This month at HITMC, we are discussing all things Account-Based Marketing. And there are a few reasons why.
Reason #1, you – our readers, asked for it. Reason #2, ABM is exploding in popularity within the B2B world. A recent survey by LinkedIn showed that more than 54% of B2B marketers use ABM and 80% planned to invest more in the practice moving forward. Now that’s not to say that ABM hasn’t been popular before now, but the recent economic situation has created a world where it takes a lot more pursuing to win than before.
And because of this, ABM is becoming the solution that B2B marketers are turning to to make their efforts more appealing than ever before.
We decided to speak with six B2B marketing experts who have seen firsthand just how effective ABM can be. So if you’ve been searching for advice and inspiration to jump start your ABM programs, scroll down. Here’s what we asked our experts:
- What advice can you share for people who want to start doing ABM but don’t yet have executive buy-in?
- It can be time-consuming to produce all the content that is needed for an ABM program? What are some ways to effectively produce the content that’s needed?
- Do you have to invest in ABM technology or a tech stack to be successful? If you’re just starting out with ABM, where do you begin?
- Other than gifts, what are some other ways to engage prospects through ABM?
Just starting out? This is how to get executive buy-in for ABM
Cristina Stahr, Marketing Operations and Strategy Leader, ProviderTrust
Start small and prove the value – use the tools, content, and capacity that you already have to focus on one named account. Coordinate efforts with that sales person, and measure everything. As soon as your leadership team sees that an important account is engaging, beginning to recognize your brand, and willing to talk to someone on the sales team, they will see the value in this style of marketing.
Alaina Lamphear, Strategic Marketing Consultant, Access Marketing Company
Start with a single campaign that is highly targeted and based on a known prospect journey. So many marketers struggle because they try to boil the ocean with ABM. Start by focusing on one campaign for one key audience. Prove the concept by sharing engaged accounts with sales and then watch your executive team gain interest!
Marissa Lindstrom, Digital Marketing Strategist, Matter Communications
A key part of implementing ABM is to establish alignment between sales and marketing leadership. Sales and marketing teams often conflict because it can be difficult to manage strategic communication at the account level. While not required, there are ABM automation solutions that can ease the burden on the organization.The whole idea behind an exceptional ABM program is to narrow your outreach to a more targeted list of those who are most desirable or significant to meeting your business’s objectives. If you know who your most desirable leads are then why wait for them to come to you when you can create individual, personalized outreach strategies to go right after them? Prospects are more likely to engage with marketing initiatives that specifically focus on them and their particular needs.
In the healthcare space, a broad approach to capturing leads sometimes sacrifices quality over quantity but more isn’t always better. When you try to get as many leads as possible, often the funnel gets smaller the further down you go. With an ABM program, you have the opportunity to use your time and resources more efficiently by targeting your key accounts who are also most likely to provide you with the highest ROI.
Caroline DeVore, Senior Director of Account Strategy, StudioNorth
- Try it out as a pilot. Start small with a specific target group—the more targeted, the better—and share realistic demand generation and revenue projections with executives.
- Have sales leadership advocate for the campaign with you.
- A/B test with a small sample of thought leadership content repurposed from existing assets.
Chintan Shah, President, President & Managing Partner, KNB Communications
We have a few clients who were in this situation. They knew they needed to target specific prospects, but for several reasons they either did not have executive buy-in or did not have ample resources for a full ABM program. We recommended building a plan, identifying the prospects and showing a clear understanding of the target prospects. We then also helped them show the impact of success – ie: potential revenue of closed deals from among their prospects. When put in those terms, executive leadership sees the potential more clearly and is more likely to devote resources to the program.
Melanie Hilliard, Senior Marketing Consultant Clarity Quest
To be honest, it does seem like a lot of work to launch a successful ABM campaign. However, does your company want the first time their dream clients’ CFO or clinical decision-maker hear about you from someone else? An effective ABM strategy helps you control your narrative rather than letting your buyer be the translator.
Not to mention, has anyone been in a health IT meeting in the past five years that wasn’t overflowing with critical stakeholders, clinical champions, and a bevy of interested parties?
Also, see my notes about starting with LinkedIn in the next question. You can probably get away with running a test ABM campaign if you’re already spending money on other LinkedIn campaigns. You can ask forgiveness after you have the results.
Worried about creating enough content? Here’s how to tackle ABM content
It’s worth it in the long-run to revisit your buyer personas, identify the other critical stakeholders who influence your buyer(s), and flesh out their needs as well. Chances are, your company is going to meet these stakeholders at some point in the sales journey. Why not be prepared?
In addition to your personas, your messaging framework should include high-level talking points and a list of the unique value props and benefits for the critical stakeholders as well. That way, when it comes time to develop your content, you have a starting point.
Make Your Program Scalable: Use similar tactics across all your target accounts but change up the program so it still seems personalized. Create the framework for a targeted email series with similar content but slightly different tones and ways to speak about it to each person. If you create a video series for a client or even social posts, the general idea is there but you should identify something unique to each account, like a pain point or name of the decision maker to personalize the content.
