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How to kickstart your account-based marketing strategy

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Making a start with your account-based marketing strategy can seem an overwhelming prospect. This blog post provides a detailed summary of how to begin. It will surely help point you in the right direction...
Account Based Marketing Strategy puzzle

This article is taken from a free whitepaper produced in collaboration with MeritDirect which explores the value of ABM and how to unlock it. 

We recently explored why account-based marketing (ABM) is at the heart of so many marketing approaches today. According to Hubspot, 70% of marketers reported using ABM this year, up 15% from 2020. Yet maximising results remains a challenge.

In this article, we look at how to approach your account-based marketing strategy in order to deliver on its potential.

Start your account-based marketing strategy with the right intent

account-based marketing strategy headLet’s be blunt: selecting 20,000 accounts to target is not an ABM strategy. Instead, you must target accounts based on the best available data.

However, datasets are not static and neither is your product nor your consumer, so they must be regularly updated.

But let’s start by reiterating exactly what it is you’re trying to learn.

As a B2B marketer you need to quickly understand who among your prospects is going to buy, and when. Using intent data is a great way to tackle this problem.

Intent data is information collected about prospects’ observed behaviour, across multiple content sources, that provides insights into their interests and indicates the likelihood of them acting. That behaviour could include users downloading reports from your site, reading blogs, clicking on email links and a host of other actions.

Based on this information, each prospect can be placed (segmented) into different categories. This ensures you can target different groups based on their most likely needs and wants. Messaging is targeted at each group accordingly, keeping communications relevant and timely – which benefits prospect and company alike.

To what degree you segment your prospects depends on how diverse the needs of your consumers are, how much data you’re able to gather and the range of services or products you offer.

Clearly, this is job is too big for a team of humans. Data management tools are required to handle the sheer volume of possible actions an organisation’s customers and prospects can collectively make.

The goal for marketers is to reach their prospects as early in the buying cycle as possible; usually at the research phase, before the lead is lost to your competitors. This requires the capability to serve an individual with the right content, through the right channel, at the right time. Once someone has been identified as being ‘in-market’, personalised approaches can be made – for example, using tailored messaging and content outlining why your service is unique in helping to solve the target’s problems– to nurture the key account.

Remember too that unless the contact is courted and feels confident about changing or adding another supplier to their roster, based on your ability to spot and satisfy their quest for knowledge and advice, they’re unlikely to sign up to your product or service.

Creating content for all stages of the sales and marketing funnel is vital; as is understanding which channels work best for targeting.

“As a B2B marketer you need to quickly understand who among your prospects is going to buy, and when.”

Target the prospects that matter most with BANT & ABM

ABM strategy leadsOne of the biggest objectives within ABM is to identify key accounts. These are the big spenders, the kind of people/organisations who want long-term relationships. In other words, the kind of customers essential to the company’s success.

Identifying the highest-quality leads for ABM from all the available data can be supported by a BANT approach: focusing on Buyer, Authority, Need and Timing.

BANT has been around longer than ABM, but many of its principles are the same.

Essentially, BANT is all about lead qualification:

• Who is the individual you’re focusing on?
• Do they have budget and buying power?
• Where are they in the purchase cycle?
• When, how and how often should they be contacted?

It’s a process that ensures your sales team is maximising its time spent on the leads that are most likely to convert – and keeping data fresh and up-to-date at the same time.

Taking a BANT approach doesn’t mean all other leads are discarded. The fact is, the importance of a lead can change over any period.

That’s why ABM should be viewed as a long-term strategy. For example, someone who – according to the intent data – appears to be interested in a product or service may go quiet for a time; perhaps their budget has been blocked. However, they could eventually become actively engaged again, so it’s important to score, keep and review all viable leads.

“Last chance” content can also be served to try to prevent drop-outs.

The key difference between BANT and ABM is that the former fixes on closing the deal while ABM can continue relationships in the long term, increasing lifetime value of the customer by sustaining the relationship and growing individual account revenues.

Both techniques fundamentally rely on high-quality prospect data, but the data sources are different. ABM pinpoints individual requirements within a predetermined set (or sector) of organisations in order to find the best leads. BANT is used to set objectives as prospects are identified.

“The key difference between BANT and ABM is that the former fixes on closing the deal; ABM can continue the relationships in the long term.”

Read the full ABM whitepaper produced in collaboration with MeritDirect.

Understand technology’s role in making true ABM possible

Clearly, ABM – as with all forms of intelligent B2B marketing – would be virtually impossible without high quality data. But with so much data around, how can sales and marketing teams hope to keep track not just of leads but also of the huge range of data, useful or not, that they are creating? IBM research suggests complexity of touchpoints has 46% of marketers scratching their heads, making it one of the top three customer management challenges.

A successful account-based marketing strategy requires a set of core technologies in order to be able to engage a prospect at all points in the funnel, including platforms for:

• Marketing automation
• Content management
• Tag management
• Data management platform

Fortunately, sophisticated technology can support ABM. Cutting-edge platforms exist that house all of those required solutions, aggregate data at every touchpoint, and automate and manage key account contact strategies.

The result is a simpler, more efficient, consolidated view of key account information, taking the pain out of managing data so you can focus on the crucial – and profitable – marketing element of ABM. I.e. providing prospects with the right content, at the right time and in the right place.

While it’s a major project to get all the appropriate systems and softwares in place, the right data tech vendor will integrate software and effectively get all the systems speaking to one another. In essence this breaks down data silos and makes true prospect-centred marketing possible.

“A successful account-based marketing strategy requires a set of core technologies in order to be able to engage a prospect at all points in the funnel.”

Growth hack your business using data

ABM helps organisations build collaborative and profitable relationships with key customers by constantly addressing their business and information needs over time.

The beauty of ABM is that it works no matter the size or sector of the target organisation since its principles cross industries and also translate from one individual to another.

It’s important to establish ongoing measurement metrics, whether financial such as cost per conversion or engagement, such as dwell time. Longer term, success can be measured by ROI: comparing the initial investment with total revenue secured from each extended relationship.

Spending time, budget and resource getting the right technology in place to deal with a deluge of data that drives first-class, profitable ABM is the commercial equivalent of running a marathon. But as long as there’s a clear business case, it’s worth every penny and man hour spent to reap the huge rewards that are possible.

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Title image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Mel Dixon
Author: Mel Dixon
Editor at Global Marketing Alliance

Editor and freelance writer wading his way through the world of data. One step at a time. Interested in data driven marketing insights supported by... data.

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