“Account-based marketing,” or ABM, is all the buzz these days around sales and marketing land.

But it’s not a new concept. It’s a spruced-up version of basic key account marketing-a strategy used by enterprise organizations for decades.

So why all the hoopla around ABM now?

Since 2005 inbound marketing has had the spotlight, enabling marketers to cast a wide net, drive traffic and fill sales funnels based on pull through marketing tactics. But with better access to data and insights and the ever-increasing need for personalization among consumers, key account targeting or ABM is becoming a super effective B2B sales and marketing strategy.

But let’s back up.

What makes ABM so special?

In a nutshell: ABM streamlines your sales and marketing teams, focusing their attention on highly-targeted prospective customers. So instead of blasting a free whitepaper out to thousands of leads hoping that a handful of potential buyers will engage with your business, you’re specifically looking to give your free whitepaper out to particular decision-makers at key accounts.

If that sounds like the exclusive domain of big businesses, you’d be right—it once was. But the Internet has been the great democratizer, and small and midsize businesses have turned out to be winners in the game. It’s easier than ever to identify target accounts to engage with your content, social media and paid advertising efforts.

How do I start with ABM?

ABM relies on hyper-targeting, so it’s best to begin with a smaller amount of accounts. So how many should you start with? Well, that all depends on key variables such as your average deal size and time to close the sale. A general rule of thumb would be to start with a few hundred accounts and scale up if you see early success.

Because this will be a team effort, you’ll also want to gather your sales and marketing teams to get them on the same page. Start by selecting the accounts you’re targeting and brainstorming some ways to get their attention. Some examples might include:

  • Engaging with them on their strongest social media channels by retweeting their content, liking their posts or leaving comments and replies that pose thoughtful questions or statements (e.g., not just “Awesome!”)
  • Focus on getting a personal meeting or phone call with targeted content, such as a free business analysis, whitepaper or evaluations.
  • Use remarketing to find who’s interacted with your content and keep your brand top of mind with digital ads (software such as Terminus can help with this).
  • Create customized landing pages for each client you’re targeting—specific enough to compel them to act, but not so specific as to give off a creepy, we’ve-been-waiting-for-you vibe.

Who are you targeting in the account?

While some businesses contain only a few key decision-makers, many have grown beyond that. ABM takes into account that a B2B sale will likely require more than one company member signing off, and so investigating various buyer personas at your target company is the best idea. Each will require a different type of content marketing, so work on a cleverly designed and multifaceted approach.

Because it’s so tightly honed, you may find you’re able to focus quite literally on a few people you can research, really filling out your buyer personas. ABM is the area where it’s good to go down this rabbit hole because more research will lead to greater results.

But, again, don’t get creepy. Nobody likes being creeped on too hard.

If you’re looking for a place to start, don’t feel you need to begin ABM with new accounts. You can start by looking into your old accounts, engaging key personas you know there and ironing out your company’s kinks. ABM works best when you’re targeting the right potential buyers, so using pre-existing accounts as a trial run to dial in your strategy.

What does ABM success look like for you?

For most companies, it’s simple: conversions. Not leads, but hard-won conversions. The most important conversion is of course the sale, but looking at smaller conversions works also. You’ll want to know whether people are filling out your forms, downloading your content, engaging with your platforms. If not, you should revise your strategy, focus on new leads and split test your approach.  

The good news is, when you qualify your leads to the point of bringing them into an ABM funnel, you are simultaneously increasing your odds of conversion.

Be sure to check your engagement rates, too, to cross-reference whether your social strategies have overlapped with your content marketing at all and whether your engagement rates are growing. Hopefully, this is also a useful way to help grow your own social following and increase your social clout.

Once you’re finding success with a few accounts, you might want to expand your reach and keep going. The traditional urge here would be to start spraying and praying, grabbing as many leads as possible and using your past victories as case studies.

Don’t do that. That’s literally the opposite of what we’re doing here.

Instead, track which new accounts you’re generating through your ABM campaign. Have your sales and marketing teams meet to analyze the data and decide which are worth pursuing the most. Identify your new target list of prospects and agree on qualification benchmarks for new leads together and you’ll waste less time. After all, that’s what account-based marketing is about: wasting less time spinning your wheels with the wrong opportunities and more time closing deals.