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Account-Based Marketing with HubSpot: How’s it different from inbound?

As a HubSpot gold partner agency, we are always on the lookout for new feature releases. Earlier this year, HubSpot announced the addition of a new tool in the Marketing Enterprise Hub: an Account-Based Marketing dashboard. 

This article is for the uninitiated*, and will provide a little background on ABM, what are the different strategies of ABM, how can you get started with ABM, and should you at all consider ABM for your cause or not? 

*[This is the first in a two-part series of articles on Account-Based Marketing on HubSpot. For drilled down details on implementing ABM with HubSpot, please check this out!]

What is ABM?

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a growth strategy in which sales and marketing collaborate to create personalized buying experiences for a select group of high-value targets or companies. It doesn’t just call for alignment between sales and marketing teams – it forces them to align. 

ABM is all about efficiency. It drastically reduces the time that was earlier wasted in selling to unqualified leads. With ABM, you get to focus on engaging with your high-value target accounts.

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Now that you have a fair bit of idea about the underlying concepts of ABM, you might be wondering if this approach is for everyone, or are there some considerations to that? Keeping everything aside, one clear reason to pursue ABM is an increase in ROI. 

In fact, 97% respondents in one of the researches by Altera group reported that ABM offers a higher (somewhat or much, varying) ROI than other marketing campaigns.

With that said, it should be noted that ABM is typically a B2B marketing approach involving enterprise-level sales organizations with over 1,000 employees. Here is a quick checklist to understand if you’re the right fit for ABM:

  • Do you sell high value B2B products or services?
  • Is your persona limited to a small number of good fit companies?
  • Does the purchase decision include multiple stakeholders?
  • Does the purchase decision get influenced by great, personalized content and engagement?

This is not by any chance a hard and fast checklist – exceptions always exist, but weigh the cost and benefits carefully!

Different ABM strategies

Another question that’ll arise when thinking of implementing an ABM strategy is what approach to take. Let’s look at the four key types of ABM strategies that you can explore and select from: 

1:1 / Strategic ABM

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As the name suggests, 1:1, or strategic ABM, is all about personalization. Depending on your team size, one or a few senior-level marketers can work on one or two key account teams from the sales side and create a truly customized marketing plan. While technology in itself can help with account insights and tracking progress, 1:1 ABM requires an ample amount of time spent in developing content and other initiatives tailored for each account. This approach should be used for the post valuable leads, since it will require some time and effort from your end to successfully implement. 

ABM Lite

The focus of ABM Lite is on small groups of accounts (generally 10-50) that have similar business qualities, opportunities, and challenges. In this case, when marketing and sales collaborate, the main decision points are: 

  • what accounts should be targeted, 
  • what business issues should be addressed, 
  • and how existing content should be tailored for the handful of programs and campaigns your team is trying to attract.

The use of technology is higher in case of ABM lite as compared to 1:1 while executing campaigns. However, since this approach is less resource-intensive, the return on any account may likely be lite as well. Even with that, ABM Lite offers benefits of being a lot more  personalized than non-ABM strategies, and providing a higher ROI. 

Programmatic ABM

Programmatic ABM can be used to reach 100-1,000 potentials. As the name suggests, this relies heavily on technologies for targeting, analyzing, and personalizing. Compared to the other two approaches discussed so far, this is much less resource-intensive. It is similar to traditional marketing efforts, just that you’re strategically targeting large groups of similar companies or verticals.

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Despite its difference from the other two types of ABM, Programmatic ABM should also be implemented after close alignment of sales and marketing departments. Other than large reach, Programmatic ABM also offers the benefit of targeting specific horizontal or vertical markets instead of specific accounts. 

Bolt-on ABM

Bolt-on ABM can practically be used for any number of companies. This approach seamlessly integrates with inbound marketing efforts. Think of it like – a lead comes through your inbound efforts, and is slowly worked within your inbound strategy using technology to trigger actions in order to engage other personas (possibly stakeholders and key decision-makers) from the company. 

This strategy offers you the opportunity to get in front of other people at the company outside of the person who reached out to you. We know that, on average, there are 7 people involved in a purchase decision at B2B companies, and this approach could be critical when it comes to the wire of what company they will choose to engage with. Bolt-on ABM can definitely increase the likelihood of closing inbound opportunities. 

Talking about Inbound, it’s important to know the difference between that and ABM. 

Both the strategies, at their core, focus on leads and using quality content to convert the leads. To better actualize the difference between the two strategies, think of it as the difference between using a fishing net vs using a spear for fishing. 

Inbound Vs Account Based Marketing

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Inbound Marketing

Inbound focuses on attracting potential customers using quality content. It follows HubSpot’s methodology of attract → convert → close → delight

So just like fishing with a net, your catch can vary by industry, role, and business need.

Account Based Marketing

ABM forces sales and marketing to collaborate and close specific deals / opportunities. Unlike traditional, volume-based marketing approaches, ABM is about attracting and engaging the right set of people. It works on select → engage → convert. 

So, like fishing with a spear, you’re moving towards specific targets using highly valuable assets (content) to convert them. 

