The Latest from the ABM Experts
February 8, 2018
How to Scale Content Marketing for an ABM Strategy
Developing content that is tailored for an individual account is not a new idea. But as they say, times have changed. Many of us are marketers in venture-backed startups. We need to scale content across multiple target markets, geo-regions, languages, accounts, sales reps, and products. And regardless of whether we are ABM Superheroes, we need to do this at lightning speed: the average tenure of a CMO is 4.1 years, the shortest time span of anyone in the C-suite according to a study by Korn Ferry. So what’s a marketer to do?
Content Creation for an ABM Strategy
It’s true that we don’t need 100% personalized content for every account. I and many others recommend grouping accounts into tiers. The top tier will get the most personalized content.
I’ve transitioned content marketing from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to one where insights are tailored for a specific industry or an individual account. I can tell you from first-hand experience that even with account tiers, it is still challenging to scale content marketing.
I’d like to share some ABM successes and miss-steps with you, the #FlipMyFunnel community. I hope that by “crowdsourcing” what works, and what doesn’t, we’ll all become superheroes.
5 tips for accelerating B2B content development with confidence and predictability
- Leverage content across channels, formats and content types
- Develop content “templates”
- Do regular content marketing sprints
- Have native analytical expertise within marketing
- Develop a playbook and common vocabulary to align with sales colleagues and CFOs
1) Leverage content across channels, formats, and content types
One way to maximize “bang for the buck” with content development is to utilize insights more than once. I have often used several content types, formats, and distribution channels during a marketing sprint. These content types include:
- Owned (e.g., blog posts, whitepapers)
- Earned (e.g., media mentions)
- Curated (e.g., from influencers)
I’ve used this approach at multiple startups and learned that a mix of content types has alleviated the burden of developing all content in-house.
Regarding formats, there is a lot to take advantage of. These include:
- Fastest ($): infographic, ad unit, podcast, blog post, media mention, press release, datasheet
- Faster ($$): whitepaper, quiz, contributed article, case study, webinar
- Fast ($$$): survey, eBook, video, direct mail
Select a mix of content formats. After all, some formats are relatively easy and lower-cost to produce than others. If you focus on creating longer-format content that takes many weeks to produce, you may have great quality but not enough quantity. On the other hand, if you produce too much bite-sized content, you may not offer sufficient value. Expand on a white paper with blog posts, earned media and podcasts on the same topic.
2) Develop content “templates”
Now you might ask, “Isn’t the idea of a template contrary to the concept of content personalization?” And you’d be right to ask that. The answer is, it depends.
If your template is merely a one-size-fits-all approach that references multiple industries or products or themes then, yes. On the other hand, if the template is a formatting construct that identifies the type of insights you’ll gather, assess and format, the answer is no.
A template (a.k.a. formatting construct) allows you to focus more time and energy on data collection and insight creation versus starting from scratch each time to determine what types of data to collect and analyze.
The final piece can be branded, personalized or customized for a single account within the parameters of the template.
3) Develop regular content marketing sprints
Even with content templates, I’ve found that it can be a challenge to develop and maintain enough content to engage each top-tier account. This is especially hard if you are responsible for content across multiple countries.
One approach I’ve used is to select a theme that aligns with a few of the top accounts and run with it for 4-6 weeks instead of simultaneously creating personalized content for each account. Ideally, each sales rep will receive content that fits a few of their accounts. In the next content marketing sprint, they’ll receive content for a new batch of accounts.
You might pick one industry per sprint. Or, a single product. If this approach will take too long to cycle and reach each top account you could always condense the sprint to 3-4 weeks.
I found that the benefits of this approach are the ability to more easily leverage content development and distribution workflow to support sufficient content development.
4) Have native analytical expertise within marketing
In my view, a critical role in the success of any ABM strategy is a marketing analyst. This person should have the skills to measure campaign results, be facile with data mining, develop insights for thought leadership and help create content for target accounts.
Programs such as Bentley University’s Master’s in Marketing Analytics are producing excellent graduates who are eager to apply their analytical skills to real-world marketing situations.
Some sales leaders want SDRs to produce insights to personalize their interactions. I would rather have SDRs spend their time engaging prospects in meaningful conversations versus spending time searching for insights. That’s a process that doesn’t scale without adding more reps. Try this recipe instead:
- One part: native analytic expertise within marketing to generate data “nuggets”
- One part: marketing-developed “templates” and materials aligned with the content marketing sprint
- One part: sales ops working with the demand gen team to tailor insights and materials for SDR outreach
Mix these together and you’ve got an inbound campaign paired with an outbound strategy.
[Tweet “”Have SDRs spend their time engaging prospects in meaningful conversations” #FlipMyFunnel”]
5) Develop a playbook and common vocabulary to align with sales and CFOs
I’ve learned from my miss-steps that it isn’t enough to develop top-notch insights, campaigns, and content. Marketing needs to spell out precisely what it expects each person to do next (regardless of who these individuals report to):
- Who will send what (i.e., what will marketing send versus SDRs versus sales reps) and when?
- What is expected in terms of actions/follow-up?
- How will success be measured?
I’ve created and launched programs and later learned that sales colleagues weren’t following up after the campaign was launched. In hindsight, it isn’t too surprising. Sales may engage with Contact A whereas marketing engages Contact B and Leads C, D, and E in the same account.
This sounds great, right? You are engaging with multiple individuals in one account and at some point it becomes a marketing qualified account (MQA). Then you hear this: “We’re already speaking with that account? What do you want me to do with the MQA, we’re already engaging Contact A?”
Sales are measuring pipeline and bookings, not MQAs. To align with sales colleagues we need to measure the amount of pipeline that has been influenced.
TIP: Measure marketing influence on new pipeline at the account level
Measuring influence on pipeline is a messy business. It seems to me we need an account-based approach to measuring influence instead of one focused on a single marketing campaign or first-touch / last-touch attribution.
What Comes Next?
It’s no wonder that scaling content for an ABM strategy while aligning with sales is a challenge. In the end, it comes down to building great relationships with colleagues and demonstrating value the old fashioned way, one deal at a time.
Eventually, we’ll be able to banish phrases like “marketing pieces” or “marketing initiatives” and focus on what really matters – engaging potential customers in meaningful conversations during their buying journey and driving year-over-year growth as a team.