The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way pretty much everyone does business. For those of us who are in marketing, while we definitely had to shift our marketing tactics, we’re used to being adaptable, harnessing new technologies, and thinking outside the box to create successful marketing campaigns.
In the last few years, the term ABM or account-based marketing has been thrown around a lot as a type of marketing that’s typically more successful than other forms of marketing for B2B businesses. In fact, according to a survey, “Seventy-seven percent of ABM users achieve 10 percent or greater ROI.”
During COVID, the uses for ABM have never been more important, especially when typical types of prospect acquisition haven’t been occurring in traditional ways, such as through networking or trade shows.
In this article, we’re going to talk about how your B2B business can use ABM tactics to replace your traditional network marketing strategies. We all know that things will never be the same after this pandemic ends. For some things, like marketing in a way that can generate higher quality leads, it’s better that way.
What is ABM?
You already know that ABM stands for account-based marketing, but what is ABM precisely?
ABM is a type of marketing that focuses on using highly targeted accounts to create marketing campaigns intended for specific audiences. Typically, with ABM, the sales and marketing teams work together to identify ICPs and buyer personas. From there, a marketing strategy is created using various tactics that are intended to reach those accounts. These can include demand generation strategies and intentional relationship-building strategies, often integrated by using a tech stack.
Networking Sucks. Let’s Not Do It Anymore.
You might be more familiar with networking than ABM, so networking doesn’t need much of an explanation. However, if you’ve ever been a “networker,” while you may love networking, we’re going to guess that if you’ve had to be a networker for more than a few years, you feel burnt out and like it may not be that effective. You’re not the only one.
To break down why networking sucks and ABM rocks, we’ve made this handy downloadable infographic.
Keep reading for more explanation on why we’d recommend using ABM over networking any day of the week as a higher-quality and more strategic marketing tactic.
Why Networking Sucks
Getting cornered by someone you don’t want to talk to.
This has happened to the best of us. Someone walks over to you and introduces themselves. In a matter of seconds, you can tell that while this person might be nice and interesting, they are never going to be your ideal client. But it’s rude just to walk away or to tell them that you likely won’t be a good business fit. So you stay. And you talk. And you talk some more, causing you to waste precious time talking to someone that isn’t going to benefit from your products or services.
Sometimes during networking events, you end up with a group of people who feel like they will be just right for your products or services. You spend some time talking to a person – maybe longer than you should. You begin learning about their company’s needs. You’re feeling confident that what you offer can help them. Then, they mention, “Yeah, we’ve wanted to do something like that for a while, but we just don’t seem to have the budget. Could you help us for (insert lowball amount here)?” All of a sudden, your hopes are dashed. You might have thought they were your ideal client, but they aren’t willing to invest in what you have to offer. Another opportunity lost.
The dreaded gatekeepers. It’s not uncommon for businesses to send someone from their team to networking events. They want to drum up business for their business, just like you do. Often, these are salespeople, representatives, or marketers. You typically aren’t going to be attending a networking event with the CEO of a large company. You could build a great relationship with the person who attends the networking event, but you’re likely playing a losing game unless you can get in front of the person who makes decisions.
Big sea fishing.
Depending on the type of networking event, you might be in a room with people who will all benefit one another. However, the chances of this happening aren’t very high, even if you’re networking at an industry trade show or similar type of event. When you network, you cast a vast net. Niching while networking isn’t typically an option. Qualifying leads from networking is more difficult because you have such a large pool of people to get in front of.
Most networking events happen for a specific duration of time. Even if we’re talking about larger-scale events, like trade shows, you have a beginning and endpoint. This means that your marketing efforts are going to be somewhat constrained to this window of time. Plus, you typically want to try to meet and chat with as many people as possible during networking events. If you’re in a room with a few hundred people, meeting 20 of them and having a 5-minute conversation with each is hardly enough time to make much of an impact.
If you’re an introvert, you likely hear the term “networking,” and it sends shivers down your spine. Networking is great for extroverts who are fine getting out in front of people and meeting strangers all day long. But for the rest of the population that doesn’t enjoy this type of engagement, networking can be crippling. It shouldn’t take a personality type to be successful at marketing. Marketing needs to work for everyone.
One of the unwritten rules of networking is that you don’t start a networking conversation by forwardly talking all about what your company does. Instead, you often have to come up with other conversation starters. Or worse yet, after minutes of conversing, the conversation slows, and now awkward silence is approaching. You end up in a possibly awkward scenario of needing to maybe get out of the conversation by leaving or having to find something else to talk about with a stranger. Weird…
Ugh. Speaking of conversation starters, one prerequisite of being halfway decent at networking is the ability to create small talk on a whim. You know the kind. “Is this your first networking event?” “The weather is nice out today, huh?” “Have you come to this event before?” “What industry are you in?” While the goal is to find common interests and see if a relationship could be mutually beneficial, getting to that point can sometimes be painful.
It’s easy to make a mistake.
Do you know what goes hand-in-hand with networking events? Alcohol. Sure, this is one of the main appeals of attending networking events for some people. However, alcohol and business don’t always mix well, especially if you’re meeting new people and trying to make positive first impressions. Being a bit less inhibited may be fun, but it opens up more potential to say or do something you’ll regret later. For some people, they don’t even have to have been drinking to say something that they might wish they hadn’t. At networking events, making a mistake can happen to anyone. These mistakes can also be costly for your reputation and the reputation of the company you are representing.
