SaaS account-based marketing (ABM) is a growth strategy that involves identifying high-value accounts (and their key stakeholders) and tailoring your marketing efforts to them. It’s one of many SaaS marketing strategies that generate a good return on investment, especially for enterprise B2B SaaS brands.
There are many stages to effective ABM. You need to identify your target audience, build a list of companies, create your list of individuals to target, choose the channels to use, and then track and execute your campaign.
The graphic below provides a nice overview of the stages of the process.
ABM campaigns aim to provide a personalized experience that leads to conversions whilst shortening sales cycles and boosting win rates. Therefore, they involve plenty of research and preparation that warrants a high degree of synergy between your company’s sales and marketing teams.
Why is an Account-Based Marketing Strategy Important in SaaS?
Implementing a SaaS ABM strategy can provide numerous benefits you won’t experience with other marketing strategies. These benefits include:
- Personalized Sales Opportunities: An ABM strategy identifies qualified leads with the highest revenue potential before implementing marketing tactics. This approach to B2B marketing creates room for producing personalized marketing content that is best suited to convert high-quality leads into paying customers.
- Optimal Resource Use: Due to its narrow focus on high-value prospects, an ABM strategy will let you use your company’s resources optimally. Rather than casting a wide net that captures dead-end leads, your efforts will focus on a narrower target account list. This precision lets you save time, money, and energy otherwise spent on chasing shadows.
- Synergy Between Marketing and Sales Teams: By its very nature, an ABM strategy brings your company’s sales and marketing departments together. The resulting collaboration provides numerous benefits, like eliminating existing silos and encouraging effective resource management.
- Shortened Sales Cycles: ABM helps you identify target accounts and their key stakeholders. This allows you to create a personalized campaign targeting every stakeholder all at once. As a result, it helps you reduce the sales cycle considerably. This is important in the enterprise and B2B industry, which tends to have long sales cycles due to the many stakeholders involved in each deal.
You can expect the above benefits when you roll out an ABM strategy for your SaaS product. These benefits will not only have a positive impact on your bottom line but will also improve your company’s processes and culture.
How to Run an Effective ABM Campaign
Now that you know what ABM entails and the benefits it provides, here are nine steps to creating an effective ABM campaign:
1. Define Your Approach
Broadly speaking, there are three types of Account Based Marketing campaigns. You have:
- Mass Outreach Campaigns: You create a list of companies and people to target and send the same message to every person on your list. It’s a direct-to-sales campaign. This approach is often considered spammy. It’s basically a numbers game and can work when targeting smaller companies.
- Mass Personalized Campaigns: You create a list of companies and people to target and personalize the messaging. You might only use one or two channels. You can run these campaigns at scale. It’s still a numbers game, but the personalization improves results.
- Targeted ABM Campaigns: You create a smaller list of companies and people to target. Your messaging is completely personalized. The campaigns are targeted, and you take a long-term approach across multiple channels. It’s a large investment high, reward approach.
The type of campaigns you run will depend on the size of the companies you are targeting and your goals. For enterprise companies, targeted ABM campaigns make the most sense. After all, you have a long buying cycle with many decision-makers involved in the process.
However, the rewards of running highly targeted campaigns might be outweighed by the costs. That’s why many companies tend to mix the mass personalized approach with targeted ABM campaigns. Those targeted campaigns are focused on the largest prospects.
2. Identify and Prioritize Target Accounts
Identifying your ideal customer profile is key to implementing an effective ABM strategy. The process involves using market data to single out the B2B companies that have a need or demand for your SaaS product.
It may also involve looking at existing accounts with a high revenue potential.
Basically, it comes down to two things. One, if you’re trying to enter a new target market. That would mean you need to do fresh research to identify potential companies in that market that could become your customers.
The other option is if you want to get more revenue from existing customers. In this case, your goal is to identify existing accounts with a high revenue potential.
In both cases, you’ll need data to create a compelling ABM strategy. More specifically, you need to know the account’s:
- Pain points
Now, one of the best ways to collect this data is by targeting your accounts in market research. Essentially, you’ll reach out to these accounts not to make a sale but to ask them to be part of your market research.
