Are you stuck thinking of your next approach to your ABM campaign? Or maybe your last campaign did not reach the goals you had hoped? In this article, we will review the reason for ABM campaigns and give you five basic strategies for goals and implementation that can help you achieve success in your next campaign.
The Problem with B2B Marketing
Oh, I could write a novel on that subtitle! While B2B marketing does have its fair share of challenges, the reality is that it just takes understanding the sales process and a different set of expectations when it comes to marketing in the B2B context.
But what you need to know is that B2B marketing differs greatly from B2C in two ways.
First, is that it usually takes longer, and the contracts are bigger. There is more at stake, so thinking you are going to land some big deals in 3 weeks is a pipe dream. Six-figure contracts don’t close overnight, and they don’t close without serious consideration.
The second way is that you are dealing with companies, not people. What I mean is that in B2C, you are working on the independent person who can make an autonomous decision. That is not the case in true B2B. In B2B you will encounter a “buying group”, a set of individuals who are tasked with the evaluation and selection of the product or service on behalf of the company. This means your strategy must address the whole company, or buying group, to make an impact.
This is exactly what account-based marketing does, it programs a campaign to address many people at the company, not just one decision maker. There is more to an ABM campaign than just that, but for the purposes of this article, that is what you need to know.
What makes ABM Campaigns better for B2B?
It might be a simple question, but what is the big deal behind all the buzz around ABM campaigns? Well, the Account-Based Marketing Campaign is an old set of tricks in a new shiny wrapper. Not to say that they don’t pack a punch, but the reality is that few of the tactics are new to the scene, they are just combined in a new package with a new focus.
The real definition of the AMB campaign is simply that it is account-focused, not individual-focused. You might be asking what I mean: isn’t an account made of up people? Yes, but the general difference is that we report and focus on acquiring the account, and not (too intently) on any specific person within the company.
There are two reasons for this distinction. First, the scale and size of the account most B2B companies are looking to acquire have many, many people involved in the decision-making process. To focus on one person would be to home in too narrowly on a very shallow decision-making pool. Instead, account-based campaigns focus on buying groups or targeted groups of individuals that will be making the buying decisions. These groups can range in size, but generally, they contain between five and 10 people, and there might be multiple buying groups in some cases. The point being is that we seek to work the account, and not gauge success until we have impacted the buying group in a significant way through marketing.
Second, people move on in the B2B world. We are looking to establish enterprise relationships with our target accounts in the ABM world. If we don’t establish a larger foothold in the target account, when our key contact leaves, our tenure will be over as well. So, it makes sense from a sales perspective and ABM perspective to establish multiple contacts and build relationships across the buying group to preserve the account in the long run.
These two factors are well positioned for the B2B world that most of us work and sell into. We are talking about large, significant contracts with longer sales cycles. For this, we need to invest a considerable amount of work to secure that account, and building that connection means building it well through multiple people.
Core Pieces of an ABM Campaign
As I mentioned, there is nothing particularly special about an ABM campaign in terms of tactics. Because of this, I would consider ABM campaigns a method of marketing, not a new technology or channel. It is simply a reaction to the overall climate of having lots of rich customer contact data, a cookie-saturated Internet, and low regulation that allows this aggressive method of marketing to be effective. In another world, where we don’t have cookies, user data is harder to buy, and we have tighter laws against spam, I could see this method being less popular, and through the course of innovation, something else would take its place.
But before that happens, we should take advantage of account-based marketing with all our existing efforts and channels!
ABM campaigns include everything you would consider from the digital marketing world. Email, social media, websites, paid media, etc., are all successful tools in ABM campaigns. Adding more channels can only make the experience richer.
We have seen companies integrate into campaigns live events, direct mail, sales pop-ins, billboards, and anything that contains part of the same message to the campaign. When we try to capture an account at the company level, we don’t have to think so narrowly in terms of digital methods alone. We are trying to do lead generation en masse, wanting as many contacts from that company as we can that would lead us to the buyer group we are seeking.
Because of this, nothing is really off the table when it comes to ABM. It’s not just a digital thing, it can be anything that helps your company’s message and sales team penetrate the account to deliver your message and build your contacts.
