Account-based marketing (ABM) is getting a lot of interest from marketers in B2B as a strategy that radically upends and refocuses the way that businesses approach marketing outreach.
Essentially, account-based marketing – as the name implies – focuses marketers’ efforts on the accounts that matter most.
Rather than casting as wide a net as possible with marketing and then progressively narrowing things down, marketing and sales (who need to be very closely aligned in ABM) work to identify the ideal target accounts for their product, and tailor their outreach towards those entities.
It’s an approach that might seem, at first brush, to be at odds with content marketing, which is typically used for outreach, visibility and awareness, and generating top-of-the-funnel interest. Concerned content marketers might be asking: how exactly is our content strategy meant to fit with ABM?
Jessica Fewless, VP of ABM Strategy at Demandbase and an all-round evangelist for account-based marketing, believes that content is crucial to ABM – and vice versa. In her opinion an account-based approach to marketing can solve many of the problems with traditional content marketing, and indeed, content marketing is crucial to engaging the target accounts identified by ABM.
I spoke to her about why she thinks that content marketing and ABM go hand in hand, how marketers can gear their content strategy around ABM, and the best ways to go about creating content for account-based marketing.
Taking the guesswork out of content marketing
Fewless believes that what makes account-based marketing so different to traditional funnel-based marketing approaches is exactly what makes it so great for content marketers: the ability to know exactly who you are targeting.
“Content is crucial to engaging your prospects and customers – to provide the right content that will help them make buying decisions,” says Fewless. “But traditional content marketing involves a lot of guesswork about your audience, which is when content can miss the mark in addressing prospects’ needs. ABM enables B2B marketers to be more focused in their marketing efforts towards a specific set of target accounts.”
With account-based marketing, says Fewless, target account lists are broken down into segments that can be based on a variety of attributes – industry, company size, how key people consume content, where they are in the sales cycle, and so on. “Using this target account list as a guiding point enables the content marketing function to address the challenges or interests head-on for those accounts they care about most.”
“The great thing about creating content in an ABM world is that many of the answers to questions like “who am I targeting?” and “what are their needs and challenges?” will already be available to you,” Fewless goes on. “This insight can act as the strongest foundation for your content efforts. The simple step of knowing who you are trying to target is huge.
“Then, being able to segment your target list and make sure content is relevant to each account at each stage in the buying cycle through technology and sales-led insights – and tailoring the content when necessary – will enable you to engage those accounts and turn them into customers, and then renewals and upsell opportunities.”
How to tailor content to your ABM strategy
What are some practical tips that Fewless would give to marketers on how to take advantage of this knowledge, and go about tailoring their content to target accounts?
Number one, says Fewless, is making use of AI. “Leveraging AI-driven tools alongside insights from your sales team will help ensure you’re getting the right content in the right hands at the right time. AI-based intent tools can ingest terabytes of data to help determine the most relevant buyers within your target accounts and what content they are engaging with.”
And in order to get the best insights from your sales team, constant communication is key. “Communication with your sales team is critical to finding out what questions are coming up with prospects, what is resonating with people, and key behavioral indicators of a target account’s interest to move to the next step in the buying process. Then, you can go back and adjust the content you plan to serve up to your target accounts based on those insights.”
Finally, Fewless stresses that “tailoring content” does not necessarily need to mean creating entirely new or unique pieces of content for each target account. “While it is impactful and effective to create very tailored content specific to each account, it is time, budget and labor intensive. Reserve that approach for the strategic accounts that matter the most to your organization,” she advises.
For most organisations, these strategic accounts make up less than 50 percent of overall revenue in any given year. “For the rest of your accounts, it’s more a matter of making your best assets attractive to your target accounts, merchandising it appropriately to each account to ensure it strikes a chord and is relevant to them, so they engage with it. This can often be accomplished by personalizing the email or website copy that introduces the piece of content, updating imagery or crafting a specific call-to-action, for example.”
Econsultancy’s practical guide to account-based marketing, produced in association with AdRoll, offers some further tips that content marketers can use to align content with their ABM strategy.
1. Use the customer journey map as a guide
“While customers value customized content when making buying decisions, this type of content can go to waste if it’s not delivered at the right time in the customer journey,” the report author writes. “Taking the time to determine where the target account is in the customer journey ensures that your well-constructed content hits its target at just the right time.”
2. Prioritise your content creation
To that end, “content should be planned and assigned with the customer journey stages, established ABM strategy goals and objectives, and target audiences in mind. Before creating new content, it’s best to identify whether content already exists that can be repurposed and personalized for a customer’s journey.”
3. Plan carefully – and use a calendar
If timing is everything, then the best way to plan and track content timing (and in particular, to prevent a piece of content being used more than once) is to use a calendar.
Econsultancy’s guide recommends investigating project management tools like Trello or Asana, or any one of the number of dedicated editorial calendar tools that exist to help marketers and publishers plan their content.
Download Account-Based Marketing: A Practical Guide for more practical advice on implementing ABM in your organisation.