There’s a common misconception that account-based marketing (ABM) is expensive. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t, although the myth is understandable.
SiriusDecisions says the average ABM budget is $350,000 and the average pilot is $200,000. Forrester says those numbers are rising. But what those figures miss are the thousands of marketers who aren’t being surveyed, who are pulling budget from shuttered event programs and piloting on a shoestring and a prayer, and perhaps not even calling it ABM. Because after all, ABM is not about the tools. It’s about the philosophy. And the philosophy is free.
Today I’ll share 11 ideas for executing ABM on a budget while still getting most of the gains in a way that’d make Vilfredo Pareto, 19th-century economist and father of “the 80/20 rule,” weep with pride.
11 ways to run ABM on a budget
1. Run a pilot, of course
Not every pilot costs $200,000. Most are simply a few conversations with a handful of forward-thinking sales reps plus a handful of redesigned assets, a landing page, and digital ABM ads.
2. Run “faux” ABM to the top and middle of your funnel
Let’s say you have a certain content experience platform (*cough* *Uberflip*). And it’s being used heavily for your sales and customer engagement programs, but it’s also intended for ABM. Tag your content according to its relevance to your top accounts and use one of Uberflip’s personalizer apps to dynamically change a prospect’s logo, messaging, and content displayed, as shown below.
Amber Bogie, the ABM Manager at the education platform Degreed, used this low-effort personalization strategy to generate $3.4 million in pipeline and book a meeting with 1 in 3 target accounts.
3. Borrow high-quality data
Stuck on account selection? Buddy up with a partner with cross-sell potential who’s already done the expensive work of building a data foundation and selecting accounts. Offer air cover using channels you already own and volunteer your salespeople to dial and demo. Find the overlap in your lists and go after those accounts.
4. Run co-marketing ABM campaigns
Find a partner willing to co-author ebooks or webinars in trade for promotion and limited access to your data. The asterisk here, of course, is you’ll need to first investigate the legal boundaries of your data security and privacy policies.
5. Virtual executive dinners
You may not have budget for an events space, but you can still do targeted ABM executive dinners. Gather a list of top prospects and existing advocates and invite them to a virtual dinner with a speaker where you use an ordering app to send everyone food and wine (or tequila or coffee). There are no travel costs, no venue fee, and no big barriers to entry.
If quality is your top consideration, use a caterer in each of the major cities with a set menu. For a budget option, look for local restaurants that ideally have opened a larder or mini “store” to weather the pandemic, and can package a few things together to make it an experience. For attendees in more remote locations, use a higher-end delivery app like Caviar. For wine, use Drizly.
6. Target your install base
Go after existing customers. They’re easier to find and less expensive to reach. If your account management team is holding quarterly business reviews, you already know lots about them, including which stakeholders hold sway, and their particular desires. Plus, if the customer has spoken at your events or has been featured in your marketing materials, you already have hyper-personalized content to send.
Kristin Kolb, ABM Manager at the cloud data software Matillion used this approach and booked 33 meetings with existing customers.
8. Draw budget from large partner channel programs
Sometimes partners will provide budget for you to purchase ABM ads, and to create GIFs and other content. As just one example, Microsoft famously grants millions in funding to its partners so they’ll resell or co-sell its products. The terms in these agreements are generally vague, and you’ll probably have to apply to be reimbursed rather than receive a check, but it’s not uncommon to unlock hundreds of thousands of funding in this fashion.
9. Recycle and update old content
“Relevance” is in the eye of the beholder, and whereas most marketers think the most important thing for them to personalize is someone’s first name, buyers say it’s their industry. Which is to say, if you have a content experience platform like Uberflip, and you have vertical-specific content, you can constantly surface relevant assets to visitors based on their account.
Daniel Day, Senior Manager of ABM at Snowflake Software, used targeted recycling to increase his average ABM deal size 3x.
10. Use old tools in new ways
Talk to your rep and see what other features your content experience or marketing automation platform has to offer. Sometimes there’s a personalization feature you aren’t using, or a free trial of an ABM service which is enough to get you started.
11. Send inexpensive but high-value gifts
Holding a webinar? Send popcorn and a personalized handwritten card to ensure they show up. Sending a leave-behind for them to share with their team? Accompany it with a personalized video where you walk through it, introduce yourself, and provide talking points. Meaning doesn’t have to be expensive. It just takes a stamp and enough time to be thoughtful.
Use your ABM to fund more ABM
Beg, borrow, and (with permission) steal your way to a shoestring ABM pilot program and you may find that targeting accounts pays off. When, like Daniel Day at Snowflake Software, your efforts land you a significant deal, the conversation will change. People will take it seriously. They’ll realize there’s a return in this sort of thing. You may earn the credibility and revenue to reinvest your winnings back into more ABM.
It’s a myth that ABM has to be expensive—as long as you’re being clever.