Account-Based Marketing Strategy for SMBs: Learning the ABCs of ABM

&Marketing, and marketing, outsourced marketing strategy

Written By Bonnie Habyan

On October 7, 2021

Years ago, I developed what I believed was an innovative sales prospecting and marketing approach by strategically targeting a small wish list of potential dream clients with a highly personalized campaign. I identified the top decision makers in those firms to receive a series of targeted, integrated marketing direct mail pieces and email communications that incorporated highly-focused, customized, and personalized messaging that addressed the client’s pain points, passions, and hobbies. If my sales and research intelligence indicated one of our targets loved camping, my marketing team would research and package a sleek, Top Camping Sites in America book with a special, handwritten note. At the time, we simply called this targeted campaign our top prospects campaign. Today, we’d refer to it as an account-based marketing strategy.

As part of the campaign, we also emailed specific instances of case studies showing our business’s services in action – ones that we knew would help propose a solution for a problem they had. This provided a one-two punch that customized their experience with our outreach, so they knew we meant business in how we customized solutions for their needs. The campaign performed very well with a 25% conversion rate, defined as successfully ascertaining a face-to-face meeting with the prospect.

What is Account-Based Marketing?

ABM is a sustained, coordinated approach that uses personalization to target the decision makers within one account. ABM is quickly becoming a regularly integrated execution to compliment a wide scope lead generation focus, or as I like to call it, the grass seed approach; that is, you throw a lot of seed down and hope some relationships grow and, with proper care and nurturing, turns into business.

Why Use Account-Based Marketing?

Whereas widespread marketing to place leads at the top of the funnel works, hand selecting the cream of the crop prospects and targeting those with a personalized experience can produce better results and stronger clients. In fact, this pivot and integration of focusing on targeting the decision makers within select accounts has become much easier in the last few years with the evolution of new platforms, channels, and tools that enable a deeper understanding of and better access to our clients.

In Demand Gen Report’s 2020 ABM Benchmark Survey, 73% of the marketers surveyed said ABM has led to an efficient use of marketing resources and 37% saw a clearer path to ROI. That’s probably because the developed and targeted client personas are much more inclined to benefit from your service or product, and as such, your outreach and messaging may strongly resonate with them, significantly increasing the lead to conversion time. In other words, you are providing something of value to your prospects. And your approach, cadence, level of personalization, and delivery of this information are key to driving a successful ABM campaign.

Take LinkedIn and Sales Navigator, for instance. Ten years ago, LinkedIn was still in the adoption mode. However, a recent report shows LinkedIn members have surged 900 percent since 2010, increasing from 78 million to nearly 800 million members today. And, with the advent of Sales Navigator in 2014, social sales prospecting and selling have become an effective and cost-effective way of sourcing new business.

With other sophisticated tools, platforms, and automation systems that streamline processes, marketers now have a blank canvas to create a personalized experience of their brand for each client or prospect. Further, when you integrate an account-based marketing strategy with traditional marketing tactics and also consider that many companies have more mature customer databases and tools that provide insights and triggers, the ABM strategy has quickly emerged as a preferred method of targeted business development.

When Should Companies Use Account-Based Marketing?

An ABM strategy can be especially effective for smaller and mid-size businesses that don’t have the resource bandwidth and available tools to integrate a robust and sustained traditional lead generation program. In this situation, it may make better sense to develop a customized strategy by selecting and targeting those prospects where winning one or two of their accounts business would move the needle. But even an ABM campaign at this level needs a scope of resources to support its success, including, but not limited to, research data, content, and creative, and should have tangible criteria to determine return on investment (ROI). And although ABM takes more resources and time for results, it has the potential to time to nurture and make the prospect ready for outreach, it has a much higher potential for return in producing longer-term, better quality clients.

How Should Companies Create an Account-Based Marketing Strategy?

A successful ABM strategy begins with the critical work of developing your client persona, one of six important steps that serve as the pillar of your efforts. Your persona must hit the mark to ensure your campaign is laser focused on the right prospects. But that is just the beginning. There are five other notable steps outlined below for small and mid-size businesses to develop and execute a successful ABM marketing strategy.

1) Define and shoot for the bullseye with your client profile development.

Using available data, web analytics, past client characteristics, and insights from your sales team, you can create an accurate archetype of your ideal account with confidence.

2) Identify the company’s top decision makers you plan to target and understand.

Outline the problems you will solve for with your strategy. Address a pain point and provide a solution along the campaign journey.

3) Define your specific ABM campaign goals.

Map out what you expect to achieve related to each goal – specifically and cumulatively – using your overall business’s established key performance indicators (KPI’s) for the company or department. True alignment between the business needs and molding your ABM strategy to support your business’s goals are critical.

In a business that has a front-facing sales team, the only way to make certain your campaign is positioned for victory is to collaborate on goals, determine measurements of success, execute customized outreach, and ensure the sales team follows up timely and appropriately with key targets. This alignment is often the hardest challenge, but it is key to ensuring the goals are mutual, the measurement of success is consistent, and the expectations are parallel. Otherwise, if marketing believes increased engagement and deeming an account ready for outreach defines success, but the sales team believes immediate new business makes the campaign a win, this misalignment could cause disappointment and lack of future buy-in by both sides. What will deem the strategy and campaign a success? Close rate? Pipeline? Impressions? Sales meetings? Content engagement rates? Sales cycle length?

4) Create and define the experience with a detailed journey and messaging.

Understanding your client’s obstacles and their level of interest in your product or service will help you determine what content and messaging is presented along their engagement path. Incorporate calls to action through an offering like a free analysis or something that will attract attention and engagement.

5) Debrief, refine, and repeat the campaign by measuring your results through data.

Leveraging data to understand what is resonating with your targets will help you improve your strategies. Understanding content performance as well as how and where clients prefer to receive information allows you to create better personalization and increased engagement that will help you glean when the accounts are ready for outreach.

Bottom line, it’s all about the BOTTOM LINE and ABM helps businesses of all sizes see that line more clearly when they target real prospects that fit within the parameters of their client profile who are more apt to bring you business. With targeting real prospects that best match your business offerings, an ABM approach MAY support shorter sales cycles. Its highly targeted approach ensures dollars are spent more wisely, all the while providing a better customer experience, which as we know, is a key competitive differentiator in today’s business world.

Want to see how ABM can grow your business?

We can help! Get in touch with us below for a free initial marketing assessment (IMA) and from there we can discuss the value an account-based marketing strategy could bring to your business. 

About the Author

Bonnie Habyan is a Chief Marketing Officer and author with more than 25 years of experience in the financial services and energy sectors. She specializes in brand development, growth marketing, and acceleration strategies. She can be reached at and found on LinkedIn here.

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