It’s a time suck.
With in-person networking, you always have to carve out a solid chunk of time to attend an event. This is true whether it’s an event with your local Chamber of Commerce or a trade show. While admittance might be free, you invest valuable time to network with people who may or may not be a good fit for your ideal client. Sometimes, it can pay off. But other times, you’ll get a few possible prospects that will never convert, wasting your precious time.
Your target audience isn’t quite right.
Especially for those in the B2B realm, you typically want to target an entire company vs. just one person from a company. Once you know the company you want to work with, you can drill down to target the individual people who will most likely respond to what you have to offer. With in-person networking events, the companies and/or the people who you want to target the most might not even be in attendance. So getting in front of ideal clients may be out of the question.
If you’re doing your due diligence at a networking event, you’ve collected business cards, and you’re ready to follow up with those people somehow after the event. You might try to connect with them by reaching out on LinkedIn or emailing them a follow-up. The reality is, those post-networking touch points might be where the follow-through stops. It’s very easy for someone to feign interest in something in person and then ignore them after the fact. Your new connection could also become too busy to nurture a relationship, especially if the relationship won’t necessarily benefit them.
As you can see, there are many reasons why networking can be a good way for you to meet new people, but it’s not always as effective as it could be. Next, we’ll share with you more about why ABM marketing strategies could be more effective, especially for B2B businesses.
Why ABM Rocks
Ideal clients, here you come.
One of ABM’s main tactics is going after the ideal client that’s just right for your company. We call those clients “aspirational” clients. They are the clients you want to work with, you know they’d be an excellent fit for your business for various reasons, and you know that your product or service solves the problems that they might have.
As mentioned previously, you’ll want to pinpoint your ICPs and buyer personas, so you have a solid list of who to go after.
Automated and underappreciated.
Marketing automation isn’t a new concept, but especially since the era of COVID-19, highly utilizing your tech stack to create automated solutions for your ideal customers can make marketing just a bit easier. With automation, you’re able to keep your ICP information, CRM, target accounts, and content together, which will make marketing to them a whole lot easier.
Market to decision-makers.
Because ABM is so driven by targeting very specific accounts and individuals, you’re not going to waste your time spending precious time or money on gatekeepers who won’t ultimately have a say on whether or not they will choose to work with you. If you want to go straight to the source, ABM is how to do it.
The timing is up to you.
As we mentioned earlier, networking events can be very time-intensive, and you have to work around the events’ schedule vs. the event working around your schedule. With ABM, you control the timing of everything. When and how you initiate contact, how follow-ups happen, what type of marketing collateral and messaging you share, and more.
It’s comfortable for introverts and extroverts.
You don’t have to be the most outgoing person in the room to make ABM work for you. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, AMB tactics will allow you to leverage marketing in ways that will likely be more successful than networking ever was.
You control the conversation.
Since ABM is a carefully thought-out and crafted type of communication to nurture prospects and leads, you get to call the shots more than you might be able to do in a traditional networking setting. You’re in control of what types of touchpoints you’ll use, how often you’ll use those touchpoints, and how you’ll go about converting leads to customers.
You’re not wasting your time or anyone else’s.
With ABM messaging, the last thing you want to do is scare off a prospect or lead through content or marketing collateral that isn’t beneficial to them. You realize the importance of other peoples’ time and your own. Since ABM is controlled and intentional, any time you invest in your ABM efforts should be beneficial to you and your ideal client.
One of the key features that make ABM different from other types of marketing is how personalized it is. It makes the experience of marketing feel less like SPAM or awkward conversations and makes it beneficial and relatable to your intended audience. ABM is meant to be highly personalized, so your prospects, leads, and customers feel like you’re working directly with them because you are. It’s not the same 30-second elevator pitch to every company or person. It’s targeted marketing to individual accounts.
You can be proactive vs. reactive.
With traditional networking events, you are often reactive in following up with a potentially good contact you meet. ABM differs because you proactively engage with prospects – possibly before they ever know who you are. It’s a proactive approach to marketing that’s well researched and planned ahead of time, with you controlling the options for what happens next.
ABM often produces an increased return on investment.
We already talked about this earlier, but ABM typically produces an increased return on investment vs. other types of marketing. Since you’re targeting high-value prospects with ABM, converting those prospects will often lead to them spending more money with your company, making your ABM tactics worthwhile.
It’s easier to track ROI and KPIs.
Especially since we’re comparing networking events with ABM, it can be challenging to track the ROI from a networking event. It’s rare that after a networking event, you’re going to go back to your office and run a report of how successful that specific event was. With ABM, since much of the process can be automated through marketing-specific tools, reporting and tracking metrics like ROI and KPIs can be easier.
Getting your sales team on board is easier.
One of the key differences between ABM and other marketing strategies is that your marketing and sales teams should be on the same page with who you are targeting from the very beginning. By the time the marketing team converts the prospect to be worthwhile for the sales team to work with them, everyone agrees why that prospect is qualified and what the next steps should be to close the deal.
As you can tell, ABM is here to stay, and for a good reason. Even though networking events will resume and traditional marketing will come back, ABM will likely be a worthwhile investment for your company to champion, especially if you’re targeting B2B businesses.