The Death of Account-based Marketing

Jaycen Thorgeirson
Founder & Chief Storyteller
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Marketing is hard, and it just got a lot harder for many. Decreased ad spending, changing environment and tactics, displaced work teams, stalled pipeline, and overall economic uncertainty. Despite many uncertainties, one thing is more certain than ever – marketers need to contribute to revenue-generation.

Account-Based Marketing hasn’t died, it has actually become even more critical. Before we talk about how to leverage it, let’s quickly summarize what exactly ABM (Account-Based Marketing) is for those new to the approach.

Account-based marketing (ABM) is the process of orchestrating marketing activities to appeal to highly rated accounts.

In most cases, a B2B company’s marketing strategy focuses on generating leads and capturing as many leads as possible through inbound marketing efforts. ABM is a marketing strategy that focuses on targeted audiences and specific accounts (clients or potential clients) and uses marketing technologies to serve the right marketing messages at the right time – target accounts. It’s a highly targeted and personalized approach focused on your most valuable prospects and customers. It’s basically like spearfishing rather than casting a big net and filtering out the chaff.

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

And it’s effective too! Research by ITSMA found that 87% of marketers that measure ROI say that ABM outperforms every other marketing investment!

The challenge with ABM is that it requires close coordination between marketing and sales to identify and directly market-specific individuals and organizations. This is a critical step to the success of the ABM approach. Sales and marketing teams need to work together to identify and target key customers and messaging the right way to develop campaigns that effectively address potential accounts.

Sources: Vidyard, Cox BLUE

Simply put, account-based marketing takes the traditional marketing funnel and flips it on its head!

Image by SuperOffice

Now that we have a brief summary of what it is let’s get to the how. To keep it as simple as possible (heaven knows we already have enough on our plate), I’ve boiled it down to 3 ways to launch your ABM approach!

3 Ways to Crush Your ABM Campaign (with or without a pandemic)

Before launching, define your goal. If you have nothing to aim for, how will you know if you’re successful? Start with a target and then measure from there.

Some common goals of an account-based marketing program include the following:

  • Launch a new product
  • Creating new market share in an existing segment
  • Retaining existing customers (this is a big one right now)
  • Enter new markets, verticals, or segments
  • Targeting strategic named accounts to generate new revenue

After your goal is defined, it’s vital to get the key stakeholders involved in collecting info on the accounts and the individuals that you want to reach. We call this the Collect and Collaborate Stage.

1. Collect and Collaborate

As for whom to gather, it depends on your team, but likely it will include folks from sales, sales development, and marketing, at a minimum. Collaboration is critical to make sure you build the right approach and gather the best insights. Given that most are remote, set up a Zoom meeting to collaborate and dedicate a Slack channel to start sharing info.

Photo by Henrik Dønnestad on Unsplash

Now for the collection stage. The more you know about your audience, the better. This will allow you to meet them where they are – giving you the best opportunity to go further in your connection.

A simple way of collecting the right information for revenue-generating activities can entail reviewing your current data around customers that are the most profitable and/or the most equitable relationships for your business. You may stimulate the conversation by asking your sales team questions such as, who do you feel is our ideal customer to you, and why? The why can be very telling and reveal critical insights that you never thought of before.

Another way to stimulate thinking is by bringing customer data to the table and asking if you could pick three clients out of these, which ones would you choose to keep and why? You may discover new reasons as to why they are ideal, including easy to work with, quicker to close, or something else.

Once you have these, make a list to identify similar types of accounts or companies, and the individuals within the accounts that you’d like to reach. This would include role types and how they influence the decision-making process. At UviaUs, we take this approach and build profiles on the people we’re reaching by leveraging Linkedin to acquire critical details about those we’d like to contact. Social media is a great way to discover vital personal information and what is top of mind due to their posts and activities. It’s easy to identify others that fit a similar profile to the targeted individuals and accounts that you’d like to engage with.

Once you have these details, you’ve set the foundation. It’s time to start developing the story that will now resonate with those whom you intend to reach and the tactics that are best to tell it. Sources: LeadCrunch, Lead Forensics

That leads us to Stage 2.

2. Craft a Story that Connects

With so much content being produced for algorithms these days, it’s refreshing to see stories continue to be the best way of reaching hearts.

The key to an effective Account-based Marketing (ABM) approach is to make sure the story is at its core. The story needs to be built for individuals, not just personas or companies. It needs to appear that it’s made just for them.

Here’s the framework to get you started in building the narrative that will connect all the elements of your ABM campaign.

The Story Framework

A story should be built around these five essential elements. These five components are the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution. These fundamental elements keep the story running smoothly and allow the action to develop in a logical way that the reader can follow.

CHARACTERS – Who is in your ideal audience profile

The characters are the individuals that the story is about. Your characters should be built around whom you would like to reach and engage with. Before building around these characters, it would be good to understand details, such as roles, challenges, personality traits, demographics, etc.

In addition to the main character (or your ideal audience profile), which the plot will develop around and the story centers upon, other characters (key stakeholders and influencers) are also significant because they supply additional details, explanations, or actions. All characters should stay true to the description built throughout the story so that the reader can understand what is taking place—and perhaps even predict which character may do what next.

