Content marketing is one of the most common strategies B2B marketers use for demand generation. According to an eMarketer report, B2B marketers primarily produce content to drive sales, among other important marketing goals:
Creating and distributing content to your target audience on key platforms works well for B2C, but while it's an important aspect of B2B marketing, this strategy may not always be enough to achieve B2B marketing goals.
Since you’re ultimately targeting a business—not individual people within it—your content needs to be relevant to all key players throughout the customer journey. One of the best ways B2B businesses can address this issue is with an account-based marketing (ABM) approach.
Account-based marketing is a strategy that focuses on the success of the entire customer experience, both pre and post-sale. To understand the difference, it’s best to compare it to traditional inbound marketing. Inbound marketing involves focusing the majority of a given budget and targeting efforts on generating leads with compelling offers. It prioritizes getting high volumes of relevant traffic to click through to a landing page, where only 1-2% will actually become paying customers.
ABM instead distributes more time, money, and energy to different stages of the customer experience, including lead generation, acquisition, post-sales, and success. Businesses that utilize ABM invest more in accounts that are likely to close, rather than spending a little on a wide variety of leads that likely won’t turn into sales. They also employ strategies that empower them to build lasting relationships with their customers, leading to new sales opportunities and increasing their lifetime value.
Account-based marketing can be incredibly effective at driving business goals, but the strategy wasn’t always an option in the past. In order to identify the right accounts and effectively target them, businesses need to use significant amounts of relevant behavioral and business data that simply wasn’t available five to 10 years ago.
You need to have access to quality data sources and be prepared to analyze all relevant data to inform account targeting decisions. Some examples of important data for ABM include:
Audience behavioral signals
These can be any relevant signals that indicate a business could benefit from your products or services (even if they’re not actively searching for businesses like yours). Important data points vary based on industry. For example, posting new job positions could suggest relevant internal business changes.
This also falls under behavioral signals, but they’re specific actions that suggest an intent to make a purchase. Drawing correlations between the kind of content target leads are consuming across the web reveals what their underlying intent is.
How are accounts and associated individuals engaging with your brand, online and off? This is often tracked using CRM or marketing automation technology.
This includes any relevant data that sheds light on the performance of your ABM efforts. It can relate to your marketing campaigns, sales cycle, close rates, retention rate, and more.
These are just a few categories of data account-based marketers can use to develop their strategies and optimize their efforts. The more relevant, fresh data businesses can process and derive insights from, the more opportunities there are to improve B2B demand generation and marketing.
Successful ABM requires buy-in and strategic changes at all levels of your business. Here are some key areas that B2B businesses need to focus on to achieve this:
Aligning Relevant Teams
Despite what the name suggests, ABM is about more than just marketing. Many different teams throughout your business serve some kind of role in the customer journey and experience. In order to succeed at ABM, it’s important to bridge gaps between these different departments to ensure they’re all on the same page.
Mapping Your Customer Journey
Mapping the customer journey from the account perspective is incredibly important. Rather than building buyer personas for individual people, B2B marketers need to consider the entire business and the individual people they might interact with at various points in the customer journey. The aforementioned eMarketer report also outlines a B2B customer journey map framework, including eight key audience milestones:
ABM considers audience perspective at each of these stages. Doing so can have a huge impact on the strategies you use to market to them. For instance, different stakeholders will occupy the main touchpoints at different phases in the customer journey. You could be marketing to someone in IT for milestones one to three, then switch to the COO for making a purchase decision. When marketing to IT, you focus on the benefits of your solution to their specific job, but with the COO, it makes more sense to focus on the potential to drive revenue, reduce wasted spending, etc. Milestones in the post-purchase phase could also differ in this way.
So, based on your previous knowledge of marketing to your target audience, build a clear customer journey then create a relevant marketing strategy for each stage. Over time as you market to more accounts, you’ll realize and adapt to common changes at different milestones from the account perspective.
Aligning Relevant Technologies
Aligning your various teams is step one, but aligning relevant technologies is equally important. Tools need to share data to help different departments communicate with each other. For example, your CRM tool and marketing automation software should share data automatically. It’s also important to properly track all relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) so you can evaluate the effectiveness of your ABM strategy.
Because ABM is so data-driven, you might need additional technologies beyond your current MarTech stack. Consider all relevant business data you might need (audience behavioral signals, performance data, engagement data, etc.). Do you have the right analytics technology equipped to integrate and process all this information?
