Account-based marketing (ABM) is certainly a trending topic in sales leadership, especially in the B2B world. But what is it? And can it work for your company?

At its basic level, account-based marketing shifts the focus from getting and nurturing individual leads to instead building relationships with specific businesses. The relationships are driven by engagement over the course of the entire customer journey, from prospect through purchase and beyond. Instead of trying to catch as many fish as you possibly can in your net, you’re aiming for specific fish – with a spear.

There’s no doubt that ABM is gaining traction, as B2B sales teams look to improve conversions and build lifetime value. Among the benefits cited by teams that use ABM are:

  • Increased target engagement
  • Better overall alignment between sales and marketing strategies
  • More highly qualified prospects
  • More opportunities in the pipeline

ABM is growing in prevalence because it works. 2016 was a breakthrough year, with research showing 27% of respondents devoting anywhere between 11% and 30% of their total marketing budgets to ABM, up from just 19% in 2015. The trend is expected to continue in 2018 and beyond.

Yet ABM comes with a set of specific challenges. It can be difficult to match leads to accounts, and then route those leads to the appropriate account executive or team. There are also issues with account visibility and transparency, maintaining the quality of your database, and operational challenges that come along with matching roles and channels in new ways.

Challenges aside, it’s worth the effort. Making some key additions to your marketing and technology stack and adjusting your marketing strategy to embrace ABM can make a huge difference.

Let’s take a look at four smart tactics to start using now.

1. Reduce Friction When Finding, Sorting, and Qualifying Leads

Solid ABM begins with using good lead generating technology. Lead gen tech comes in many shapes and sizes, but it often uses the information gathered by your Google Analytics and parses that out into lists of companies who’ve visited your website, by using the visitor’s IP address.

You can filter the results by area, type of company, and so on. Your leads are fed directly into your customer relationship management (CRM) database, to solve the challenges of properly routing and matching leads to your existing data.

What’s great about this is, rather than relying on automated email list nurture funnels, which are less relevant in the age of the self-service buyer’s journey, intelligence technology actually improves your insights into who is already interested in doing business with you.

With this information in hand, you can see at a glance all your contacts at a particular company and how they are connected to each other. This can make your sales team super effective at creating human connections and engaging in real time on social media or in person.

2. Let Your Prospects Feel Your Love Publicly

Once you’ve identified the specific companies that you want to target, you can start publishing content that’s optimized to impress these prospects on your owned media properties and other channels. This might include articles that demonstrate how your solution is perfectly suited to address pain points that your prospects are known to be going through.

You can even publish content that names your prospects’ companies as key examples, which can help ensure that they’ll notice when they scroll through their press mention alerts.

But sometimes just publishing a page isn’t enough to draw the eyeballs you’re after. If you can get dozens of people on your team sharing these content assets via their personal profiles on social media, then it will increase the chances that your ABM prospects will notice – and that they’ll be impressed when they do.

Platforms like Smarp make coordinating for this type of employee advocacy into a straightforward discipline. Just connect your various social accounts and RSS feeds, and your company will have access to a dynamic newsfeed of relevant industry content to share out to their own social media audiences.

Employee-driven content distribution has been proven to build trust, lift clickthroughs, and boost sales. This is social selling at its best.

3. Develop Prospect-Specific Offers

Every B2B buyer is different, so it doesn’t make sense to treat them all the same. To stay relevant to your prospects, and to give them the personalization they are looking for, aim to personalize your content marketing efforts with offers that are built specifically for your target accounts.

For instance, if you’re operating a digital advertising agency, you could use your competitor tracking analytics to generate reports on your ABM prospects’ PPC campaign missteps, along with recommendations for improving their performance.

So to illustrate further, if you decided you wanted to land a deal with The Vancouver Pavilion Hotel, you might invest considerable resources in developing a “Vancouver Pavilion Hotel Paid Customer Acquisition Effectiveness Report.” Your potential clients will more than likely open the report simply because it’s highly personalized and potentially valuable to them.

4. Keep Your Database Clean

There’s nothing more frustrating for your sales team than dealing with duplicate customer records, or a bad email address for a prospect. That’s why it’s important to keep your database clean and current with the most up-to-date information you have available at all times. But the process is long and tedious without using some degree of automation.

You don’t have to get your database cleaned by a data vendor. While it’s a good idea to get it validated by a data vendor, you can still make improvements to your data with inexpensive tools, in just a few hours.

With a marketing automation tool, you can:

  • Remove duplicate records
  • Repair bad email addresses
  • Infer missing geographical data
  • Normalize geographical data
  • Normalize company names
  • Segment data using job titles

5. Bind Your Sales and Marketing Teams

To get the most from ABM, you’ll need your marketing team to focus its efforts on the types of activities that your sales team knows will help them eventually seal the deal. And you’ll also need your sales team to go after target companies that the marketing team is confident they can reach and impress.

While sales-marketing alignment is key no matter what pipeline model you aspire to, it’s downright critical with ABM, since you have less leeway for lower conversion rates. Kevin King, the marketing lead at Bambu, says that marketing-sales alignment is one of the toughest aspects of winning with ABM.

“One of biggest tools to really get people to align is actually signing an internal contract between sales and marketing,” he says. “Have the lead of each department sign on a paper that says, ‘We are committing to you this much resources or this much time and this particular thing for these particular customers.’ I think that creates some kind of psychological commitment on both parties to say, ‘Okay, we’re both in it for the long haul.’”

ABM Is Still Worth It

When it comes to ABM, it’s easy to let the challenges scare you and prevent you from making it work for your business. But when you really think about it, is there anything in business that is free of challenges? It is still definitely worth the investment.

Taking the time to implement the right strategies, like the ones we’ve discussed here, and using the right technology will help you nail it.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Senior VP of Business Intelligence Development, I have assisted the Fortune 1000 company with expertise in the web as a whole, including ground-zero marketing efforts that benefit both consumer and vendor. I’m a thinker, communicator, marketer, competitor, people person, and all-around busy bee. I’m a relentless networker with several years of real-world experience and two college degrees under my belt. He is also a contributor on Esprittoday.