We’re in the midst of a paradigm shift in the world of B2B marketing.
Up to this point, B2B marketing has been all about leads — generating them, nurturing them, and qualifying them.
Now, savvy marketing and sales teams are shifting to account-based marketing (ABM) in order to turn their best-fit accounts into customers.
With ABM going mainstream, we’re hearing lots of questions about how to put it into action. How can it help B2B companies reach their revenue goals? What are the components of a good account-based marketing campaign?
The key is to orchestrate the right ABM plays at the right time.
ABM Campaigns vs. ABM Plays
Our CMO and Co-Founder Sangram Vajre first wrote about account-based marketing plays in his 2016 book Account-Based Marketing for Dummies. (As a University of Alabama alum, of course he couldn’t miss the chance to make a football analogy!) Since then, we’ve tested various ABM plays within our own organization and have come up with twelve that are incredibly impactful.
So, what are we talking about when we say account-based marketing plays? How are plays different from campaigns?
In football, a play is a “plan of action or strategy used to move the ball down the field.” (Thanks, Wikipedia!)
In ABM, a play is an actionable strategy that will get you closer to a business goal.
In other words, ABM plays are goal-oriented activities. An ABM campaign, on the other hand, is the coordination of one or more plays tied together with a clear message.
Many ABM plays can be orchestrated as a standalone campaign or in conjunction with other plays to form a more complex campaign. For example, you could execute an event marketing campaign using multiple ABM plays, such as:
- Pre-targeting to warm up net-new accounts before an event
- Driving event registration with help from Sales
- A pipeline acceleration play targeting additional stakeholders at the accounts your team met with at the event
Let’s take a look at some common plays you can run with account-based marketing.
Demand Generation Plays
Pre-targeting is more or less the opposite of retargeting. Instead of serving ads to people who have visited your website, you proactively pre-target your dream accounts with relevant ads. This is a great way to familiarize your target accounts with your solution and messaging before your sales team begins outreach. You can also use pre-targeting to warm up accounts before an event.
2. Account Nurture
Account nurture plays aim to engage key stakeholders at target accounts that you already have in your database and convert them to sales pipeline. Because the B2B sales cycle is long and often complex, many of the accounts you’re marketing to won’t be immediately ready to make a purchasing decision.
Don’t make the mistake of forgetting about these accounts just because they’re not going to turn into immediate sales. Instead, you can use account-based nurturing to continue to present your messaging and content to those accounts over time, keeping your company top-of-mind until they’re ready to convert into a sales opportunity.
3. Lead-to-Account Nurture
Lead-to-account nurtures are only applicable to a Bolt-On ABM program. (Learn more about Bolt-On ABM here.) This play allows you to funnel leads (usually inbound or event leads) into your database and then expand your reach to nurture their entire buying committee with account-based ads. Just like with an account nurture play, the goal of a lead-to-account nurture is to convert an account to an opportunity.
4. Competitive Takeout
With all the technology and data available to B2B marketers, information on which companies are working with your competitors is readily available. With this type of ABM play, you can target accounts that are using or evaluating a competitor and highlight a problem your solution can solve that your competitors can’t.
Pipeline Velocity Plays
5. Pipeline Acceleration
This play focuses on moving accounts currently in your pipeline through the sales process more quickly. You can use account-based marketing tactics to complement the 1:1 conversations your account executives are having with opportunities.
6. Wake the Dead
“Waking the dead” refers to re-engaging cold opportunities to build sales pipeline with accounts that are most likely to close. Learn how InsightSquared uses account-based marketing to “claw back” lost deals in this ABM case study.
Customer Marketing Plays
The goal of upsell and cross-sell campaigns is to increase the average contract value of your current customer base. This play requires close collaboration between your marketing, sales, and customer success teams.
8. Increased Adoption
Many SaaS companies run into problems when their end-user or point of contact switches roles or leaves the company. To combat this, you can orchestrate account-based customer marketing plays to increase adoption at your customer accounts, making your solution indispensable so you don’t have to resell your value when it comes time for renewal.
9. Land & Expand
Selling to enterprise accounts can be tricky, especially when they’re divided into smaller divisions or subsidiaries that operate independently and often have different points of contact. This is where you’ll want to “land and expand.”
If you’ve done business with one division of a complex enterprise company and are hoping to expand into others, you can use ABM technology like Terminus to present digital ads to those target divisions’ key decision-makers. These ads are especially effective when they’re hyper-personalized, highlighting case studies and testimonials from your target buyers’ coworkers.
As you expand your relationship with different departments or divisions within an enterprise company, you will evolve from being just another vendor to being an invaluable partner that’s embedded in the DNA of their business.
10. Customer Advocacy
Use account-based tactics to turn your top-tier customers into advocates for your brand by giving them an excellent customer experience, asking for (and actually listening to) their feedback, and providing them with opportunities to highlight their businesses. In return, you can leverage these successful clients for case studies, speaking engagements, testimonials, and referrals.
Other Strategic Account-Based Marketing Plays
11. Drive Event Attendance
You can use account-based tactics to drive event attendance from target accounts. This versatile play spans demand generation, pipeline velocity, and customer marketing and is most often used in conjunction with other ABM plays.
12. Product Launch
If you’re launching a new product or service, a product launch play is a great way to get the word out. Whether the product is geared towards prospects or current customers, using ABM for the launch is perfect for reaching your dream accounts with the specific messaging and benefits that matter to them.
The Account-Based Marketing Play Matrix
To plan a successful account-based marketing campaign, you need to use the right ABM plays. Use the Account-Based Marketing Play Matrix below to help you determine which plays align with your goals and strategy.
The blue columns represent the goals each play can help accomplish — from generating demand to moving accounts through your pipeline more quickly to improving your customer marketing.
The yellow columns represent the approaches to account-based marketing that work with each play. There are four approaches to ABM: Bolt-On ABM, Programmatic ABM, ABM Lite, and 1:1 ABM.
Get Resources for Planning, Executing, & Measuring Your ABM Campaigns
Want more worksheets and how-to resources to help you create results-oriented ABM campaigns? Download the Blueprint to Account-Based Marketing Campaigns to get tons of actionable advice for turning your dream accounts into customers.