ABM, like inbound, focuses on quality leads than sheer quantity. Both methods try to create lasting relationships with the client in order to steer them closer to conversion. There’s no point in wasting your time marketing to the wrong prospects anyway!

It’s clear that despite being different in implementation, Inbound and ABM are similar at their core. So, if you combine both, you’ll open up the world of unlimited possibilities for attracting top-quality prospects.

Implementing ABM strategies

Level it up!

By setting up different levels, you’re mapping out the exact prospects you want to land. Goes without saying, the same blueprint won’t work for all the companies, but you can take a level-ed approach and adapt it in different ways to see what works for you!

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Broadly, you can divide your target prospects into these three levels:

  • Level one: These are the most top-notch clients – sweet dreams are made of these. This list shouldn’t be too long, but it depends on how your business is doing and how ambitious you are! 
  • Level two: For this, begin by identifying your ideal demographic fit, and create a list of ideal prospects in that demographic. This should be business-specific and not at all generalized. 
  • Level three: This one’s a monster generic list! Ideally, this should be an audience profile of your ideal customer depending on behaviour, demographic, and other behavior. 

You’re going to need a different approach and strategy for all three layers. What works for the dream clients will not work for your generic audience, and vice versa. Then, depending on the levels, you know if you want to apply Inbound or ABM! 

Align your Sales and Marketing teams, create an SLA 

Sales and Marketing aren’t really the best of friends, but to make this approach work, you’re gonna have to make them gel together! You can have the teams sign a formal SLA in agreement that they’ll both be working together and can’t go back on their words.

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To get the most out of your ABM strategy, you’ll need to find out the key accounts. Your sales team spends most of the time learning about potential clients, so they’ll certainly have actionable information that your marketers can benefit from. If both departments could form a strong relationship, then this information could be really valuable in generating content that results in stronger converted leads.

Once you’ve got the two teams working together, you can break down the components of your strategy and clarify everyone’s roles and accountability. That way, you’ll know how the performance is, and what needs to be addressed and taken care of.

Personalization all the way!

ABM is all about targeting and nurturing your leads. What better way to do this than personalizing the content and marketing

Your lead is more likely to approach something that calls out to them. It empowers the reader and makes them feel valued and included, as opposed to receiving a barrage of emails sent out without much thought. 

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Being a premier HubSpot partner agency, we create smart web pages, landing pages, and different CTAs that adapt based on the visitor’s previous behavior. It is a great way to deliver the perfect content at the right time and lead them further down their buyer’s journey! 

Decide on the channels you need 

Once you’ve personalized the content, you need to know the right places to promote your stuff and run campaigns. You’ll need to carefully analyze and study where your target stakeholders lie. You’ll need to understand which platforms are they more likely to use (or take seriously). 

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For instance, if you’re targeting someone from a design-based organization, perhaps you’ll know that you can find those individuals more easily on Pinterest. If you’re targeting financial executives, you might want to show them targeted ads on Market Watch, Bloomberg, and more. Facebook and LinkedIn can prove to be truly powerful platforms to target these stakeholders because they give you an opportunity to appeal to specific organizations, as well as titles within those organizations.

Execute your ABM campaigns

The preparatory work is finally done and dusted. Pat yourself on the back!

However, with the content you’ve created and platforms you’ve decided, your material shouldn’t run wild. A few things to keep in mind here: since this is a targeted method of marketing, it’s important to not overwhelm prospects with barrage of messages and content across multiple channels. Repurposing is a boon that can quickly turn into bane if not used properly.

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Make doubly sure that your channels aren’t just set up to speak to one or two people from the organization. Keep in mind that you’re targeting the entire organization, and especially the stakeholders and decision-makers within it. You need to maintain the correct balance of catching your prospect’s attention without turning them off. 

Measure, share, and improve your results

Once you’ve had your campaign running for a month or two, it’s time to measure and evaluate your campaign’s performance. Introspect on the following crucial questions: 

  • Did the personalized content prove to be engaging? Why/why not?
  • Are the target accounts slowly engaging more with your company or products?
  • Is the number of stakeholders you’ve contacted increasing on a regular basis? 
  • Were any of these leads moved down the buyer funnel? 
  • Was there any revenue generated from the campaign?
  • What did you miss out on? What can be improved? 

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If your results are not as great as you predicted the first time around, don’t be discouraged. The best thing about online marketing is how measurable the results are, which helps you see exactly where you need to evolve and improve.

On the other hand, you may find that ABM is yielding huge returns for your business. If so, keep it up!

Wrapping it up: do you need ABM?

ABM is still new in the world of marketing, so not all businesses have had a chance to gauge if it’s the right fit for them or not. At minimum, HubSpot recommends ABM for companies that meet the following criteria: 

  • You have an expensive service or product
  • You don’t have infinite number of prospects
  • You’re selling to a buying committee [it could consist of several players like influencers, gatekeepers/blockers, decision-makers, etc. ABM can help you sell to all of them]

If you fall in the above category and are eager to implement ABM on your HubSpot, or want to do so for a client, check out part two of this article!

If you have any questions or complaints with this article, drop us a comment below! 

Author avatar
Shriya Garg