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Your guide to using account-based marketing to sell training

Written by Julia Borgini

Published on March 20, 2018

Account-based marketing (ABM) is all the rage right now, as companies use it to laser-target their marketing to specific audience members. It's one of the best ways to unify the buyer journey from start to finish. From research to purchase and repurchase, and finally through to advocacy. And no wonder they like it - nearly 85% of marketers say that ABM outperforms all other marketing investments (ITSMA).

If you're a customer education (CE) leader that's looking to hop on the ABM bandwagon and start using it to promote CE program sales, keep reading.

ABM information: definitions, benefits, and more

ABM definition: ABM  "is an evolution from account-based selling that now involves marketing," says Jim Williams, vice president of marketing for marketing software developer Influitive. It's basically a way to focus marketing and sales resources on a defined set of targeted accounts, delivering personalized campaigns (messages and communication) to each account.

Benefits of ABM: There's a philosophical alignment of teams within an organization if they're using ABM since they'll be working with a similar mindset (thinking of accounts, not just products and/or benefits). Teams are highly-focused and more efficient in their work, while your customer base is more receptive to your messaging because it's personalized and optimized.


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Image source: ITSMA

Examples of ABM at work

Influitive increased response and conversion rates with ABM

Influitive ran several ABM experiments earlier this year and realized a 3X response rate and a 2X conversion rate over a regular marketing campaign. They focused on:

  1. A specific goal (start conversations with people who may have heard of them, but not contacted them),

  2. A specific segment of their audience (Tier 1 accounts that were most likely to purchase from them),

  3. A specific sub-segment of the audience to ensure they had a good cross-section of decision makers and potential advocates (VPs of Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success), and

  4. A specific topic that would resonate with them (online reviews).

InsightSquared uses ABM to increase cross-sells and up-sells

InsightSquared uses ABM at all points in the sales funnel, encouraging prospects or existing customers to interact with them again.

For existing customers that were doing well with InsightSquared products, the sales team picked successful customers to receive a gift: InsightSquared-branded energy drinks. The gift included the message, “Fuel your sales team for a monster Q4." They got a 30-40% bump in sales from the existing customers who got the gift.


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Image credit: CMI

For prospects stuck in the sales funnel, InsightSquared decided on a different tack: a gift + a little humor.

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Image credit: CMI

The targeted prospects received a pair of socks and a postcard with the message “Don’t get cold feet.” The postcard explained why they were receiving the gift and invited them back into the active sales process.

How to use ABM to sell customer education

Generally the ABM tactics to use fall into one of the following categories:

  • Pre-targeting

  • Account nurturing

  • Lead-to-account conversion nurturing

  • Pipeline acceleration

  • “Wake the Dead” targeting


These activities generate demand and warm any net-new accounts for sales. Activities include displaying relevant ads across social, mobile, and video channels. These ads are targeted at stakeholders at the best (or warmest) accounts, which actually drives engagement across the entire account. A pre-targeting strategy delivers the best ROI to you because you're placing ads in front of only the people who want to see them and you avoid wasting money on unqualified or uninterested accounts.

Pro tip: Use pre-targeting to drive decision-makers to events. Generate awareness before the event and then follow up with a personalized invitation from a sales team member after the event.

Account Nurturing

The purpose of an account nurturing campaign is to engage the key stakeholders at target accounts you already have contacted once and convert them. The B2B sales cycle is long and complicated, so many of the accounts you're marketing to won't be ready to buy right then and there. But don't let these accounts go cold simply because they're not buying right now. You've already started the relationship with them, so continue to present your messaging regularly so you're top-of-mind when they're ready to buy.

Lead-to-account conversion nurturing

If you're not quite ready to go "all in" with ABM to sell your customer education programs, use the lead-to-account conversion nurturing strategy to get started with ABM. Your current inbound marketing strategies generate leads and you can simply add on the ABM portion by expanding your reach in to those leads. For example you could use digital ads to nurture the entire buying committee or email videos specific to obstacles their company faces every day to certain stakeholders.

Pro tip: Automate your outreach efforts to optimize your ABM program for the lead accounts in order to reach the entire buying committee at the company at once. Set up targeted outreach for each member to further enhance the conversion nurturing.

Pipeline acceleration

Use pipeline acceleration campaigns to engage more influencers and decision makers at your target accounts and move them into the next stage of the buying cycle. 

