Account-based marketing isn’t new. In fact, it’s been a successful strategy for many enterprise companies for decades. What is new is that account-based marketing is not just for large companies anymore, it’s now accessible (and cost-effective) for small and mid-sized organizations. In the past, ABM has been associated with extremely large time and money investments and required technologies that were either custom-built or very expensive. In order to pinpoint top accounts and go after them, organizations dedicated huge sums of time and money to gathering data and analyzing how best to target those accounts and finding prospects that look like them. However, that’s not the case anymore.
The new wave of accessible ABM can, at least in part, be credited to the adaptive functionality of today’s marketing automation. Superior automation platforms can now make complex and costly strategies like ABM more feasible and affordable for marketers working on a smaller scale.
The Changing Buyer
Marketing technology has changed because the modern buyer has changed. Today’s buyer has gained control of the sales cycle, and is increasingly more proactive in researching products digitally. We’ve all heard the statistic – buyers today are up to three-quarters of the way through the buying process before they’re even willing to connect with a sales rep.
But what does that mean for marketers? It means that our efforts must be focused on identifying and nurturing our prospects throughout the entire buyer’s journey – from discovery to purchase (and beyond). It means that our technology must help us to segment, target, and personalize our communications in order to care for these buyers during the 75% of the journey that they are in marketing’s hands, not sales’.
Today, on average, 5.4 people are involved in today’s purchasing decisions. And according to Adam Singer from Google Analytics, the average person will consult with 10.4 sources before finally making a decision. This isn’t a math equation, but what it does mean is that for a marketing team to be successful, its team members must now provide each account, and each individual within that account, a positive and consistent experience across the entire buyer’s journey.
So we know what has changed. But what hasn’t?
Personalization is King of Marketing
We usually hear that “content is king,” and that has not changed at all. But today there’s a vast sea of content, and it’s harder than ever to get attention for your marketing messages. So the tweak is personalized content is king. Buyers today, and in the past, still crave information that is intelligent, educational, and relevant to their needs and wants. Buyers today want tailored offerings, personalized messages, and information perfectly curated and timed to help them along their purchasing journey.
What marketing really boils down to is building strong relationships and establishing trust between a brand and their customers (future and established).
Buyers want to feel like you know them, hear them, and understand them. This should be the basis of all of your marketing communication. Take the time to get to know your prospects. Understand their attribute (title, industry, etc.) and watch their actions. You can learn a lot by seeing just their digital footprints and noticing how they interact with your website or brand. When you can establish which of your buyer personas they most resemble, you’re on your way to knowing how to talk to them one-to-one. Taking these steps to personalize your content according to their needs will help you establish the trust and accreditation necessary to move a prospect into a purchasing position.
When doing account-based marketing, you may well find that within an account you have different personas, at different stages of the buyer’s journey, so you’ll need to coordinate different messages among these buyers.
But your ABM strategy doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, one study showed that just replacing generic marketing messages with versions optimized for a target’s industry vertical doubled conversion rates. Here’s where you apply those different personas. For example: when you have a handful of decision makers within an account, you’ll want to give each individual different offerings according to their specific job or concerns. A CEO is definitely looking for different content than the individual contributor who will be hands-on with your product or service. Making this distinction not only gets the right information into the right hands, but it also establishes that you understand your buyer’s needs and wants.
Personalization will not only help you speak to each individual within a targeted account in a way that feels relevant to them, but it will also help this relationship feel more like a partnership. If both sides feel that they are mutually benefiting, it’s much more likely that relationship will be long lasting – and more lucrative.
Marketing Automation & Account-Based Marketing
Marketing automation wasn’t built for account-based marketing, but with certain systems, you’d never know that. If you’re using the right platform, you already have access to some of the most effective tools to help with your ABM strategy without implementing new technology. This “use what you’ve got” approach works for a variety of activities related to ABM programs: personalized outbound content marketing programs, email marketing, and lead nurturing; social media marketing, and website visitor tracking.
Along with capturing data and putting it to work, automation lets you create a process and then set it to repeat at scale, without additional labor. Some of the major benefits that marketers see from combining marketing automation with an account-based marketing strategy are:
- Effectively linking buyer behaviors and data across contacts for a unified account view
- Automatically scoring accounts (as well as leads) and triggering campaigns and workflows inside and outside of the inbox
- Precisely targeting all decision makers within an account and delivering a unified experience across the organization
When getting started with an ABM program, don’t make perfect the enemy of the good. Taking even small steps to make your marketing communications more personalized and targeted will be reflected in your ROI for marketing investment.
Remember that you don’t need to build a complex system in order to be successful – marketing automation can help you start small and still get great results. And as with all new strategies, start with a pilot ABM program and then spend time evaluating, optimizing, and refining your processes before launching it broadly.