Marketo’s 2017 State of Engagement report presented some interesting findings of how effective marketers are at engaging their target customers and prospects:
- 82% of marketers believe they have a deep understanding of their audiences, but half of consumers think brands could do a better job of engaging them.
- 72% of B2B consumers say brands must have a deep understanding of their needs in order to successfully engage them.
- 66% of B2B consumers expect all interactions with brands to be personalised.
- 65% of B2B consumers say brands could do a better job aligning engagement activities with their preferences.
- The number-one reason why B2B consumers don’t engage with brands more often is because brands send too much irrelevant content.
What this means is that although B2B marketers feel like they’re doing a great job of engaging with prospects in a meaningful and effective way, they could be doing better. To inspire better engagement in 2018, B2B marketers should consider the benefits of account-based marketing.
What Is Account-Based Marketing?
Marketers typically define their ideal customers using fictional personas. Though those personas are often developed from market research, they represent the needs, values, and pain points of a category of prospects—not those of specific, individual customers.
An example buyer persona from Brightspark Consulting.
Essentially, most marketing consists of casting a wide net. Whether you’re targeting a broad group like “marketers” or a highly specific one like “marketers at businesses with fewer than 500 employees with a headquarters in the UK,” you’re targeting a group and not individuals.
Account-based marketing (ABM) takes the opposite approach. Instead of targeting general groups of prospects, B2B marketers that use ABM target specific, individual companies.
In an ABM model, all sales and marketing are focused on a set of target accounts—specific, hand-selected companies that meet criteria you established upfront. In this way, buyer personas are unnecessary. They’re replaced with detailed sheets describing real stakeholders at companies you believe will eventually invest in your products/services.
How ABM Solves the Engagement Problem
If you look back that the statistics in the intro of this piece, the benefits of account-based marketing become clear. B2B consumers expect brands to have a deep understanding of their needs and to engage with relevant and personalised messaging that matches their preferences.
The bottom line: this is very difficult to achieve when you’re targeting general buyer types.
No two prospects are exactly alike. They have different pain points, different needs, and different communication preferences. For example, some prefer receiving communications by email, and some prefer talking to an account manager over the phone.
With account-based marketing, marketers and sales teams focus on learning exactly what individual businesses and stakeholders want and need. Then, they cater all campaigns to match the unique preferences of each target account. This allows ABM marketers to deliver the types of relevant, targeted, and personalised messages that truly engage B2B consumers.
For this reason, B2B marketers looking to increase engagement in 2018 should seriously consider adopting ABM.
That’s All Great in Theory, But What About in Practice?
From our own experience here at Ruler Analytics, we can attest to the benefits of narrowing your focus when it comes to sales and marketing.
Last year, we noticed our performance was higher in one specific sector than any others. So we decided to go all-in on that segment—to focus on it 100%. The result: our revenue grew 2.5 times faster in the two months after making that decision than the two months prior.
Focusing sales and marketing efforts was a very effective approach, but the changes we made weren’t nearly as focused as most ABM campaigns. For companies that have implemented ABM, 87% say it delivers a higher ROI than any other type of marketing.
Other benefits of ABM include:
- It strengthens your relationship with customers. In ABM, target accounts are your number-one priority. This allows you to send more personalised communications, predict customer’s needs, and provide better service. Essentially, you become a partner to the customer and not just another service provider.
- It shortens the sales cycle. Large companies with many stakeholders are notoriously slow to get full alignment and make purchasing decisions. With ABM, you target each stakeholder, increasing the likelihood of gaining alignment on the purchase more quickly.
- It strengthens your value proposition. When prospects see that you’re fully focused on them, it makes your business stand out among the other products they’re considering. Prospects will be drawn to the company that’s catering its communications to their preferences over those that follow up with generic information.
- There’s less waste. Since you’re no longer targeting mass groups of potential customers, you can spend less on advertising. Say you’ve been advertising on Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter but discover your target accounts prefer engaging over email. You’ll save a significant amount of your marketing budget by reducing your ad spend.
Getting Started with Account-Based Marketing
If you decide that account-based marketing is an approach your company should pursue this year, you should know that implementing is much more complex than just making the decision.
There are a number of things you’ll need to do before jumping into ABM:
- Align marketing and sales. In order for an ABM approach to succeed, marketing and sales must be closely aligned. This means that all sales and marketing data and insights must be accessible to both teams so that both can cater their approaches based on what each team has learned about target accounts.
- Select your target accounts. Data plays an important part in this process. You’ll need to understand what types of companies you’ve had the most success with before, what companies are already considering your product but haven’t made a final decision, and which of your existing customers may be interesting in making additional commitments.
- Learn more about your target accounts. Before you can launch an ABM program, you’ll need to develop a number of personalised and targeted campaigns. This requires a lot of upfront research. Google and LinkedIn should be your best friends in helping you learn everything you can about target accounts, their needs, and their stakeholders.
- Identify your optimal channels. Again, this requires research. Review your marketing email analytics to see if your target accounts interact with the emails you’ve sent in the past. Check and see if they’re active on social (and which channels they’re active on). Find out which companies have reviewed content on your website.
- Define your goals and KPIs. Yes, 87% of marketers who use ABM say it delivers higher ROI, but that doesn’t mean the approach is guaranteed to work for you. As with any marketing initiative, it’s important to start by defining what success will look like so you can measure efforts over time and validate the effectiveness of the approach.
Also, remember that having the right tools is an important part of an effective ABM implementation. Do your research and find out what tools you need; social listening, analytics, and marketing automation tools are all popular options.
For example, Ruler Analytics is a great tool for teams that use ABM. Use it to automatically sync marketing and sales data across both your analytics platform and CRM, find out which companies, and which individuals from those companies, have visited your website and viewed your campaigns, and see what specific information they were most interested in.
2018: The Perfect Time to Consider ABM
For many verticals, businesses have more options than ever when it comes to making a purchase or investing in a service.
The winners will be those that stand out, those that offer something no one else does. In many cases, that something will be personalised service.
Account-based marketing allows companies to provide the type of personalised service that’s needed to stand out.
With targeted and personalised communications and interactions, marketers can inspire engagement. And with engagement comes customer loyalty, brand advocacy, and higher profits.