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  • Digital ads keep your products top-of-mind with your leads.

  • Sales lead engagement deepens the relationship with leads and uncovers more information gaps to be filled later through additional education sessions.

  • Field marketing activities and events to educate leads and customers, building a deeper relationship with your community in each stage of the buying process.

Pro tip: Don't ignore pipeline acceleration activities simple because you may feel like you're intruding on the sales process. Any time you can reach someone at the target account, the more likely you're able to build consensus internally with them and subsequently move the account through the sales pipeline more quickly.

“Wake the Dead” targeting

Dead accounts are ones that aren't actively participating in your sales cycle. That doesn't mean they won't ever buy from you, it's just they weren't ready the last time you contacted them. Bring them back to life with a targeted ABM campaign and revive their interest. Tyler Lessard, CMO at Vidyard, revived 35 opportunities in a single ABM campaign that targeted in a "dead ops revival" campaign.

Pro tip: Use the "wake the dead" targeting to reach additional contacts at each account you may not have spoken to before. These new contacts may be more receptive to your messaging and engage with you more than the previous ones.

Try these ABM tactics for your next training sales campaign

  1. Personalize your sales enablement content: Personalized sales outreach content makes your prospects feel special. Work with your marketing and sales teams to add just the right amount of personalization to engage the influencers at each target account.

  2. Create offers designed to initiate a personal meeting: Some offers can prompt an in-person meeting or call with a prospect, such as free assessments, free quality scores, or consultations. You'll be building a non-digital/online relationship with your target accounts, so you're more top-of-mind the next time they face an obstacle your products could solve for them.

  3. Mention your target accounts within blog content: Seeing their company name in your content deepens the relationship between you, building trust, respect, and appreciation. Not only between you and the company as a whole, but also the stakeholders you're targeting with other online content. Many companies have alerts set up that notify them whenever they're mentioned online, so use it to draw their attention to your content.

  4. Customize your website’s user experience: Using re-targeting software on your website such as Perfect Audience or ConvertFlow to add personal touches to your site for your visitors. Use it to welcome them to your site the first time and thank them for coming back when they re-visit.

  5. Tap into target account mentions on social media: After you've mentioned the target account in your blog (Tactic #3), don't forget to mention them on social media as well. This further draws their attention, as well as gets the attention of their extended network as well.

  6. Create custom lists/groups on each social media channel: Depending on the social media channel you use, you'll want to create a custom list of your target accounts so you can engage with them quickly and efficiently.

    • Twitter lists: A custom list of your target accounts enhances your engagement with them, and if the list is public, it's another opportunity to send them a notification of the mention.

    • Facebook custom audience: Advertisers can define a custom audience for their content based on various demographic factors like location, apps used, email address, and more.

    • Google AdWords customer match: When an individual from a target account is signed in to their Google account, AdWords will serve them ads on all Google-enabled platforms, giving you a hyper-targeted ad engagement.

    • LinkedIn company targeting: LinkedIn has a number of ad targeting methods available to advertisers, so by using the company-specific targeting, you can identify the company accounts on LinkedIn and serve ads to the key influencers and stakeholders to them.

  7. Create personalized email sequences: Email is still one of the best communication methods for education and selling, so why not use personalized email sequences to sell training programs? These emails are sent directly to your account stakeholders, framed in a highly personalized way that's designed to engage and compel action.

  8. Write helpful emails to your ABM stakeholders: Unsolicited emails can be annoying, so help your customers by being courteous, sincere, relevant, and most of all, brief. Send only as much information as you need to be valuable to your account contacts so they don't unsubscribe (and maybe even share the email with their network).

  9. Discover new connections at your target accounts: Chances are someone at your company who's not in sales knows someone at your target account. Maybe they connected at an industry event or group, worked together at a previous employer, or take the same train on their commute to the office. However they're connected, it can help expand your sphere of influence at the target account. Ask around the office to see if you can name-drop someone in your next communication or get an introduction to them.

Next time you want to start selling your CE programs or increase your Average Sales Price metrics, think about using account-based marketing (ABM) tactics. They'll help you deepen relationships with existing contacts, increase collaboration between your organization's teams, and ultimately help you achieve overall business goals.

Have you used ABM tactics to sell your CE programs? Share your experiences in the comments.



Originally published Mar 20, 2018 4:30:00 PM, updated Mar 20, 2018