Account-based marketing: How it can help your company improve demand, awareness and profitability

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Account-based marketing is hot and attracting a great deal of attention among forward-thinking marketers in the technology sector. What exactly is account-based marketing? It's a strategic approach to integrated, branded communications to customers and prospects that treats an individual account as its own highly specialized market opportunity. Each customer is unique; why should they all get the same message at the same time?

When implemented well, account-based marketing helps companies establish, nurture, and grow highly collaborative and profitable relationships with key customers by continuously addressing their business and information needs.

Recently, several blue-chip consulting services and product companies such as BearingPoint, HP, Progress Software and Xerox are among those who have successfully implemented Account-based marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy. However, these companies represent the proverbial "tip of the iceberg" in terms of Account-based marketing deployment. There is no reason why small and mid-sized companies cannot adopt a similar philosophy and reap the same benefits as do larger firms.

So why is account-based marketing emerging as a successful approach and how can your sales and marketing teams design and implement plans to help you realize similar results?

It's no secret that customer loyalty is increasingly important to the profits of business-to-business marketers. Companies that offer enterprise-class products and services face a long, complex sales process. While closing an initial sale can often take months, if not years, this investment can be enhanced with effective account-based marketing after the sale is made. The result can be a dramatic increase in long-term return on investment.

The Internet enable relationship marketing to occur in virtually real time and the wide variety of deliverable content allows for a more meaningful relationship with the customer. Unfortunately, speed is of little consolation if the information conveyed to your audience is poorly organized, static or unfocused. This is too often the case with many corporate Web sites and extranets.

The ideal solution to these marketing challenges is a personalized online presence for each target account that includes the right information at the right time. Sounds easy, right? To help corporate marketers analyze how to build satisfying account-based marketing programs for their customers, here are five best practices to consider.

  1. Program Design
    Programs must be tailored to provide value to specific business situations, even if it means creating unique content that would not otherwise be available. Materials should be available at multiple locations û or touch points û both online and offline, and should be consistent and supportive of the overall brand.
  1. Traffic Generation
    The motto "If you build it they will come" may work for baseball fields in the middle of an Iowa corn field, but does not apply to account-based marketing. A successful account-based marketing program requires a persistent communications strategy that drives traffic to a Web site. In my experience, [it should consist of] outgoing communications that highlight new and different reasons for customers to come back deliver qualified visitors time after time.
  1. Conversion
    With account-based marketing, conversion is an ongoing process that requires programs to be continuously optimized. You want your customers to interact with the materials and take action, just as they would with a sales person. You can achieve this with different offers and varied content. The key to success is to give before you can expect to receive. Just like your mom always said.
  1. Calls to Action
    An important part of the engagement process is to ask your customer to take an action. This can be a low involvement action, such as downloading a white paper, or a high involvement action, such as requesting a sales meeting. Offering customers choices for the actions they can take engages more qualified visitors.
  1. Management Process
    Make every effort to hold an account-based marketing program just as accountable as you do the sales force. Establish metrics and monitor them. Financial metrics, like cost per conversion; awareness metrics, like time spent; and direct marketing metrics, like conversion rates to sales calls are all important.

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