It’s helpful to use what you already have and repackage your existing content in different ways. If you’re just starting out with one program, you may be able to use existing assets and just give them a refresh. Long-term, you’ll have to rely on a resource, either internal or external, to help you keep up with the content demands of ABM
Time is always the limiting factor for ABM. We recommend developing 1 or 2 really strong mid-size assets and then repurpose the heck out of them. Squeeze every drop of juice out of one white paper or eBook or article. Slice it and dice it into bite sized assets. For example, if your team can develop an eBook describing how best to leverage your solution, cut it up into shorter infographics for email, a short video and social media posts. This could potentially support outreach for a month, a quarter or longer, until you have time and resources to develop other assets.
- Do an audit of your current content. You can usually repurpose assets you already have. It takes less time to edit content than create it from scratch. For instance, if you did a webinar recently, can you translate that into a blog post or an e-book?
- Then plot how your content fits into the customer journey to identify gaps—you want to layer content according to journey level, e.g. if you’re sending 3 emails, maybe you start with an infographic, then a white paper, then a webinar invite.
- Save more sales-focused pieces and product information for nurture farther down the funnel. Make sure gated assets are highly educational and low on sales speak.
It can be time consuming, yes, but it doesn’t have to be. If you already have existing content that has been successful with a similar audience, repurpose it! Clone your email templates and add in personalization. For direct mail, there’s no need to create something fancy; rather, put yourself in your lead’s shoes and think about what would be useful. Perhaps an article that your team has already published, printed out on fancy paper. Or a checklist that you and your team already have, printed and laminated with and sent with a dry-erase marker. The goal is to be creative and useful rather than elaborate.
I like to use the “Big Rock” content strategy (which I learned at HITMC 2014!!), especially for ABM. Think about the content piece that is the crux of your campaign… maybe a webinar or an eBook. Then think about how that piece of content can be broken into smaller, bite sized pieces. These can be social posts, emails, infographics, sales enablement pieces, or blogs. When the narrative is both relevant and cohesive, your ABM program will be successful.
It’s not all about gifts. These are some other ways to engage prospects
- Good, educational content is what people value the most. People want to be taught something of value they didn’t know before, yet in an IDG study respondents said only 38% of the work-related content they downloaded during the previous 12 months provided value. If someone gives you their info and you give them sales material, they’ll be less likely to click on the next touch point you send their way. Golden rule of ABM: Give before you ask to get.
- Create content in collaboration with other thought leaders—partners, industry SMEs and your customers. Make it about more than just you and what you have to say.
- Engage your sales team so that they are in the loop and ready to start conversations and answer questions. Salespeople like conversation starters. Give them enablement assets that help them engage, talk about challenging subjects and follow up. Make sure sales knows what you’re doing before you launch the campaign. Use internal kickoffs such as podcasts, webinars, emails and sales huddles.
- Keep it fresh! When fatigue sets in, your dollars aren’t working for you and those ads are being glossed over. Update ads at least every 90 days (if not 45) and make sure assets come in a variety of consumable packaging (audio, video, short form written, longer form written, etc.).
Depends on your target audience! There isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. In healthcare, you are often limited in giving gifts anyway, so you have to be intentional about what you’re offering and making it highly relevant to your target audience. You may be able to get creative with continuing education opportunities, philanthropy and other novel ideas that fall outside the status quo.
That’s just it, though: gifts are effective in ABM. Each touch point should feel like a gift to the prospect. It does not have to be a traditional gift such as a branded tsotchke or gift basket, but you should always be giving them something of value, not asking them for something. One tactic we have used successfully is a unique direct mail piece. You may be surprised what you can actually send through the U.S. Postal Service. Particularly in the health tech space, our target audiences tend to be analytical and inquisitive. Receiving something very unexpected through the mail is an attention-grabber and activates the reward center in your brain. With that, any way you are able to provide a novel experience is effective. Extra points if it is customized, and bonus extra points if the communication imparts highly useful data that pushes the conversation forward.
Gifts are great, but especially today, with folks working from home, gifts aren’t the only way to make your named accounts feel special. One way to engage prospects at named accounts could be to hold a digital event specifically for them! This digital event could look like digital networking, a webinar, a Q&A session with an SME, or even a 15-minute coffee (where you treat!) with you and them.
Personalized thought leadership articles and an infographic with hard-hitting stats, preferably from a competitor or other similar business, are ideal for grabbing your prospects’ attention with an ABM campaign. If they’ve visited your website before, then Google Ads remarketing can keep your brand top of mind.
If possible, a personalized offer for a free trial or similar opportunity will definitely grab their attention.
That being said, I know what they don’t want – a phone call from inside sales the minute they do land on your website. I know it’s hard to wait but get them to come to you.
Video content, direct mail packages, creating landing pages with specific messaging targeted to your prospects.
Before figuring out what the right content pieces are you’ll want to figure out how your prospects consume content. It might be a personalized white paper for some; it might be creative direct mail for others; it might be a happy hour event for others. Sometimes a LinkedIn request or cold calling tactic may be the appropriate approach.
Be sure to stay tuned for upcoming articles in our ABM Expert Series.