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Using Account-Based Marketing to Fill Your Sales Team’s Pipeline

If you’re a B2B sales leader in the industrial sector, professional services, or construction, you already know that staying ahead means adopting innovative approaches to keep your pipeline full. Account-based marketing (ABM) has emerged as a game-changer, providing sales teams with a structured method for prospecting and getting the most out of every activity. But what exactly is ABM, and how can it redefine how you fill your sales pipeline? In this article, we’ll cover the basics of ABM, why it works, and how you can use it to start driving better results. Let’s dive in.

What is Account-Based Marketing (ABM)?

ABM concentrates sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within a market and employs personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each account. Unlike traditional marketing methods that cast a wide net, ABM is like using a spear: precise and targeted.

Why is account-based marketing considered a viable strategy for filling a sales pipeline?

ABM stands out due to its tailored approach. By focusing on accounts with the highest potential for revenue and aligning marketing efforts directly to the sales pipeline, ABM ensures that marketing and sales teams work in tandem towards common, account-specific goals. This focused approach leads to more efficient use of resources and higher conversion rates, making it a highly viable strategy for B2B sales in the industrial, professional services, and construction sectors.

How is account-based marketing different from cold calling or cold emailing?

Cold calling and emailing can feel like shooting in the dark – you reach out to prospects without knowing if there’s a need or interest. ABM, in contrast, is a targeted strategy. It involves identifying and understanding key prospects and their business needs before initiating contact. This approach ensures that when you do reach out, your message is relevant, personalized, and far more likely to be well-received.

How to identify and evaluate good prospects for account-based marketing campaigns

Identifying and evaluating prospects for account-based marketing involves a multi-step process:

1. Industry Analysis 

Begin by understanding the industry trends and how they impact your target accounts. Delve into market reports, competitor activities, and regulatory changes that could affect the priorities and challenges of these accounts. Analyze how economic shifts, technological advancements, and customer preferences are shaping the industry. This comprehensive understanding will allow you to predict the evolving needs of your target accounts, positioning your solutions as timely and relevant.

2. Account Selection 

Use criteria such as company size, market position, and growth potential to select high-value accounts. Evaluate their market influence, reputation, and network within the industry, as these factors can amplify the impact of securing them as customers. Consider also their stability and risk profile; stable companies are often more reliable partners, but high-growth firms might offer more significant expansion opportunities. This careful selection ensures that your ABM efforts are concentrated on accounts that are likely to convert and provide substantial returns.

3. Stakeholder Identification

Within these accounts, identify key decision-makers and influencers. This involves pinpointing the C-suite executives and understanding the broader network of influencers, including mid-level managers and other internal champions. Utilize platforms like LinkedIn to map out the organizational structure and identify the roles of various stakeholders in the purchasing process. Understanding the dynamics among these individuals can be crucial for tailoring your communication and engagement strategies.

4. Need Analysis

Understand the specific challenges and needs of these accounts to tailor your approach. This involves engaging in conversations, conducting surveys, or using analytical tools to gather insights into their operational bottlenecks, market challenges, and internal goals. Look for both spoken and unspoken needs, as addressing even the latent needs can differentiate your solution. Aligning your product or service capabilities to these needs ensures a more compelling value proposition.

5. Technological Alignment 

Evaluate the technological compatibility between the prospect’s needs and your offerings. Determine if your services can integrate smoothly with their existing operation or if it will require adaptation in their systems and processes. Consider how your services can improve their processes, enhance efficiency, or provide a competitive edge. It’s also important to assess their readiness for change, as some companies are more open to innovation than others, and switching partners can be especially challenging in many manufacturing and industrial verticals.

6. Budget Consideration 

Assess the financial health and investment capabilities of these accounts. Analyze their budget cycles, procurement processes, and financial stability to understand their purchasing power and constraints. This step is critical in tailoring your pricing models and payment terms. Also, consider if there are budgetary shifts due to macroeconomic conditions, market changes, or organizational restructurings, as these can impact their ability to invest.

