Building an Outline for an ABM Strategy
The world as we live in it today is not the same as it was even 10 years ago. We’ve experienced a technological revolution unlike any we’ve ever seen before, and with the inception of artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, big data and cloud storage, and advanced automation, it has become far too easy to fall into a set-and-forget mentality.
As we pursue the latest trends, the latest best practices, the latest response methods, we become entangled in a complex network of tools and processes. And as we travel further down that road, we begin to lose sight of where we came from. We begin to forget that marketing – lead, demand, pipeline, sales, and the rest – is all about the people.
This isn’t a blog post advocating that we use less technology – quite the opposite, actually. Technology isn’t going away, and we need not fear the new tools at our disposal, but rather we should better learn how to integrate these tools into a human-centered approach. Because at the heart of everything you do – behind that computer screen and on the other side of that phone call – are people. And people respond to people.
So, the question becomes: What can we do to bring a human-centered approach to a marketing landscape built on new technology? The answer comes in three parts:
- Understand your target audience’s challenges
- Provide Relevant, Targeted Content
- ABM Strategies Focus on Account Relationships
Understand Your Target Accounts
Knowing who you’re marketing to seems like common sense, but despite this, marketing teams too often fall into the trap of making general marketing efforts their main channel. While general marketing and awareness certainly have their place in the sales funnel, those shouldn’t be your main drivers of opportunities in your marketing strategy, especially if you want to see quantifiable, tangible numbers.
To really see positive results, you need to first determine the target account you want to market to. Only after that can you start to develop a deeper understanding of the stakeholders within that account. Who are they? What are their needs? Their interests? Their focus areas? Their pains? If you can answer these questions, you can begin to orchestrate more meaningful marketing tactics and kick off a more targeted account-based marketing approach.
As you begin to understand these stakeholders and decision makers, you can start to identify the areas where you can provide real, visible value – not just products. Prospects don’t care about what your product does – they care about how it can solve their problems.
Account-based marketing is not the same thing as a product pitch. Show your prospects not only that you know about their issues, but also that you can relate to them. You can think of this as a matter of depth: To really demonstrate your knowledge of a prospect’s situation, you need to move past a surface-level problem admission and toward a deeper, more profound validation of the problem and its place within the organization. Where does it originate from? Who does it affect? What are the outcomes of not addressing it? As you move closer to the source of the problem, you begin to solidify credibility, trust, and expertise.
Leverage what you know to craft a meaningful marketing strategy that demonstrates to your prospect that you know who they are, what problems they face, and how those problems affect their day-to-day business operations.
Provide Relevant, Targeted Content
By now, you’ve done the work to understand the people who make up the buying committee of your target account – you know their interests, focus areas, and pains. Now it’s time to use this information to craft your content. But content without purpose is easy to spot – it’s generic and full of nonspecific actions with no real value and nothing new to offer. Don’t let your content fall into this definition.
Given what you know about your targets’ pain points and what issues they deal with on a day-to-day basis, what can you do to begin addressing their needs? And what unique spin can you put on your content to help it stand above the rest?
Don’t get caught up in worrying about selling just yet. Instead, think of your ABM program like a sales funnel. At the top, you have awareness and education – this is where your content roadmap should start. What kind of educational, value-added content pieces can you provide to each member of the buying committee based on where their focus lies? Remember, this isn’t a product pitch – your top-funnel content should address the common pain points felt by your prospects.
Think of white papers, tip sheets, guides, and infographics for your top-funnel content – tips for organizational efficiency, infographics on staying productive in the office, or white papers about maximizing ROI. Whatever topics you decide on, develop unique pieces of content for each stakeholder’s focus area. The more targeted you can be, the more successful your ABM program will become.
As you engage more regularly with these prospects, you can begin to introduce more product-specific offers as you guide them down the sales funnel to a buying decision. The further down you go, start thinking of topics that more closely align with your own services.
Account Relationships Guide ABM Strategy
As you continue to use what you know about your targets to influence your marketing tactics – assuming that you have the right message – you begin to build credibility for your brand and your products and services. Though you probably won’t see any immediate results, don’t let this divert you from your ABM plan.
Building relationships with your prospects takes time, and solidifying trust and mutual understanding takes even longer. If I could describe ABM in one word, it’d be “patience,” and this stage is where your patience will really be put to the test. The worst thing you can do is rush a prospect into a buying decision when they’re not ready to make one. A hard sell too early in the game could cause future marketing efforts to be fruitless.
It’s important to remember that ABM isn’t just about hitting a single person in an organization – you want to make sure you’re targeting – and, just as actively, marketing to – the entire buying committee. Too often do salespeople and marketers make the mistake of focusing all their attention on a single player.
No decision happens in a vacuum, and the larger the company you’re targeting, the more people will be involved in the decision-making process. As more stakeholders see and respond to your content, it will become easier to generate consensus among them. Word of mouth among an internal buying committee can greatly accelerate your ABM strategy. Use this to your advantage, and ensure that no one is left off your radar.
It’s All About the People
As you’ve seen, an ABM program is built from many moving parts, but understand the basics and you can begin to create an ABM program designed specifically for your organization. The important thing to remember here is that ABM is all about the people. If you lack a firm understanding of who you’re marketing to, what you’re selling won’t make a difference.
Too often do people send generic cold emails assuming a relationship where there isn’t one. These do nothing to build trust and credibility, as you may have experienced yourself: If you’ve ever received an email like this, you’ve likely moved it directly into the trash.
In order to effectively reach out to named accounts, you need messages that are personal and meaningful – and that are built on more than cold calls. Relationship-building is a key part of ABM. In order to grow your business and bring in sustainable, reliable revenue, you need to take the time at the start to build, foster, and strengthen the relationships with those you wish to do business with.
People respond to people. And in an age where we are reliant on technology and automation, the need for human interaction and interconnectedness only becomes more apparent. We’re not marketing to machines with preset responses based on trigger actions. We’re marketing to people, people who have their own sets of needs, wants, and pains they want solved – by someone they have a connection with.
So take the time to regain your focus. Put down the spreadsheets and ROI calculators, and stop wasting resources creating content that isn’t bringing back anything in return. Remember that at the heart of it all, at the core of everything you do, are people. Understanding the people; providing unique, tangible value; and building meaningful, interconnected relationships – those are the fundamentals of an ABM program, and the pieces that will complete your marketing puzzle as a whole.