3. Identify the Key Decision Makers
A critical part of any successful ABM campaign is an understanding of who are the key decision-makers at a company. There’s a lot of sales literature on the topic of decision-makers.
In general, the smaller the company, the smaller the number of people involved in the buying process and the faster the sales cycle. The reverse is true.
Enterprise companies, those with revenues of $150 million or more, have slower buying cycles and more people involved in the decision-making process.
For large companies, you need to map the critical decision-makers and their roles in the decision-making process. The image below provides a nice illustration of how some sales literature tries to make sense of the buying center roles.
To find the people to target, you need to map the buying process for your service offering. There’s a good chance one or more of the key decision makers will have a job title like Founder, CFO, or CMO.
You’ll need to identify the other relevant stakeholders for your offering.
4. Tools and Techniques for Identifying Target Accounts
It’s crystal clear that you need to identify your target accounts and the key decision-makers. But how exactly are you supposed to go about it?
You can identify target accounts in various ways depending on what your ideal customer profile looks like.
Utilize lists to speed up your research process. For example, you can look for a list of SaaS companies that just went through a round of seed funding. Peer Signal is a good example of a useful list. They provide a list of the fastest-growing SaaS companies.
LinkedIn is one of the best platforms for identifying decision-makers at a company. You’ll need to use the LinkedIn Sales Navigator to collect information about prospects as you face search limitations on the regular account.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator helps you identify target accounts. For example, you can use the industry and company size filter to identify potential customers worth pursuing.
You can also use it to quickly identify specific personnel for different companies.
Export an Excel list of individuals to target different companies. You’ll probably want to connect with one or more people from each target account.
Next, you want to add another layer of automation tools. This helps speed up your outreach campaign. A tool like PhantomBuster can be super useful here.
It can extract LinkedIn users from a search and auto-connect with them. It’ll also keep track of the people accepting your requests. Additionally, the tool will automate your outreach campaign and sales sequences.
I recommend using an automation tool that allows you to use and track several marketing channels.
5. Consider Customer Pain Points
Considering customer pain points is the next step in setting up a successful ABM campaign. If you’ve done the initial market research correctly, you shouldn’t have a problem knowing what each account struggles with.
The focus then shifts to how your product can help in resolving the identified pain point. Therefore, your content and the communication exchanged with each account should be personalized based on the account’s unique struggles.
For example, if a certain account is struggling with efficiency, you’ll have to demonstrate how your solution will introduce efficiency. If another account is trying to cut costs, you’ll need to show how your solution supports this without impacting performance or results.
6. Create Your Messaging Flows
Many ABM marketing campaigns are based on flows. That’s logical because companies like to create scalable systems that enable them to generate repeatable results at scale.
For example, you have a flow of messages you send to prospects via LinkedIn or email.
You’ve no doubt experienced this personally.
Someone connects with you on LinkedIn, and suddenly a message appears in your inbox. Two days later, you get a follow-up, etc.
Campaigns like this win by numbers. Send messages to enough people, and someone will respond. Below I’ll discuss an ABM campaign that balances messaging flows and personalization. These are the types of campaigns you can run at scale.
You need to create messaging that resonates with your prospective customers. This is especially important during cold outreach.
Here’s the first message. It’s your icebreaker. It needs to be personalized and brief. Start with a personal introduction followed by the value of your offer. Close the email with a simple yes/no question.
Four days later, send a short follow-up email.
Send another follow-up three days later. This time, include a quick success story.
Send the last follow-up four days later.
You’ll also need to create different content for the different stages of the customer journeys. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to pitch your product during the first interaction. You need to build that rapport first and provide value to the account before asking for anything.
Now, LinkedIn is great, and emails are awesome. But phone calls are the ace you need up your sleeves to make the magic happen. This is especially true if you’re going after enterprise clients. You’ll need to pick up the phone and call your target accounts to start a conversation. That brings us to the next point.
7. Leverage Multichannel Outreach
Multichannel outreach is essential for the success of any ABM strategy.
Identify the key channels popular among your target account and use them throughout your campaign.
Here is an example of how we do this at our SaaS SEO agency.
First, we’ll identify the target accounts we’re interested in. We usually get this data from Peer Signals and other similar platforms.
