It is a truism worth repeating: 80% of fish are caught by 20% of fishermen… Successful fishers fish where the fish are most often.

~ Tony Bishop

If you are a fisherman you know that you can put some bait on and cast a line out on the dock to catch a few fish, but when they aren’t biting you need to go to where the fish are.

The same is true for lead generation for your IT company. Inbound marketing techniques (SEO, content creation, etc.) are great lead generation strategies, but at the end of the day, you are waiting for prospects to reach out to you. When your website is drowning the sales team in leads you are happy, but what about the weeks when the leads aren’t coming as frequently? Or what if you need leads NOW and you don’t have time to build up a content generation machine?

That is where Account Based Marketing (ABM) comes in.

Instead of waiting for leads to reach out to you, you reach out to them – it turns the marketing funnel on its head.

What is ABM?

To continue the fishing analogy, traditional inbound marketing focuses on casting a wide net.

The traditional process looks something like this:

  1. You write articles like “5 Signs Your Doctor’s Office Needs IT Support”
  2. A local doctor’s office googles “IT support for doctors in Gaithersburg MD”
  3. Your article shows up and they click on it
  4. They read the article, look at your site, and decide that your business is a good fit for them
  5. They fill out a form to give you their contact info

Again, that is a fine strategy. If you can show up top 3 for a search term for a keyword that has 1,500 searches a month, then you will get a good portion of that traffic (about a third of it, unsurprisingly). A certain percentage of that traffic will then turn into leads (about one to two percent).

You may run into a few issues with this, however.

  • You get companies too small to work with your business
  • You get companies outside of your service area
  • You get contacts that aren’t decision makers

ABM flips this “wide net” strategy on its head. ABM is the fishing equivalent of spearfishing in a stocked pond with only the types and sizes of fish you are interested in catching. It doesn’t even seem fair, does it?

Instead of working to get the information from a percentage of search traffic, you acquire the information of those that fit your ideal client and you begin (in a very targeted way) to reach out to them with a message tailored to their needs.

Why use ABM for your MSP?

While it is just one tool in the toolbox, there are a lot of reasons to use ABM for your MSP company.

Locally Targeted

With ABM, you start out your campaign with a list of contacts that meet the exact attributes of clients you are searching for. They are in the right positions, in the right industry, within your geographic area, etc. You know that every dollar you spend on marketing to this group is being spent getting your message in front of someone that could convert.

Works in Tandem with Other Strategies

This isn’t some strategy that requires you to stop the way you are doing things in your current marketing. As a matter of fact, it often further enhances your current marketing strategy. If you are currently working on increasing your conversion rates on your site to get those organic leads to drip through the funnel, keep at it! As the traffic comes in from ABM this will only help.

Note: If you start an ABM campaign, be careful not to oversaturate your list with non-ABM content. They don’t need 2 emails from the ABM campaign, your monthly newsletter, and an event invite all in the same week.

Increased Personalization

One of my favorite things about ABM is having fun with the personalization. You can get VERY targeted with ABM personalization. Things like…

  • Adding their company name to a landing page they come to
  • Changing email content to speak to position-specific pains (What the CEO cares about from an IT perspective is not the same as what their internal team cares about)
  • And more…

The more information you have about them, the more personalized you can get.

How to Implement ABM in Your MSP Marketing Program

All marketing requires strategy before implementation, and ABM is no different. Just like you need to do keyword research before jumping into SEO, there is a step-by-step process in ABM to ensure you are getting the most out of your efforts.

Know Your Target Market

Hopefully, you have a good understanding of your target market regardless of your marketing strategy. You know the mantra – “50% of my marketing dollars are wasted, I just don’t know what 50%”. This is generally due to bad strategy.

What size company do you work best with? What industries do you specialize in? What positions make the decisions, and what positions are influencers? What people usually stand in your way in the sale? Are most of your clients men or women? What age is your persona? What types of media do they use? What organizations are they a part of? What jargon do they use?

These questions just scratch the surface, but the first step in ABM is to have a tight understanding of your market.

Build ABM Campaign Plan

ABM in itself does not in itself require a specific strategy in reaching your audience, it is just a framework to work within and a lens to think through. Because of that, the tools you use to reach this audience are ones you are familiar with – email, paid, social media, website pages, etc.

The way they are used is what changes. With social media, for example, you would not just make general LinkedIn posts on your page. Instead, you may upload a list of target companies to show very targeted ads to.

Put together a plan to determine how you will reach this audience. What channels will you use? How personalized can you get? How frequent are the touch points? What pain points will you focus on for different segments?

Work with your marketing and sales team to determine the channels and cadence to this.

Note: ABM is not something that exists strictly in the marketing arena. It is tightly integrated with sales and should include them as well (as should any type of marketing, honestly – sales people don’t bite). Because of this, include things like personal emails to what seem to be hot leads and follow-up calls.

Acquire List

You may have a list of prospects with all the information you need about them. If so, great! Many times this is not the case, however. Maybe the contacts you have are very old with outdated information, maybe you don’t have enough information about them, or maybe you just don’t have a list at all.

If you don’t have a robust enough list to begin with, you have 2 options:

  • Append your list: If you just have the name and address from a mailer you send out every year but no email, use a list appending service to connect those physical addresses with emails, phone number, etc. This is very inexpensive.
  • Buy a list: This topic is an article in itself, but if you don’t have any list at all you can purchase one. That is all I will say about that for now.

When you do get this list through any of these means, it is critical that it matches your target market. The tighter filtering you can do on these contacts, the better your results will be. Get started off on the right foot with a solid list of verified contacts, or you are setting yourself up for failure.

Note: It is tempting when buying a list to only go after the one perfect contact at a company – the CEO, for example. This is definitely someone you want on your list, but don’t be afraid of adding the lower-level influencers as well – office managers, for example. We have seen a lot of success reaching these individuals. They are usually hungry to make an impact and improve the business. Give them that opportunity.


Now that you have an understanding of who you are reaching, have a list of these contacts, and have a plan for how to go about reaching out to them, it is time to pull back your spear-throwing-arm and let her fly.

Remember, though, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry…. when you have poor execution. Pay attention to the details. The first impression goes a long way, and if you start out with an off-the-mark pain point, a shoddily designed email, or an unresponsive landing page, you are shooting yourself in the foot. This is something to pull the whole team together for. Have your personalization tactics been tested? Have you talked to current clients about their pain points and why they work with you?

React to the Numbers

Back in the day, marketing was a shot in the dark – you’d send a postcard out and cross your fingers or spend money on radio ads and just hope people were listening. Those days are gone.

Everything you do should have a number. Conversion rates, open rates, time on page, bounce rates – numbers are your friends. Whether that is through call tracking, cookies, or heatmapping, collect as much information on your marketing efforts as possible. Don’t stop there, though; use that information to make your campaign better.

Having great success on LinkedIn but can’t get anything from your display ads? Shift the budget.

Does your landing page have a high bounce rate? Look at your heatmapping and site analytics and shift accordingly.

Do your emails not have a good click-through-rate? Tweak the design or content and do some A/B testing.

Ready to Get Started with ABM for MSPs?

This was just a very broad overview of ABM for MSPs, but hopefully, it gives you a good idea of where to start and the next steps to take.

To do this right does take a lot of knowledge about the different marketing channels, technical understanding around personalization, and good writing and design skills. The last thing you want to do is spend the money to run an ABM campaign for your MSP and lose money on it.