Account-based marketing is a strategy that aims to build marketing messages and content around a specific group of target accounts. By placing the desired customer at the center of your marketing strategy, you create messaging that speaks directly to them and in turn, have a much higher probability that the messaging will resonate and show the value of your product or service – resulting in better conversion rates.
1. Finding your ideal customer profile
The key to a successful ABM campaign is knowledge. Think of it as the foundation of your ABM house – the more information (foundation) you have, the stronger your house will be.
Before you jump into things, spend some time researching your current customers to uncover some important information.
Ideal company profile (ICP) – Your ideal company profile is comprised of traits that describe your best customer, the one every salesperson dreams about selling to. These traits, called firmographics, are used to create a list of target accounts (companies) that will be the center of all your marketing efforts. They are receptive to your messages, see the value in your company, and want/need to buy. The main goal of an account-based marketing strategy is to eliminate marketing to uninterested buyers and increase your attention and resources toward marketing to the specific group that is likely to be in the market for your solution.
Ideal customer profile (also ICP) – This is a person at a company who will most likely be receptive to your messages because your product/service solves a specific need they have in their role. The ideal customer profile can vary depending on your specific product or service. For example, if you sell accounting software, it would likely be a waste of time to market to the sales department, and instead focusing your messages on those within a company that will actually have direct contact with your solution – in this case, the finance department.
Discussing your ICPs with your executive and sales teams about the direction the company is currently going, or which direction the company wants to go will give you an idea of who you should be targeting. Also, looking at historic win/loss sales data will give you direct insight into what accounts have turned into customers in the past. From this data, you can ask yourselves, who are our best-fit customers? What are some common attributes of these customers – industry, company size, revenue, etc.?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can find look-alike companies and buyer personas that fit within your two ICPs – giving you a clear idea of who you should be marketing and selling to.
2. Creating your ABM strategy
Once you’ve got your target accounts in mind it’s time to market to them.
Create content that speaks directly to your target customers. Everything they receive from you, be it emails, ads, even web content, should be tailored to address their specific business needs. You should even be thinking about how your ideal customer persona’s role changes the way they approach problems and what metrics will define success for them.
Unfortunately, there is no ‘magic bullet’ in the marketing world (or if there is, I haven’t found it yet). However, consistency and relevancy among all customer touchpoints will increase the likelihood your target accounts engage with your messaging and eventually become customers. A good approach is to develop an omnichannel approach leveraging multiple touchpoints for each potential customer from web and mobile platforms to email, social media, and so on that all convey the same message: “We understand your pain, here’s how we can help.”
Some of the primary account-based marketing tactics are:
Targeted ads –Targeted advertising is advertising’s natural extension of account-based marketing. Instead of boring, generic, traditional ads (think the last toothpaste ad you saw), targeted ads direct their content specifically toward their target accounts. Similar to how you craft targeted emails, your ads should be short (as in not too wordy), direct with a clear call to action, and relevant (i.e. solving the target audience’s pain points). But we can go one step further. By leveraging IP address data, you can run ad campaigns that will only show your ad to specific IPs associated with your target accounts, saving you tons in wasted ads and making your conversion rates much higher (more on that here).
Email marketing – developing highly personalized emails for the companies on your target list will not only keep your emails out of the spam folder but will also result in higher clickthrough and conversion rates. Why? Because people are tired of reading boring, generic email copy. Instead, they want short, direct, and relevant emails that address a specific painpoint and explain how your products or services solve it.
Content personalization – In a B2B context, this means personalizing your website based on visitor data. This can include various firmographic attributes – industry, revenue, employee count, and more – with the end goal of engaging the viewer. Leveraging dynamic content on your website is one of the most effective ways to deliver 1:1 marketing at scale and drive higher website conversion rates. Reverse IP lookup technologies determine what company the visitor is coming from and provide firmographic information (industry, revenue, location, and more). This data is then used by platforms like Google Optimize and Adobe Target to personalize your website’s navigation, content, and other fields to show relevant content to the visitor based on their firmographic profile. The visitor is then given an experience tailored specifically to them in real-time. All of this happens behind the scenes in the fraction of a second it takes for the webpage to load.
Physical mailers – Sending a real physical piece of mail to a person might seem old fashioned in a world where we have unprecedented access to thousands of digital technologies. But there’s a lot to be said for a personalized touch like sending a package of company swag and a handwritten note to a select group of target accounts.
Retargeting – A typical buyer’s journey often involves a large amount of research done independently by the buyer before they ever reach out to a salesperson or fill out a form, during which time they might bounce around to many different websites including your competitors’. In fact, only around 2% of your website traffic will make the jump from anonymous traffic into a lead that has raised their hand via a contact form, direct email, chat, etc.
Ad retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a highly effective process of showing ads to an audience that previously visited your website and left without converting. There are three major methods for retargeting ads:
Third-party retargeting: This approach relies on website cookies or tracking pixels that are designed to collect information about website visitors. When a user visits a website, the cookie is stored on the user’s browser and enables advertisers to “follow” them around the internet. After the visitor leaves the website, retargeting ads can be served to them through third-party networks, such as the Google Display Network and Facebook.
