At a recent Demandbase event, an audience member defined account-based marketing as "marketing... if sales was in charge." As I thought about this statement, it dawned on me just how true it is. Traditionally, marketing's purpose was to generate high-level awareness of a company and its products or services. With aircover by marketing, the thought was that sales could be more effective and close deals faster. Today, with many B2B companies focused on their top thousand or so accounts, marketing is becoming a closer sales ally, able to work in lock-step to drive the accounts to close--all the way from awareness to purchase.
With this closer collaboration between sales and marketing, a shift is occurring across the marketing mix. Account-based marketing demands a deep understanding of a prospect's business and pain, and requires a personalized approach. Each account has a unique mix of attributes driving its purchase decision and being relevant to those attributes, or drivers, is the opportunity at hand. As a result of the rise of ABM, marketers will be forced to dramatically change the way they market. Here's why:
- Disjointed Experiences No Longer Fly--The whole premise of account-based marketing is that because you are focused on only your top accounts, you can be much more targeted in your approach. You only attend the events where your accounts will be. You only advertise on the sites that your accounts frequent. You only send prospects content that is applicable to their business and industry. As prospect organizations become used to this targeted approach, a disjointed or non-targeted experience will feel jarring. Demand generation teams are doing a great job using the email channel to target and automate content delivery to the right accounts, but for most, that targeted experience is lost when the prospect visits the brand's website. Why are so few B2B companies personalizing the web experience for their prospects and customers? Marketers must ensure that personalization carries across every engagement with the brand, from the very first anonymous website visit to email nurture to sales calls, to subsequent visits to the website by other members of the decision making team.
- Advertising Technology Enables Personalization--New advertising technology and rich social media profiles have made it very easy for marketers to target specific accounts, ensuring that their ad spend is used efficiently. LinkedIn, for example, allows you to target by company, title, and location so your sponsored story or display ad is only served to the intended audience on either LinkedIn or its partner sites. Whereas in the past online advertising needed to appeal to the masses, or at the very least the demographics of the site, it can now be highly targeted and relevant, meaning that ad dollars can go much further. However, for ads to perform, they must be hyper-targeted, relevant and connected to the targeting in your emails on your website.
- Channels Are Less Important than Relevant Content--As marketers develop buyer's journeys for their named accounts they think more in terms of content and engagement than channels. And this makes sense. Why do you care whether someone consumes a case study on the website or in email or sees it on LinkedIn or Facebook? Marketers must ensure that their platforms are connected to be able to track engagement across every channel and sequence content and messages appropriately.
- Take Inventory of Your Content--With all time and effort focused on named accounts, content needs are changing to support a 1:1 approach. When defining the buyer's journey by account, marketers typically look to see what content is at their disposal and what needs to be created. With less emphasis on inbound leads, content managers are focusing more on middle and late stage content, such as ROI research, whitepapers and case studies, with the goal of showing current prospects that they understand and can solve their problems. Many of our customers see automated content inventory - determining what content you have and what is working - as a high-value insight, which pays for itself many times over. Since much of this content involves current customer examples, it's critical to have advocacy programs in place to ensure that customers are willing to share their stories through video, print, speaking, etc.
As account-based marketing gains traction, B2B marketers are, as the audience member suggested, becoming more like sales people and developing content and marketing programs with specific targets in mind and working hand in hand to close deals. Here's to the next evolution of marketing.