Data. Personalization. Optimization. Precision. These are among the key hallmarks of an account-based approach to marketing.
Considered one of the most effective forms of marketing for today’s B2B marketers, account-based marketing (ABM) eliminates the blanket, generic approach to marketing that was popular yesterday and treats each target prospect and customer the way they want to be treated: like individuals.
Unlike other forms of marketing (like email marketing or social media marketing), ABM is not a specific marketing type in its own right. Rather, it’s a broad-based approach to marketing characterized by data precision and ultra personalization tactics and, of course, a high much higher rate of goal conversion.
Account-based marketing can be a hard concept to wrap one’s head around. Let’s take a look at the core pillars of ABM and some of the most effective account-based marketing tactics in use today.
The Pillars of Account-Based Marketing
Account-based marketing is an approach to digital marketing that uses data analytics and other means to identify a highly specific list of customer targets — accounts — that are most likely to convert. As part of an ABM approach, marketers devote the brunt of their efforts to creating highly relevant content and personalized campaigns focused on the specific needs of those accounts. This not only boosts conversion rates, but it also enhances marketing efficiency.
ABM is a highly iterative and collaborative form of digital marketing; sales and marketing teams must be perfectly aligned on goals and methods for it to work, and marketing strategies need to incorporate and deploy all available data to target the right accounts with the right content.
The core pillars of account-based marketing include:
Customers in today’s digital landscape don’t just want great products — they want highly personalized services that are tailored to their specific needs and circumstances. When it comes to marketing, potential customers don’t want to feel like you’re sending them generic ads designed for the generic customer — they want to feel like you understand them and want to speak directly to them.
Personalization is the first pillar of account-based marketing. When you focus on building personalization into your campaigns, you commit yourself to using your customer data to place the customer at the center of everything you do. Content should be tailored to their specific needs, and campaigns should be designed around their preferences and requirements. Personalization is essential to increasing engagement and encouraging goal conversions.
Some of the ways you can personalize your marketing content include:
- Addressing prospects by name (or referring to their company by name).
- Sending them a personalized birthday email.
- Creating sample data reports using their company data.
- Sharing customized content based on how they engage with your website.
It’s important to remember that personalization depends on having complete, relevant and validated data at your disposal. If you try to personalize campaigns based on incomplete or inaccurate data, you risk alienating potential customers, so ensure you have systems in place to validate and clean data for proper usage.
The purpose of personalization is to increase the level of engagement between you and your target accounts, and that brings us to our second pillar of ABM. For ABM to work, you have to stay at the top of your customers’ minds, and that means engaging with them throughout the entire buyer journey.
Some of the best ways to maintain customer engagement include:
- Using email marketing campaigns to stay in their inbox.
- Personalizing ad campaigns to demonstrate you care about them.
- Offering content syndication to address their specific interests and needs.
- Enhancing your social media presence to capitalize on customers’ social media usage.
All engagement efforts should be buyer-journey-phase appropriate. If they are still in exploratory mode, for example, packing their inbox full of reams of sales sheets and product pages is going to be mostly fruitless (and might even scare them away). Instead, offer helpful information to those customers about a specific problem or challenge they’re facing (based on data you’ve retrieved from their online activity) to gently nudge them further down the sales funnel.
Prospects want to be courted, and that’s what the third pillar of account based marketing is all about. You need to take the time to plan a dynamic, multi-channel marketing strategy that delivers the right content to the right accounts at the right time.
This pillar requires detailed planning from the beginning to the end of all your campaigns. You have to use your data to devise an appropriate Target Account List (TAL), while also understanding which channels they are actually using so you know where to populate your ads and content.
A key part of this process is using your data to segment your target audience into distinct buyer personas. Each ideal customer profile should have clearly defined challenges, problems, goals and preferred marketing channels, all of which should inform your targeting efforts to deliver the best results possible.
