Account-based marketing (ABM) is becoming increasingly important in the business-to-business sector. But while many types of professional service firms have found it to be an effective, efficient growth strategy, law firms have been slow to hop on the ABM bandwagon. They need to get on board soon or risk being left behind.
What is ABM?
With ABM, companies identify key accounts or types of accounts that they would like to target and then direct their marketing campaigns at key decision-makers in those companies. An ABM strategy combines marketing and business development functions and requires that the client teams have a keen understanding of what their clients or prospective clients care about.
Once they identify a narrow group of high-value customers, they need to research what these key people care about and get relevant content in front of them. A relatively new concept, ABM has been around for a couple of decades, but has taken off in recent years as new tools and technologies have made it easier and more efficient to implement.
Why law firms have largely not entered the ABM fray
Lawyers tend to think of themselves as professionals — as trusted advisers — first, and as business people second, if at all. That mindset prevents most law firms from focusing on sales and operating like a business in the same way that companies in other sectors do.
Professional service firms like the Big Four accounting firms and B2B tech firms have gained a competitive edge by adopting an ABM strategy. In countries outside the U.S., global firms like EY and PwC have made inroads into the legal industry, establishing legal divisions and becoming alternative legal service providers. While they are currently not allowed to do that in the United States, many believe the trend is headed that way, which is another compelling reason for law firms to get in front of competitive marketing strategies like ABM.
Making a list
As law firms know, not all clients are created equally. Certain categories of clients are more lucrative for the firm, while others bring in considerably less revenue while draining resources. Some law firms have a stable of clients in one or two industries that are very dependent on the economy and would like to diversify into more recession-proof sectors. Whatever your business goals, your business development team should identify companies or types of companies that you would most like to target, along with their decision-making personnel.
Keep in mind your targeting efforts should focus on two groups: new clients and existing clients. The latter involves cross-selling your services to different departments or divisions, something law firms struggle with. For example, a law firm may have a relationship with Walmart in which it handles mergers and acquisitions or draws up purchasing and licensing agreements. But there might be other areas where Walmart could use the firm’s help, such as with intellectual property or tax litigation. What happens often is that the other stakeholders of the client will not know that the law firm has strengths in those areas. With ABM, law firms can target other decision-makers at the client and show their acumen in different practice areas.
Developing targeted messages
The message that you show target audiences should be specific to what business issues or challenges they are facing. For instance, if your target audience is technology companies that are concerned about privacy compliance on a global basis, you may show them your latest global privacy compliance report or invite them to attend a webinar on that topic.
Fortunately, there are several online tools available to help you get specific content and messages in front of your targets.
LinkedIn’s account targeting tool allows marketers to upload their target list and cross-reference it against a database that includes more than 13 million company pages. The platform then generates a targeted list based on the cross-referenced matches. You can also use LinkedIn’s account targeting tool to identify similar companies and contacts to those on your list based on criteria such as industry or company size. Laser-targeted ads, blogs, podcasts, videos, infographics and other marketing messages can then be shown to selected recipients.
Programmatic advertising allows marketers to show ads to targeted users based on their behavior. For instance, if a user downloads your whitepaper on workplace anti-sexual-harassment training, the system can put a targeted ad about your training program in front of that person within seconds. Based on artificial intelligence, programmatic advertising involves “intent data,” a topic that is generating increased interest. When someone intends to buy a service, they tend to visit websites, download whitepapers and attend webinars, among other actions. Getting targeted information in front of them quickly can give a law firm an edge over competitors.
Keep in mind that ABM is not exclusively about digital communications; research may uncover that some targets do not spend a lot of time online, and good old-fashioned direct mail may be the best way to reach them. Rather, the crux of ABM is quality over quantity — narrow marketing to key accounts or targets rather than broad marketing to many.
This article was originally published on Forbes Agency Council on January 19th here.