Account Based Marketing: Will it Work for Aerospace?

Account-based marketing (ABM) is hot. It’s trendy. It’s having a moment. But more importantly, it’s a viable and valuable approach to marketing that makes a lot of sense for the aerospace and defense market.

Last week we discussed different methods of lead generation using inbound and outbound techniques.  Both tend to be focused on capturing as many leads as possible. With the inbound approach, these leads are qualified later in the funnel, and of course many never convert into sales.

ABM is different. First, it’s a strategic approach to lead generation. In ABM, time and resources are carefully deployed to target specific accounts — accounts you have qualified before you market to them. Marketo explains how ABM essentially turns the traditional early-stage marketing process on its head so you “target your campaigns to specific customers the moment they enter your funnel, and you do it with real-time, personalized content.” 


Why is ABM appropriate for aerospace and defense?

Let’s start with budget. Most aerospace and defense businesses say that budgets and bandwidth are among their biggest challenges, and ABM has the potential to help with both. That’s because it brings together the strengths of both sales and marketing. In ABM, these organizations join forces and work together to focus on the highest value accounts (which can also result in larger sales).  

ABM values quality over quantity and focused targets versus a wider net. It’s the difference between fishing for anything you can catch and going after the most prized specimens with spears and harpoons.

That emphasis on focus, which is really the key to ABM success, is another reason this account-based approach is so well suited for aerospace and defense.

That emphasis on focus, which is really the key to ABM success, is another reason this account-based approach is so well suited for aerospace and defense. Yes, the industry itself is large, but most businesses are targeting a specific segment or segments, and that’s ideal for ABM.

Let’s say, for example, that your business makes rotor blades for certain models of helicopters. Your universe of potential customers is clear and finite. Or perhaps you offer overhaul and repair services. Depending on the engines and components you support, it’s relatively easy to pinpoint the operators and businesses that might have a need for your services.  Here’s a final scenario for consideration. We often speak with small-to-mid-size aerospace and defense businesses that are using traditional marketing techniques to reach OEMs but are not getting the results they want.

Why? Because while marketing may be pushing out a lot of “stuff,” it is not creating influence with the people who matter. With ABM you can cut through the clutter by saying the right things to the right people at the right time. And that’s not nearly as easy as it sounds.


Before you jump in

While ABM has much to offer aerospace and defense marketers, it may not be right for everyone, and here are some important considerations before you dive in.

  • Embracing ABM is a big change, and eliminating the “spray and pray” approach is likely to make some folks, especially sales or the old school contingent, uncomfortable. We’re no longer buying ads and hoping someone calls. Is your team ready to give that up? Can you get the buy in necessary to be successful?
  • Success requires true teamwork between marketing and sales. Some organizations may not be there yet in terms of information sharing, transparency, and viewing the sales process as a joint effort. For example, if you are not yet using Customer Relationship Management, which facilitates information sharing, chances are good you aren’t ready for ABM.
  • Data, data, data. You’re going to need detailed data and intelligence to select the right targets and create personalized campaigns. Gut feel won’t cut it. Do your team members have the skills to collect, analyze and use data effectively?
  • This isn’t about you. It’s easy for aerospace companies to get caught up in themselves – their capabilities, their products, their desire to tell the world about who they are and what they do. But that won’t work with ABM. Instead, you’ll need to focus on developing personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each target account.


How to get started

Don’t attempt ABM unless you have a strong marketing strategy, good alignment between sales and marketing and a robust customer relationship management system.

 1. Identify target accounts

Tip: Remember that you’ll be focusing on fewer accounts — it’s essential that you get this right. Spend time researching this essential step and don’t default to using intuition or assumptions.

 2. Understand how your target accounts work. Who are the decision makers and the influencers?

Tip: Buying committees are now the norm, and a company with 100-150 employees on average will have 7 people involved in buying decisions. Dissect your targets.

 3. Determine content and personalized messaging for each account, as well as preferred channels

Tip: Engage on their terms, not yours. Use LinkedIn and other resources to gather intelligence you can use to personalize every outreach.

 4. Execute campaigns

Tip: Forget generic email blasts or similar tactics. You are building understanding, insight and relationships.

 5. Measure, reflect and adjust

Tip: Remember to focus on influence, not leads.


More about measurement

This article about the Rise of Account-Based Marketing details five metrics marketers can use to assess their ABM performance. 

  1. Coverage. Do you have sufficient data, contacts and account plans for each target account?
  2. Awareness. Are the target accounts aware of your company and its solutions?
  3. Engagement. Are the right people at the account spending time with your company, and is that engagement going up over time?
  4. Program Impact. Are marketing programs reaching the target account, and are they having a long-term effect?
  5. Influence. How are the ABM activities improving sales outcomes such as deal velocity, win rates, average contract values, retention and net promoter scores?

While inbound and ABM are different marketing strategies, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive — and ABM does not have to be an all or nothing proposition. If you think it makes sense for you, start using it as a pilot project. If it works, you can build from there.

Want to learn more about ABM? Marketo offers in-depth information and resources about ABM and a range of other topics.