The idea behind Account Based Marketing (ABM), though not revolutionary, is a simple and powerful one. You focus marketing on a selected set of Accounts (businesses). These are the ones you want to penetrate to grow sales. And ABM will target these businesses to generate leads within those Accounts. This way marketing can give sales leads they want within Accounts they are responsible for.
Focusing marketing on business Accounts is a relatively new idea. There are some who claim the idea originated in 2004, at an ITSMA conference. We will ignore that claim here since ABM has been made possible only because of the ability to target digital marketing at account level – and this is a recent development. Greater marketing focus has two benefits. You reduce waste in marketing spend. ROI is easy to measure by tracking sales from the targeted Accounts.
Today, ABM is the hot new idea that people are talking and discussing at Marketing Automation and B2B Marketing events. In 2016, claims one marketing guru “Account Based Marketing will be one of the hottest categories”. Maybe. Not sure what that means though and how one measures such a prediction.
For the most it should be possible to launch ABM without any new investments in marketing automation technology. Here is a short recipe for launching your first ABM campaign.
First, create a list of Accounts you want to target. To do so, you can use traditional business information database providers such as Dun and Bradstreet, Infogroup, Data.Com, Zoominfo and others. Traget companies can be found using filters – such as Industry Classifications (SIC, NAISC codes), Company Size – but they are not that useful. Predictive Analytics, can be of value, for a large ABM campaign with tens of thousands of Accounts.
Once Account database is created, you need to find contacts within each of those Accounts. The key here is to build a list of contacts that represents the team responsible for making the purchase decision. This should include all personas involved in the purchase decision: users, influencers, implementers, and the decision makers.
And then you need to find a complete set of contact information for each persona. Compiling accurate email address, working telephone number, and current postal address is a good start – but not sufficient anymore. You also need social Identifiers – particularly LinkedIn and Twitter. They will help connect with them socially and also monitor their social activity.
Once the Account database has been created, relevant content needs to be developed. In theory, the content can be personalized for each Account. But this is often not possible because of budgetary constraints. Also it is really hard to tailor content for each Account other than some superficial changes such as adding names of the Account in the title of the document.
But it is important that content be personalized and tailored to different roles or personas within each Account. Content for a senior decision maker will be different than content for an influencer or an implementer of the product or service. Key decision maker, for example, will find case studies articulating the benefits and ROI more useful than a technical white paper on the product or service implementation.
Now you need to distribute the content to each Account with an effective multi-channel communication strategy. This requires a combination of inbound and outbound communication strategy.
Not all inbound channels are appropriate or relevant to ABM. Some such as SEO, SEM, Display Advertisement lack the ability to target specific Accounts and prospects. On the other hand, Social Media, Retargeting (done smartly), and emails can be directed specifically to prospects within your target Accounts.
These days it is fashionable to malign Outbound Marketing. But senior executives do not have time to read your tweets, download white papers, or read your emails. A well designed direct mailer or a phone call from a professional tele-marketer may be the only way to build awareness to facilitate ABM.
While all the ABM Phases outlined above are important, the most critical is the creation of ABM Account Database. This is the foundation over which all subsequent activities are executed. The Account Database consists of two parts – the Accounts and the Contacts within each Account.
Creating the Account list is easy, but finding personas within each Account is actually very hard. Selecting personas by using keywords in titles is not effective technique. In large companies, there are literally hundreds of employees with the same keywords in their titles. You are not interested in all of them, but only the ones on the team that is making the purchase decision for your product or service. Similarly in mid and small sized enterprises, titles are not a good proxy for roles and the responsibilities. A CFO of a small company, for example, may or may not be empowered to make any purchase decisions.
One way to work around this challenge is to build ABM Account Database using Social Media. This is not that easy to do. You will need to research peoples job descriptions on their social media profiles to build intra-divisional hierarchies to ascertain the precise responsibilities. And then research has to be supplemented and corroborated with telephone surveys. This is not easy and will take time. But this is the only way to ensure success with ABM.
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