Inbound marketing is casting a net. Account-based marketing (ABM) is spearfishing.
In inbound marketing, you don’t know exactly who you’ll sell to. Your campaign is designed to put content out so that potential buyers can find it. In ABM, though, you’ve already identified the accounts you want to sell to, and your campaign is designed to deliver your content directly to these accounts.
The exact cut-off varies, but if there are less than 5,000 people in the world who might buy from you, you’re getting close. Even if you have a broader audience, you may consider an ABM campaign if you’re selling a specific service offering or selling to a specific geography that narrows your pool.
ABM works because it:
Hits a pre-qualified audience. You identify accounts that would be great clients; you’re not wasting time on misaligned prospects.
Allows for your message to be personalized. Because they’re so targeted, ABM campaigns can include personalization (first name, company name, location, etc.) in messaging components like emails, landing pages, and even videos.
Incorporates multiple touch points. Once you’ve selected your ideal accounts, you engage them with consistent marketing to drive conversions.
Okay – we’ve made the case for an ABM campaign. If you think this could be an effective play in your B2B tech marketing strategy, the next question is: How do you tactically run the campaign?
That’s what I’m here for. Let’s walk through five high-level steps in a standard ABM campaign.
1. Get a list.
Start your ABM campaign by identifying your target accounts.
In other words, qualify your ideal buyers and then get a list of them to target. What kind of companies are you hoping to work with? Think through factors like company size (revenue, number of employees, number of offices), job title, geographic location, etc. You could, for example, decide to target the CFOs at engineering firms in the United States with over 3M in annual revenue. You could target IT directors in the San Francisco metro area. You get the idea.
If you happen to already have an existing database of these people (maybe through years of developing relationships or organic list building), congratulations – you’re a step ahead. Move on to stage two.
If (like most people) you don’t have a list of your target accounts, it’s time to buy one. We’ve written about this before; while we used to preach against list buying, there are times when it makes sense – and an ABM campaign is one of those times.
With that said, it’s critical that you define your parameters effectively and get a list from a good source. If you don’t, you’ll be marketing to a list of unresponsive or non-existent contacts – basically, you’ll be shouting repeatedly at a brick wall. It goes without saying that this is not a good approach to B2B tech marketing.
2. Create a drip campaign.
Once you have your list of ideal buyers in hand, it’s time to start creating the content and messaging you’ll reach them with.
There are plenty of channels you can choose, but, to keep things simple, I’m going to outline a basic approach to two of the most common: email and voicemail. Depending on the nature of your audience, you might also work in direct mail sends, paid ads, or in-person high-fives.
An email drip is a series of email sends to the same list over a designated period of time. There are different frameworks you can build out, but I’ve found this messaging series to be particularly effective.
1. Identify Your Buyers’ Pain Points
In the first email, show your audience that you get what they’re going through. Focus on the pain points you expect this target to have. You can include a soft nod to your offering, but don’t make it the focus.
2. Introduce Your Solution
In your second email, bring your offering to the forefront. Talk about how your offering solves the pain points you identified in your previous email. Show how it will make your target buyer’s life better.
3. Provide a Case Study or Testimonial
In the third email, offer an example of success to build credibility and confidence. Case studies in combination with quotes are ideal, but you’ll need to work with what you’ve got. If, for whatever reason, you don’t have case studies or testimonials yet, this email should still seek to build confidence; you’ll just need to get creative (and make a good argument).
4. Cover Buying Objections and Offer Rebuttals
Speaking of arguments, your fourth email’s where you really get into it (in a pleasant, friendly, and expert way, of course). In this email, bring up all the potential reasons you can think of that this person hasn’t become a client, and then offer a rebuttal to each one. Don’t be disingenuous; tackle the real issues, and be willing to admit the scope of any obstacles. But clearly position the benefits of your offering.
5. Send a Final Sales Letter
This is the last shot. Send one final pitch for your solution. You can bring in whatever is most compelling – more testimonials, pain points, or benefits. Make your case as strongly as you can.
General Notes on Emails
Finally, a few notes on email best practices:
- Personalize at least one subject line with the contact’s name.
- Personalize email content with name and company where relevant.
- Include one main call-to-action in each email.
- Use “PS” to reiterate the main CTA in 2-3 sends (this is the most-read text in any email).
- Structure the drip to send weekly (longest interval), daily (shortest interval), or some frequency in between, depending on the nature of your offering and industry.
- If you purchased your list, make sure that you use an email platform that allows for its use; some providers won’t send to contacts that haven’t been acquired organically. Mail Shake is a good option.
- Pay attention to who the email is “From.” Send it via the person who makes the most sense (Head of Business Development, CEO, Regional Sales Lead) and keep the sender consistent.
