How much do you know about commercial fishing? Most likely you work in marketing or some sort of corporate environment, so we’ll go with “not a lot.” That’s okay. Let’s stick to the basics.

When commercial fishermen set out to sea, they have their sights set on bringing back as many fish as possible. They cast their large fishing nets off the starboard side (or is it port side?) in hopes of a bountiful catch. While quality is certainly a factor, their main focus is on quantity. More fish equals more money. As the old fishing adage goes, “If you want to catch a lot of fish, you need big nets.” I made that up, but that has to be right.

Now, how much do you know about deep-sea fishing? (I promise I’m about to get to the point.)

The philosophy is entirely different. Let’s say they’re after a trophy swordfish or marlin. Everything they do is much more intentional—hyper-focused even. There are no delusions of packed nets filled with hundreds of small fish. It’s one-on-one. Mano a mano. But a much bigger payoff.

This, in a nutshell, describes the biggest (but certainly not the newest) trend in B2B marketing today: ABM, or account-based marketing. We’re not out hunting for a school of smaller fish—we want the big ones. Okay, enough about fish.

Let's talk about ABM

If you’re from a traditional B2C background, this may seem a little nerve-racking. The traditional sales funnel starts wide for a reason, and for many brands, that’s okay. A Super Bowl commercial for a light beer should get blasted to millions of people. But B2B has far smaller audiences, and getting a customized message to key decision-makers will often be much more impactful.

Unfortunately, reaching the right buyers is becoming a harder and harder task (especially at the C-suite level). According to research and advisory firm TOPO, it can take up to 18 calls to reach a buyer these days, and Campaign Monitor notes that the average email open rate is 17.92%.

That’s okay, you think; the majority of our business comes in via referrals.

Not so fast. According to a study from Hinge Research Institute (Inside the Buyer’s Brain, Second Edition), the use of referrals as a search method has dropped by 15% over the last few years. Buyers are not as keen to make referrals either, with referral-making down 5% in the same time period. With buyers leading marketers on a longer, more expensive wild-goose chase, more marketers are turning to ABM.

Business 2 Community defines account-based marketing as “a scalable and layered strategic approach to marketing and sales that leverages different levels of targeted and personalized messaging to engage with a specific prospect or customer/client (account) during an experience or journey.”

By flipping the traditional sales funnel on its head, ABM focuses on targeting a small number of accounts, identifying key decision-makers, and engaging them with relevant and personalized content. Instead of Marketing passing leads onto Sales, ABM finds Marketing and Sales working in tandem to focus on the right accounts.


The Devil's in the Details

It isn’t hard to imagine why this would be successful. Have you ever gotten a direct mail piece offering you an amazing deal? The only problem is they spelled your name wrong—worse than a coffee shop barista. How special does that feel? Now, what if the direct mail not only had your name spelled correctly (come on, people), but was completely custom and contained messaging that related to your needs? You see where I’m going with this.

Sure, the traditional sales funnel still works in certain situations, but implementing an ABM strategy is a surefire way to drum up more high-quality business. Don’t believe us? We’ll let the metrics do the talking.

With results like these, it’s no wonder why so many B2B marketers have adopted ABM into their marketing mix.

Why haven’t you?

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on Account-Based Marketing. Check back in next month for Part 2, where we dive into specific case studies of ABM.