Contact list retargeting: This method of retargeting works by leveraging a preexisting list of email contacts that have visited your website and have voluntarily offered up their email address often in exchange for something, such as gated content, webinar, product discount, etc. Once you have a list of visitor email addresses, you can upload it onto a retargeting ad platform, like Google Ads, Twitter, or Facebook, and the next time a user logs into a site using an email address on that list, they will be served your ad.
B2B audience retargeting: The third type of retargeting offers the best of both worlds – it provides a larger audience than list-based retargeting but also allows for highly personalized ads that are much more likely to resonate with your target audience and get them to click.
Audience-based retargeting works by first placing a small piece of code onto your website called a “tag.” Once configured, the tag identifies firmographic data about your website visitors such as: company name, industry, revenue, employee count, geolocation, and more, which are then used to build audiences within the Google Ads platform.
3. Measuring your campaign effectiveness
Even the best ABM campaigns will never reach their maximum potential if their success can’t be tracked. Just like in the first step of the ABM process, knowledge is power. Once your ABM strategy is up and running, it’s important to measure its success and see what areas you can improve. This information can be gathered using first-party tracking methods, such as IP address intelligence, which identifies the exact companies visiting your site and provide you with company data such as industry, revenue, employee count, and more. This allows you to ensure your marketing efforts are bringing in the accounts that really matter to your organization. The sheer volume of your website traffic, clicks on an ad, content downloads, etc. can be a good indicator that your campaigns are working, but that’s only half of the story. Meaningful marketing attribution comes from determining exactly which companies are engaging with your messages so you can make adjustments to focus on the areas that are bringing in the best leads.
Here are some key things to consider when monitoring your strategy effectiveness:
- See where the traffic is coming from so you can focus your efforts on the channels driving the most traffic to your site and improve ones that are underperforming.
- Determine which accounts are engaging with your marketing messages and if your initial ideal customer profiles (ICPs) are accurate or if there unpredicted segments that you should be adding to your ABM strategy.
- Keeping track of your key performance indicators (KPIs) and measuring how your strategy is performing against them is paramount to maintaining the success of your campaign.
When it comes to marketing attribution there are two major types of modeling that marketers use to measure campaign effectiveness: single-touch and multi-touch attribution models.
Single-touch attribution models assign 100% of the attribution credit to one single touchpoint (the ad that was clicked on, for instance). These models are relatively easy to implement but lack the granularity needed to capture the complexity of the B2B buying and decision process.
- First Touch Attribution gives 100% of the credit to the first touch that created the lead (an ad, email, mailer, etc.)
- Last Touch Attribution gives 100% to the last touchpoint a lead engaged with in the buying process.
Multi-touch attribution models, on the other hand, are a bit more complicated but offer a more comprehensive view of the sales and marketing process by taking into account things like website engagement, content downloads, advertisement campaigns, email campaign engagement, form fills, webinar attendance, inbound phone calls, tradeshows, and a variety of other elements that are common in the B2B buying cycle.
Here are some common multi-touch attribution models:
- Linear models give equal weight to all touchpoints throughout the customer buying process (ex: if you have four touchpoints from the first contact to close, they would each receive 25% credit). Linear models are the most straightforward and probably the easiest to implement in your marketing strategy but can suffer from similar limitations to single touch methods.
- Time decay models give a higher percentage of the credit to touchpoints that occur closer to the closed deal. The thinking behind this method is that it was the more recent touchpoints that pushed the prospect to buy.
- U-shaped models give 40% to the first touch and 40% to the touch that converted the lead. This model is useful for determining how effective your marketing campaigns are at generating leads but is limited in that it stops after the lead is created, leaving you in the dark about the rest of the sales cycle.
- W-shaped models are a more in-depth variation of a U shaped model. These models evenly split roughly 90% of the credit to the first visit, the lead-creation session, and the opportunity-creation session. Assuming there are touchpoints between the major 3 touches, the remaining credit is divided evenly between them.
- Full-path models evenly distribute 22.5% of the credit between the first touch, lead creation, opportunity creation, and closed deal/follow up interactions with the remaining 10% split evenly between the other touchpoints. This is the most complex of these models because it requires input from both sales and marketing teams, but it provides the most comprehensive view of the buying process.
All of these models are good and they work, the key is choosing the right model to fit your business needs. You should take into account the time, money, and energy it will take to implement any of these attribution models and make sure you have the organizational resources to properly utilize them. It’s also important to go back to your KPIs and understand the metrics that really matter to your team as this will be a deciding factor in choosing which method to implement.
While all this might seem like a lot of work, one thing to take solace in is that we’re living in the golden age of data. Today we have a wealth of technology that gives us unprecedented depth into market segmentation and metrics, making the process of measuring your campaign effectiveness much more manageable.
An important thing to keep in mind throughout this entire process is that none of these steps are set in stone, and just because you’ve completed one of them doesn’t mean it’s over and done with. You should constantly test and optimize your methods to enhance your marketing stack. The needs of businesses grow and change over time, and as marketers, we must monitor these changes and adapt accordingly. While this ongoing process might seem a bit daunting at first, the fruits of your work are more than worth it.
To learn more about how intent data can optimize your account-based marketing strategy, check out our eBook.
[Originally published on kickfire.com]
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