Account-based marketing (ABM) has been around for long enough now that most companies have either rolled out strategies or are actively exploring their options. Looking at the ABM adoption model produced by the ITSMA, an industry association for technology-based marketing and services, many companies are in the experimentation stage and looking to further refine their initial pilot programs.
As you begin to experiment and expand your ABM programs, there are many complexities that you can introduce like content personalization, website personalization, scaling accounts and channels, and additional technology and automation, to name a few.
In the exploring and experimenting stages of ABM, all of these options and strategies can act as a barrier to entry for getting your programs off the ground. But fear not, chances are that you already have a solid content marketing strategy in place, and there are many parallels between ABM and content marketing that you can use to simplify your account-based marketing plans.
Before we dive into how content marketing can help simplify your ABM strategy, let’s establish a few swim lanes for where digital marketing sits within the whole ABM picture. I will focus on the roles and the expected results for three operations: digital marketing to position your brand in front of prospects; nurturing targeted accounts with content you own that explains how your products solve customers’ problems; and enabling your sales teams to close deals.
Because ABM starts with cross-functional collaboration, it is common that expectations for each department can become blurred. While all departments should be looking at the same ABM metrics, teams can lose sight that there is still a funnel and buying journey at play. Every team has different strengths to achieve the end goal, so we want to make sure they are in the best position to do that. You should be looking to each department to contribute the following:
- Digital Marketing—This is your marketing team. Let them market. Don’t make them sell your product in a way that takes months and personal conversations to complete. The main focus here should be the first introduction to your brand, and the team should be solely focused on trying to get your brand in the account’s consideration set when it comes time for a new purchase. And what is the best way for this? You guessed it, education through content marketing.
- Nurture—This is where you can get even more granular, personalized, and use case/pain points oriented with your approach due to the amount of data you have on the users in your database. The goal here is to start showing these companies that your product can solve their exact needs.
- Sales—Well, obviously, the goal here is to sell and close the deal. This becomes much easier when all parties are on the same page and when marketing can do a good job of conveying all the actions the accounts have taken so that the sales team is able to tailor their conversations based on this engagement data. If digital marketing and nurturing have done their part, then account penetration, velocity and deal size should all increase.
Introducing your brand to select companies
Now that each department has a focus and a goal that plays to their strengths, we can look at the parallels between general content marketing strategies and how you can leverage ABM specifically for the digital/paid ads piece of the puzzle.
Content marketing is about producing content for the masses to educate and introduce your brand to potential prospects. If we were to tailor this for account-based content marketing, it might look something like this: account-based content marketing is about producing content for specific accounts to educate and introduce your brand to select companies. Content marketing still has the funnel in mind, but when you can add a lens of your target accounts into the mix, you are making a big step in the right direction in gathering content for your ABM efforts.
The three fundamental pillars behind content marketing are giving value back to the user, creating content that answers questions throughout the entire buying journey, and giving the audience a choice in the type of content they can consume. Let’s look at how you can apply this to your ABM strategy for digital marketing.
Show the customer how you can help their business
This is the most important principle to remember when planning your content and messaging strategy for ABM. It doesn’t matter how well you have segmented and researched your target accounts list if you are only serving content that serves your brand.
By providing the user with content that will benefit them, you are becoming a trusted advisor in their field of study and better positioning your Nurture team and Sales team when the time comes for them to interact with the accounts. When applying a content marketing strategy to your ABM campaigns, always start by asking yourself, “How does this help the targeted customer, and why would they want to listen to what the brand is trying to say?”
Answer questions throughout the buyer’s journey
If lead quantity is your goal, you can stay at the top of the funnel for content marketing and just keep producing educational/trend-based content. However, with ABM, we are trying to narrow our target market and provide a track for sequential interactions with your brand so that by the time your sales team is making contact, the account is primed and familiar with how the product and brand can solve their needs.
If your content strategy has the funnel at the center of it, then making updates to your existing content with an industry-based or account-based approach should not be a major overhaul. I believe this is the area that can separate a good ABM content strategy from a bad ABM content strategy. You must have the research and data on your target accounts to understand their exact needs so that you’re able to serve the content that positions you as a leader in solving their problem. While the content itself might not create an opportunity, it will create a bond and sense of trust that gives your Sales team an advantage when they’re talking with the accounts.
Give the audience a choice of content
It is easy to get on an e-book or blog kick in creating content. However, with your ABM strategy, you are more than likely expanding your targets to key decision-makers, practitioners, and cross-department leaders to increase your total reach within your target accounts. With this increase in the people reading your content, you must consider the medium that you are using to push your content strategy and then expand.
As customers’ mobile use continues to rise and their attention spans fall, for example, easily accessible and shorter content like video, podcasts and blogs will play a major role in reaching your target audience. This doesn’t mean you have to produce new content from scratch for every medium. Instead, revisit some of your top content pieces and look to repurpose it in these new, short-format mediums.
As account-based marketing continues to evolve and expand with new technologies and tactics, there is one thing that will remain constant, and that is the need for a strong content strategy. The way you engage your target accounts, and the value you can provide them, will have a greater impact than any new emerging technology or new tactic within ABM.
Marc Stewart leads B2B client operations as the B2B supervisor at PMG, a global digital company. Follow him on LinkedIn.Favorite