Okay, let’s talk voicemail. Remember, ABM involves the incorporation of multiple touch points. You’ll use your voicemail messages to augment your email messages. In fact, you should reference your email in your voicemail script.
Your voicemail will be spoken by a real person – ideally, the same person who the emails are from – and should give a number to call back. Platforms like Drop can send “ringless” voicemails, meaning that your target’s phone won’t ring; it’ll simply show a new voicemail message.
You don’t want to wear this out, obviously. I recommend two voicemails:
1. Follow Up the Solution Introduction Email.
Schedule this to arrive after your second email. Keep the message short. Reference your email, rephrase your solution, and give a number to call back.
2. Follow Up the Objections and Rebuttals Email.
Again, keep the message short. Reference your email. Make the takeaway that you’re hoping to connect and give a number to call back.
3. Build out a landing page.
You’ve got a messaging drip built out. Now, you need a place for your target buyers to go if they want to learn more about your offering.
It’s time to build a landing page.
You may have multiple landing pages built into your ABM campaign; you’ll certainly have at least one. I’ve spent plenty of words already on the components of a good landing page, so I’m not going to reiterate everything in detail here, but here are the bullets. You should include:
- A clear, high-level definition of your product or service. What you’re offering should be immediately obvious.
- The stakes of the sale. What clients will get and what non-clients miss out on should be obvious, too.
- Your customer’s pain points. Your page should reiterate the challenges your target faces in ways that show you understand.
- How your solution helps. You should include some overview of features and benefits.
- Social proof. Testimonials, case studies, and brand logo banners prove your offering is successful.
- Conversion points. You should give users a clear next step when they hit the page.
Additionally, because this is an ABM campaign, it’s worth incorporating personalization onto this page if you can. Software like Instapage will let you target individual users with individual messages – so you can, for instance, include customizable fields like first and last names, company names, geographies, etc, so that when users view your landing page, they feel like it’s been made specifically for them (which, essentially, it has been).
Data shows that this level of personalization increases conversions on the page, and it’s another way to target your messaging directly toward the accounts you want. This is the next level in B2B tech marketing.
4. Set up remarketing.
Once users hit your landing page, you should retarget them with ads to reinforce interest and remain top of mind.
The simplest approach to this is to run Google Display ads to viewers who have hit your landing page. (Note that you’ll need at least 100 active visitors within the last 30 days, so if your list is very small, this may not be an option.) Done well, this will allow you to follow your accounts around the web with messaging that continues the conversation from your email and voicemail touch points. You can reiterate messaging from your previous marketing, but ideally you should build on it. HubSpot notes that every message should add value in a new way.
Toward that end, you might consider building out a landing page specifically for remarketing traffic, since users who click on these ads will have seen your first landing page already. That might also be overkill, though. The effectiveness of a second landing page will depend on your offering and message.
Again, the idea of running remarketing is to continue building touch points and messaging. It might seem redundant, but it matters: Research by the RAIN Group suggests that it takes an average of eight touches to get an initial meeting with a new prospect.
5. Launch and track.
Finally, with your list bought and your messaging planned, it’s time to press go on your ABM campaign. From here on out, your role will be to monitor results and take action to close leads.
It’s critical to have the sales team primed for this. You may want to set up lead scoring automation to alert sales to campaign activity. For instance, if a prospect clicks a link in your email and hits your landing page but doesn’t convert, it may (depending on your campaign) make sense to have sales follow up with a quick phone call to talk through any objections in real time.
You’ll certainly want to be ready to respond to any direct inquiries. The cardinal sin of an ABM campaign (or of any marketing campaign, really), is to line everything up so that a prospect fills out a contact form to move forward – and then leave them in the lurch with a delayed response from sales.
Be ready to rock when you launch your campaign. When it concludes, dig into the data to see how your marketing resonated. Take those results, make optimizations, and position your marketing more effectively.
A few final thoughts:
There are specialized software platforms available that can up the ante on your campaign. ListenLoop, for example, will allow you to target display ads at users regardless of whether they hit your landing page. Instapage (as mentioned) allows for easy landing page personalization. HubSpot offers ABM tools to architect the flow of your campaign – from email touch points to CRM management. The bottom line is that the framework we’ve covered is a starting point; there are a lot of options that augment or move beyond the flow outlined here.
With that said, I hope that this framework has been helpful as you think about using ABM in your B2B tech marketing plan. ABM is a powerful marketing strategy when applied to the right context. Go forth and use it well.
If you’d like expert guidance in running your B2B tech ABM campaign, get in touch with us. At New North, we’ve used this approach to drive B2B tech leads for dozens of our clients.