Five ABM Strategies
The five strategies we are going to talk about are simply ways of thinking about the outcomes you are trying to achieve in your ABM campaign. Now wait a minute, isn’t the goal to land the account? Well, yes. But having various layers or different ABM campaigns together that go from first touch all the way to close of the account is critical for ABM campaigns in the full lifecycle of the customer journey. No one campaign will do this, so it is best to think about your goals and then develop the campaign to best fit your biggest problem.
Another aspect of this is how the sales team interacts with your sales cycle. If your sales team does not come in until the very end, you might need a set of goals, but if your sales team comes in right after the first touch, a smaller-scale campaign may be more effective. Either way, thinking about the goals would be the best way to accomplish your campaign strategy.
The content-first strategy focuses on the goal of having contacts interact with or download content related to your product or service as the primary goal. This strategy is popular for early or cold contacts and accounts. Because we are reaching out “cold” (having no touches previously), it would be very rare that a deal is happening, or that a need has surfaced and they are ready to buy.
Instead, the focus is on having the account become aware of your offering and services so that if the need arises there are additional opportunities. This is also a very low-risk way to start engaging with contacts without being too pushy.
This campaign is focused on getting live touch opportunities first, before falling back to a marketing cadence and in-person interactions as needed. This type of campaign is great for a stale list or marketing that has a known universe. This means that if your potential client base has not grown (some markets we work in are small and not growing) you can find a way to connect early and asses the overall need, engaging them in the right campaign as needed. It’s almost like a backward content-first strategy. The campaign will generally start with a series of calls or Linkedin touches trying to set up a phone call or other live interaction. After that, the BDR will assign the right speed or campaign track for follow-up based on the interest level and challenges of the contact.
Digital & Offline Mix
We use this campaign type for hard-to-reach clients. Some of the clients who are in tech serve industries that are not always in front of the computer. (Think of manufacturing or services industries as you dream about life not in front of a computer!) But they do exist and because of this reality, we need to think outside of the box when it comes to our channel selection.
But in addition to channels, we also need to think about the timeframe. These campaigns are generally longer, with more diverse touchpoints. We have done campaigns with mailers, tradeshows, and personalized letters, for example. These take time to make an impact and generally require more budget than just the digital channels.
A good campaign would have the goal of moving contact from an offline space into some sort of online engagement with a direct connection with a BDR. This could be on their turf (office) or yours depending on your campaign goals and what conversations make sense.
The basic type of lead generation campaign is a cold-to-contact campaign. This is like the content-first or the touch-first approach, but generally what we are looking for here is speed to first touch or validation of the marketplace.
These campaigns are generally short because we are looking to make a contact, validate some aspect of the company, and then move on. This is used in immerging technology companies who have a simple product but it’s a niche sales proposition. They either see the value or they don’t.
It’s like establishing a beachhead (crossing the chasm) on steroids. We are trying to find as many possible contacts in an industry as possible to validate that we should move to a bigger campaign in the space.
Now you might say, hey, this isn’t an account-based campaign! And you would be right—it’s not as focused on the account, but we still build and structure the campaign around the accounts we are looking to grow. And generally, it’s just the first part of a larger campaign. This is a popular starting point for ABM campaigns because of the quick wins when it comes to validation and understanding the customer market.
Message Validation Campaign
Lastly, in many emerging technology spaces, we are trying to sell a solution to a problem the client did not know they had. This is something we enjoy, but it’s painful (read expensive) and slow (read low ROI).
But the reality is that when you are marketing a new product you must validate that your product serves a need. If you don’t know how to articulate that solution well to a potential customer, you need to experiment. You need to figure out which message works best, what resonates, and what drives conversations.
For example, we had a recent campaign that had more than 70 email message variations going out to a relatively small market segment to identify the nuances in the messaging that connected with the end contact.
In the end, this campaign, as well as many of the others, is trying to match the message with the buying stage on a mass scale. Doing validation early will help you ramp up your efforts later as you create more campaigns with confidence based on last time’s results.
Time to ABM
These five ABM strategies will hopefully give you some idea of how to approach your ABM campaign, or generate ideas on how to start building your next account-based marketing campaign.
At New North, we’ve launched many ABM campaigns in the past decade. We can partner with you to get your campaigns exactly where you want them to go. Reach out today to get started!