Account-based marketing, or ABM, is a strategic approach to marketing that is concentrated on a set of clearly define target accounts. These target accounts are pre-agreed upon internally across marketing, sales and senior leadership teams as the most crucial prospects for the business overall. Successfully executing ABM involves building personalized outreach strategies for each of these accounts.
ABM burst onto the marketing scene about three years ago. In the brief time since, it has been widely adopted across the B2B landscape due to its astounding success rate. A full 87 percent of B2B marketers now agree that ABM delivers higher ROI, compared to other marketing efforts. ABM has evolved to permeant the marketing landscape, giving birth to dozens of conferences and tech companies focused on making it easier to execute. 92 percent of B2B marketers now consider ABM “extremely” or “very” important to their marketing efforts.
So how can marketers best leverage ABM now that everyone has jumped on the bandwagon?
At the end of the day, ABM is a strategy not a technology. It is the work behind the scenes – including identifying relevant target accounts and building highly personalized messaging – that will make or break a company’s ROI. As an integrated marketing agency, PAN has worked with many of our clients on ABM tactics.
Here are few tips for success to help you end the year strong:
For years, marketers have been building persona groups based around what they think their target audience looks like based on the characteristics and behaviors that would likely make someone interested in the product or service offering. However, the point of ABM is to really get to know the target companies, and then, even the exact individuals within these accounts that hold the purchasing power.
Marketers must stay away from creating wide groups of personas, driven by guesswork. Instead, stick to the data. Most companies find it is best to target between 50 to 500 target accounts, for a truly focused and effective approach. This is a small enough pool that marketers can really get to know the individuals at these prospect companies that are relevant – their job titles, interests, and most recent touchpoint with the company. Tracking these individual prospects as they move along the purchasing journey is key. Marketers should stop thinking about an amorphous group of personas and think about targeting specific individuals instead.
While it is more time intensive, micro-targeting pays off big for marketers because it makes it possible to tailor the message for each group. Don’t be afraid to split your larger ABM account list into very small groups. Then, work to identify pain points for the different micro audiences within your ABM pool. It’s important to remember that the top product benefit for one micro-group might not be the same as the benefit called out for the next group. Segmenting out the audience allows marketers to deliver the message that would make the most impact for that particular segment.
Example: If you’re targeting healthcare professionals, it might make sense to split the pharmacists off into a separate group, as the language and industry lingo you use to reach them may be different. Marketers must focus on making sure the prospective customer feels like the message is tailored to them, and their time is valued. This personalized attention is the “secret sauce” that makes ABM work.
It’s not enough to personalize the original outreach messaging for the target ABM accounts. Marketers need to think through the entire purchasing journey, and the experience the prospective customer is having at all points.
Example: If a target individual sees a social media ad with language that aligns with their job role and pain points, only to click on it and be taken to a general landing page with no clear sense of direction from there, the prospect will lose interest.
Typically, it makes sense to build out specific landing pages on the company website that align with the micro-targeting groups the team is using for ABM outreach. A prospect should be treated with personalized messaging throughout the entire journey. The effectiveness of ABM is diminished if the potential customer reaches the website and no longer feels like the content is relevant to them.
During the recent #FlipMyFunnel B2B Sales and Marketing Conference in Boston, LinkedIn gave a presentation on the rise of AI in marketing and how this technology is being used for ad creation. LinkedIn stressed the importance of putting ad creative into a template that can be easily read and understood by AI to create thousands of similar ads for A/B testing and better overall performance.
While the capability to leverage AI implementation in this way may still be years in the future for many B2B marketers, there is a takeaway here that can be put to good use right now. Marketers should strive to have dozens of ads running simultaneously within ABM campaigns. These ads should have different creative and copy, enabling A/B tests to identify what messaging and outreach strategy works the best for each micro-targeting unit. It’s not enough to have 1-2 ads running in a LinkedIn campaign, or via digital media buys. Marketers need to remember that the more ads running within a campaign, the better the cost-per-lead and overall performance.
Many marketers today spend their marketing budget targeting only higher-level executives – specifically the C-Suite – leaving out most decision makers that are below the level of VP or Director. While targeting higher-level executives is important, leaving out the other employees at your ABM target accounts is short-sighted.
First off, it’s clear that lower-level employees do impact the buying cycle, and ABM campaigns that include a broader range of job titles and expertise levels perform better. It’s also worth noting that given how long B2B purchase cycles are, a lower-level employee could very well be a manager by the time the deal goes through.
Courting more inexperienced employees is a way to build brand awareness. It showcases goodwill among a cohort that will very soon be in charge of the purchasing decisions and is certainly influencing them to a degree even now.
Personalization is the name of the game when it comes to account-based marketing. Marketers should look to work closely with their sales teams and agency partners to align on the exact target individual within each account, and methodically test out varied messages to identify what resonates best. A sound ABM strategy doesn’t rely on tools or technology, it’s all about the planning that goes into the execution.