Let’s face it. The Internet has become a tangled mess of information, and, sometimes we as marketers can feel as if our products or services are a needle in the haystack. It’s this very problem that is inspiring more and more B2B companies to focus on account based marketing (ABM) versus inbound marketing strategies.
What’s the difference? ABM is a highly targeted approach that focuses on specific accounts deemed to have the highest potential for your ROI.Where inbound marketing targets a broad range of customers, ABM narrows the list down to key accounts.
It’s a delicate dance we marketers do as we attempt to balance both customer reach and customer engagement. On the one hand we want to put our efforts into reach so we fill the top pipelines with tons of prospective leads. Yet, on the other hand, if we take that energy and develop pre-established accounts to their full potential, we will see a clear ROI.
Don’t get me wrong, inbound marketing IS effective. However, the projection aspect may not always result in a direct ROI.
ABM starts when you identify a top-valued customer that you may consider upselling. When you take a personalized approach to handling this golden client, your marketing goals can suddenly become blissfully achievable.
Step 1: Goal Development and Pick Your Group of Accounts
In order single out which accounts to prioritize, you may have to use different business intelligence tools. To do so, use engagement metrics to identify which accounts have interacted with your company the most.
Engagement factors may include:
- Visits on different pages of your website
- Views on different paid media
- Downloads of different resources and assets
- Participation in marketing events (webinars)
Not every ABM strategy follows the same tune. Based on market specifics and a bit of good old discernment, marketers decide which of the following approaches to take as they identify worthy accounts to target.
- Go for the Big Fish: Chances are, your largest accounts are the ones that have the most capital at their disposal. Go after the bigger deals knowing they will have the flexibility to spend more with you. If you make it a point to nurture these accounts, they will pay off in the long run.
- Influencers and Strategic Partnerships: It’s not always about the money. When you build up credibility in your industry it becomes easier to sell to sell your product. This is where influencers come in. While influencers may not contribute directly, their indirect value is priceless. They have an audience who cares what they have to say, so take note and use their platform as a springboard to build your own voice of authority, stamped with their weighty approval.
- Product Market Fit: There are products that have clear needs around the solution you provide. Accounts that depend on you to a high degree are feasible to maintain for one simple reason: they simply cannot live without your product or service.
- Low Education Curve: Sales will accelerate when the education curve is shorter. Hence, it will benefit you to seek out accounts owners who are acutely aware that they have a certain problem and they are already considering a solution. You will not have to educate them and they already know they need your product.
- Competition: Competition is a good thing. Here’s the good news about them: they aren’t perfect. There are many features the current customers of your competitors may not like, creating the perfect opportunity for you to introduce your superior product or service. Market to these customers with specific attention to how what you have to offer will supplement what they want in the other product.
- Regional: The best way to go about this strategy is to research which accounts are performing the highest in specific regions and focus on retaining them. In effect, this information will show you which geographic regions’ sales are most successful so you can penetrate the areas that are bringing in the most revenue.
Marketers know that their goals will align with the target audiences they are planning to focus on. You can start by speaking to sales to find out where the opportunities are. Then research your competitors and research different campaigns within your CRM to track engagement activity.
Pro Tip: In the past I have looked back into my marketing automation tool to see if I could find accounts or groups applicable to the segment I was creating. I would add them to the groups of accounts I was planning to obtain. The accounts that have engaged with us before are already warmed up.
Step 2: Decision-Makers Mapping
You have finalized your accounts lists. Now it is time to focus on the top two to five lists and narrow down your target accounts. The most relevant accounts should receive the highest priority.
One of the mistakes I’ve made is not fully fleshing out the customer journey of my key lists before targeting them. I didn’t think about what type of content I was going to use to support driving them from points between A and Z. I had to scramble when I realized this process had a huge impact on the decision makers I was be dealing with from inquiry to winning the deal.
The key decision makers read certain publications on the daily. Many of the comments on these publications turn into discussions on different groups such asLinkedIn Groups.
Pro Tip: Create a map of content that decision-makers are searching for. I usually search for qualitative data to support different content assets decision-makers are seeking. For example, I will search on Quora and Yahoo Answers, and comb through different article comments on major publications to find out what the target is reacting to.
Step 3: Customer-Value Marketing Approach
This is a critical step of your ABM strategy. The messaging you choose has to clearly portray a solution the business is currently challenged with. When you give the business more value through your content than the value they have given you (name, email and contact info.) then you will win their trust. Through research you can clearly define the points of interaction with the business.
Pro Tip: Just call them up and ask them about their biggest challenges. If the business gives you an answer, then you will move closer to winning the deal.
Step 4: Marketing Channels
What’s your channel strategy? Different verticals and audiences may respond differently. When you use a multi-channel approach you will use the most effective channels to build a relationship with your potential prospect.
The channels you choose will reflect the personas you are targeting and how they view information daily. For example, do members of your target market prefer podcasts over reading publications? If you always take a generic approach, you may miss out on marketing the accounts that bring the highest return.
Pro Tip: For every channel create a spreadsheet that contains these columns: personas, messages, offers, metrics, goals, launch dates and tests.
Step 5: Execute Marketing Campaigns
You have chosen your marketing channels. Now it is time to execute the campaigns. The messaging must be consistent through the various channels. If the messaging is off you may waste time and money capturing the attention of the wrong target audience.
Imagine if you created an ad campaign so specific that you included the logo of the account you were going after. Does it get more personalized than that? If you are trying to attract groups of different accounts that share similar characteristics, then your ads can be personalized for that specific group. The campaign structure may change from time to time depending on the audience’s response.
Pro Tips: Measure the engagement at every level and understand the target you’re dealing with. The organization structure will help you determine the key influencers and the decision makers at every level of the campaign.
Step 6: Measure and Analyze
In order to improve your results, you have to test your campaign and analyze results from your current campaigns. For example, I always look at the click-through rates, the open rates, multi-touch attribution, and conversion rates on every channel. These insights tell me what aspects need optimization and/or tweaking.
Pro Tip: Use Google Analytics and click on “Real-Time” to see what’s happening at every moment. Then you can use Campaign Influence by Full Circle Insights to measure attribution for every deal. Find out which campaigns are bringing in the most revenue so you can create more of them.
With ABM, you become the biggest, most visible needle in the haystack. What’s even better, it’s big players (that you targeted) who will find you there. Inbound marketing isn’t going away, but what are you doing to make sure you are getting the most out of your key accounts?
What creative tools do YOU use to identify key customers? Let me know in the comments below.