Many companies use a disjointed, shotgun approach for delivering marketing communications messages, digital marketing and rarely is sales engaged and/or considered. Communications such as print ads, email marketing and PPC banner ads, and other content may appear to be coming from different companies, even though the messages may or may not be originating from a single department. There are many benefits in coordinating an Account Based Marketing (ABM) strategy where strategic marketing message(s) are developed across functions internally and delivered via integrated media to an agreed upon set of targeted prospects.
Best practices dictate that we should have internal alignment across marketing, sales, product and finance with as few messages as possible in one campaign, and defined targets and measures to narrow your priorities, deliver an actionable message that cuts across the full sales funnel.
Determine what you want your growth targets and goals are across the company NOT just in the marketing department. Common goals include:
- Generate qualified digital and grass roots leads for the sales department
- Product differentiation relevant for defined targets
- Establish expertise to drive the prospects to be receptive to a conversation
These are legitimate goals for ABM, but until now each one may have been executed with a different approach by a different department. As well, the overall vision of the company has influence over the tone of communications, should drive alignment of overall company goals, and drive coordination across all departments that touch customers/clients and prospects.
Let’s review all three of these ABM strategies as examples.
- Generate leads for sales Generating leads using ABM means identifying the likely top 10% of buyers out of the broad spectrum of prospects. How will you identify these prospective buyers, and how will you reach them with an offer? What will the offer consist of? You’ll need to build customer personas, understand the customer journey and desired outcomes of your clients’ and prospects challenges. In creating content to drive engagement, determine what aspects of your product’s features are mission-critical to your potential client’s success. After these features have been determined, craft a message that conveys the importance of these features to your prospect’s success and determine where your clients’ and prospects will be looking for the information and engage them there (i.e. digitally, at a conference, etc.).
- Product differentiation Competitive research must be accomplished to determine where you emphasis might set your product apart. Select the top 5 to 7 competitors and do an in-depth comparison of their products’ features and their key marketing messages. How does your product measure up to each? Identify areas of your offering that are superior to your competitors. Bolster these areas in your content strategy and remember to be where your top 10 targets are looking for their information.
- Establish expertise Layers of messages can help establish your company as an expert in your marketplace. A simple message is years of service in the marketplace… a benchmark for experience. Development committees, or review by industry experts, can add credibility. Associate your company’s management team with industry organizations or think tanks. Attain features in editorial articles or industry analyst review as part of business “best practices”. Offer thought leadership articles or white papers for download where your targets are actively engaged.
Integrating Your Messages into an Integrated Content Campaign
How you reach your audience depends on your audience personas, which will help give you some ideas as to where the audience is likely to receive and respond to messages. You might choose to bolster lead generation through one media channel, but focus more on thought leadership in another. In fact, the goals in each media channel might be different. Shifts in content consumption over the past decade has necessitated reevaluation of the selection strategy for an integrated content program to be relevant to your key targets.
Broader traditional outlets may need to be scrutinized to determine if they are where your targets are looking for information about products and services like what you offer. For example, if your company’s goal is to grow in the West, consider utilizing more of your budget in that area with geo-targeted content. Avoid a National campaign, it will be a waste of money and marketing will be justifying the spend. Whereas, a targeted Campaign to Washington, Oregon and California with a complete funnel that supports the regional sales team and delivers qualified leads will be getting marketing accolades.
In spite of how many marketers feel, budget is still a concern even if you have established a realistic cost per lead (CPL) if you have not aligned your strategy against the top 10% of targets and engaged with sales to execute the strategy.
With industry-standard conversion rates available for direct mail and email marketing, you should investigate the value of purchasing good direct mail and electronic mailing lists from reputable list brokers that are aligned with your company’s growth goals. Especially if you know your prospects’ job titles, what size company is your target, and in what region… you can narrow your activities to getting prospects to read and respond to your message. Integrate your marketing messages into sales activities … and own the sales funnel not just the marketing budget.
Conduct tests, using the same creative in a print direct mail campaign and in an email blast campaign. Use promo codes and web landing pages to see which media works better on your audience. Strategize, test, iterate…. Be successful!
If your target audience seems to respond well to electronic media such as email blasts, e-newsletters and webinar programs, alternate these media to deliver your messages. The volume and frequency of your outbound marketing should be considerate of audience preferences, industry activities, and even regularly scheduled holidays.
Don’t disregard trade journals. Although print advertising has declined in recent years, it is still an affordable medium for delivering a creative marketing message to a B2B audience. Many of the trade journals offer email blasts to their subscribers where you can purchase an electronic banner.
Keep public relations alive! Editors and writers of trade magazines are great targets for a proactive media relations campaign. You can extend your PR reach by leveraging an online press release distribution service that supports keywords and hyperlinks. Make sure your PR activities include promotion of your industry involvement in trade shows.
Whether you choose a trade show specific to your industry, or one that is targeted to your audience’s industry, you should make the most of that investment by marketing your involvement. The expense associated with a trade show event is quite large if you don’t make the extra effort to follow up on the leads. Relationships formed by meeting a prospect in person at the show can make a much more qualified lead.
Benefits of ABM
- Concentrated targets
- Focused messaging
- Multi-touch content campaigns
- Supplied touch points necessary to sales conversion
- Brand impressions and product recognition associated with specific messages
- Relevance to prospects’ desired outcomes, and their success
- Differentiate from competitors
- Multiple conversion options to establish the buying process across the whole sales funnel
Establish and enhance marketplace awareness and perceptions, improve lead generation and increase closed business… most importantly, buy-in of marketing efforts across the C-suite!!