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Getting Started with Account Based Marketing

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is getting a lot of attention these days. But we’ve come to realize that, from a functional standpoint, ABM does not differ much from how many firms are currently marketing. In fact, most firms could run a successful ABM campaign without any additional tools or marketing resources. ABM is more about a slight shift in how you identify, segment, target, and speak to your prospects. It’s a specific way of using the tools you already have at your disposal.

What is Account-Based Marketing?

To back up a couple of steps, let’s first get on the same page regarding the definition of Account-Based Marketing.

Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, gave this definition: “In its purest form, account-based marketing has been around forever. Account-based marketing is simply instead of fishing with nets, we’re fishing with spears. You identify exactly the prospects you want to do business with and then you market very precisely and narrowly to them directly.”

I like to think of it as flip-funnel marketing.  We’re all familiar with the standard lead-generation tactic that begins with a large list of cold prospects.  The goal as a marketer is to make those individuals aware of your firm and what you do, which is usually met with limited success. Most firms find this broad and impersonal approach leads to very few individuals that can be nurtured into even fewer conversions.

With Account-Based Marketing, you start at the downspout of the funnel, identifying a select but refined list of accounts, collate a list of their contacts, and then nurture them with specialized, personalized content, earning you higher account conversion rate and a more robust client list. You use a “spear” rather than a “net” as a cohesive tool to nab the most ideal fish.

Writing Personalized Content

The best approach to this is to involve all team members at your organization that have a high client touch, like account managers, technical support teams, and product managers. Ask them what problems they hear among their roster of accounts and write content about that. This can also become the basis for your keyword strategy. Just because you’re employing ABM doesn’t mean you should neglect your SEO efforts. In fact, if you’re doing either correctly, the content can be one and the same.

Building Your Account-Based Marketing Target List

When it comes to implementing ABM, there are many tools out there you can purchase that provide ABM services. However, a lot of them have just hopped on the bandwagon because it is a popular buzzword.

The best way to begin with account-based marketing is to identify the specific accounts you want to target. This can be done by simply making a list of your top 20 or 50 ideal accounts and drumming up as many of the contacts as you can at each. If your firm is well-positioned, then you should be able to fairly easily identify who your best prospective accounts are. In fact, you may have some in your database already.

You can create a segment of your database that searches for anyone at your target accounts. If they’ve filled out a form on your website, or if you’ve added them into your CRM in the past, you should see them showing up. You can then use ABM email campaigns to retarget these accounts in a more personalized way.

Alternatively, you can use your marketing automation system to segment your existing list of prospects based on your ideal account attributes. This can be done by filtering for things like location, industry, company size, etc.

Even with employing both of these tactics, the odds are you likely won’t have contact info for all of your target accounts. If that’s the case, you may need to utilize an outside tool, such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator or another reputable list provider to purchase a targeted list of leads that meet your desired account profiles.

Personalizing and Running Your ABM Campaigns

Once your list is identified, the next step is to determine exactly how you want to market to this list and what types of content you will promote. Clearly identifying the goal of the campaign is a good place to start.

Keep in mind that while the ultimate goal might be to sign a contract, you should not set the expectation that you’ll win business or even start a conversation right after initially creating and promoting content to key accounts.

As with most marketing initiatives, the first step is awareness.  You should focus on introducing these leads to your valuable insights by inspiring them to open and click on emails that direct them to your website. Since you are dealing with a narrow and focused list, your emails to this group should be very personalized. Use language that they use, referencing the problems you identified internally in the same ways they do.

Your targeted list should also be sent pieces of thought leadership for free, which is to say don’t send emails promoting gated assets like white papers and webinars — at least not at first. Start out with thoughtful, helpful, and easily accessible content like a well-written article or blog post on your site.  If those pages happen to have content upgrades on them, that’s ok. And in fact, that’s advisable content to use for certain types of people at a targeted account, specifically individuals with more tactical and hands-on roles. Promoting those tangible assets to prospects at a company with those job functions will quickly turn into a follower of your insights.

You should consider the types of people that comprise your target audience and curate content and set up campaigns based on differences among these individuals. Contacts at different job levels will engage with both the emails and content you are promoting differently.  For example, you may want to set up a C-Suite-level campaign that drips out high-level content at a slower cadence. Simultaneously, you should set up another campaign that will send out more tactical content to individuals at the manager level at a more aggressive cadence. Posts and articles with content upgrades or other gated tools are great for this group.

Running these various campaigns in tandem will spread awareness of your firm and services through the entirety of your target companies.  As your list engages with your emails, you can begin to share more evaluator-level content (position papers, webinars, and even case studies) that show the advantage of working with your firm and primes the readers for a sales conversation.

If your list is not engaging with your initial email sends, you can put them on a moderated drip campaign that sends out content at a slower pace and remains more focused on the researcher-stage content, waiting until they’re ready before you start moving them through the buying cycle.

If you’re doing a good job of monitoring the ABM programs and watching how each account is engaging with your content, you’ll likely find the right moment where you can jump in and begin sending one-to-one emails to some of these prospects. Now that they’ve been warmed up by your thought leadership content, you’ve opened the door to hopefully starting a conversation with them about how you and your firm can help.

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