An Action Plan for Optimization
Success in ABM relies heavily on learning from your efforts. You’re adding new elements to your marketing strategy (sales, customer success, finance, etc.). So you need to effectively monitor their impact on reaching your marketing goals, then make targeted changes to your strategy to improve performance. This should be an ongoing, standardized process that all teams are invested in. Different siloed departments should be prepared to make or suggest changes to their strategies based on overall ABM goals.
The faster your teams can implement changes based on performance data insights, the more opportunity there is to benefit. This is another area where key technologies come in. Marketing automation technologies can help you make quick changes based on the most relevant data insights. More sophisticated bidding solutions can make targeted bid adjustments based on current and historical performance, ensuring you always spend the right amount on advertising to meet your ABM goals.
Advertising is one area of B2B marketing that can benefit significantly from an ABM approach. Here are some of the many ways ABM and advertising complement each other, generating more demand and sales:
1. Target all relevant personas
As mentioned above, it’s important to target all invested personas within a business. According to a recent Gartner survey, 75% of B2B customers agree that their purchase involved people from a wide variety of roles, teams, and locations.
Advertising gives marketers a unique opportunity to do this at scale. Google Adwords retargeting, for example, can help you target display ads to all members of the buying committee that you have contact information for. Using keyword and audience targeting, you can also reach key personas with your search advertising campaigns.
2. Discover more potential accounts
Account-based marketing is largely about targeting businesses that you already have some degree of relationship with. Maybe they visited your booth at a trade show or interacted with your business online. You’re not spending time prospecting for cold leads.
That said, advertising gives you an opportunity to discover new leads that you wouldn’t find otherwise. Your ads build brand awareness and attract traffic to your site. Then you can segment out the visitors who expressed some interest by reading your product pages or downloading resources. Over time, these can become new target accounts.
3. Personalize your marketing message
Since your ads are targeting different personas within a business, they should be tailored to the persona in question. It’s possible to do this using a variety of advertising options. Dynamic Search Ads, for instance, allow you to change the text of your headlines and subheadlines based on user search queries.
Elsewhere, LinkedIn Dynamic Ads offer further opportunities to personalize your message for individual players based on profile data, including their photo, company name, job title, and more. Creating relevant content and landing pages to target key decision-makers is a start, but it’s also incredibly important to create personalized ads to generate traffic in the first place.
4. Use advertising metrics for behavioral scoring
ABM professionals often use behavioral scoring to evaluate the potential of a given account. Marketing automation platforms can monitor how often an account interacts with your business and in what capacity to determine their potential value as a lead.
Incorporating advertising into your ABM strategy can improve the quality of your behavioral scoring efforts, ensuring you don’t miss out on valuable sales opportunities. Advertising brings more website traffic, and thus more touchpoints to analyze. Factoring in ad impressions, clicks, page visits and other metrics of on-site behavior provides much more context to the value of a potential lead. Suddenly all site visitors can become potential sales leads, not just people who fill out your lead forms.
5. Scale Quickly
Targeting accounts with organic marketing strategies takes a lot of time and effort to scale. Investing in advertising gives you the opportunity for major growth right from the beginning. Between Google Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other advertising verticals, it’s possible to generate as many qualified accounts as you can handle.
Automation technologies can also help you market to these leads at scale. As mentioned above, intent data is valuable in helping account-based marketers identify potential accounts to target. Once a new lead expresses interest in your product niche online, you have a limited amount of time to target them with ads before they make a purchase decision.
Automated bidding technology is able to process large volumes of intent data as it comes in, then make targeted changes to your advertising initiatives in real-time. Targeted bid adjustments can increase your ad visibility in the buying cycle when it matters most. What’s more, there’s no need to rely on your internal teams to manually identify these opportunities and make necessary adjustments. Advertising automation helps with demand generation, allowing internal teams to focus on needle-moving initiatives like lead nurturing and sales.
The saying “content is king” is not new in marketing. Creating relevant content for your target audience is more valuable now than ever for marketing. The real challenge lies in understanding exactly which personas to target and gaining visibility for your content on the right channels.
Consider these recent B2B content marketing statistics:
B2B businesses have a huge opportunity to generate demand with content if they invest heavily in its creation and distribution. Here’s a summary of how B2B businesses can get the most out of content marketing to achieve their marketing goals:
Most B2B businesses today invest in content marketing as an ad-hoc initiative. Once you become proactive and start targeting diverse personas with an account-based approach, the competitive landscape changes completely. ABM offers a unique opportunity for B2B businesses to target high-quality leads at scale.