Next, we’ll use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to pinpoint several individuals within those companies. From there, I’ll connect with the individuals and start interacting with them through comments before going into direct messages.
Afterward, I may follow up with the account in a 4-part email series. Depending on how the prospect responds, we may schedule a call.
The bottom line is you must combine several channels for your ABM strategy to be effective. From phone calls, emails, and social media to SaaS remarketing campaigns – use multiple (but relevant) channels to engage your accounts.
8. Align your Marketing and Sales Teams
ABM encourages synergy between sales and marketing teams. For starters, the two teams will need to be aligned on the ideal customer profile. This means setting up a service level agreement (SLA).
You don’t want your marketing team investing tons of resources only to hand off prospects who are not sales-qualified.
Speaking of which, you must also create a seamless account handoff process. Otherwise, you risk dropping the ball and losing prospects that are on the brink of converting.
I recommend using both calls and emails to handoff accounts. Here’s how this would work.
- First, you may have the sales development representative (SDR) take the stakeholder through the demo and other necessary follow-up calls.
- When the prospect converts and needs to be handed over to the Account Executive (AE), the SDR should send the prospect an email introducing the AE.
- In the email, they should mention that the AE will be joining the next call. In the call, have your SDR introduce the client to the AE and vice versa. Then, let the AE take over from there.
Use this process to handle all handoffs. For example, if you’re passing the client to a customer success manager, the AE should introduce the manager via email, followed by a call.
An excellent handoff experience plays a critical role in the overall customer experience.
That aside, great collaboration between marketing and sales leaves everyone satisfied. Your marketing department will also get tons of data from the sales team that will help them plan future campaigns, create a marketing budget, and so on.
9. Measure and Optimize
Throughout your ABM campaign, you need to track and analyze ABM performance metrics.
Without tracking, it’ll be challenging to know whether your campaigns are generating any ROI. In addition, without the data you derive from tracking ABM performance metrics, you’ll miss out on insights that could help you optimize future marketing campaigns.
The key metrics to measure during and after an ABM campaign are:
- Customer acquisition cost
- Content engagement rate
- Deal close rate
Monitoring your customer acquisition cost can tell you how well you’ve managed budget spend.
Your ABM campaign’s content engagement rate tells you whether the content you’re putting out has gone down well with your target accounts.
Lastly, your campaign’s deal close rate reveals how effective your team is at making sales.
You may also want to track average contract value. This can help you tell whether the high-value accounts you’re targeting are really “high-value.” Plus, you can compare it against the cost of acquisition to see the efficiency of your ABM strategy.
Keeping track of the above metrics provides insightful data that can help you optimize future campaigns. So make sure you set up a system and document what works.
Account-Based Marketing and Customer Retention
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) isn’t just for winning new customers; it’s also great for keeping the ones you already have. This not only keeps them engaged but can also lead to opportunities for upselling or cross-selling.
Below is the broad framework you would follow to implement this approach. It follows many of the same principles as utilizing ABM for lead generation:
- Identify High-Value Existing Accounts: Use customer data to identify your most valuable accounts based on factors like lifetime value, product usage, and engagement levels.
- Understand Customer Need: Conduct surveys or interviews with key stakeholders in these accounts to better understand their needs, pain points, and goals.
- Develop Personalized Content and Offers: Create tailored content, webinars, or feature updates that specifically address the unique challenges or needs of these high-value accounts.
- Align Sales and Customer Success Teams: Make sure your sales and customer success teams are coordinated in their messaging and actions towards these accounts.
- Implement Targeted Campaigns: Roll out personalized email sequences, in-app messaging, or special offers aimed at these high-value accounts.
- Monitor Key Metrics: Track metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer satisfaction, and product usage to gauge the effectiveness of your targeted campaigns.
- Identify Upsell and Cross-Sell Opportunities: Based on your monitoring, identify opportunities to offer additional features, services, or products that will add value to the customer.
- Intervene Proactively: If you notice a decline in engagement or satisfaction metrics, immediately implement a targeted retention campaign.
- Collect Feedback: After the rollout of any new feature or campaign, collect feedback to understand what worked and what didn’t.
