As marketing and sales technologies improve, new marketing strategies surface which turn traditional tactics on their ear. One amazing example of this is account based marketing (ABM). Unlike the traditional marketing funnel, with a large, anonymous top of funnel, ABM is like an inverted funnel - instead of inefficiently spending to generate a thousands of leads to find a small number of desirable opportunities - ABM targets known, pre-qualified accounts with high quality, personalized marketing campaigns.
ABM wasn’t really possible 10 years ago, but in a post-social, highly connected digital world it’s now possible to target only the companies and buying personas who are most likely to be successful with your product or service. Doing so requires a new set of steps which we will outline here.
Step 1 - Build your list
ABM is effective when you’re targeting a few hundred rather than a few thousand accounts. Define your audience of accounts and identify the right buying personas and influencers to target with campaigns. List building can be done a variety of ways, including purchasing lists of emails from list vendors, or 3rd pary data providers (example: ZoomInfo.com http://www.zoominfo.com). This works well if target companies are in North America, but for global companies this can be more challenging. Linkedin is a great resource, and there are a variety of resources available to develop your targeted lead list. Once you have your target companies and individuals, you can use tools like Hunter.io (http://hunter.io) to collect contact information like email addresses.
Tip: Target competitor customers or specific verticals to narrow your prospect list.
Step 2 - Segmenting the Journey
Target content should have multiple purposes. Each engagement should help promote the brand and qualify the lead. Doing this requires a well defined journey based on buying stages. A prospect who engages with content about the “basics of topic A” or “is topic A right for you” is at a fundamentally different stage than someone who is researching “getting started with Topic” and “best practices for Topic A”. Most buying cycles have 3-4 distinct stages - discovery (when someone is starting to learn about a product/service), Interest (when someone has decided to dig deeper), Intent (demonstrating purchase intent), and Purchase/Conversion. ABM cycles require investment in discovery stage content to help the prospect identify and quantify pain points or see the opportunity for ROI in a particular product/service. Once the journey stages are well-defined, content should be designed to help move buyers from stage-to-stage and clarify interest level. Typically you want sales to start engaging at the interest or intent stage, depending on your buyer persona.
Tip: Personalize the messaging and content as much as possible. Take full advantage of the knowledge you have of the target accounts to optimize content.
Step 3 - Omnichannel
There is no one channel to rule them all, so plan for how to use content across a variety of channels. The goal should be to bring awareness to your product and brand, and then appear to be EVERYWHERE the prospect turns. It’s important to coordinate between email, landing pages, and blog articles not only for content, but to cookie and track each visitor. Once a prospect has a cookie and is engaged, retargeting is fantastic. Keep in mind that unlike traditional display ads, retargeting ads are highly targeted and less expensive because of the narrow, well defined audience target - rather than. Social sites like Facebook, Google and Linkedin enable specific CRM/audience targeting - which is not for creating look-alike audiences, but rather explicit targeting. Remember to evolve the message as the buyer progresses through the funnel, so the messaging is relevant to the buying stage if possible.
Don’t forget, the phone is still a viable channel. As soon as a buyer is qualified, they should move from the marketing funnel to the sales funnel to get them on the phone. The marketing campaigns don’t stop! Retargeting ads are also great for keeping a brand top of mind to support the sales team. Even if the prospect starts a free trial, ABM isn’t over.
Tip: Live chat does a great job of capturing early stage prospects and accelerating them through the funnel. Use well trained resources to effectively leverage this channel.
Marketing and sales alignment is increasingly important for high performing organizations. Not only does ABM facilitate sales and marketing alignment better than traditional methodologies, but it often delivers shorter time in funnel because it’s highly targeted and personalized. There are ABM specific platforms, but most CRM marketing platforms can be configured to support ABM.