Account based marketing (ABM) is the key to reeling in your biggest accounts. But it needs the right content, at the right time, to get a bite.

Typical B2B marketing targets a persona, while ABM takes aim at individuals inside specific accounts.

Co-founder of Marketo and, more recently, CEO and co-founder of ABM platform Engagio Jon Miller calls the former ‘fishing with a net’ and the latter ‘fishing with a spear’.

We believe both will catch fish. For a very high-value prospect though, you want to be sure your aim is dead-on – they warrant the spear.

There are clear advantages to taking an ABM approach. It is responsible for significant improvements in retaining existing clients and expanding client relationships, according to 84 per cent of marketers. And 97 per cent believe ABM has a higher return on investment than other marketing.

“Account based marketing focuses on a few large and important accounts or those potential accounts that hold the greatest promise of adding to your bottom line,” says Elyse Flynn Meyer, President and founder of Prism Global Marketing Solutions. “That’s why it’s so critical to have a high-touch and highly targeted message to these individuals, because of their revenue potential and impact to sales and marketing.”

But to be successful, ABM requires a deep understanding of your target clients as individual people. What are their likes and dislikes? How do they like being approached: email or a call? Are they a food person? Mad on animals? A passionate skydiver? What’s their favourite movie? Are they an expert ballroom dancer?

Collaborate to get the inside scoop

So who is the holder of this critical information? Your sales team. This means sales and marketing must be highly integrated and understand the goal clearly, so there’s enough information at the marketing team’s fingertips to genuinely target a specific individual or small group.

Once you have this intelligence, you can engage with people specifically and deeply, getting engagement by surprising and delighting them with something relevant, fun and appropriate that starts a conversation.

For example, Artificial Intelligence company GumGum wanted to collaborate with T-Mobile on marketing the latter’s rollout of an unlimited data plan. It discovered T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere is incredibly active on social media, with his Twitter account showing that he supports his company on the platform and is a fan of Batman.

GumGum assembled a team of editors, designers and illustrators to make a personalised comic book called T-man and Gums. It shipped 100 copies to T-Mobile and its agencies, and received a reply from Legere on Twitter within hours. Taking the risk to personalise the content led to a meaningful conversation and a big new client.

account based marketing T-Mobile GumGum

4 steps to great ABM content

  1. Identify who you will create content for. In contrast to crafting content for a well-developed persona, your content will target a specific group of influencers or a single decision-maker from the account. You’ll need to chat with your sales team to find out who their high-value targets are and which target you have the greatest chance of converting – you’ll also need to use this conversation to bring the sales team on board with the strategy, as you’ll be asking them to invest their time in it and they need to believe there will be a pay-off.
  2. Get to know the target. Do your the research, ask questions, keep collaborating with and gaining information from sales.
  3. Audit your content. You could have relevant content that only requires a quick refresh to meet an individual’s needs. An audit will also allow you to look at your content through your target account’s lens to find gaps.
  4. Continue to communicate with sales to ensure you continue to maximise and optimise content, and keep abreast of further opportunities.

Reap the rewards

According to the Harvard Business Review, individual customers who perceived content to be tailored to their specific needs were 40 per cent more willing to buy than customers who didn’t.

Closing the loop between sales and marketing is a side payoff, as when ABM is done well it forces greater alignment between the two teams. DemandBase’s State of ABM survey found 34 per cent of respondents in companies that do use ABM see their marketing and sales teams as tightly aligned.

Measure and optimise

As always, you’re not finished when you’ve published – even though you’re targeting an audience of one, or a few, there are plenty of lessons to learn from performance.

To assess your success and improve it next time around, work out whether your personalisation is paying off and where it might be falling down. Work out:

  • Has your target audience (whether that’s an audience of one or of a few) engaged with your content?
  • Did they take the action you planned for them?
  • Can you see an uplift in the engagement of the targeted account/s with your brand?
  • Does your sales team believe the targeted individuals or organisations have moved down the sales funnel or taken a few more steps through the customer journey?
  • Do you now have a greater number of decision-makers from the organisation engaged with your content or your sales team?
  • Are you happy with the program’s ROI?
  • If the answer to the above questions is ‘no’, or ‘yes but not enough’, what might have been done differently that could have changed that?

Generally, if ABM content program doesn’t work, it’s likely either the account targeted wasn’t quite right, or there wasn’t enough correct information to personalise effectively.  Ultimately, ABM is about engaging people by talking about things they already have a deep interest in, and continuing the conversation. But you can only do that if you truly, deeply know them.

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