Types of Account-Based Marketing
There are three main types of account-based marketing commonly used today. These are distinguished based on the number of different accounts marketers target and the way those specifications shape the overarching approach. The three main types of ABM are:
- Strategic ABM: Strategic ABM — also known as one-to-one ABM — is a highly individualized form of marketing that targets a smaller, more selective number of accounts on a one-to-one basis. These engagements are characterized by high-touch interactions between prospects and the marketing team, during which organizations craft marketing plans that are finely customized to fit the specific requirements of a single account at a time.
- ABM lite: Similar to strategic ABM, ABM lite (also one-to-few ABM) targets a select number of accounts and customizes marketing materials to fit a specific set of needs. However, unlike strategic ABM, marketers using the ABM lite model tend to work with a much larger pool of accounts that nonetheless share some of the same core characteristics. While marketing materials are not necessarily tailored to individual needs, they are still highly relevant and appropriate.
- Programmatic ABM: Marketers can use the programmatic ABM approach to target several accounts — sometimes in the hundreds or even thousands — using the same marketing materials at scale. While the programmatic model is significantly less individualized than other forms of ABM, it still enables marketers to incorporate customer data to create personalized campaigns that directly addresses the requirements and preferences of each target prospect.
Benefits of Account-Based Marketing
Organizations stand to experience huge benefits when they take advantage of account based marketing. Some of these include:
- Greater engagement: ABM tactics enable you to focus your marketing dollars and resources on a smaller group of target accounts that are more likely to be interested in your product or service offerings. Not only does that mean you won’t have to spend as many marketing dollars getting them engaged, it also means you will have more bandwidth and resources to devote to creating even better customer experiences.
- Faster sales cycle: Account based marketing tactics help you both reach the customers more likely to buy as well as engage with those customers at the right time in the buyer journey. You’re better able to funnel warm leads to your sales teams, helping them close deals faster while limiting the number of prospects that fail to convert.
- Greater sales and marketing alignment: Due to the data-driven and collaborative nature of account based marketing strategies, ABM encourages greater alignment between sales and marketing teams. Goals, strategies and processes are shared and integrated between both teams, ensuring marketing strategies are effectively delivering the objectives of sales teams. It also means progress toward goals and results can be shared cross-departmentally to further optimize campaigns.
- Precise ROI calculations: One of the great benefits of account based marketing is it completely removes the guesswork from quantifying the ROI performance of your campaigns. You can easily calculate both the amount you are spending to build each campaign while also putting a number on your results (web traffic, goal conversion, etc.). That information helps executives make smarter decisions about where to focus marketing dollars in future campaigns.
The Most Effective Account-Based Marketing Tactics
Consider the following proven tactics when devising your account-based marketing strategies:
1. Use data to target high value accounts
Before you begin implementing your account based marketing strategy, you need to take the time to form TALs with the most conversion-ready prospects you intend to target. Start by building an understanding of your ideal customer based on demographic information like:
- Company size
Make sure to segment your customer information into a series of buyer personas so you can craft marketing campaigns that address the specific needs of each persona separately. Once you have an understanding of your ideal customer, you can more easily (and confidently) approach target accounts that might be cold or have no previous relationship with your brand.
When building your target account lists, don’t just lean on your past experience and intuitions. Collect data from your website, content and external data providers to build a more accurate overview of your target customers.
2. Create relevant content
Content marketing should form a central part of your account based marketing strategy. But you shouldn’t create content that you want to consume. Take the time to learn and understand your potential customers’ needs and challenges and, more importantly, figure out exactly the type of information they’re looking for.
You can do this by either analyzing the ways they are engaging with the existing content on your website (i.e. Are they spending a sizable chunk of time on blogs explaining the nuances of a certain problem?) or by collecting qualitative data through customer surveys. You can also purchase second- and third-party data from external providers to build a deeper understanding of your potential customer base.
However you collect your data, it’s important to shape your content creation strategies around the specific needs of your customers. Build content that directly addresses their pain points to encourage further engagement with your brand.
