Marketers are trying to understand the buzz around account based marketing, according a recent survey.

Just over fifty percent of B2B marketers are testing an account based marketing pilot program.

Furthermore, marketers are using account based marketing (ABM) to coordinate demand generation efforts with their sales team. 

For a technique that aligns marketing and sales it’s essential for B2B marketers to understand how ABM works. So here’s everything you need to know.

account based marketing

Account Based Marketing vs Reactive Advertising

One way to understand account based marketing is to think of it as proactive marketing, and not reactive marketing.

Proactive and reactive marketing are polar opposites. The idea here is quite simple.

Let’s say you are looking at a pair of shoes on a website but don’t actually buy them. It’s simple for the company to be reactive and present related ads on channels like mobile, Facebook, and display.

They may even convince you to buy with a discount offer. It’s an easy win for marketing and there’s no sales person involved. No other decision makers needed. Just you and the shoe. Adroll is one of the top companies leading the charge in this arena.

This technique works great for B2C companies because the decision maker is typically just one person. But what about B2B?

What Is Proactive Advertising?

Reactive advertising has its downsides. For example, let’s say someone visits your website and downloads an e-book. If you were to just retarget this one person over and over across all digital channels, you would probably annoy them.

You already have them as a lead, and even though they are interested, they may not be ready to purchase, or they may not be the budget authority.

Reactive advertising (i.e. retargeting) won't do much good here. If the company  this person belongs to is qualified, then there is likely more than one influencer who would be involved in the buying process.

Proactive advertising is how B2B marketers engage with all stakeholders in a deal. This means getting your message in front of all of the influencers in your target company even if they have never been to your website.

SiriusDecisions suggests that there are six to eight people in the decision-making process, and even more as you go higher up.

This is why marketing qualified leads often have poor sales conversion rates. For example:

  • 90% of business buyers say when they’re ready to buy, they’ll find you. (DemandGen Report)

  • 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified. (MarketingSherpa)

That is the key difference between proactive and reactive advertising, and is why many B2B companies are adopting a proactive account-based advertising strategy to more effectively penetrate their target accounts.

To illustrate this strategy lets explain how to do ABM according to the modern customer experience funnel which is literally a flipped B2B sales and marketing funnel - but way more effective!


Let’s walk through these stages step-by-step:

Identify - Let’s say you are targeting healthcare companies in the Fortune 500. There are a number of tools like Salesloft and LinkedIn Navigator that can help you identify the right companies that fit your target company profile.

Expand - Let’s say your target buyer is a healthcare IT professional. There are many data providers like NetprospexLinkedInDiscoverOrg who specializes in identifying the list of people that fit your target roles in each of these target verticals. Now you have information on the target list of companies and the ideal buyers.

Engage - This is where proactive advertising can create awareness within these known accounts across all digital channels like mobile, social, display, and video. You can target these companies and professionals by putting them into accounts and targeting accounts with specific messaging and offers.

Most marketing and sales professionals mistakenly think email is the best channel and it certainly is -- when trust is established. Until that is done, email is just noise and interruption-based marketing.

Advocate - There are innumerable references and stats around the fact that the best customers come from referrals and peer recommendations, not from lead generation programs.

It’s human nature to travel on paths that have been already tested and when it comes to B2B software, it’s no different. Prospects validation that the product will do what it says it will and there is no better way than to ask their peers in your industry. 

Bottom Line

A B2B marketer’s role is not lead generation. It’s revenue generation. Lead generation is just a step to get to revenue, but many marketers mistakenly think of lead generation as a goal.

Adopting a proactive advertising technique can help marketers generate revenue from key accounts, solidifying marketing’s role not just as a lead generator, but as an indispensable contributor to the bottom line.

So there you have it! At its core, reactive advertising may be the right solution if you are a B2C company, but consider proactive account-based advertising if you are targeting B2B company.

About the Author: Sangram Vajre, co-founder and CMO of Terminus, is a passionate Marketing geek at heart and loves to solve problems, both analytically and creatively. Most recently, Sangram headed up Marketing at Pardot, which was acquired by Salesforce in 2013. You can follow him on Twitter at @sangramvajre.