We live in a world of personalized marketing, encompassing many spheres of our lives. In such an environment, our B2B clients quite rightly expect highly relevant and targeted communication. That’s exactly why more B2B marketers need to start investing in strategic account-based marketing (ABM) programs.
In a world where marketing automation providers are powering strategic marketing for highly targeted information and an emphasis on individual clients, technology, and social selling tools, it becomes increasingly important to have a broader ABM program. It’s no wonder that ABM is making huge strides globally with a whopping 21% increase, as per a Hubspot study, in the number of organizations that have a full-fledged program in place.
So, what exactly is ABM? Essentially, it’s a form of strategic business marketing and an alternative B2B strategy that helps organizations concentrate sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within a market. At its core, ABM employs personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each account and allows marketers to qualify and target prospects that are best suited for their product or service.
Ultimately, I see ABM as more of a philosophy than a tactic. Meaningful client relationships are the focus, and all tools should underpin those relationships. Too often clients feel they are under siege from communications. Technology is an important enabler, but strong relationships are the linchpin that hold it all together. Beyond ABM, organizations need to be customer-centric – not just for sales wins but also for end-user satisfaction.
Switching your outreach
I always like to think of B2B marketing as similar to luxury consumer marketing: both are high-touch; the focus is on quality of leads rather than volume, and a small marketing investment can yield a big ROI. On the flipside, marketing decisions can take longer to reach and require a time-consuming deep dive of the client’s specific situation. Ultimately, people want to feel special and understood. They want you to engage with their story and have an ally to help them achieve their vision. ABM can help achieve that.
One of the better examples of ABM I recently read was a company that kicked off its campaign by sending piñatas that were filled with candy and positive reviews found on third-party websites.
The company also switched up its messaging by adding social proof from one of its advocates, a lady who shared a personal testimony about her success with the platform and offered to speak with them via email. This added a great human element to the campaign. Results? After sending the “piñata-grams,” the company had a 36% response rate and a 3.4% sales-qualified opportunity rate.
Discovery and definition are key
Discovery and definition of high-value accounts have become the basis of content creation and a necessary first step in ABM. Communication channels include web, mobile, and email for executing targeted and coordinated campaigns, while detailed metrics help deliver sustained and optimized results. This is a great example of how marketing processes have evolved to provide real monetary value translating to millions of dollars in sales revenues.
Technology and social tools need to be used purposefully as part of a coherent program. Here are a few thoughts to bear in mind as you develop your account-based marketing plan:
- All relationships are about trust: This is even more relevant in B2B marketing where deals can be worth millions. Decisions are emotional as well as rational. If the client feels you are trustworthy and understand their needs, you have a leg up on your competitors. In this context, strong branding can be a strategic tool that allows us to cut through the marketplace noise, get personalized, and connect with the customer on many levels. And it goes without saying that who you cultivate a relationship with is crucial – you need to make the right connections with the right decision-makers.
- Timely engagement: Engaging earlier and higher with deals requires thorough knowledge of the organizational structure and business owners. While ABM is bringing a lot of visibility into tactical marketing, it also means sales teams are increasingly getting involved in marketing decisions. Getting the buy-in of regional/global sales heads should be part of the customer engagement strategy.
- It’s about the story, not your product: All too often, marketing in the technology industry concentrates on pushing the product features, and little time is spent crafting a story on how you will achieve your shared goal/vision together. All content should tell this story and be highly personalized to your audience. Content is the cornerstone of effective inbound marketing programs and needs to be valuable, relevant, and consistently delivered in order to retain a high-value customer base.
- Don’t waste the client’s time: Timing is everything. You need to use the information at your fingertips to deliver the right messages at the right time. What clients don’t want is lightly personalized content from marketing campaigns sent to them every month – spam by any other name. Use digital marketing technology judiciously and highly customize content for each targeted individual. A key part of building the strategic framework is scheduling combined sales and marketing sessions to understand client goals and relevant account propositions.
- Clients aren’t just for Christmas (or just for one part of the year): Of course, you have your sales target, but transactional goals and campaigns are not really part of the ABM philosophy. It’s all about the long-term plan that will, with any luck, lead to a lasting relationship encompassing not just this sale but many others. Loyalty is an emotion. You want to be the one they turn to first.
Automation, analytics-based insights, and machine learning focused on client behavior all have their places in ABM. Transparently using technology will help drive your program only if it serves human interactions and relationships. But remember, ABM is foremost about customer-centricity and the human touch.
If we want to retain humanity’s value in an increasingly automated world, we need to start recognizing and nurturing uniquely Human Skills for the Digital Future.