Account-based marketing (ABM) not only continues to serve as a buzzword among modern marketers, but it has also proven to be an extremely effective strategy across a few different areas in marketing, such as improving lead quality, increasing funnel velocity, and improving the effectiveness of targeted outreach.
In case you were wondering, ABM is an emerging approach to marketing that’s based on identifying qualified companies that fit an organization’s ideal customer profile (ICP) to build a personalized relationship through highly-targeted content delivered at the right time. This approach can even be taken a step further by identifying a select buyers group within that company to target with custom content, no matter where they are in their buyer’s journey.
Historically, many marketing teams’ outreach has focused on casting as wide a net as possible. This includes launching marketing campaigns and initiatives with the goal of pulling back in as many leads as possible.
A wide net is problematic for a number of reasons in today’s audience-centric world. Not only does this approach leave the sales team with a large number of low-quality leads to sift through, but there’s a high chance these leads won’t amount to anything because they’ve been grouped into a buyer’s journey that isn’t relevant to them.
This does more harm than good in some cases because, from the customer’s perspective, it can feel like you’re being force-fed something, and it shows that the organization doesn’t know its customer base well enough.
Unlike the wide-net approach, ABM uses a spear approach to capture high-quality leads at a lower quantity with the expectation of greater returns and higher conversion rates.
How to Fit Targeted Outreach into Your ABM Strategy
While targeted outreach and ABM go hand in hand in many ways, neither of these strategies will take you very far if you don’t have the basics down.
First and foremost, other than delivering value through a great product, marketing organizations must understand that content is the heart of the customer journey.
Focusing on a great website where prospects can access great content is crucial fuel for sales teams to work with as prospects come close to entering a sales cycle. Once marketing teams have these basics down, they’re ready to tackle some of the more detailed approaches to targeted outreach and ABM.
1. Identify Who You Want to Talk to and Determine Their Needs
As I mentioned earlier, the first step to effectively executing targeted outreach is to establish your organization’s ICP so you have an idea of what a high-quality lead looks like before you reach out.
Organizations can segment prospects based on the many buckets or contexts they live in. Each bucket can be broken down by industry, product line, job function, region, or any other attribute that might separate one organization from another.
By breaking down the contexts your customers live in, content marketing teams can tailor campaigns and individual assets to these specific groups.
Additionally, the more you know about a prospect’s business, the more insight and custom messaging your sales and marketing teams can provide to them.
2. Understand Their Content Journey
A crucial aspect of the customer journey is delivering the right content to the right prospect at the right time. Marketers must be able to create content that maps to the contexts in which their customers live.
The more you know about your customer and what stage they’re at in their buyer’s journey, the more targeted and relevant your content will be in their eyes—especially in B2B sales where sales cycles are typically much longer and more complex.
This means that both marketing and sales must be more prescriptive in the content they distribute to their prospects. For example, an engineer working for a large manufacturing company that’s just starting to educate him or herself around a particular solution will want access to much different content than a data analyst with a big tech company who has been researching solutions for months.
As marketers and salespeople, it’s our job to not only understand how to segment our customers from one another but also to identify where they are in their buyer’s journey so we can hit them with relevant content that will squeeze them down the funnel towards a sale.
3. Why Tech Is Crucial
But how do we know when someone is still in the education phase versus on the brink of picking up the phone to contact sales? Should we leave it to our best guess? The short answer is, no.
There’s a range of software on the market that can tell marketers the level of engagement specific prospects might have—if they interacted with a particular asset, campaign, or a landing page on the website.
For example, marketing automation tools like Marketo, Eloqua, and Pardot are great solutions for tracking campaign results and gathering new leads. Similarly, ABM software like Engagio, Triblio, and 6Sense are tools that help organizations segment their audience as well as see who within a target account is engaging with what assets or resources, tracking their engagement throughout the entire buyer’s journey.
4. Code of Ethics
While targeted outreach can be extremely effective when done correctly, there’s still a fine line between being helpful and downright annoying.
A rule of thumb is that every time you reach out to a lead—especially when they’re on the colder side—it’s important to deliver value. That could mean sending over a helpful eBook, report, or piece of collateral depending on where that lead is in their buyer’s journey.
For example, engagement that a salesperson could interpret as a buying signal might only have been pure interest from the lead’s perspective. It’s important to proceed with caution when reaching out to these lukewarm leads, and whenever you ask for something, make sure you give something back in return.
Unlike these borderline cases, every organization should have some content available that lets marketing and sales know when someone is ready to buy. This could be as simple as a contact sales message, requesting a demo of their product, or visiting a pricing page on the website.
That’s why it’s important to have compelling content at every stage throughout the buyer’s journey, so no matter where your prospect is, you can still deliver value.