Over the past few years ABM or Account- based Marketing has become a hot topic for B2B marketeers and sales teams, but how many SME businesses are actually running ABM pilots or programs effectively, or even at all ?
Account-based marketing is a strategy that focuses on engaging with key accounts and various stake-holders across the targeted business. Building personalized, relevant 1-to-1 content and insightful messaging through a tiered approach.
It is focused on marketing to the whole organization rather than just one persona as per usual in B2B marketing.
Often SME companies have heard of this strategic approach, however think that it is only for big corporates chasing multi-million-pound deals with large teams to implement it.
The reality is, yes, that is true in most cases. However, it can work as a framework for medium size organization as well. You do, of course, need to put the effort into each step and have the resources and time to effectively plan and implement the strategy accordingly.
Obviously, the core objective is a mindset change for how you target higher value deals and long- term profitable customers through an ABM strategy, so it is worth exploring if you are up to it.
Marketing departments know that a spray and pray methodology of pushing messages out on every available channel does not necessarily result in high quality deals or leads.
In order to close those high-quality sales deals, or ensure you are retaining your key customers, teams need to be more targeted in all of their marketing and sales efforts and drive it as a collaborative approach across the board.
Part of the ABM strategy is the shift you need to take around your B2B marketing communications. B2B communications is traditionally characterized by numbing sameness, commoditised benefits and all out feature wars with endless lists of product benefits. Parity is everywhere, making no headway in cutting through the noise. Case study, upon case study of key benefits, lacking appeal and emotion.
When marketing to customers, appealing to logic gets you into the consideration phase, but doesn’t differentiate you. It potentially gets you through the door and then, inevitably, it comes down to price.
Brands are waking up to the fact that B2B communication needs to become customer centric B2P and that they need to discover what personal value their audience is seeking, as well as the business rational through commercial insights.
The ABM mindset will support and drive Brands to create thought leadership to deliver their brand vision, highlighting personal and business value to customers through the process.
Combining rational commercial insights (business value) with engaging personal value to the customer (emotion) will increase relevance and build brand engagement.
ABM principles can help you discover and understand your customers’ needs which will in turn support the creation of new hyper personalised communications to targeted accounts and personas. Targeting B2B & B2P it is closely connected in my opinion.
So why are SME marketing and sales teams still not implementing this strategy effectively or at all?
A few Reasons: Time, skilled resources and effort, lack of Internal buy in and inadequate research in the discovery phase is a common problem.
Putting in the time and research to gain the insights, around existing and new customers, then tailoring the perfect personal messages and content to the right type of account is imperative as a starting point and takes team effort from all departments.
As the average customer buying team today is estimated to include 5 plus people, the need for a content strategy that addresses every stake-holders needs and objections, along the buyer’s journey, is something that requires considered planning.
Creation of business insights with multi-level value propositions of relevant solutions to each persona and stakeholder influencing the deal, will breakdown those barriers and help you win deals.
Here are some of the 123, or ABC if you like,elements of ABM that I would like to share with you, based on my personal experience. If you are currently thinking about ABM as a strategy for growth, or just re-thinking your current process, I hope it can be valuable food for thought or at least a refresher.
ABM PROCESS FOUNDATIONS
- Select the Accounts you wish to target and place them into a tiered framework.
- Discover the key contacts and buyers within each account.
- Discover Insights and pain points.
- Create Content that speaks to the account directly and creates a wow factor.
- Create an activity calendar and plan/ co-ordinate teams to work together around it.
- Use most relevant targeted channels by account (Social, Events, PR & Direct Mail).
- Measure and adjust as needed.
Create a tiered framework for account mapping.
- Tier 1 – The must win accounts (Super Personalised messaging & content 1-to-1)
- Tier 2 – Wish list: Great Accounts to have (Personalised and targeted 1- to – few)
- Tier 3 – Good to have (Relevant but less personalised targeting to broader vertical)
It takes time to identify your selected accounts and define the industry, company size, location, annual revenue, upsell & cross sell opportunity, profit margin, etc.
So, don’t rush it.
This strategy requires management, marketing and sales to priorities and select the top accounts that they want to target, and then tailor their marketing and sales message to those accounts across a variety of inbound and outbound channels to drive awareness and engagement.
The starting point can be multi-faceted:
- Create lookalike accounts based on your current customers.
- Choose the right vertical or sector that you can deliver the most value too.
- Use Sales teams knowledge to suggest suitable accounts
- Collect data and insights via social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter,Company websites)
The number of tier 1 accounts can vary, however quality not quantity is the aim here.
I would suggest around 15-20 based on your ability to activate ABM effectively.
Discovery by account can be done via many channels, through digital automated tools, CRM and simple techniques via social channel monitoring or market surveys.
Content is Essential
Setup a Content Audit workshop:
Look at all potentially relevant content you have already created.
Review and Map it out by account, persona, purchase stage and solution.
Identify content gaps that need filling.
Adapt Existing Content:
Pick content that’s relevant and usable with some tweaks.
Identify content that needs simple revisions to make it account specific.
Create new relevant content:
Prioritise vertical themes and issues you can solve for the account based on
your insight, teaching customers something new that they didn’t even know.
Identify commercial and personal insights that can be used in your messaging.
Create an editorial calendar for content creation and hold a content workshop.
Build credibility as a thought leader by adding value to the account conversation.
Content will be needed for all Marketing and Sales ABM planned activities
(Events, video, social channels, web pages, blogs, direct mail, campaigns, etc.).
Regarding tier 1 accounts, hyper personalised content and messaging is what will
help drive your success and cut through the clutter.
This shows a personal touch and shows you have a deep understanding of the
business needs and current pain points.
All content should be targeted at making the buyer feel as if it was made just
for them. Content should be professional, emotive if applicable, high quality visuals
or video, direct to the point and with a call to action.
Reviewing your ABM
Setup monthly or quarterly team reviews to check on status of activities and
Make key adjustments as required, based on test and learn methodology.
The targeting process must begin very early in the buying cycle.
As we all know from online statistics, it is estimated that buyers have
re-searched over 60% of the data concerning their needs and options,
before they reach out to potential suppliers around their RFP.
Measurement & Metrics
Do you have the correct amount of data on each account to be effective and
target them correctly?
Are you connecting with the right people and are they engaging,further down the funnel each time with your company?
Did the personalised content prove to be effective?
Has it increased traffic to your website?
Are the accounts aware or becoming aware of your Brand, products & solutions?
With the targeted programs, are you achieving your goals?
Reaching the target audience and accounts you intended to win?
Are you winning, retaining or acquiring more customers?
Speeding up opportunities at targeted accounts?
Closing deals, increasing the value of contracts?
If you are in the process of implementing ABM or contemplating starting it and need some advice or support, just drop us an email via our contact form. It costs nothing to connect.
May your business thrive and wishing you much success in the year ahead.
Fresh Collective helps companies build the processes and frameworks to drive
strategic marketing and sales growth.