It’s taken a few years, but you’ve finally mastered the best practices of content marketing. Your buyer personas are fairly detailed, and your content strategy addresses specific customer needs. An informative e-newsletter and organic and paid social media campaigns power your inbound marketing efforts.
But despite your best efforts, your content marketing approach is barely moving the sales needle. Senior management is starting to question the wisdom of your content-focused marketing approach. What’s missing?
In order to attract and engage today’s B2B customers, an even more targeted approach is required. Today’s marketing automation and CRM tools can generate and manage a torrent of engagement data. That now makes it possible to zero in on specific target prospects and nurture them toward a sale with customized content.
This laser-targeted approach is called account-based marketing. It drives bigger results than traditional content marketing because it enables you to penetrate the thinking of your most desired customers and influence their buying decisions like never before.
What is account-based marketing (ABM)?
ABM is a highly targeted approach to B2B marketing. Rather than sending a single message to a group of prospects and waiting to see who responds, ABM tailors a singular version of your marketing message to each key prospect. According to ITSMA, a think tank focused on B2B marketing, ABM delivers a higher ROI than any other marketing approach.
ABM provides a multi-touch, personalized campaign to engage your highest-priority accounts through inbound content marketing and relationship-building. It’s especially well-suited to B2B sales and marketing because most buying decisions involve multiple decision-makers and stakeholders – an average of 5.4 people, according to one recent study. Each one needs to be nurtured through the buying process. By utilizing this highly-targeted and individualized approach, ABM enables you to develop deeper relationships with them, better understand their needs and convert them to sales.
ABM also makes better use of your marketing resources. Traditional marketing focuses on communicating one message to hundreds or thousands of prospects with a goal of influencing a small percentage of them to act. In contrast, account-based marketing focuses your sales and marketing teams in a coordinated way to pursue and convert specific key accounts, pitching relevant and personalized information to each member of their team.
How to get started with ABM
Because ABM requires close coordination between marketing and sales, it’s critical that this initiative has support from your organization’s top management. Without it, your ABM initiative is likely to lose momentum and die out.
First, sales and marketing need to meet to identify target accounts. Who will you target with your ABM initiative and what are their pain points? What problems can you solve for them? List them and then rank them based on their likelihood to close. Also, look for key accounts where your product or service can make the biggest impact.
Next, develop personas for each type of person in the prospect’s buying process. Who is the primary decision maker? Who are the influencers? What other stakeholders are typically involved? You need to develop a detailed understanding of the challenges the company is facing, how decisions are made and who makes them.
What questions do they have during the awareness, consideration and evaluation stages of the buying process? Map this information visually, so you can clearly see each stage of the buying process and how your target prospect’s needs evolve as they get closer to the sale.
Third, map your existing content to each stage in this process. List your existing content assets under the questions you’ve just identified. Then do a gap analysis. What’s missing? Which questions aren’t answered by your existing content? Make a list of the content you need to create to close those gaps, plus any other content your sales and marketing team needs to help nurture your key prospects toward a sale.
As you inventory your existing content, look for opportunities to tweak it to meet the needs of each target account you’ve identified. These small adjustments will ensure that it really speaks to your audience’s needs. Here are some ways you can efficiently and effectively personalize it:
- Change the titles and subtitles of existing blog posts, white papers, and eGuides to be more relevant to each prospect’s needs,
- Fine-tune the introductions and conclusions of existing content to increase their relevance,
- Customize the images and illustrations to more closely match the prospect’s industry and application,
- Personalize your landing pages to speak to a prospect’s precise needs,
- Produce a case history that’s targeted to your prospect’s industry or desired solution,
- Personalize emails to make them more conversational and targeted to the needs of each prospect, and
- Add customized content and examples to your PowerPoint presentations.
Keep in mind that the level of content customization should match the importance of each key prospect you’ve identified:
- Your most important prospects should have highly customized programs and should be given exclusive access to resources that no one else receives,
- Mid-tier prospects should have lightly customized programs that are focused around clusters of similar needs, and
- Finally, the lowest-priority prospects can be approached using broad campaigns with minimal personalization.
This tiered approach will ensure that you use your resources most efficiently.
Finally, measure and analyze your results on a regular basis so you can optimize your campaigns and increase their effectiveness over time.
If you need help developing an account-based marketing strategy, we can help. Contact us today to discuss your needs.
Next month: Why ABM is effective and why it makes sense.