patient and prepared for the extended timeline required to see ROI relative to traditional marketing.

How to use AI in Account Based Marketing

Thankfully, new AI-powered tools created over the last few years have brought transformative changes to ABM at every stage of campaign creation and execution.

  • Data Accuracy: AI-powered tools can automate data processing and ongoing maintenance, swiftly identifying promising accounts and uncovering patterns in buying behavior.
  • Content Personalization: AI-driven generative marketing tools can dynamically create tailored content across various channels, enabling effective 1:1 personalization at scale.
  • ROI and Optimization: AI provides more accurate tracking of account-specific campaigns and leverages predictive analytics to continuously recommend ways to optimize marketing efforts.

Account-Based Marketing is a powerful strategy for engaging high-value prospects. The integration of AI-powered tools makes creating personalized content at scale more feasible, allowing businesses to implement ABM more effectively and drive exceptional results for their revenue teams.

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