ABM Campaigns Explained

Kate Cygan on May 09, 2023

Some marketing advice is so standard it’s become almost platitudinous. (Yes, I just made that an adjective.) Things like “Know your audience” or “Personalize communications” can be applied to almost every type of campaign or marketing effort you implement in your business.

However, there is one marketing strategy that fully embodies these principles instead of just integrating them with other tactics. That is account-based marketing — a.k.a. ABM.

ABM is all about defining a specific audience segment, figuring out exactly what their pain points are and then positioning your product or service as the ideal solution.

Although the theory is straightforward, putting it into practice is a different matter. I brought in Kate Cygan, Director of Client Services, to teach us all about ABM campaigns and the five steps for putting your plan into action.

Understanding ABM

If you search the web for an explanation of ABM, you’ll get a variety of answers ranging in depth and breadth. Kate distills the major points into one simple answer:

“It’s really about understanding the one or two main challenges that your target accounts are facing and crafting the right content that speaks to your solution for those challenges.”

There are 3 parts to an ABM strategy:

  1. Your audience
  2. Their pain points
  3. Your content

Your Audience

Most inbound marketing initiatives cast a wide net in a big pond — you’re trying to catch as much of whatever wanders into your net as you can.

ABM campaigns, however, are more like bringing a fishing pole to a specific fishing hole. You have to decide what type of fish you want to catch so you can choose the right bait, right spot and right time of day. This greatly increases your chances of catching something valuable and cuts down on time spent weeding through the odds and ends that get caught up in a wide net.

Just like in our fishing metaphor, ABM targets specific accounts so you can narrow your messaging and increase your odds of generating and converting leads.

“When choosing your audience, you should focus on companies or audience segments that can benefit most from your services,” Kate explains. “Consulting or creating an ICP (ideal customer profile) or buyer persona can be helpful too.”

If your business caters to a specific industry, then you can choose more concrete details to help you narrow your audience, such as geographic location, company size or the type of products or services they need.

New call-to-action

Their Pain Points

Once you know who your target audience is, you can start defining their specific pain points. Although you may have been serving this audience segment for months or even years, it’s wise to dive deeper into what you know about them and really clarify what challenges they’re facing.

“Lean on your subject matter experts to help,” Kate advises. “The thing about an ABM plan is that it’s highly collaborative between sales and marketing teams. Talk to your salespeople to get insights about what the main pain points are for your target audience based on their sales discussions.”

You can look for details like:

  • What are the individual roles and responsibilities in these companies?
  • Who are the decision-makers?
  • Why do they have discussions with companies like yours?
  • What problems are they trying to solve?
  • What challenges are they up against?
  • When are the busy seasons when they most need your product or service?

Kate also recommends using LinkedIn to see what people in these roles and companies are talking about with their peers as it relates to the industry. “This isn’t the best way to find challenges, per se, but it is an out-of-the-box way to get a pulse on how they talk about their industry and give you good insights for building your own content.”

Your Content

Now it’s time to start thinking about your content. This includes all the materials that will support your ABM campaign from blog posts and case studies to landing pages and email series.

“You have to get specific,” Kate says. “The key to successful ABM is personalized content. You don’t want to send out general information about your company or solutions because general information won’t solve your target account’s problem.

“You need to create messaging that is specific, makes your solution clear and earns trust quickly, or else you’ve lost the opportunity.”

To do this, you must first start with the insight you gained from your sales team. Think about the details of who your target audience is, what challenges they’re facing and how your product or service solves that problem. Now condense that into a simple, clear statement.

(Pro tip: A StoryBrand BrandScript can help you condense and clarify your message.)

After you’ve gathered those insights, you can take to the web to do some research of your own. This will help you decide on the right timing for your ABM campaign based on when it will be most impactful to your audience.

For example, imagine you’re a SaaS company with a product that helps teachers deliver a better learning experience for their students. You might want to start your ABM campaign during Q3 so that your product can be found, purchased and implemented before the school year starts.

The last step is to gather all the sales and marketing materials that build trust around your product or service. This could be videos, white pages, guides, case studies — anything that backs up your promise to solve a specific problem. These materials will be the backbone of your ABM campaign.

