Last year, I listened to a Podcast interview on the MarketingProfs ‘Marketing Smarts’ series (a series I wholly recommend BTW). It was an interview with John Miller, the CEO and co-founder of Engagio, and it was titled ‘Fish with a Spear, Not a Net.’

And just like that, all the pieces I’ve been thinking about with B2B marketing for many years started to fall into place. Mr Miller described a framework that codified practices that we marketers had been doing for some time, but were struggling to do at scale. He led me to believe that the B2B digital marketer’s dream world of personalized, focused, and content-rich marketing at scale had arrived, and it was called Account Based Marketing.

Engagio defines Account Based Marketing thus: A strategic approach that coordinates personalized marketing and sales efforts to open doors and deepen engagement at specific accounts.

And Demandbase’s definition is as follows: Account-Based Marketing is used by B2B marketers to identify and target the accounts they value the most. ABM solutions typically include account-based data and technology to help companies attract, engage, convert and then measure progress against customers and prospects.

But wait. These ideas aren’t new are they? No, they are not. What’s new is the ability to do it at scale.

Fishing with a Spear. Not a Net.

First some history: Back in the ‘way old’ mid nineties, marketers supported field-marketing centric sales efforts by delivering materials that were essentially personalized to accounts. Personalization was not automated, and materials and messages could only be personalized to the most important few dozen accounts. Personalized marketing programs and materials required a lot of research and were often bespoke and expensive.

As email marketing grew in sophistication, so our personalized marketing outreach efforts could scale larger. We could personalize content and messages at scale by industry. Better, definitely. But still no personalization to a living, breathing, decision-making individual.

What today’s Account Based Marketing platforms are promising, and delivering, is something remarkable. Personalization not only to an account, but also to individuals at accounts. At scale.

This personalization at scale requires truly understanding the B2B Buyers’ Journey, to create buyer-centric marketing that connects with the individuals involved in the account. An interesting young company we found focused on that need is Akoonu, which offers a data-driven strategic marketing platform for B2B Account Based Marketing. Akoonu users can map the entire journey, define the sequencing and targeted messages for each individual, and fully align the content with the buying process.

ABM starts with alignment between sales and marketing. In Account Based Marketing, marketers start by aligning closely with sales on selecting ideal target accounts — the big fish — before developing an ABM marketing plan that can be specifically measured against business targets. All marketing campaigns are focused on those target accounts, personalizing experiences at scale.

Tiers of Account Based Marketing

Personalizing at scale how, exactly?

Here are just some of the interesting digital marketing tricks that ABM tools offer us:

  • Using real time identification engines, today’s ABM tools can customize the website experience, content and messages to a company, and individual person, when they arrive. According to DemandBase, their client Brocade was able to increase page views by 46%, file downloads by 86% and time on site by 26% just by personalizing their Home page.
  • Using web analytics and marketing automation, ABM platforms can target content based on where a company is in the decision-making process, offering early- or late-stage content accordingly. So as individuals at an account move through the process, they are nurtured with the right content for the right stage in their journey.
  • Deploy account-based advertising and re-targeting campaigns to personalize the ad by industry type, personalize the experience on the landing page, and re-target individuals who participate. It’s also possible to test advertising creative by individual account, to see the message that resonates the most.

How should you get started with ABM?

The ITSMA tells us that “ABM delivers the highest Return on Investment of any B2B marketing strategy or tactic. Period.” But how should you get started?

Well, the terrific thing is that today’s ABM vendors are sharing a wealth of experience and learning tools to help you before you have to pay a penny to anyone. And that’s where I started.

DemandBase offers a resource area comfortingly called Account Based Marketing 101.

Engagio offers a step-by-step guide to implementing ABM, and also worked with a variety of marquee speakers to build an excellent series of Webinars called The Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing.

Not wishing to be outdone, Marketo offers a really rich Resources area that includes A Recipe for Lean Account Based Marketing.

There’s so much more, but that’ll get you started.

And I’d like to finish with another plug for MarketingProf’s Marketing Smarts Podcast, which got me started on this journey. I don’t know how Kerry O’Shea Gorgone does it, but she always manages to ask the question I’m asking in my head as I listen — always going right to the “… so how do you actually do that…” kind of question that bypasses the masses of rubbishy marketing waffle we hear — and guides us to pragmatic solutions. So three cheers for that.