Account-Based Marketing: 4 Steps to Higher ABM Close Rates
Prospecting is all about creating conversations that will ultimately lead to bigger sales. Yet B2B marketers often cast a very wide net, trying to grab the attention of buyers within a multichannel marketing paradigm that has shifted significantly in recent years. You may pick off some low hanging fruit, but then what? The answer may be Account-Based Marketing (ABM).
Account-based marketing has quickly emerged as an alternative B2B strategy that concentrates sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within a market, using highly personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each account. In other words, high-value accounts or prospects are identified as units of one, and key stakeholders are targeted through creation of personas that identify their specific needs.
The big buzz around ABM is that it delivers much higher ROI compared to traditional marketing tools. Indeed, according to the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), more than three-quarters of B2B marketers say ABM is either “important” or “very important” to their marketing strategy; 44 percent say that ABM is now their top marketing priority.
If thinking about implementing ABM to help drive sales efforts, here are four steps that should lead to more successful campaigns and a higher close rate:
1. Personalize, With Force
Sounds easy, but it’s not. Do deep digging to find what makes this prospect tick, then build detailed personas to fully understand the prospect and stakeholder needs. Research what is top of mind for them, and others in their sphere of influence. Then further personalize with ideas/solutions mapped to those specific needs/wants.
Understand that when it comes to ABM, this ain’t your granddaddy’s personalization. Specifically, first-name or geo targeting will not cut it. Get down and dirty and discover the prospect’s pain points, competition, target audience, slogans, threats, strengths. For example, find out how they recruit, what their last press release was, and read all the media coverage on the company you can find. Research what they post on LinkedIn. Who follows them there and what discussions are they having with your target? What conferences do they go to? What is their brand mission? And so on.
By investing in their company through knowledge, you’ll separate from the pack by communicating clearly that you understand precisely the value they are looking for, with greater clarity on why your solution is “the one” that will bring that value. Finally, when it comes to value, one rule to follow is “Offer More than You Receive.”
For example, a college with a prestigious MBA program was competing with other prestigious programs, all who wanted to attract the highest quality, most well-rounded students possible. With all things pretty much equal, the “sell” became the campus experience. A challenge was figuring out how to recreate that sense of experience for those accepted to the program but might not be able to visit prior to making their decision?
Here the school delivered a highly personalized, mailable video experience and acceptance letter, which included a personal greeting and welcome from members of the faculty on campus. It also directed the student to a micro-site which was further personalized with additional video assets based on the student’s program interests. That’s going to make an impression when compared to other schools that may only be sending a form welcome letter pointing the student to a generic login link.
2. Don’t Target Aspirational/Whale Accounts
The point of ABM is to make it purposeful, and one way to do that is don’t put all your eggs in one whale basket. Instead, identify opportunities that align with the value you can deliver. First, determine what your “cut off” point is that delineates the Whales from the “Target Accounts.” You can still attach whales in tandem with ABM targets. Once the cut-off is determined, create a new set of ABM parameters for attacking prospects that may fall into an average customer/spend or by audience that has shown it “likes” what you do/offer. Note that the larger the organization, the more time it will take to properly research the personas/stakeholders/decision makers.
This does not mean that you can’t go after the aspirational targets. I’ve gone after many and am often surprised by whom I’m able to reach, with the right approach! However, if you’re not the CEO of the company, don’t expect to easily reach the CEO of another company of greater size. I’ve often seen SDR’s tasked with reaching decision makers at large companies, with very poor results. The key here is to first try to establish common ground with those who would be your peers in the organization you’re trying to reach. If you’re trying to reach CMO’s, have someone of that level or above get involved in targeting those folks.
Either way, once identified, go back to step 1 to make contact meaningful and purposeful with strong intent.
3. Deliver the Unexpected
Whenever possible, is there a way to come at the prospect with a different approach that goes well beyond the usual? On first contact is there a way to surprise and delight, or engage the senses? Obviously, a simple email won’t do the trick. What can be done or sent to them to make them ask, “I wonder what this?” that breaks through traditional channels.
As customers in a multichannel marketing environment we are inundated with so many lackluster experiences. How many things have you received in the form of B2B marketing that have wowed you? I’d bet you can maybe count them on one hand. Instead of sending that thick (and costly to print brochure or direct mail piece), try something that will at least make the experience memorable.
Instead, think about creating something that is unexpected. We tell our clients, so you’re a Seattle company and you want to do a coffee-themed mailer for a year end gift? Good idea but don’t send a bag of beans and a card! Instead, something memorable would be an end of year gift experience that includes a Seattle-based coffee liquor and bag of coffee beans within a customized wooden box that highlights a video message from their account executive. Now where’s the creamer?
We even know one sales person who sent a sheep to the prospect’s office! Now that’s unexpected! Hey, If the account is that important, why wouldn’t you send a sheep? Or something compelling enough that will make your pitch stand out?
4. Use Technology to Enhance Delivery of Key Messages
A good practice to follow is not to put the onus on the prospect to complete a task to engage with you. Specifically, you want to avoid asking them to download something or review materials on your website. Instead, use mediums such as Mixed Reality Marketing to brighten and enhance what you are trying to get across. Everyone likes a bright and shiny object, especially if it was created just for them! Now while that may be complicated for you, you’re making it simple for them to connect and resonate with your point of view, right away. Just like the box example above, use technology whenever possible to engage. The beauty is that the prospect can take it in on their time and once they do, the digital content is able to communicate consistently and succinctly.
Like all marketing campaigns, you eventually will want to formulate new KPIs that map to your campaigns. Keep in mind that it is paramount to test, measure, and optimize your account-based marketing approach as you move forward. Happy prospecting!
Related story: 6 Powerful B2B Marketing Tactics You May Be Missing
Jaycen Thorgeirson is founder and CEO of UviaUs, a one-to-one experiential marketing company that helps brands and agencies engage with high-value and hard-to-reach audiences. UviaUs specializes in the creative production and integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies and content—like interactive video or augmented and virtual reality experiences—into high-quality, customized deliverables, packaging, and environmental designs that deliver remarkable one-to-one experiences.