Though each company will need to determine its own approach, looking to distinct patterns can give you a sense of how to market B2B SaaS successfully.
If I had a dollar for every time I misspelled “ABM” as “BAM,” I’d be writing this blog on my yacht in Monaco. I do, however, think that ABM done right can work just like fireworks. Below are 7 steps to get “BAM” out of your ABM campaigns.
First things first, what is ABM, and how is it different from “outbound marketing”?
What is ABM?
ABM or account-based marketing is really a go-to-market strategy. It’s a B2B SaaS marketing strategy that concentrates sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within your market. For each of those target accounts, you employ very personalized campaigns designed to resonate with the individuals within each account.
With B2B SaaS ABM, your marketing message, channel, and timing are based on the specific attributes and needs of those people and those accounts you’re targeting, hence the name “account-based marketing.”
How is ABM different from outbound or inbound marketing?
In inbound marketing, your audience is typically doing the work. You run a Google Ads campaign, write a blog for your website, or present a webinar about a specific topic. Your audience is typically problem-aware, solution-aware, and sometimes even product-aware. They have already done their research, potentially looked at competitors, educated themselves about the solution for their problems, and then considered you as a potential solution.
Outbound marketing, on the other hand, is non-personalized cold outreach. Think of the stereotypical calls you get about your car's extended warranty. It’s a method that worked well in B2C and, still to this day, is being used. It is not, however, a good B2B strategy. In B2B, with the complexity and high prices of B2B services, your buyers depend on peers, experts, friends, and even salespeople to make their decisions. At the end of the day, in B2B, you’re convincing someone to spend someone else’s money. Your extended warranty calls are not going to cut it.
ABM is the best of both worlds. You do the work, you’re not just picking up the phone or running a Google Ad. You start with finding the right companies and then the right people within those companies. You thoroughly research their pain points, their watering holes, what keeps them up at night, and their ideal solutions.
Now there are very specific steps you need to follow to ensure the success of your ABM campaigns. If you skip a step, you are no longer running a proper ABM campaign, you’re just spending a lot of your marketing and sales resources on outbound campaigns that don’t perform very well.
The 7 key steps of ABM
When you are first planning your ABM campaigns, there are 7 main steps you need to think about. We call those the “7 C’s of ABM;” companies, contacts, content, channels, cadence, cultivation, and conversion.
The first thing you need to start with when thinking about your ABM campaigns is your ICP or ideal customer profile. You need to define what the ideal company for your solution looks like.
The two main categories to use here when filtering those companies down are fit and friction. The ideal company to go after is one that has the highest fit and lowest friction. Friction is your speed to onboard, for example, or how many gates you need to go through to get this company signed up as a customer. Your fit depends on the industries where you’ve found success in the past, where your customers have stayed and referred others, or simply the ones you built your business to service.
Once you determine your ICP and the right companies to go after, now you need to map and identify your key contacts. Think of the contacts or personas within those companies that would impact the buying decision the most and see the most benefit from your platform.
We break those personas down into 3 buckets:
P1: that’s the user or the beneficiary of your solution. Those are typically people looking to improve their productivity, level up in their companies, and have job security.
P2: that’s typically the supervisor of P1. P2 is typically your buyer—the middle manager that wants to reduce costs, do more with less, and deliver ROI.
P3: the executive. That’s your C-suite team, investors, board members, etc. Their responsibilities are typically more related to pleasing stakeholders, growing their businesses, and minimizing risk vs. outcomes. This is typically your blocker or your sponsor. Someone that helps you remove potential legal or IT blockers.
Depending on the size of the company, you could have a person doing all three of those buckets of duties on their own. You could also be a really big company where you have levels between P1, P2, and P3.
You need to research each of those personas individually. You need to write down their pains, fears, dreams, watering holes, and typical responsibilities and jobs to be done. None of this should be licking fingers to give the correct direction of the wind. It should not come from you or your company. It should come from extensive research and customer interviews.
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Once you find the right personas and as you continue to do your research and customer interviews, now you can start defining your content and the personalized messaging that you’ll use in your ABM campaigns. You need to come up with an ABM content strategy that ensures you can deliver your unique selling proposition to your ICP. To do this, you need to show a clear understanding of their needs.
Pain is the answer to the question, “why should I change?” and that’s what we always lead with. This is how you stand out from competitors. Make sure you’re personal. Use the industry terms they use and what you learned from your customer interviews.
Claim is the answer to the question “why change with you?” and that’s what most companies typically lead with. Claim is why people need to pick you vs. your competitors. What about your offering makes it unique to this specific person in this specific company? This is when you show your research and brag about your product. This is where you present yourself as a thought leader and a subject matter expert. This is where you bring a plan for solving the pains you started with.
Gain is the answer to the question, “why change now?” and that’s where you show results. This is where you share customer testimonies and social proof. This is where you share the impact your solution has had on others and how it can help this prospect. This is your opportunity to create FOMO. This is where your prospect thinks: “I have to sign up with this company right now, or otherwise I’m missing out on saving this much per month or on this much increase in productivity.”
Even with the best content, you have to choose the right channels to distribute it. You can’t expect mechanics to check their LinkedIn accounts in the middle of the day or doctors to respond to your emails in the middle of an operation. This is why channels are a major key to successful ABM campaigns.
The best way to make sure you’re using the right channels is to spend a lot of time on your watering holes research. Every persona within each industry is going to visit different watering holes. Those could be events or trade shows, Youtube influencers, LinkedIn groups, industry publications, etc. Find the right channels, and make sure your ABM campaigns include several touches throughout a variety of them.
Imagine that you’re looking to remodel your bathroom. Are you going to respond to a contractor’s ad on Facebook at 3 am on a weekday? No. The cadence in which you distribute your content is really important. You can’t send 4 cold emails in the same week, but you also shouldn’t just send one email and forget about it. You need to find the right cadence that keeps your prospects excited, engaged, and educated.
This is where most B2B SaaS ABM campaigns fail.
You shouldn’t give up on cultivating relationships, even if you don’t see immediate conversions in sight. Instead, think about how you can cultivate a relationship with your prospect in which both parties benefit. You shouldn’t expect people to convert from the first email exchange. Just like you would like to have time to show your value before being considered only on your price. Work on building a relationship that makes your prospect want to buy your product or solution without you even pushing for a demo.
The 7th and final C is conversion. Once you’ve found the right companies and personas, created the right content, used the right channels to distribute it in the right cadence, and cultivated your relationship with your prospects, then you push to convert your prospects into paying customers that refer others.
This is the step where you need to measure the performance of your campaigns, understand what channels work best, optimize future campaigns using your learnings, and then start interviewing your newly added customers to get even more data.
Now get started!
Don’t expect to get your first ABM campaign exactly right and immediately turn out big profits and ideal ROI. Each of these Cs will require a great deal of testing, watching the right metrics, and making data and customer-interview-informed adjustments accordingly. However, if you’re able to implement those 7 C’s properly, you’ll have those New Year's fireworks in your ABM campaigns every day!
Getting started on an ABM campaign? You’ll need a great ABM contact list!