ABM Communication

Okay, so now you know your audience and their primary challenge and you’ve gathered all the content you need to show them how awesome you are. What’s the best way to communicate that information to your target audience?

Kate recommends email marketing.

“You can use a series of five emails that all deliver unique information and real value,” she says. “Each email should build trust with your audience, showcase what your product or service can do for them as it relates to solving their pain points, and move users further down your sales funnel so they’re encouraged to contact you.”

Value is a key part of getting people to open and engage with your marketing emails. Ideally, you want to either send them to your website or invite them to connect with you.

Emails are a great place to show that you have a variety of helpful resources. In each email, you can link to a different resource, such as:

  • A custom landing page
  • A case study relating to the target audience
  • A testimonial from a previous or current client
  • A 1:1 video from a company leader

It doesn’t stop here, though. Once you’ve communicated your solution to your audience, you have to make sure they’re listening.

Reporting and Optimizing

As your ABM campaign runs, you need to make sure you’re consistently reviewing its KPIs — namely, engagement metrics.

“If someone is engaged — opening all your emails, clicking on resources, etc. — you might want to consider doing a direct custom outreach to them,” Kate says. “You could record a video introducing yourself, showing you know who they are and making custom recommendations for their situation.”

Without monitoring your reporting, you might miss opportunities from people who are highly engaged but haven’t reached out on their own. Remember that ABM is all about filling a need and showing you care, so sometimes you have to make the move.

That being said, we know you’re a busy person. This ABM campaign likely isn’t the only thing going on in your business, so we don’t expect you to sit around watching dashboards all day. That’s where HubSpot comes in.

HubSpot’s marketing automation tools make it easy to keep track of who needs a custom reach out and who’s still moving through your funnel with automated emails.

You can set interaction thresholds (opened email, clicked a link, scheduled a meeting) that trigger a change in the contact’s status within your ABM campaign. For example, someone who scheduled a meeting through one of your emails would be automatically pulled out of the email nurture series and placed into a sales sequence.

👉 Learn more about Implementing ABM in HubSpot!

After you accrue a healthy amount of engagement data, it’s time to optimize your campaign.

“You should be in constant communication with your sales team because timing is so important in an ABM campaign,” Kate explains. “Optimization isn’t only about what materials you’re sending and when, it’s also about when is the best time to hand off leads from marketing to sales.”

Timing will be unique to your business and might take some trial and error to figure out what works best. Be patient with the process and make sure that you’re consistently repeating the report-and-optimize process to find your ideal communication methods and timing.

The 5 Steps of ABM

Now we get to the fun part — implementing your ABM campaign! I know we’ve given you a lot to consider, but Kate boils down building your campaign into five easy steps:

LFC_5 Steps of ABM Graphic_horizontal

  1. Find your audience. Look for companies that will benefit the most from your product or services and determine who are the key decision-makers.
  2. Create content. Your content should clearly convey how your product or services solve your audience’s primary pain points.
  3. Deliver content in meaningful ways. You want to show your audience that you really care about solving their problems. You can deliver content via custom email series or by commenting and connecting on platforms like LinkedIn.
  4. Customize follow-ups. Once someone starts engaging with your content, it’s critical to move them into 1:1 outreach. Send them a video, call them by name and explain how your solution can help their business specifically.
  5. Report and optimize. Learning and adapting is critical to a successful ABM campaign. “Typically, you need to run 2-3 campaigns before you can really see where people are falling off or what content isn’t resonating,” Kate says. “Just learn, improve and try again.”

Ready to Try ABM?

ABM is a long-standing tactic, especially in the B2B marketing space. It helps you personalize your marketing message so you stand out from the crowd and get right to the heart of what potential customers care about.

If you want to learn more about ABM and how it works, check out this recording of our recent ABM webinar!

Kate Cygan
Kate Cygan
After being in the industry for over 11 years, she’s been on international business at global advertising agencies, worked at small startups, and everything in between. Her favorite thing about what she does is the deep, open and transparent conversations she has with clients. Through those, she’s able to uncover their goals and challenges to create a plan that will help their business succeed and get them to where they want to be.

Make More Things Happen

If you are a brand looking to improve your brand awareness, create predictable revenue streams, expand profit, etc. — we’ll do it. Get in touch.