Some Internal Brainstorming Questions:  Who is our audience? What do they like and dislike? What kind of company do they work for? What’s important to them personally and professionally?

SETTING – Where the story is told that is relatable to your audience 

The setting refers to the location of the action. Typically describing the environment or surroundings of the story in such detail that the reader feels that he or she can picture the scene. The setting helps your audience better visualize the story and feel connected to the plot!

Some Internal Brainstorming Questions: What is the setting? How can we build the story through how it’s told? How can we involve the audience in the story? What settings are most familiar to the audience? How can we reduce friction in the storytelling process?

PLOT – Main story or theme that is relatable to our audience 

The plot is the actual story. A plot should have a clear beginning, middle, and end—with all the necessary descriptions and suspense, called exposition—so that the reader can make sense of the action and follow along from start to finish.

In building the story, you should be thinking about aligning the context, challenge, and solution to creating the story’s narrative that connects to your audience.

Some Internal Brainstorming Questions: What’s the plot of the story that identifies who we are and what audience we would like to reach? What’s the beginning, middle, and end of the story? Is there a plot that is relatable to our audience?

CONFLICT – This is the core problem statement that your audience faces 

Every story has a conflict to solve. The plot is centered on this conflict and how the characters attempt to resolve the problem. When the story’s action becomes most exciting, before the resolution, it is called the climax.

Some Internal Brainstorm Questions: What’s the main problem or challenge my audience faces? What is the climax to the story after the conflict is expressed?

RESOLUTION – What is the solution to the problem your audience faces 

The solution to the problem is the way the action is resolved. It is essential that the resolution fits the rest of the story in tone and creativity and solves all parts of the conflict.

Some Internal Brainstorm Questions: What is the desired outcome?

It would be good to also consider the current pandemic environment and how it impacts the target accounts and persons within. Are they working remotely? How is their company doing? How are they messaging in this environment? All of these are queues to carefully craft a narrative that aligns with their interests and give the highest chances of connecting. Make sure you speak to where they are and want to be.

With your story crafted, its time to ensure it sees the light of day. That’s where the critical next step comes in.

3. Create a Moment of Impact

My Grandmother had a favorite expression. She would often recant, “away is nice, but home is best”. It’s a Swedish expression. I would often think of it after being away from home for a time.

However, this was before we were all couped up. Now, I think we’d all say, “away is looking real nice right about now!”

Away is Nice, but Home is Best” – Grandma Elsie

Photo by Jaycen Thorgeirson

As marketers, you’ve likely had to pivot a ton to produce results without leveraging planned channels, such as in-person events, executive dinners, gifting, and especially direct mail. You probably would like to get away at times, but you’re sticking with it, finding new approaches to support revenue generation.

While some of your in-person channels have been changed to virtual ones, an omnichannel ABM approach leveraging high impact direct mail and gifting is one that can actually excel in this environment and make up for those lost in-person meetings. It can also bring multiple stakeholders together in a really unique and special way.

Think of the prime insight you have in knowing that most decision-makers are working remotely. This is what I like to call “marketing gold intel”.

You can know where they are and what they are likely doing and not doing. Hint: What are you doing right now? Mainly confined to their home and on constant video meetings, they are utterly reachable and would welcome the interruption of a finely crafted high impact direct mail or gifting outreach campaign. Second, being outside the office means their gatekeepers aren’t filtering their mail. It’s a prime opportunity to create a moment of impact.

To address your audience at home, you may need to consider getting permission to send to their home using an email validation service to ask and verify their address. An excellent way to do this is by sending them an e-gift in advance for doing so or offering to send a gift item to their home. There are plenty of tools and strategies to be able to do this.

The real question is, how do you do it in a way that allows your story to shine? Make sure to go beyond the branded corrugated shipper or typical promotional swag in a box approach. Spoiler: most people don’t like branded merchandise with your logo on it. Really, how many pairs of branded socks and koozies do you need?

Again, start with the story and make sure that all touchpoints to the ABM campaign support and tell the story in the most meaningful way possible. Video is a compelling way to convey a lot in a short amount of time and is the next best thing to in-person.

“Not having heard of it is not as good as having heard of it. Having heard of it is not as good as having seen it,” reads the saying from Xunzi. “Having seen it is not as good as knowing it. Knowing it is not as good as putting it into practice.”

Or perhaps, think of delivering an experience that will involve the recipient by making it interactive, immersive, tactile, sensory, or gaming it. This will lead the better recall and staying top of mind. Whatever you do, make it about the recipient, not you.

Creating this moment of impact leveraging high impact direct mail can be a critical step to building awareness and connecting with your target recipient. So, don’t cheap out here. Remember, this is like the “spear” of your ABM campaign. Make sure it’s sharp. Consider the value of this moment, and then you’ll have the right framework for spending adequately on the value of the experience you need to deliver.

So yes, account-based marketing is alive and well. In fact, it’s more relevant than ever in this pandemic filled world. We need to drive revenue, do more with less, and deliver more meaningful connections with hard to reach audiences. To do it well, it takes team collaboration and buy-in to build a story-driven and impactful approach for our most valued audiences. The question is, will you choose to crush it?

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