This article was written by Tom Koletas and originally appeared on MarketingLand

Make no mistake, account-based marketing is ideal for targeting prospects. But contributor Thomas Koletas explains why you should also be using it for retaining and upselling your existing customers.

Account-based marketing is the new black for B2B marketers, who are leveraging the strategy at nearly every stage of the buying cycle to attract and engage targeted prospects. It’s an effective way to grow sales and speed up the cycle using data from both first- and third-party sources.

However, B2B marketers are missing a huge opportunity with ABM: retaining, engaging and upselling current customers.

The beauty of ABM is that it allows companies to focus on accounts, rather than leads. This, in turn, helps teams align across the entire customer journey — even after a lead has become a customer.

What’s really important about this practice is that, rather than identifying as many leads as possible, it puts the priority on best-fit customers, which makes it ideal for both new and existing clients.

With this data-driven approach to sales and marketing, there is an opportunity to identify purchase intent at the account level, then apply machine learning to figure out where the prospect’s buying committee is within the sales process, as well as what problem they’re endeavoring to solve with that purchase.

Key data points can also be isolated and used to identify which accounts are most valuable. You can then import these metrics into a marketing automation platform, or CRM (customer relationship management), for the purpose of predictive marketing, which can inform targeted content campaigns.

That focus on accounts rather than leads makes ABM ideal not just for acquiring new customers, but for activating and upselling current customers.

Why you should use ABM for existing customers

There are so many excellent reasons to use ABM to message your base, versus building out a new list, that it’s surprising more marketers aren’t taking better advantage of this opportunity. Here are just a few solid reasons to consider it:

It’s much easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. According to the book, “Marketing Metrics,” as cited by Forbes, your chance of converting an existing customer is 60 percent to 70 percent. But the probability of converting a new prospect is just five percent to 20 percent.

It’s also a lot more cost-effective. It costs seven times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep a current one, Forbes reports.

It’s also more profitable. A study by BIA/Kelsey and Manta found that, in the case of small business owners in particular, 61 percent generate more than half of their annual revenue from repeat customers, rather than new customers.

Other benefits of ABM

It’s clear why you need to focus marketing efforts on existing versus net-new customers, but how does ABM fit into this conversation? It’s more than just advertising to your base of clients, although that ability is in itself a benefit. But marketers can use ABM for so much more.

For starters, it’s a great way to track the status of — and any changes to — your customers’ buying committees. The continuous flow of data is a key part of ABM.

It makes sense to track your base’s activity, as well as your prospects’. Have team members left, or have new ones been added? What is the committee focused on today? Use surge data to determine which purchases the committee is currently researching.

Monitoring account activity on an ongoing basis gives marketers the opportunity to provide content to meet customer needs. This “always-on customer service” means that because marketers are always aware of what clients are researching, even without asking, they have the ability provide meaningful content in a timely and ongoing fashion.

Customer pain points can be identified and addressed in a timely way. With ABM, marketers can develop highly personalized, high-value content for the most valuable accounts, which will dramatically increase odds of both retaining and upselling those customers.

ABM shifts part of the responsibility of the customer relationship to marketing.In most organizations, a client relationship sits with marketing only until it’s about to close. At that point, when it becomes an “MQL” (marketing qualified lead), responsibility for the relationships shifts to sales (usually) for all eternity.

With the introduction of ABM, things start to become more equitable — and potentially more profitable. Sales no longer owns the responsibility for checking in on happy (and possibly complacent) customers; marketing monitors the account data and responds appropriately, bringing sales back into the fold only when it’s clear that there’s a concern or potential for an upsell. Managed well, this is a cycle of never-ending returns.

Marketers should be looking at this tried-and-true, data-driven practice as the best way to invigorate current customers. With the account-level insights gained, marketers have the opportunity to deliver targeted content in ways that should drive better results than another tool in their kit.

Furthermore, ABM should be viewed as a way to improve alignment between sales and marketing, which not only will improve results (and relationships) internally but will also result in a better overall customer experience.

Finally, it’s important for marketers to take a bigger role in maintaining that customer relationship, and to work with their sales team, instead of relying on them solely to nurture those relationships. By aligning sales and marketing teams and leveraging ABM, marketers can better participate in the upsell and cross-sell process — a strategy that’s sure to produce results.