What the Arrival Of ABM Means for B2B Messaging and Content Strategies

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If you are one of the B2B marketers who hasn’t started down a path towards account-based marketing (ABM), you are quickly becoming part of the minority. According to new research from our sister brand Demand Gen Report, 80% of the B2B marketers surveyed either already have an ABM strategy in place, or are planning to launch one within the next 18 months.

For marketing teams within the 20% that have no ABM strategy or no plans to develop one, it may be time to start doing your homework on the sea change that is taking place from mass marketing messaging to targeted, personalized engagement.

I have talked with quite a few B2B practitioners who admit they have been caught flat-footed by the question “Are we doing ABM?” from someone in the C-suite who has read about the trend or heard about it from a peer.

The reality is implementing ABM is not a wholesale change from the demand generation programs most B2B companies have been running for several years. However, two critical nuances are the precision and intelligence required with ABM, as well as the increased coordination between marketing and sales teams.

Jon Miller, one of the co-founders of Marketo and more recently founder and CEO of account-based solution provider Engagio, describes ABM as “fishing with spears,” versus traditional demand generation, which casts wide nets.

Applying Messaging At the Account Level

If you are among the 80% of companies either implementing ABM or formulating your plan, you are facing the daunting task of customizing or personalizing messaging for individual accounts.

Most marketing teams are already stretched too thin to create the content they need to support demand generation campaigns, so the concept of customizing content for 500 or even 50 individual accounts seems impossible.

But it’s definitely possible: In terms of the messaging and content ABM practitioners are delivering to their target accounts, the Demand Gen Report survey found:

  • 75% are using targeted content tailored to specific industries
  • 51% are tailoring specific content by role
  • 49% are delivering personalized/custom content for each account
  • 30% are using templated versions of generic content with some customization
  • 8% are sending generic content for all outreach.

In a recent webinar hosted by Demand Gen Report, predictive analytics vendor Everstring shared “account-based hacks,” which have helped the company send tailored offers — without forcing them to create 1,500 E-books.

Everstring’s ABM approach is focused on 3 tiers of accounts, and with that approach Tier 1 accounts get customized versions of content, Tier 2 accounts get limited personalization, and Tier 3 accounts receive content that is tailored by industry/vertical.

The survey also showed that adoption of ABM is causing B2B marketers to rethink the offers they are using. Targeted executive events were the top resource (66%), followed by interactive content (62%) and direct mail (60%).

What do these offer types have in common? They are all high touch, trackable, easy to customize and translate well into sales conversations.

The New Playbook for B2B Marketing

Coordination with sales is another game-changing influence being ushered in with ABM. I wrote a blog recently about the concept of “Plays” emerging among early adopters of ABM.

Rather than referencing campaigns or nurtures, companies like Everstring are building “coordinated plays,” which stretch beyond inbound and outbound offers to orchestrate and coordinate holistic messaging that is communicated consistently by sales development reps and account executives.

All of these shifts encouraging marketing to be more targeted and integrated with sales will require a re-engineering for many B2B organizations. Ideally, these trends should lead to more relevant, contextual messaging that adds value to the engagement process.

The good news for those who are just starting down this path is that the rulebook hasn’t been fully written, so at this point, no one is really behind. Organizations still struggling to shift from brand-focused messaging to buyer-focused messaging can now do so with an account-based lens.

However, expectations among buyers are changing rapidly, so the status quo in messaging will no longer fly. Companies who simply feel they can batch and blast the same offers to a broad database, will not only see conversion rates on campaigns crashing, they will only be hurting their long-term brand perception.

 

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