Instead of targeting industries or customer segments, account-based marketing involves targeting individual companies and/or key decision makers within those companies. In account based marketing (ABM), companies view highly profitable, key accounts as a whole market, and create marketing campaigns tailored specifically to them. In some cases, entire marketing campaigns are crafted for one individual within a company.

It isn’t a new concept – and some companies are already doing some account-based marketing without even realizing it. But with a strategic approach, the right research, and a combined effort from marketing and sales, account based marketing can yield huge returns for manufacturing companies.

Current customers Vs. customer acquisition

According to Forrester Research, less than 1% of leads become customers. Perhaps they aren’t ready to buy yet or they’re just looking for the lowest price – whatever the reasons, devoting 100% your marketing dollars, time and effort into acquiring them and turning them into revenue generating accounts can be counterproductive.

In account-based marketing, the focus is on quality, not quantity. It’s about building relationships with the right people within key organizations on their terms, and understanding their needs and pain points on a much deeper level. It’s about crafting messages specifically for them, using language that resonates with them and sending them at the most optimal time.

The most powerful story your manufacturing business can tell is about the problem your product or service can help them solve – and why it’s better than any other solution out there. Campaigns to existing key customer accounts can be created to promote a complementary product, a new product, or an increase in quantity of a product they already purchase. Or, you could create campaigns to target prospective customers you’ve been trying to win over.

Adding account-based marketing to your marketing program doesn’t mean you have to give your traditional target marketing. In fact, your other marketing activities can help strengthen and support your account-based marketing. (You can still go to your trade shows, don’t worry!) Trade shows are great places to engage in account-based marketing, by the way – especially if you can schedule some one-on-one time with a few of your good customers.

Account based marketing: an example scenario.

You supply a large company with a product you manufacture. It purchases in bulk quantities three to four times a year. You also happen to carry another product that they currently purchase from another manufacturer. Your goal is to convince them that they should purchase both products from you. In account-based marketing, you would design a campaign specifically for this company or an individual within that company. You’d conduct research to ensure you know things like:

  • Who are the decision makers and key players?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What are their goals?
  • What is the buying cycle like?
  • What are their current costs?
  • What is the current turnaround time for orders?

Once you know some of this information you can tailor messaging that tells a story about how your company can make their life easier or their business more profitable, efficient or successful. You can try to connect with key decision makers on a personal level by addressing the issues you know keep them up at night.

It may take months for this type of campaign to yield success, or even to secure an initial meeting. But according to theITSMA, a marketing association for technology, communications, and professional services providers, nearly 85 percent of marketers using account-based marketing see higher returns than any other marketing activity.

Marketing  Sales 4Ever

The success of account based marketing hinges on the partnership between marketing and sales, but if we’re being honest, any type of marketing program can be improved when marketing and sales openly and frequently communicate, discuss customer needs and goals, and work together to identify new markets.

Sales is a direct line to the customer. They speak with the individuals the marketing department wants to appeal to on a regular basis. They answer customer questions and engage in product discussions. They know their concerns and issues and what they look for in a product and a supplier.

The alignment of marketing and sales can lead to some powerful marketing messages that incite more sales and better engagement. Without this alignment, unfortunately, account-based marketing won’t be successful.

Choosing key accounts.

Not all accounts will qualify for key account status – certain criteria must be met. It is the job of both sales and marketing to determine what accounts have the potential to be the most profitable and why. Criteria that can be considered includes things like:

  • Length of time as a customer
  • Relationship history
  • Amount and frequency of orders
  • Stability of the company
  • Margins & profitability

Once you’ve determined the accounts you want to target, you can begin planning out the details of your campaign, including the messaging strategy, channels and specific tactics. The delivery can include a combination of content marketing, as well as inbound and outbound marketing.

Don’t forget to measure. Just like any other marketing approach, you will experience some successes and failures. Track your results so you are able to gauge success and determine what could be improved for the next account-based marketing campaign.

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