Account-Based Marketing in the Era of COVID-19

Alexander Hipwell 5  mins read Updated: February 23rd, 2024

Account-Based Marketing has been a hot topic of late... I mean you are reading this blog so there must be interest right?

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Something we have observed is there is a lot of uncertainty around what Account-Based Marketing actually is, so let’s quickly define it.  

We’re big fans of Engagio’s definition of ABM: “a go-to-market strategy that coordinates personalised marketing and sales efforts to land and expand target accounts.”

Although ABM is starting to have its moment in the spotlight it’s not actually all that new. 

The concept of Account-Based Marketing was originally developed by ITSMA in 2004 with the goal of helping marketers achieve better results by halting the habit of generic and boring sales pitches. Instead, marketing and sales would align and focus on a set of the most valuable accounts for their organisation. 

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    Account-Based Marketing emphasises the quality of the accounts, rather than the number of leads. It is highly strategic, targeting multiple key decision-makers in a business. ABM is cost-effective because it focuses on high value, high-quality accounts over sheer quantity of accounts. For the full rundown on Account-Based Marketing check out our Complete Guide to Getting Started with Account-Based Marketing.

    So Account-Based Marketing sounds great right? But COVID has hit, and certain tools marketing and sales teams have traditionally used such as travel, direct mail and events are not as readily available.

    COVID’s impact was especially disruptive to organisations who had planned what they may have thought to be leakproof strategies a year ahead, only to find their plans turned into a smouldering dumpster fire... Or was that just 2020 in general? There is also the risk of having your voice and share of the marketing lower if you become paralysed with inertia. 

    Something else that’s changed is B2B organisations is you can’t have 18 month long conversations anymore. Organisations are looking at doing things in 90-120 days therefore the messaging needs to change. Marketing and sales need to change the messaging in the marketing that you’re going to see results within that period, especially as the attention of the decision-makers has really shortened. 

    In 2020 organisations really had to scramble and reimagine how to approach ABM campaigns, as we move into 2021 and beyond how can we plan for COVID-proofed Account-Based Marketing?

    How can we engage, excite and delight our prospects? And how can we stay relevant in these times? 

    It’s important to start by taking a step back to see how people are feeling in these times and how working from home has changed their day to day structure? We don’t want to bombard people with constant sales messaging, we need to take a dose of empathy when approaching ABM and all marketing in general. As marketing and sales professionals we need to have this key ability to understand and have a good understanding of the prospects pain-points it’s our job to solve. 

    Can I still do direct mail?

    Direct mail is a key competent to an ABM strategy but has become especially more challenging in the current environment. It’s great when you know a decision-maker is going to be in the office, but with many decision-makers working from home and likely to continue doing so in at least some capacity how should we approach this without being a total creep? What are the ethics around direct mail to somebody’s family home, and how will they feel about it when you’re trying to build a relationship built on trust? 

    There is still the possibility to send care packages, gift boxes, etc. Direct mail isn’t dead in the COVID era, but we do need to approach it in an empathetic and caring way, and ideally without coming across as a stalker. We’ve got to delight. 

    Create engaging virtual events

    Virtual events are really interesting, in our recent podcast with Natalie Mendes at SAS we discussed a virtual workshop, where they took the attendees details, asked them what they wanted for breakfast, then put in an order with UberEats. Each virtual attendee got their breakfast delivered and the first fifteen minutes of the workshops was a discussion around breakfast choices, just like an in-person event. Everyone loved the experience of a corporate workshop breakfast in the comfort of their own home.

    What a great way to break down formal barriers create a casual informal environment to build trust and begin to forge a relationship; all virtual but including the simple and familiar act of sharing a meal and an experience together from their own home. Plus SAS was recognised supporting a section of the local economy in crisis mode. 

    Many organisations have realised that they are getting a much better ROI and attendance rate on virtual events rather than a traditional live event. So it looks like the trend of virtual and hybrid events is here to stay and will only become more commonplace. We only need to look to the rise of specialised solutions such as OnZoom, Hopin and Airmeet and the investment pouring into these firms to see this is a space that will continue to grow. 

    Podcasts are booming

    Podcasting is another excellent channel for Account-Based Marketing strategies, it’s scalable depending on the size of your organisation and fairly low cost compared to many other content options. 

    Podcasts are one of the best ways to share knowledge and you only need to do a quick search to notice that podcasting is booming at the moment. Not only are they such a great and easily digestible way to share thought leadership but depending on your back catalogue and interview topics there is potential to also turn them into another piece of content the sales team can leverage. 

    What’s this intent data I keep hearing about?

    One of the other trends is companies selling intent data on customers are booming. Before the pandemic, you were able to get that face to face engagement and it was a lot easier to get intent data. But businesses have lost one of their senses in this regard. Intent data providers have come in to try and replace that for organisations. 

    ABM is shaping up to be a key part of the B2B landscape

    In the era of COVID, Account-Based Marketing is becoming the strategy for B2B businesses, there is pressure for customer acquisition, retention and for steady revenue generation. According to a recent survey by ITSMA, “84% of companies engaged in ABM say the ROI is higher than for other types of marketing and about the same number say both that it is already a key aspect of their marketing strategy and that its importance continues to grow and more than two-thirds of companies will increase spending on ABM.”

    The pandemic has surfaced different insights and realisations into the mindset of customers, marketers and salespeople alike. Each business and each department are facing their own challenging problems. The nature of ABM’s personalised messaging and organisational alignment is key to starting conversations to help solve issues and align both the sales and marketing teams with revenue and ROI. 

    If this COVID induced upheaval has put a strain on your sales and marketing, reach out and we can help. 

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      xGrowth brings a very structured approach to ABM. It’s been amazing working with you.

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      When I think ABM, I think xGrowth. xGrowth were 100% committed, the whole team was just like our business partner. I would say you are not a business vendor; you are our business partner.
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