Clear B2B has won two golds in the International B2B Marketing Awards 2018
Account-Based Marketing – or ABM – has become a real talking point across the B2B world. How does it change the sales funnel? Are leads really nurtured and converted more effectively? Here’s our succinct Clear guide to understanding what it is, why you should consider it and how it’s done…
What is Account-Based Marketing (ABM)?
ABM is about combining sales and marketing efforts around specifically-defined businesses/accounts deemed to have high yield potential, through customised or personalised insight and content.
So whereas B2B marketeers often try to reach as many companies as possible within their target market, filling the sales funnel with a mixture of leads, ABM is about being more selective: honing in on a selected few.
What’s so new about this?
Sales teams typically have key account managers. Their role is to ensure they provide helpful information and insight to nurture the individual contacts in those key accounts. ABM supports this – generating content and using marketing technology to select and communicate relevant, targeted messages and content to similar high value accounts. It’s usually implemented through marketing automation platforms, so that customised content can be automatically delivered intelligently, at the right time, cost-effectively and at scale if required.
What are the benefits of ABM?
How do we set about ABM?
1. Identify high value potential accounts
This isn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds. Unless you have some insider conversations, you may not be certain of exactly what prospects want and need, and on what scale. Yet this isn’t a new problem and careful analysis of your best current customers may well provide the clues to finding like-minded others. Usually you’ll know some business your competitors have, or previous opportunities you wished you’d won. You can start ABM with just a couple of target companies.
ABM can also be used to target by industry, size, role or business challenge – with far lighter personalisation i.e. marketing is tailored around these aspects rather than being personalised to individual accounts.
2. Identify the messaging and content
Once again, this requires some insight and knowledge about the organisations you are targeting. Start by ensuring an understanding of the most significant issues or challenges they are facing. Then, you can position your messaging around the thinking and approach you bring to help resolve those problems.
Don’t try and sell your solutions specifically – in the early stages of contact it’s about sharing opinions and helpful information. Overt product and service details will switch off potential prospects. Be seen as an expert who understands the challenges and has vision of the future. Thought-leadership is typically the best way to capture interest, raise awareness and establish credibility.
3. Refine the messaging and content to personas/roles/other
You’ll need to generate a sufficient amount of content to satisfy the interests of several personas and roles – those with influence within your target organisations. So once you know the challenges, examine them through the eyes of the c-suite, the user, procurement and others. They all form part of the influencing group on any decisions taken on providers they work with.
Content will include videos, case studies, articles, dedicated landing pages, calls to action, etc. Arrange assets into persona groups to ensure you have enough to work on each key type of audience you need to influence. On the simplest level you can just make sure each piece contains something of interest for each audience rather than having a whole suite for each. But the more you can break it down to individualised levels, the better.
Sales might already have individual level knowledge – use this to your advantage on the messaging you create.
The more tailored it feels for each individual, the greater the engagement and the more likely that a sales enquiry will develop.
4. Use all channels, software tools and automation
Naturally if you have named contacts you can directly send them content you believe to be of interest; but your named contact points are usually limited and you certainly don’t always know when the timing is right to be in touch. IP identification software on your website can be used to give a personalised experience of appropriate content in real time, allowing you to follow engagement visit by visit. By educating and nurturing that contact – and coupled with automated outbound marketing – you can accelerate their research process and get them through a buyer journey to a quicker sale.
Use outbound emails where you have a targeted list, plus advertising, retargeting and social media to drip feed content to lead your prime targets to your website. Depending on how specific your ABM planned approach is, paid advertising through LinkedIn, Twitter and Google can also give you customer matches, based on industries, roles or specific organisations.
Software is available to follow and sync customer behaviour across all communications channels. So depending on your investment in technologies and analysis, you can feed dynamic content based on behaviours, roles, origin, channels and more.
Personal follow up
Once tracking shows a level of interest expressed by an organisation and/or individuals, decide alongside your sales team when it should be considered a ‘qualified’ lead for direct sales contact.
Direct follow-up and face-to-face contact is, of course, still essential. Too often sales teams think they can leave it all to marketing to give them a ‘ready-to-buy’ prospect, but real human contact is a vital part of the mix to build belief and trust. ABM supports this by ensuring the sales team has more relevant marketing content to use. They can reference it in conversations and emails to keep the dialogue open – for example by asking for feedback on articles or reports, or pointing prospects to more helpful articles relating to their issues and commercial challenges.
When ABM content is created, it is well-planned and executed. It is typically more ‘on message’ than if left to sales teams presenting their own opinions or notes. This leads to a more confident and joined-up sales effort, ensuring your organisation becomes known for the thinking you want to promote.
You can also repurpose the ABM content for speaker opportunities and meetings – to maximise opportunity from face-to-face exposure. Plan to be at events where you know your target organisations/individuals will be.
ABM does not negate any effort around human contact; but it does focus efforts on attracting the prospects who are very the best fit for your offer. By issuing carefully curated, relevant content based on behaviours, prospects are far more receptive to marketing. Since the prospect is intelligently nurtured, your offer and capabilities are already front-of-mind when a sales opportunity arises.
For more information about planning and implementing effective Account-Based-Marketing, contact Rachel Arquati.
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