Content personalisation is the lifeblood of account-based marketing, but some ABM strategies require more of it than others. Here, we examine examples of each type in action to provide inspiration for your own ABM content plan.
Account-based marketing (ABM) flips the traditional B2B demand generation model on its head.
Instead of creating content to draw prospects in and then filtering through to find the ones that are right for your business, you start by identifying the accounts you most want to do business with and build an entire content strategy around them.
Jon Miller, the co-founder of analytics platforms Marketo and Engagio, likens this approach to fishing with spears – where traditional marketing strategies involve rods and nets.
“There’s a whole set of marketers who are realising that they care which fish they catch,” he says. “They want to go after specific people at specific companies. They’ve gotten tired of waiting around for those targets to swim into their net, and they’re looking around for a better way to do this.”
An account-based approach can help you achieve this by replacing your existing content strategy or simply running alongside it to provide bespoke experiences for your most valuable customer accounts.
The core aim of ABM is the same either way: to develop an unrivalled understanding of key accounts and use those insights to develop ultra-personalised campaigns tailored perfectly to their needs.
Of course, the wider you cast your net the harder it gets to provide the level of personalisation that makes ABM so effective:
- Marketers practicing strategic ABM must develop fully bespoke one-to-one campaigns for each target account.
- Those practicing ABM-at-scale will use personalisation to develop one-to-few campaigns for accounts facing similar challenges.
- Marketers using programmatic ABM use technology to share relevant content with target accounts on a one-to-many basis.
No matter what type of ABM you decide to implement, developing campaigns that speak directly to the needs of your audience and nurture them through the customer journey is always a challenge.
So, to provide inspiration for your own content initiatives, we’ll run through what each approach entails and highlight our favourite examples of ABM campaigns that use each of them.
Strategic ABM demands total personalisation
The goal of strategic ABM is to provide fully personalised, one-to-one campaigns for your most desirable accounts. This often means developing content specifically for each of the accounts you’re courting.
ITSMA’s 2016 ABM benchmarking survey reveals that custom thought leadership is one of the most potent tactics for strategic ABM.
Strategic ABM practitioners also report enjoying success running ‘innovation days’ – where a small team meets with key stakeholders from a target account to help them solve a known business problem.
These tactics work by demonstrating your brand’s in-depth knowledge of the challenges a target account is facing right now and positioning your brand as the obvious solution provider.
Network security specialist OpenDNS is a great example of how you might use content to achieve this aim.
The company creates customer network visualisations for each client it wants to target, empowering its marketing and sales teams to highlight potential weaknesses and propose effective solutions.
You can also explore personalising content for the specific stakeholders you need to engage in each account, based on their interests and needs.
Direct mail provides one relatively easy opportunity to engage hard-to-reach stakeholders with this kind of hyper-personalised content.
For example, Engagio used insights gleaned from the Twitter profile of a VP it was struggling to engage at one of its target accounts to create a thoughtful package containing her favourite treats. They followed the gift up with a series of emails and calls, ultimately securing the meeting.
AI company GumGum took this idea a step further to secure a contract from T‑Mobile when it learned that T‑Mobile CEO John Legere is a Batman fan.
GumGum’s content team developed a comic book entitled T‑Man and Gums and shipped 100 copies to T‑Mobile and its agencies of record. The company was so impressed, it handed GumGum the account.
ABM-at-scale is about ‘repeatability’
One of the toughest challenges for businesses that have seen success with ABM pilot schemes is scaling these initiatives up to target more than just a handful of accounts at once.
When you have limited resources or simply need to target hundreds of accounts simultaneously, you’re not going to be able to tailor every experience for the individual. This approach is more like taking something ‘off the rack’ and customising it for the wearer.
Data management and analytics specialist Snowflake is a great example of a company that has mastered at-scale personalisation.
“We knew that to hit our targets we were going to have to be laser focused with the resources that we had available to us,” explained Daniel Day, Snowflake’s director of ABM. “I had this dream of doing ABM for 200, 500, 1,000 companies.”
To make this vision a reality, Snowflake has built up a vast library of content to address a huge range of specific customer needs.
Using this content library as a starting point, a team of six marketers then collaborates with the company’s salespeople to develop personalised messaging and content experiences for each of its target accounts.
Each campaign includes a bespoke microsite boasting a mixture of bespoke display ads, personalised content pieces and relevant content tailored to the target audience’s business needs.
Snowflake’s marketers then deploy ultra-targeted ads to funnel prospects from its target accounts to the content experiences they have created and establish an initial connection.
Using your content in this way can help to create the illusion of personalisation when you lack the resources to create enough bespoke content to build an entire campaign from scratch.
Automation makes programmatic ABM possible
Programmatic ABM strategies typically involve using marketing automation to create content streams for each of the audience personas that may influence a decision to buy your goods or services.
These content streams will then be divided further based on the business challenges each account is looking to address.
Ultimately, the content you use to execute this type of ABM will be similar to the kind you would use to deliver more conventional content campaigns. This has lead some commentators to claim this isn’t ‘true ABM’.
However, marketers using this approach will still focus their distribution tactics on target accounts, rather than the industry at large.
In theory, this should help ensure you don’t waste money promoting your content to the wrong people and empower you to make better use of outbound distribution channels.
What’s more, programmatic ABM doesn’t score leads as you would in traditional demand generation. Instead, you track account-level engagement and wait until the account hits a sufficient threshold to be classed as a marketing-qualified account.
One programmatic technique that has proven effective for some B2B marketers is to build campaigns around self-assessment tools that generate bespoke reports for prospects based on the information they input.
HubSpot’s Website Grader is a great example of this kind of tool, generating a free SEO report for anyone who uses it to analyse their website.
A resource like this can function as landing page to refer stakeholders from your target accounts to at the start of your campaign. You’ll then be able to use the insights you uncover from each account’s results to place respondents on the best content stream for their needs.
Of course, the level of personalisation even sophisticated programmatic approaches can achieve will be relatively superficial.
It’s only through strategic ABM or ABM-at-scale that you’ll be able to provide the kinds of content experience that really distinguish ABM from more conventional content marketing approaches.
The right option for you will depend on the resources at your disposal. So, be sure to check out our post, When to build ABM into your content strategy, and discover which model is right for your needs before you start developing your ABM content strategy.
Only then will you be able to build a content plan that delivers the right level of personalisation to all the accounts on your hit list.
- Strategic ABM demands total personalisation. Develop bespoke content for each account and explore opportunities to cater for the passions and preferences of individual decision-makers.
- ABM-at-scale provides partial personalisation. Supplement relevant content with personalised touches and set pieces to create experiences that ‘feel’ tailored to each account.
- Programmatic ABM depends on superficial personalisation. Experiment with self-assessment tools to create user-generated content tailored to the needs of your target accounts.