3. Personalize ads, content and even landing pages
As stated above, personalization is key to engaging target accounts and generating more qualified leads. While it’s important to include personal information in your ads to create familiarity, shaping your content marketing campaigns around the information your customers are looking for is a particularly effective (and often overlooked) form of personalization.
Beyond ads and content, creating personalized landing pages is one of the savvier and more sophisticated ways to personalize the customer experience. Your TALs and customer segmentation efforts will be particularly useful here, as you can create landing pages that address the specific industry challenges and product needs of each buyer persona.
Embed links to these landing pages in your email and social marketing content (and target users appropriately) for a highly personalized customer experience that puts you far ahead of your competitors.
4. Leverage intent data to identify warm leads
Intent data is an important tool in the arsenal of the account based marketer. In short, intent data is used to determine how close specific accounts are to making a buying decision. You can derive intent data from a variety of sources, and it can be based on intent signals. These may include demographic information, content consumption patterns and research behavior.
For example, if the CFO at a large tech company is uncharacteristically taking hours out of their day to research specific cybersecurity products, you can safely assume they are in the market for a cybersecurity product. On the other hand, a sales development representative conducting periodic research on general industry topics is probably not worth the marketing dollars.
Intent data can help you hone in on the accounts that are further along the buyer journey. Not only can you use it to reach accounts that are in-market, you can also identify new market segments you didn’t even know existed.
5. Optimize your campaigns for better results
Account based marketing is a data-driven approach to marketing. Not only does that data help you identify accounts you should be targeting, but it also helps you determine how your campaigns are performing.
A precise set of data metrics can serve as a guide for determining which elements of your campaigns to test and optimize. For example, if your landing pages are getting traffic but few site visitors are converting, you might consider making adjustments to your on-page calls to action. If, however, your pages are lacking meaningful traffic at all, you might want to target different keywords in your headers and subheaders.
As you learn more about what works and what doesn’t, you can reapply this information to other campaigns to minimize the number of iterations needed to produce great campaigns (and great results).
6. Use social media
Social media is one of the most cost-effective ways to maintain ongoing engagement with your target accounts. Create personalized social media content that’s tailored to your target accounts’ unique preferences to promote engagement with both your social accounts and your other online collateral. You can use both organic and paid social to target your audience with relevant content.
Social media provides a number of advantages that enhance the performance of your ABM efforts beyond standard posting and engagement. Social listening tools help you gather deep insights about the topics and information most valuable to your target audience, informing other marketing efforts.
You can also use social listening to learn about your customers’ attitudes toward both your company and your competitors, information that can help you better position your brand image and compete against the other big players in your space.
7. Understand preferred touchpoints
Customers use a number of different touchpoints to interact with your brand. Knowing which ones they prefer is key to marketing your products across the appropriate channels. Gather and analyze data about the touchpoints used by your warmest and highest-conversion leads to pinpoint the channels that are most successfully generating leads. You can use this information to pour additional resources into those channels to optimize them for greater lead generation.
You might also conduct competitor analysis to learn what channels are working for other industry hard-hitters. If your corresponding channels aren’t delivering comparable results, it might be a sign you are lacking in that area and need to focus more time and effort toward improving those channels. Of course, you don’t want to focus too many of your precious resources on the touchpoints that don’t deliver, but it is still helpful to assess the complete customer touchpoint profile.
Data & Expertise to Transform Your ABM Strategies
By changing your marketing focus from a broad-based, generic approach to a more targeted account-based one, you can better target the individuals that are most likely to convert to leads.
All of this depends on having the right data at your disposal. While utilizing your own data sources is prudent, it can be limiting and time-consuming. CONTENTgine manages a database consisting of hundreds of thousands of B2B content assets that we send to millions of email subscribers to generate billions of intent signals.
We use this data to gather deep insights about the way consumers are engaging with specific pieces of content to help you determine where they are in the buyer journey. Marketers use this information as the fuel to power their campaigns for better leads and better results.
Contact us today to learn how our buyer intelligence can help you transform your marketing campaigns.