There’s no denying it - selling has become more difficult. Suddenly the marketing term ABM (account based marketing) has replaced ‘content marketing’ as the most effective outreach. No doubt a new term will be coined over the next 18-24 months, but the principles will effectively remain the same. So here’s how to get the most out of it according to Charlotte Graham-Cumming, MD at marketing agency Ice Blue Sky.
According to Marketo, ABM makes the sales process more efficient by reducing up to 50% of sales effort on unproductive prospecting. 80% of organisations that practice ABM properly (and that’s an important distinction) say that it’s more effective than other marketing channels. In addition, Gartner has shown that 70% more opportunities are created using the ABM approach. So perhaps you should be employing it.
1. Focus your aim
There is, on average, seven decision makers involved in a B2B buying cycle (Spotio) and anywhere between 50-90% of that journey is completed before a buyer interacts with a vendor. This places more emphasis on marketing than ever before, and means you have to think about the ecosystem of decision makers at your target company. Categorise them into who owns the budget, who makes the decision, who influences the decision, who would you be likely to work with on the project. Divide them up into personas and think about how you would tailor an approach. For example:
2. Lead nurture
79% of marketing leads never convert into sales and lack of lead nurturing is the lead cause of this (Marketing Sherpa). Plan a campaign over time, not in a ‘big bang’ and plan different types of content and touchpoints to make the relationship more natural.
For example, create a programmatic email flow in MailChimp (automated email sequence) that shares various types of assets over a two to three week period. When someone downloads something from your website, pop them into the recipient list for that email flow and the system will do the nurturing for you. Make sure the content is personalised for more than just name and company - on your form capture you could ask one or two questions about their business and use this to populate a personalised field on the email or to determine which asset would be best for them.
Then, schedule a time to call people to follow up - don’t expect them to do all the hard work.
3. Do the legwork
The difference between ABM and content marketing is primarily that with ABM you’re tailoring your marketing to specific accounts and, in some cases, people. This doesn’t mean just swapping out the name, job title and company within the communication, it means having a solid strategy in place as to who you’re going to target and why, and then what you’re planning on saying to them.
The next step is to then research that company so you can understand what commercial priorities and challenges they may have that you can align to the topic you wish to discuss with them. The less you talk about yourself and the more you ask about them, the more successful this approach will be.
Good steps to take here are:
- Create a list of organisations you want to win business from. Base the selection on ideal customers you’d like to replicate, either from a specific vertical or company type
- Aim to contact five to ten a week, pick a marketing asset that’s suitable, or create one from scratch, and work out which elements could be personalised
- Define your channel outreach, email and physical direct mail
- Do the research on the organisations and use that to create the personalised content
4. Mix it up
As mentioned in point 2, things won’t happen overnight and one piece of communication is not enough. Plan a cycle of communication, which could look something like this:
- Something physical and creative in the mail to get their attention
- Follow up with an email with a useful asset
- Follow up again in the mail, but this time with a commercial asset (research report for example) tailored to that organisation
- Connect with a phone call
- Launch a LinkedIn sponsored update
5. Get the tools for the job
To effectively keep track of the activity, particularly if you have a team working on it, you’ll need at a bare minimum a decent CRM such as Insightly, Hub Spot or Really Simple Systems. An email sending tool such as MailChimp is also important, although many CRM systems now have email sending capability which helps with tracking responses. Ideally you’ll need tools for:
- Managing contacts
- Tracking which contacts have received which content/campaign
- Automating email sends and content distribution
- Content creation
6. Work closely with sales
ABM will only work well when it’s done in close collaboration with sales. The reason for this is that sales have to 100% support the process in order to conduct effective follow up and to build the requisite relationships.
Sit down with sales and select the target accounts, this decision should be made around current intelligence held by the sales team, relevance to your specific type of solution and existing relationships and/or touch-points.
Next, demonstrate to sales what content is planned via what channels and at what point in the customer journey, and plan follow up activities and schedules. On a weekly basis update sales on what’s been sent to whom, and give them all the information needed to follow up.
7. Be realistic
ABM, much like any other kind of marketing, is not a magic wand, nor is it necessarily easy. ABM requires time and discipline. It’s not inexpensive so you have to balance expected return against the predicted investment. For example, if what is being promoted only costs a few pounds and generates very little margin, ABM is probably not appropriate.
ABM is appropriate for when you’re looking to create a long lasting relationship with an organisation, where you don’t want to compete on price. The ABM process allows you to challenge thinking through good content, and to build a relationship through multiple touch-points.
And with Sirius Decisions noting that companies that take this approach achieve 27% faster growth than companies who don’t, that creates the compelling argument you probably need.