ABM and the Role of Content

8 minute read

Upland Admin

It’s hard to believe, but we are about to hit the end of another year—and another list of marketing buzzwords. Terms like storytelling, influencer marketing, and account-based marketing (ABM) are popular as of late, but are they relevant to the way brands market? Are they bringing in the leads—and dollars—that marketers think they do?

Buzzwords can be bittersweet: they’re easy to follow (by definition, everyone’s talking about them), but they also have limited supporting data. Most of the time, a buzzword is an idea that sounds great on paper but still needs to be tested in practice.

With every great idea comes the responsibility of justifying it from a budget perspective, which means rounds of testing and evaluation. And that appears to be exactly where marketers are with ABM. Everyone’s talking about it, but our B2B Content Strategy and Operations Benchmark found that only 29% of marketers have identified it as effective.

Is ABM a Total Flop?

Don’t misinterpret this stat: it’s not that three quarters of marketers think ABM is a bust. That same report found only 44% of marketers rank ABM as one of their top three priorities. Marketers are still evaluating what ABM means for their organization and how to integrate it in their strategy.

To get some further context, let’s look at a more formal definition of account-based marketing. It’s an approach to marketing based on locating qualified company accounts (or businesses), then connecting with key people working there to make headway towards building a connection through personalized, tailored content. Most importantly, it takes the complexities of the B2B buying process into consideration. Instead of haphazardly bringing in as many leads as possible, ABM allows marketers to focus their efforts on accounts that need buy in from not just one point of contact, but five, six, or even more involved decision makers.

Seems simple. Well, it can be if your brand creates clear marketing materials that resonate with key people, and they feel inspired to take action by buying, enrolling, or engaging on social media. However, most content creators developing blogs, graphics, videos, and more to reach out to these qualified leads are not always well versed on the end goal and purpose of what they’re creating.

When leadership is excited about a new strategy, they’re ready to test it. And that’s the case with ABM In fact, marketing leaders are almost four times more like to be on board with ABM than content creators. As marketers continue to assess ABM, thilack of alignment needs to be fixed, stat.

As of now, there’s a gaping hole between the chef, ingredients and end product. To bridge this disconnect, leadership strategy has to be tied to marketing strategy—which means there needs to be a evaluation stage where marketers weigh all of the data points.

How to Evaluate ABM at Your Organization

It’s clear that marketers need to address the very exciting potential of ABM strategy. Make sure your organization doesn’t make the fatal mistake of forging ahead without regrouping and getting everyone on the same page. Otherwise, you might find yourself in the majority of organizations in which the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing.

Here are some tactics to practice ABM more effectively and help teams collaborate successfully, especially in the long-game required for courting B2B clients:

1. Communication between Departments

Set clear priorities and sales goals, and communicate them organization-wide. According to the benchmark, “More than 50% of marketer’s greatest barrier to success is cross-departmental collaboration.”

Content creators need to know how content aligns with the big picture for a brand and with each part of the buyer’s journey. In this case, context is king before content can get there.

2. Leverage Tech

Whether marketing teams are in-house or spread out in various parts of the world, they all need the same information to do their work properly. So, leverage collaborative technology to provide a central location that hosts all important details.

Use a platform that’s simple, with a clean design and intuitive interface, making it easy for teams to stay touch. Consider choosing a tool that allows for content planning and creation all in one place to save time, effort, and improve overall workflow. 

3. Improve Accessibility

When content requirements and sales goals are easy to access, content creators have no problem getting what they need and building it.

At the same time, users can ask questions, share timeline changes, and find updated keyword or buyer persona details quickly and easily—all in one place. This is how the race against the timeline is won! It’s also the best way to get a return on a technology investment: by shaving time spent, simplifying effort, and improving productivity.

4. Team Dynamics

Clarify roles within a team, communicate them company-wide, and educate each person about when to pass the ball to the next team member. When people have well-defined roles, their job is easier and the results they create that much more effective. It’s as simple as that.

Highlight the specific responsibilities of each role: how it fits in with the roles of other team members as well as overall strategy. This keeps the marketing team on track and strongly aligns strategy with content accuracy and delivery.

5. Sidestep Redundant Content

Look for similar or redundant content before creating more, then rework it. Employee turnover exists. When people leave, it may be hard to track down where content has been scattered and at what stage of development it might be found. Using a collaborative technology (see above) can solve this challenge.

However, teams also need to do a content review at least once a quarter. This makes it easier to rework existing materials to improve them, cut out derelict content, and save time spent on recreating the same thing using different marketing buzzwords.

6. Balance Product and Customer

Offer a balance of product-centric content and customer-centric content. Successful brands know one thing above all else, customers want relatable content.

They also want to be educated about offerings and how a purchase will solve a problem for them. This requires a balance of content that generates interest, guiding them into the sales funnel, as well as the right mix of marketing buzzwords within content on social media or a website to keep them moving through to the next phase. 

7. Think Sales

When you drive a racecar, you can reach racecar speeds. When you drive a junker, you can only move within the limitations of its abilities. So, simplify and improve the sales process to make sales enablement as easy as possible.

Empower salespeople with tools and content to improve workflow, and make it simple to stay on one, clear brand message. Strive to make every stop along the buyer’s journey a potential sales point through content and the right mix of marketing buzzwords that help salespeople, well, sell. 

8. Metadata

Take note of how content is organized, including metadata like keywords. Easter egg hunts can be fun—until they become an everyday occurrence. Provide simple rules, standards, and nomenclature within a content management tool to guide and standardize content tracking essential for content creation.

This organizes and clarifies content guidelines, tracks essential SEO keywords and marketing buzzwords, and offers insights on buyer personas to make it easy for content creators to find requirements, while teams remain on message and aligned with marketing strategy. Content development teams also can stay on message and stay aligned with marketing strategy more easily.

9. Metrics for ROI

Create standards for determining content value and benchmarks for content ROI. A brand is in business to make money. Yet, it’s not always clear what leadership sees as a money-making opportunity. As easy as it is to say, “everything” is not an answer. Marketing teams need to understand what’s a priority for making revenue and what determines if ROI goals are being met.

Start by creating an ROI benchmark for each piece of content and tying it back to an overall marketing campaign and sales goal. Is a piece of content valuable because it generated a certain number of leads, sales, or clicks? Is each piece of content being tracked against these benchmarks to match up to sales goals? How long before content is retired or upgraded, and what factors determine that outcome?

Be Better with Buzzwords

We are long past the time when brands only need to rely on marketing buzzwords to grab eyeballs. Organizations need to improve collecting user data and leveraging it to build reasonable, fact-based sales goals and marketing outreach. But all of this is for naught if teams are not communicating clearly and or taking the time to produce useful purpose-driven content.

According to the 2016 Benchmark, Budgets and Trends, North America by Content Marketing Institute, “54% of participants said that team meetings help an organization to be more effective at content marketing.” So make it a priority to communicate. Help team members stay connected with each other and with the key contribution of their role. Build a successful infrastructure that allows content to do what it’s meant to do for educating customers and drawing relevant leads into the sales funnel, marketing buzzwords or no.

For more tips on ways to improve your marketing strategy, make sure to review our B2B Content Strategy and Operations Benchmark.

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