7. Long-term Value Assessment

Look beyond immediate sales potential to long-term partnership opportunities. Assess if the account has the potential for repeat business, cross-selling, upselling opportunities, or even greenfield expansion. Consider their growth trajectory and how your solutions can scale with their evolving needs. Building a long-term relationship goes beyond the initial sale, focusing on ongoing support, adaptation to their changing needs, and consistent value delivery over time.

What are my action steps once I’ve generated a list of prospects?

With a list of prospects in hand, it’s time to put your account-based marketing strategy into action:

1. Personalized Content Creation 

Develop content that addresses the specific needs and pain points of each account. This could be in the form of customized emails, tailored premium content such as downloadable guides, or industry-specific case studies. These seven email frameworks that sell can be a good place to start. 

2. Multi-Channel Engagement 

Utilize multiple channels like email, social media, direct mail, and events to engage with your prospects. Tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Dripify can be particularly effective in this stage.

In addition to these channels, consider incorporating webinars and personalized video content to engage with your prospects. You can use analytics tools to understand which channels are most effective for each account and optimize your strategy accordingly — keep what works, kill what doesn’t connect. Personalization is paramount in multi-channel engagement; ensure that messages across all channels are tailored to each target account’s specific interests and needs, enhancing the relevance and impact of your communications.

3. Sales & Marketing Alignment 

Ensure your sales team is in sync with your messaging and is prepared to engage in meaningful conversations with prospects. Conduct regular joint planning sessions between sales and marketing teams to develop cohesive strategies and share insights to ensure alignment. Implement training sessions for your sales team to familiarize them with target accounts’ specific needs, enhancing their ability to engage effectively. Use shared tools and platforms for seamless communication and information sharing between sales and marketing, ensuring that both teams are on the same page regarding account status and strategies.

4. Monitoring and Adaptation 

Use analytics to gauge the success of different touchpoints and identify patterns in customer responses. Encourage a culture of agility, where feedback from the account-based marketing campaigns is rapidly incorporated to refine tactics and messaging. Use A/B testing for different engagement strategies to determine what resonates best with your target accounts, continually tweaking your approach for optimal engagement. 

5. Build Relationships 

ABM is a long-term strategy — the 95:5 rule of B2B sales posits that only 5% of your total addressable market is ready to buy at any given time. For the other 95% who might be ready months or years from now, it’s crucial to stay at the top of their minds for when they are prepared to engage with your services. Focus on building strong relationships with key decision-makers in your target accounts. Invest time in understanding the unique business context and personal interests of the decision-makers in each account, which can be instrumental in fostering trust and rapport. Use success stories and testimonials to build trust, showing your commitment to long-term partnerships and customer/client satisfaction. Regularly check in with key contacts, not just for business discussions but also to offer industry insights and thought leadership, reinforcing your role as a trusted advisor.

6. Measure and Optimize 

Regularly review the performance of your campaigns and make necessary adjustments to improve outcomes. Incorporate a variety of metrics, such as engagement rates, conversion rates, account penetration, and ROI, to evaluate the effectiveness of your ABM campaigns. Embrace a data-driven approach, where decisions on campaign adjustments are based on concrete analytics rather than assumptions or gut feelings. Foster an environment of continuous improvement, where insights from current campaigns inform and enhance future strategies, keeping the approach fresh and responsive to market changes.

Getting Started with Account-Based Marketing

If this feels like a lot to do, that’s because it is…and most sales leaders don’t have room on their plates for more. In fact, according to the Salesforce State of Sales Report, most reps only spend about 28% of their week actually selling. The rest of the time is spent bogged down by administrative tasks or other duties (update that CRM!), which means they spend less time with customers and take longer to close, putting deals at risk. 

But there is hope! Whether you work with an internal team or engage with an external partner, your marketing team can carry the lion’s share of this load to help you turn the power of ABM into real results for your sales team. Marketing can work to automate the prospecting process and optimize messaging so that your sales team can stay focused on selling. 
Are you curious about how account-based marketing can fill your sales team’s pipeline? Connect with us to chat about how to get started. Or, for more sales and marketing insights, follow us on LinkedIn

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