Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from Alexander Kesler, founder and president of digital marketing firm Infusemedia, a data-driven B2B demand generation network.
Account-based marketing (ABM) can help B2B businesses better understand and target potential and current customers at an individual level. While it is a resource-demanding approach, many companies are applying it to foster meaningful cooperation with their buyers. According to firm Marketo, 97% of marketers who use ABM report higher or much higher return on investment (ROI) compared to other strategies.
ABM is a strategic marketing approach where instead of casting a wide net, you refine your market by selecting the companies you want to target. It is especially useful for B2B customers. Rather than communicating with all prospects the same way, ABM can help you focus on tailoring your exchanges to address the needs and requirements of high-value audiences.
With ABM, you can go a step further. It lets you examine and better understand the motivation and pain points of the numerous individuals within one company. Different people within the same account may be driven by various goals. If you approach them all in the same way, your efforts may not be effective. But by using ABM, you can better understand each person. That’s how you create a deeper and long-lasting relationship with a multifaceted B2B customer.
This approach requires a high level of alignment between sales and marketing. It contrasts with the typical marketing method of targeting a wide group of companies with the hope of attracting a few prospects. With ABM, your resources are focused on a limited target of one or a few business clients that promise more significant returns.
Just like other large-scale marketing tactics, ABM can be daunting to grasp at first. There are several essential steps that marketers must perform when crafting an ABM campaign.
1. Get your database ABM-ready
The most important preparatory step for any ABM effort is to identify the top leads you’ll be targeting. To achieve this, it is important to prepare and improve your database. This way, marketers can make a data-driven decision about who the most valuable prospects are and target them with personalized campaigns.
Start by cleaning up internal data. Verify leads and details you have about them, so that you operate with accurate information. This process of enriching CRM and marketing automation systems is key for the success of ABM campaigns. Gather data on potential customers from all possible channels — email, social media and surveys — and organize it. Accurate data is also key for machine learning, a tool that may be used in the next step to define customer profiles.
Only when you have the most up-to-date data can you move on to select the top accounts you’d like to focus your efforts on. Identify which leads are the most likely to convert into paying customers based on data such as company size, revenue and industry. After you prepare a short list, the next step is to prioritize to ensure focus is put on the most promising leads first.
2. Define ideal customer profiles for accounts and individuals
Similar to B2C marketing, in B2B ABM campaigns, it is important to know who you are talking to. That’s the only way to ensure you're saying the things that will move the prospect down the conversion funnel. To achieve this, craft models of the perfect customer for the whole account and for important individuals within it.
An effective way to systematize knowledge about leads is to create an ideal customer profile (ICP). This is a model of the perfect customer that includes their needs, traits and behavior. You need to create an ICP for the whole account, which is the prospect company. However, for ABM campaigns, you also need to craft such profiles for the individual leads within the account. These are the stakeholders you are communicating with.
Gather data for creating the ICPs from firm demographics, intelligence from sales representatives, brand advocates and basic research. Predictive analytics helps in this task too. By using machine learning mechanisms, you can get insights into leads’ future actions based on previous online behavior. Don’t forget that a database needs to be up-to-date and enriched in order for predictive analytics to bring meaningful results.
3. Craft targeted account-based messaging and content
Content and messaging that are specifically created for a targeted account are central to ABM campaigns. You need to touch the exact pain points this potential buyer has and offer the right solution for their case.
This targeting requires in-depth research and analysis of the needs and pain points of the whole account as well as the individual leads within it. You need to gain a deep understanding of the language your target audience uses and frame your communication with it accordingly. An effective way to learn more about the word choices and preferred content of your prospects is through social media intelligence.
Another important point for ABMs is to prepare prospect-specific offers. Today, people expect personalization to be a part of B2B communication. Instead of sending a generic email, craft an offer that is specific to the target account and even the individual lead you're contacting.
4. Select the right ways to reach your accounts
After perfecting language and message, you need to find the channels that are most effective for communicating with a target account. This is as important as the actual content and word choice.
The first step is to understand how different stakeholders within the target account consume information online and how that information is spread within the company. Examine their interactions on social media to inform your strategy. Another useful approach is to consult brand advocates who have extensive contacts with leads. Naturally, social media promotion, content marketing, programmatic advertising and email marketing are the major channels for B2B ABM campaigns.
It’s much easier to deliver your message when you have brand ambassadors inside the company. Find the stakeholders within the account that are likely to sympathize with you and develop meaningful relationships with them. Persuade them that your offer can make their work easier. Win them over as allies so they can become internal advocates for your brand.
5. Apply personalization and retargeting boldly
A successful ABM campaign is based on surrounding your target account with relevant content and brand experiences. Thus, sending out a single email campaign just won’t cut it.
Using the full potential of social media and content marketing as well as brand advocates’ assistance is great — but not enough. You need to complement it with full personalization. Apply personalization across your leads’ experience with your brand. This entails creating account-specific landing pages and customizing visuals, copy and offers on products or services. The purpose is to deliver targeted interactions at all possible points of contact.
Using retargeting to keep your brand fresh in prospects’ minds is another approach to this "surrounding." For leads who have shown interest in your services, targeted advertisements can be displayed when they visit other websites. This means that the targeted individuals will get greater exposure to your brand offer and may be reminded to come back to your channels.
Getting traction with your ABM campaigns requires a long-term investment and effort. Unlike the hit-and-miss strategies, it is well-focused and bound to bring meaningful results when thoughtfully applied over time.