Now that we’ve developed our content strategy in the previous post, let’s talk execution. Account-based marketing (ABM) strategies vary dramatically from company to company depending on your business and target audiences. The execution strategy outlined below focuses on top of funnel ABM content execution best practices for B2B acquisition and expansion marketing.
As a reminder, in account based marketing, it’s easy to go too deep on content so that you’re putting forth a lot of effort for a slight bump in conversions. In your ABM content strategy it’s imperative to consider which pieces of content you’ll use when, if they need personalized content and how often that content will need to be refreshed. Be sure to track the ROI on your content to determine the apex of an optimal balance between effort and conversion rates before hitting the rate of diminishing returns.
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Acquisition Account Based Marketing
Goldfish have a longer attention span than your average human. If you only have a few fleeting moments to catch the attention of your prospects, you’ll need to be addressing their unique needs. Personalizing content means more than just using the target account’s company name or logo in collateral, it means using the information you know to change the language, style and tactics per company to drive revenue for that account. Account Based Marketing focuses on reiterating the unique business needs of each account, use cases and market changes, including competitive landscape. Successful execution of targeted ABM campaigns means that you know the buyer and the content reflects their unique use of the product. Oftentimes, companies will develop collateral that speaks to the product features and requires the target audience to imagine how they would use the product, instead of making it easy for the buyer to say yes.
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In top of funnel acquisition, the main goal is to identify the target audiences (key buyers) within those accounts and develop an inbound and outbound campaign to attract them. Once they express interest in the product, they will need to be passed to sales. Because these accounts are prequalified by both sales and marketing, the activity threshold for passing the leads along to sales should be lowered. Focusing on optimizing for ROI, personalization should be a fine balance between effort and revenue. In general, top of funnel content does not need personalized collateral for an inbound strategy and can use emails to convey personalized content on the outbound strategy.
For an inbound strategy, it’s important to identify the commonalities between all the accounts in your ABM program. These can be their industry, common competitors, pain points or use cases. There’s a good chance that your accounts will have several aspects in common and that you already have the content to address those needs. By identifying the common traits of the accounts you can reuse case studies and examples that are relevant to your target accounts. Once the accounts are grouped by their common characteristics, then decide how deep into personalization you need to go. Can you add an industry spin on your best performing assets? Does the collateral need to be personalized or can the creative be personalized instead? Is there enough time (and real estate) on your paid media to make an ABM message return a high enough conversion rate to make the effort worth it?
With an inbound strategy, it’s important to remember that personalization is only effective if it’s reaching the target audience. It’s possible nowadays to focus your paid media on the companies you want to go after, but the technology will target the company and not an individual. While you can set your segmentation filters to show your ads to certain companies, titles, job function or career levels, you can’t specify that your message should target Donna in accounting. Because of this broader reach, it’s important to understand that your message may hit the wrong audience. At ON24, company specific ads saw a conversion uptick of 4X over the generic ads on LinkedIn; however, the volume was so few that it yielded a lower ROI than taking a broader segmented approach, like focusing on industry messaging.
For outbound though, it’s important to remember that your list is highly focused on your targets. It takes slightly more effort to personalize the emails while reusing your existing best performing assets in your outbound efforts. Personalization can be down to the company level, but there’s probably an opportunity to segment based on industry or use case. This is a good opportunity to test which one provides you with the greatest return on your investment, not just conversion rate.
Expansion Account-Based Marketing
Expansion marketing is more common in SaaS companies that have a horizontal product (meaning it can be sold to multiple business units in a global organization). Expansion only applies to those companies where you’ve already made at least one sale, but ideally have a Master Service Agreement (MSA) or approved vendor status, so that the account executive can more easily sell to the additional units.
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Having an MSA or vendor number in place is important in outbound communications as it removes any barriers of the procurement process making it easier to say yes. This information is best used as a sales enablement tool or key advantage in your email copy rather than a specific piece of collateral.
Expansion marketing relies heavily on data to define the total addressable market (TAM) and ideal customer profile (ICP) within the organization. Given the structure of expansion marketing, it’s important to note that this follows the new SiriusDecisions’ Demand Waterfall that focuses on engaged units, rather than MQL → SAL → SQL, etc. As prospects within the target companies react to marketing, they should be passed on to sales as a way of prioritizing their outbound efforts.
Given this unique selling structure, the key content play is developing a customer advocate who can tell the story on your behalf. This means a case study with solid metrics to show how your product has changed that person’s life. Depending on the company, some organizations like to examine best practices from within the company, others use a competitor as their measurement. Be sure to do your research by talking to the account executive or customer success manager to see how they view innovation. Customer case studies are best told through webinars or videos with a complimentary collateral piece (PDF). Customer champions are your best play, but remember that these stories have a shelf life of about a year until they need to be refreshed.
One way of scaling expansion marketing on a company level is to take existing webinar content that has been the highest performing and set up a lunch and learn with your internal champion hosting it and fielding questions at the end. Reusing your best content will allow you to increase the quantity of these events while having your internal champion speak adds a level of personalization. Remember to pitch this to your champion as a way for them to gain recognition from their peers and be sure they help with promotions to make the event a success.
Account-based marketing goes well beyond the top of funnel. Be sure to watch for the next content strategy piece focusing on down funnel ABM strategies for your buying center.
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