Consumers are growing tired of mass marketing that pays little mind to their unique needs and preferences. The same is true for individual people making buying decisions for entire organizations. This is why both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) companies are taking a more personal approach to marketing. Account-based marketing (ABM) utilizes modern technology and human insight to mine and interpret consumer data, then tailor outreach toward individual buyers. Both B2B and B2C companies can benefit from ABM; B2B companies personalize marketing to individual business accounts while B2C companies personalize marketing to individual households.
When done correctly, ABM is almost always beneficial. Research shows that 97% of those using ABM believe it drives higher ROI than any other marketing technique. ABM can also be a golden opportunity to synchronize the efforts of your sales and marketing teams. However, as the head of global marketing for a customer experience (CX) platform, I see many companies take a number of common ABM missteps.
True ABM involves far more than personalizing the name at the top of a generic email, especially because most small-to-large companies enlist more than one person to make major buying decisions. A 2013 survey of 5,000 of B2B stakeholders showed that, on average, more than five people buy for a single organization. And each of those buyers is likely to prefer a personalized sales pitch; the same study showed that buyers who experienced a customized marketing approach were 40% more willing to make a purchase.
It’s becoming clear that companies utilizing ABM will outperform those that aren’t, and those that effectively utilize ABM will outlast those that take an incomplete approach. With this in mind, here are several strategies I believe can help almost any business cultivate and profit from an engagement-driving ABM model.
Streamline data exchange between your sales and marketing departments.
Successful ABM must be built on good, clean data and recruiting the right technology to mine and amplify that data is essential for identifying key accounts. It’s important for your marketing department to enlist a small team or individual to own the governance of all contact and account-level data while keeping it updated and accurate.
By building a summary or portfolio of data collected on account decision-makers, influencers and researchers, your marketing department can succinctly present relevant information to your sales department, so they can focus less on reading data and more on using data to make personalized sales.
Agree on measurements between marketing and sales leaders and ask for champions to lead the cause in each function. Demonstrate the value that ABM can bring: more targeted and qualified pipeline, increased bandwidth to support sales from marketing (once target accounts are identified), content and marketing support deeper in the customer funnel, and an empowered pathway for marketing to deliver real data that is actionable to sales.
Remember the value of air cover.
Another big mistake companies make when they embark on ABM efforts is building a marketing model that consists exclusively of personalized content without any mainstream marketing materials or “air cover.” A good way to think of air cover is like commercial advertising between television shows or songs on the radio. More specifically, air cover is the demand generation engine running in the background of your ABM model.
A comprehensive marketing strategy uses air cover to lay the foundation of brand awareness for potential customers before making personalized contact with them. It’s an effective way to keep your brand in focus by supplementing targeted outreach. Air cover content geared toward potential customers should help them visualize the role your brand plays in the grand scheme of their industry, address their needs at their specific point in the buyer journey and educate them when they ask for help. Additionally, it gives marketing and sales an engine behind-the-scenes, so that if the ABM model needs to be adjusted, it doesn’t impact revenue streams.
Identify your point of contact(s).
Because most companies enlist multiple decision-makers, your marketing department should be using data-based growth engines to gain deeper insights into company decision-makers, influencers and researchers while compiling lists of targeted accounts. By maximizing these technologies, marketing can enable sales to make sure outreach is unique for each influencer within the same organization. This is essential, especially when an organization’s influencers are scattered throughout different departments.
I see a lot of companies say they’re doing ABM, but all they’re really doing is customizing a generic email to an individual’s name or personalizing a webpage to a company’s name. Even if an email is personalized to an organization, it’s not a true ABM effort if the same email is sent to three different people at that organization. It only becomes ABM when the content is unique to the actual persona you’re targeting, utilizing data to support their pain points for deeper conversations, while still addressing the needs and goals of the entire organization.
The beautiful thing about an ABM model that is shared between marketing and sales departments is that if marketing is solely focused on mining the best data and sales is focused on outreach, there should be no reason why you can’t create an exceptional experience for each point of contact, no matter their role or title.
Take a targeted multichannel approach.
Now more than ever, buyers want to know that marketers have done their homework, and a large part of that homework is fully understanding a person’s social media presence. Researching each contact across all of their active social media profiles is essential to painting a complete portrait of that individual. The internet is an extremely valuable place to mine informational nuggets that can help you personalize a direct mail piece, especially as more companies encourage employees to become “brand voices” by sharing their experiences on their personal social media profiles. If you aren’t using direct mail today, you should consider it, however not in mass production; a nice personal touch added to mail can go a long way.
ABM should involve a multichannel approach that carefully considers each contact’s unique communication style, including their preferred social platform. I’m surprised by how often marketers send content to contacts via platforms they rarely or never use.
All of this boils down to the fact that modern technology is a huge asset to the marketing efforts of today’s B2C and (especially) B2B companies. But technology is only one piece of the puzzle. Data is useful only to the degree that it facilitates a meaningful conversation between buyer and seller. People are always going to want a human experience. True ABM uses data to enhance human interaction, not to replace it.