The idea of account-based marketing (ABM) has been floating around and is gaining some traction within the marketing world, but has anyone actually put it to practice—and more importantly—seen real results from the new strategy? It looks like marketers are still figuring it out.
ABM was all anyone talked about in early 2017, but that doesn’t mean marketers have proven its success. Our latest research found that only 44% of marketers rank ABM as one of their top three priorities, and less than one-third (29%) of marketers have found ABM to be an effective strategy.
Want to see the complete findings? Download the B2B Content Strategy and Operations Benchmark now.
What is account-based marketing? Good question. It’s an emerging approach to marketing that’s based on identifying qualified companies and connecting with key people within that company to build a personalized connection through custom content that’s delivered at the right time. ABM enables marketers to focus their attention on the accounts that need the support of multiple decision-makers to buy into their product.
Contrast this with a product-centric approach that casts a huge net over as many people as possible—regardless of who they are or where they are in their buyer’s journey.
As marketers continue to evaluate ABM’s success, we need more practical and hands-on methods of testing.
In order to do this, marketers must understand how an ABM strategy fits into the overall context of a content operation, which ultimately maximizes the value of content and the time spent working on it.
In a nutshell, a content operation is the set of processes, people, and technologies for strategically planning, producing, distributing, and analyzing content. The idea is to unify the customer experience across all departments and channels. Kind of sounds like ABM, right?
Connecting the Dots: Where ABM and Content Operations Collide
As more marketers gain a better understanding of what ABM is and how to strategically put it into practice, it becomes clearer that a content operation is a necessary piece of the complex, content puzzle.
Interestingly, marketing leaders are almost 4x more likely to be on board with an ABM strategy than content creators. This isn’t too surprising when you realize that x% of content creators don’t have visibility into how the content they produce fits into their organization’s broader strategy is.
There’s a massive disconnect between marketing leaders, content creators—and most importantly—the customer. And this is where implementing an ABM strategy could do wonders for a marketing organization.
According to Marketo, the three essential goals of an ABM strategy are to:
- Target and manage accounts and account lists
- Engage target accounts across channels
- Measure revenue impact on target accounts
All three of these goals highlighted by Marketo revolve around a common, hierarchal goal: converting more leads into customers and ultimately driving more revenue. In fact, the Marketo report said that 97% of marketers achieved a higher ROI with ABM than any other marketing initiatives.
ABM requires marketing teams to work closely with their sales teams to identify accounts and expand them through targeted content. This will remove any uncertainty when it comes to revenue attribution.
So how does a content operation help accomplish these goals? Let’s break it down.
1. Targeted Content to Reach Accounts
ABM’s main focus is to target the exact accounts that are going to move your business forward, whether that means driving revenue, challenging a competitor, or increasing recognition. These accounts can be narrowed down by industry, revenue size, region, or any other number of factors.
A critical component of a content operation is developing a taxonomy, or complex tagging system, that identifies the exact context an asset is intended for. That means each and every piece of content is labeled with persona, buying stage, and other necessary fields to get the right content to any given account.
These account selections will vary from organization to organization because every company has its own customer profiles.
Knowing who your target accounts are is great, but it doesn’t mean squat unless you have personalized content catered to the decision-makers in that account. Not only will a well-thought-out content operation help marketers align on which accounts they want to target, but it will give content creators a clear understanding of what types of content people within these accounts want to see.
2. Cross-Channel Engagement
Once marketing organizations have their target customers figured out, it’s time to start engaging those accounts with personalized, custom content. This content should speak to an exact customer within a target account as well as be appropriate for where they are in the customer journey. More importantly, this content needs to give the customer a consistent message across all the different channels a marketing organization leverages.
Well over half of a customer’s buying process is completed digitally, which means that content plays a significant role in a customer’s decision-making process.
The cross-channel collaboration necessary for a robust content operation minimizes inconsistent messaging that can frustrate an audience. For example, a customer might read one thing from an organization’s eBook and then find a clashing idea or message in a blog post, leaving them confused. With a focused, well-strategized operation, content is never created in silos or without strategic significance.
3. ROI: Measurable Impact on Buyer Journey
It’s impossible to gauge the success of an ABM strategy without any understanding of its revenue impact. It’s critical that an ABM strategy helps marketers identify what worked well, what didn’t, and how to drive more success moving forward.
This means being able to capture the right information, in real-time—account insights, account scores, lead data, and tracking of individual pieces of content and campaigns. This will not only help you optimize your marketing initiatives but will provide sales with the insights they need to close deals.
A huge difference between content marketing and a content operation is the measurable impact. With simple content marketing, content creation is often ad hoc and goes unused by the broader organization. Wasted content costs organizations resources that would drive infinitely more ROI when funneled into a content operation.
Sound like something your executive wants to know about? Check out our eBook, Building a Business Case for a Content Operation.
Tools to Manage Your Content Operation and ABM Strategy
While the three goals highlighted by Marketo are key ingredients to the success of implementing an ABM strategy, none of them are possible without the proper technology stack. Regardless of whether marketing and sales teams are in-house or spread out geographically, they all need access to a single source of truth when it comes to planning, workflows, production, and access to content.
Point solution tools combined with a content marketing platform is essential in managing the complexities of a content operation and ABM strategy. This is a great way to understand your customers’ digital body language and will provide you with relevant information that you can act on.
These types of technologies are going to remove the complexities that ABM presents by helping you plan your account-level campaigns around a consistent message, to the right person, at the right time.
Our favorite tool, of course, is Kapost. Kapost is a Content Operation Platform that allows you to track the alignment of every piece of content to quarterly goals, as well as add content to initiatives for specific accounts. Here are some other technologies that can work in conjunction with Kapost to fully support your ABM strategy:
- Engagio: Engagio is a marketing automation platform that complements existing content marketing platforms to provide users with a wide range of analytics around account-level marketing initiatives
- Triblio: Triblio is an ABM platform that aims to generate demand and engagements from target accounts
- Demandbase: Demandbase is an ABM vendor that offers a number of solutions ranging from an ABM platform, target account services, and account-based analytics
- Terminus: Terminus is ABM software that allows users to engage with target accounts with account-based advertising. It also offers actionable insights to measure account engagement
Hit the Ground Running with ABM
A content operation supports an ABM strategy from start to finish. Whether an account is in their first engagement or in the process of upselling, delivering the right content enables customers to make educated decisions and helps marketers to make their quarterly goals.
But marketing executives aren’t always as aware of the benefit of a content operation. Need a head start on building the business case for a content operation? We’ve got the eBook for you.