- Iterate and Optimize: Use the feedback and metrics data to continuously refine your ABM strategy for customer retention.
Using ABM for customer retention also means keeping an eye on metrics like customer satisfaction and product usage. If you notice signs that an account might be thinking of leaving, you can act quickly with targeted strategies to keep them onboard. In short, ABM is a key tool for both winning and keeping valuable customers.
3 SaaS ABM Case Studies
Below are three case studies that show different ways to use ABM to generate wins. The companies used strategies like personalized gifts, interactive demos, and focused targeting, to get more meetings, better conversion rates, and increased revenue.
1. Salesloft: Personalized Gifting
Personalized gifting as part of an Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategy enhances engagement by creating a memorable, tailored experience for key prospects or existing clients. This targeted approach not only increases the likelihood of securing meetings and accelerating sales cycles. It also fosters stronger relationships, leading to better alignment between sales and marketing efforts.
SalesLoft’s sales and marketing teams collaborated on a direct mail Account-Based Marketing (ABM) campaign, featuring personalized gifts to engage potential customers. The personalized gifting tactic led to:
- A 9% increase in meeting attendance.
- 20% of gifts sent created new opportunities.
- 50% of Business Development Reps (BDRs) felt more aligned with marketing strategies.
Personalized gifting helped Salesloft stand out from competitors by showing they cared more about their prospects. This extra step led to more meetings and new business opportunities.
2. Form: Personalized Demos
Using personalized interactive demos in your marketing can really make you stand out. These demos directly address what the customer needs and show how you can solve their problems. This makes it easier to get their attention and encourages more people to buy from you.
Form targeted a specific group of decision-makers: field service worker managers. These managers are often swamped with changing schedules, long work hours, and outdated tools, making it challenging for them to explore new solutions. With this audience in mind, Form created personalized demos for prospects.
This proactive and tailored engagement via interactive demos had multiple benefits:
- A 33% increase in conversion rates, driving more prospects into their sales funnel.
- A nearly 50% reduction in cost per lead compared to campaigns using a “request a demo” call to action (CTA).
Form’s interactive demos not only provided value upfront but also led to more informed and productive sales conversations. This unique approach helped Form stand out in a crowded market and translated into more conversions and reduced costs.
Liveramp: Focused ABM
Focusing on a small group of people in ABM is often more effective than targeting a large group. This is because you can get to know each potential customer’s specific needs much better, allowing you to create marketing that really speaks to them. This targeted approach usually leads to more people actually buying your product or service.
LiveRamp took a hyper-focused approach to ABM, specifically targeting a list of just 15 high-value clients. The results were impressive:
- 33% conversion rate from cold leads to meetings within four weeks
- 2x increase in re-engaging dormant accounts
- 10x increase in year-on-year revenue
- 25x increase in customer Lifetime Value (LTV) over a two-year period
The effectiveness of LiveRamp’s ABM campaign can be attributed to its hyper-focused targeting and well-coordinated team efforts. These impressive results are an outcome of that laser focus.
SaaS Account-Based Marketing Strategies FAQs
Account-based marketing in SaaS is a growth marketing strategy where the sales and marketing teams work together to identify and target high-value accounts. The first step of an ABM campaign is to identify these accounts and the key people behind them. Step two involves crafting marketing messaging that feels personalized. And the final step of an ABM campaign is pushing the messaging using multiple marketing channels.
The main difference between regular marketing and ABM is the level of precision used when targeting prospects. Standard marketing strategies target a larger pool of prospects, while ABM narrows down the target prospects to only the most high-value accounts.
The truth is SaaS account-based marketing can work for both SME and enterprise customers. However, it’s best used in enterprise SaaS marketing. That’s because ABM can be resource-intensive, so you want to use it to win clients that can make a huge difference to your bottom line.
This guide shared seven critical steps to take when building an account-based marketing strategy for your SaaS company. Follow the steps, and you should see higher win rates and increased average contract values from your ABM efforts. Here’s to your success.
Nico is the founder of Crunch Marketing, a SaaS marketing agency. He works with enterprise SaaS clients like Writer, Right Inbox, and Surfer SEO, helping them scale lead generation globally across EMEA, APAC, and other regions.