Account Based Marketing: Utilizing Advertising

By Madison Taylor
April 8, 2020
meeting going around a table

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a recent innovation in the B2B marketing world, based on marketing directly to the accounts that best fit your business and product. Think of traditional marketing like casting a wide net, hoping to snag a lead at a company that would benefit from your business.

But that one person isn’t likely to be the sole decision-maker at any sizable corporate client — instead, you’ll need to make contact with six to eight individuals in order to close the deal. With ABM, you can find those exact people and direct your marketing efforts specifically toward them. It’s not a net, it’s a spear.

What is Account-Based Advertising?

Account-based advertising (ABA) is essentially the same concept as ABM, but you’re using extremely targeted ads to engage the right people at the right company. Thanks to modern marketing technology, you can isolate people by their company’s IP address or their Facebook or Google profile, ensuring that your ads are only being shown to the people who are likely to be most receptive to it.

For a particularly poignant example, consider people who found their jobs on Facebook. Not through typical job listings, but by advertising themselves. These clever job searchers placed ads with their faces and resumes, then used Facebook’s tools to target those ads at a few select executives at the companies they wanted to work for.

ABA is the same thing — but instead of advertising a person, you’re advertising your B2B product to the exact individuals that will be making purchasing decisions at the companies you target.

The Benefits of ABA

Account-based advertising can be an extremely lucrative and rewarding strategy for your B2B company, if it’s applied properly. There’s a lot to love about the strategy.

ABM is Proactive, Not Reactive

Traditional digital advertising — like Google AdWords, retargeting to contacts that have visited your site, and CRM advertising to contacts in your database — is reactive. You can’t serve those ads until one of your contacts has already taken action by conducting a search or visiting your site.

ABA is the opposite. You don’t have to wait for your targets to express an interest in your company or discover you on their own — you can find them where they are with content that’s built to meet their exact needs.

ABA Helps With Sales and Marketing Alignment

It’s a tale as old as time — marketing people don’t have enough information from salespeople to generate the leads they want, and salespeople resent marketers for not generating the leads that can be converted most effectively.

The solution is sales and marketing alignment — a topic we’ve talked about before. But with ABM and ABA, that tension is a thing of the past. You’ll start your campaign by making a list of your target companies, based on the criteria that make a given customer the most compatible. There’s no disagreement between your marketing and sales departments about leads because the leads have already been decided. Sales and marketing are already on the same page.

Complement to Email Marketing

People already get too many emails. Campaign Monitor estimates that the average office worker receives 121 emails per day, and they obviously don’t have time to give each one a meaningful amount of attention. Email marketing is still a good way to get in touch with people, but it can be hard to cut through the clutter.

Advertising, on the other hand, isn’t invasive. It’s an outbound technique that supplements your inbound strategy, allowing you to unobtrusively reach your audience where they’re already spending time. Using a targeted ABM approach lets you put your brand, your message, and your product in front of the people who want to work with you — without making them open an email

How ABA Works

We won’t get deep into the nuts and bolts of how ABA works behind the scenes, but you should at least know a little bit about how the sausage — in this case, the ability to find a specific person’s computer and put an ad on it — gets made.

The first is option is targeting IP addresses. Big buildings, like the headquarters of the company you’re targeting, tend to have easily identifiable IP addresses through which all of the building’s internet traffic is routed. If you can find that IP address (and there are plenty of services that will find it for you), you can serve ads only to traffic from one hub.

IP targeting isn’t perfect — it’ll show ads to everyone at a company. If a business has dozens or hundreds of employees, you’ll be spending your ad budget on people who don’t have any say in the decision-making process. It’s also confused by virtual private networks (VPNs), which are becoming more common.

Another approach is to use a third-party database. There are plenty of services that will help you find the contact information for the right people in a company, and you can buy that info from them directly.

But third-party data isn’t a perfect solution either. People get hired and fired, they change jobs within a company, and companies restructure. Your information won’t be valid forever. In fact, up to 70 percent of B2B contact information is out of date within a year of acquiring it. A CRM can help you track the age and reliability of your info, and you can cross-check third-party data against IP addresses, but there’s no perfect system.

The most popular approach is social media. Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to conduct advanced searches by company, location, job title, and dozens of other criteria. Assuming people are keeping their job info up to date, you can easily find the right people at the right companies to deliver ads and other relevant content.

The Best of Both Worlds

At first glance, ABM and inbound marketing seem like very different approaches to the same problem — but they’re not so different after all. ABM involves finding the companies that will be the best fit for your product and reaching out to them directly, but you’re still going to have to reach out with something.

That’s where content comes in. You’ll have to continue creating relevant, meaningful, useful content for every stage of the buyer’s journey, helping guide the targets you find via ABM toward finally making a purchase. No matter which approach you use to engage your customers, content will still be the rock you build your strategy on.