Brand marketers, especially B2B marketers, know the struggle that comes with reeling in certain prospective clients, sometimes missing out on that major lead they’ve been chasing for weeks, months, or years. Generating lots of leads—but not necessarily the right ones—is a limitation of inbound marketing as a client acquisition channel, and it’s pushed some forward-thinking marketers to turn their attentions toward account-based marketing.
You’re going to hear more and more about ABM in the near future. Thanks to mobile and emerging marketing technologies, marketers can now target specific accounts and hyperfocused audiences more accurately and efficiently than ever before.
This change is prompting marketers and brand decision-makers to reform their volume-based approaches and consider whether more clinical, calculated approaches to client acquisition offer better ROI than current digital practices. But familiar obstacles crop up: once you’ve decided to try account-based marketing, how do you turn that desire into action?
In his presentation at the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum 2016, Engagio CEO Jon Miller said, “As marketers, we’ve got a little drunk on inbound.”
Now, it’s time to sober up.
As Miller pointed out, the main problem with inbound marketing is that brands rely on it to provide the wrong kind of support. Success through inbound is predicated upon generating a high volume of leads—but not necessarily high-value leads.
That’s not to say inbound has suddenly become obsolete. It remains a valuable way of seeking clients and generating leads, and it’s great for brands that are targeting a large market and seeking cost-effective ways of marketing to that volume. But some companies are using inbound in hopes that, within that volume of traffic, they will find one of a limited number of prospective accounts that will want to invest into their products or services. When you’re marketing to the masses in hopes of catching one of a few targets, you’re throwing away any hope of efficient operations.
In those cases, account-based marketing is likely a better strategy to consider. You don’t even have to dispense with inbound if you have other goals associated with that activity, or if that volume continues to represent volume in some form.
“ABM works really well when there are specific fish you want to catch, where it’s not effective to wait around for them to swim into your net, but you have to actually reach out to them,” Miller said in an interview with Megan Golden. “Depending on your business ABM might be a better strategy for everything you do. But for other businesses ABM might be a strategy that’s just appropriate for some segments of your accounts.”
The process of transitioning to account-based marketing is fairly straightforward. Before you do anything else, you need to build a list of accounts you will target. If you’re looking at ABM as an alternative to inbound strategies—or, at the very least, a supplement to your current digital strategy—then you likely have some accounts in mind that will rank near the top of your list.
Even so, some research will likely be involved. Accounts should be selected based on their ability to drive strong ROI for your company. Because you’re swapping out a quantity mind-set in favor of quality, you need these accounts to offer the strong possibility that these companies will want to do business with you. You’ll need to balance the value of the company as an account, their likelihood of converting, and the natural fit of your two companies when determining which accounts deserve top priority.
After that preliminary research to scope out account targets, there is more homework to be done. This stage of the process is all about building a case for conversion. To do it, you need to understand the needs and wants of your target accounts—and the leadership making the decisions—according to Insightera. Build a case through data-driven insights, your company’s ability to drive their success, the upcoming changes and challenges that will affect their company, and how certain changes might affect their prospects against their own competitors.
Keep in mind that marketing doesn’t need to address audiences in a general sense, emphasizing common pain points and areas of concern for those prospect buckets. You’re taking a one-to-one approach, so everything about your marketing should be customized for that single account prospect.
After that, marketers have to start creating the content that will be used to secure a conversion. For account-specific purposes, strong content strategies will consider the use of microsites and landing pages specifically tailored to that company’s interests. Images, infographics, white papers and shorter content with a strong, clear call-to-action can also be valuable in driving these results.
Marketing content can be developed to support account-based strategies, but it’s largely ineffective if other arms of the business aren’t operating in sync with this new shift in strategy. Where the success of this marketing is concerned, no other department wields as strong of an influence as sales.
To that end, any move toward ABM demands that sales and marketing get on the same page before this new strategy goes live. There needs to be a consistent brand voice across both the sales and marketing departments, and both sides should be working from the same game plan for each account, making sure that there aren’t any gaps in the presentation. Discord in how marketers and sales staff interact with these account representatives could be a red flag that sends them to a competitor.
ABM may cause some growing pains, but it’s designed for long-term success: marketing gets more efficient, ROI increases, and the workload for these professionals goes down. Fewer daily demands means that marketing work is done well, and this will have a trickle-down effect that benefits all aspects of your brand marketing.