Have you noticed ROI from recent lead-generation campaigns stagnate or dwindle or are you nervous about what GDPR will do to your ability to communicate with your target audience? Have you seen increases in social spend not reflected in your results or are you simply unsure how to stand out from your competition in a crowded B2B landscape?
It’s likely that you can answer ‘yes’ to at least one of these questions, if not more. And, that’s not very surprising. Things change. Audiences move on. Expectations grow, quickly. So, what’s the answer?
We hear (and talk) a lot about personalisation and creating a rich individual experience but that discussion often centres on automation and typically relates to customer interactions through owned assets, such as websites, email or printed communications with existing customers. In these scenarios, you already know something about your audience and can use your CRM data, analytics and/or historical insight to engage them through relevant content, communications based prior interactions or retargeting offers based on those interactions.
Account-based marketing (ABM) requires the same sort of mind-set – asking how can I create an experience which the intended target will see as personalised, engaging and relevant. The difference is timing and scale. Essentially, ABM revolves around the idea that you will get better results from your promotional campaigns by viewing your targets as individuals, not as part of a segment or wider market categorisation. As a result, you focus sales and marketing investment on a small number of key organisations, creating personalised campaigns that resonate with their individual needs, challenges and opportunities. For example, instead of an email going to 5000 people, it goes to five, or even just one, with a specific set of messages your research tells you will resonate with the recipients. Or, instead of a promotional mailing targeting everyone working in chemicals or data centres, it is sent to five key decision makers, each receiving their own version, almost like a mini proposal.
Is it for you?
Like any marketing technique, ABM isn’t relevant for everyone. If you sell low value products, especially in low volumes, ABM probably isn’t the best strategy for you. However, if the opposite is true and you sell high value products/services (or low value in large numbers to a single customer), the level of investment you are willing to make in converting a specific prospect into a customer is understandably higher. There’s no denying that ABM costs more per target but advances in technology are going a long way to reduce the differential and enable ABM on a larger scale. And, ABM is already demonstrating strong results. A recent survey by the Altera Group highlighted that 97% of respondents claimed ABM had ‘a somewhat higher or much higher ROI than other marketing initiatives’.
What are the benefits
There are a number of benefits of ABM, some are obvious and others less so. Per the 2014 ITSMA Account-Based Marketing Survey, ‘ABM offers the highest ROI of any marketing strategy or tactic’ and it’s easy to see why. By investing the time to understand the challenges a prospect faces, your messaging is automatically tailored to resonate. A single message is all it takes to start a prospect on a journey to conversion so take the time to get your messages ‘bang-on’ and you will reap the rewards.
Understanding ROI from a ABM campaign is also made easier (and more time effective) due to the small number of prospects involved. Setting goals and monitoring their status is no longer an endless mission of trawling metrics looking for answers in the numbers, instead success or failure can be visualised quickly and easily, simply because you have fewer targets to review.
Another benefit of ABM is the closer, more symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing teams within your organisation. ABM is more akin to a sales mind-set – focusing on individuals and creating strategies that engage and excite based on specifics, not segments.
Putting ABM into action:
Who do you want to target?
It may sound contradictory but analytical data and market intelligence will likely play an important role in the initial stage of identifying your preferred targets. You should consider a broad range of metrics but they should be tied closely to your organisation’s strengths and opportunities. Think about your target’s current revenue, position in the marketplace, size of opportunity and even which products you hope they will buy and the margin on those products. There will be countless other data sets you could consider so take the time to understand what makes an prospect attractive to you and why and start from there.
Know your audience
Understanding how you should approach your chosen prospects and specifically who you should target is vital to ensuring you focus your efforts on the right people and through the right channels. Take the time to understand how the organisation is structured, who makes purchasing decisions and who the key influencers are.
Say the right things
Once you have agreed the organisations and individuals you want to target, the next step is to agree the content and tools that you want to develop to engage them. Content should be highly focused on the challenges and opportunities your research has uncovered about your target prospect. Messaging should be specific and address real issues with a sense of confidence and a position of leadership on the topic. You are the experts and your prospects needs your intelligence and experience.
Choose your channels wisely.
All marketing is dependent on selecting the most appropriate channels for your prospects. ABM is no different, just more specific. Through your research, identify the channels that you believe will be most effective for each individual target. Don’t discount anything; there is nothing to say a printed document isn’t the best channel to use or it could be web, mobile, social, email or attendance at events. Get granular with it too. Maybe the CMO uses LinkedIn heavily but the sales and marketing director is more of an email person. The whole point of ABM is that one size doesn’t fit all so don’t generalise.
As mentioned, your ABM campaign should be closely tied to other activity within your sales and marketing department. Coordinate with your sales and social/specific channel teams so that your efforts are joined up, aligned and everyone knows the internal priorities and objectives. The latest workflow and collaboration technology is already making this sort of project a lot easier and enabling larger ABM to be executed with greater efficiency.
How did we do?
No campaign can truly be called a success without understanding how or why it was successful. Measuring your ROI through agreed metrics will ensure you learn from the past and avoid mistakes being repeated. Identify what was most effective and why it worked and use this to influence future activity. Look at the results of specific ABM campaigns but also evaluate ABM against other initiatives to ensure the strategy works for you and your organisation