We all want to be famous for our work, right? Get thousands of likes on every post. Have millions attend your webinars. Pick up awards for world-changing marketing. But, at the end of the day, if your activity is making you famous, but not affecting business results, something is going wrong.
Most business decisions are made by one or a few key individuals in a company. So rather than marketing for reach, what happens when we flip the narrative and focus on the individuals?
If you don't have time to read right now, why not listen instead…
Account-based marketing, or ABM, recognises that a few key contacts are going to be those that make the difference between a yes, and a no when it comes to working together.
So why then do we so often focus on the masses? Many marketers focus on vanity metrics such as likes and comments on a post, and whilst this is a good way to drive awareness for your brand, is it driving revenue? And are your efforts actually getting your brand in front of the people you want to buy from you?
This is where ABM comes in. An ABM strategy doesn’t bother with hitting the big numbers. It focuses on creating something far more meaningful: a proper relationship.
Does it really work or is it just creepy?
There’s a fine line between being hyper-personalised and relevant and just being plain creepy. And it all comes down to knowing who you’re reaching out to and what they’ll want to get out of it.
One of the main goals associated with the physical element of ABM is to provide something so unique that the person tells others about it and shares it across social to spark conversations. As we learnt when we discussed the power of trust, people will have more faith in your brand when social proof demonstrates that they should.
So what will get you those all-important social shares?
One thing we’ve learnt is to get personal, but not too personal. Whilst it’s great to do your research and find out what drives and interests the particular person you are targeting, if you send them something related to a very personal hobby that has little relevance to your work and what you can offer, your message might get lost. And you might come across creepy.
There is a better way though. Some of the best examples we’ve seen come as occasion presents. Specific occasions, such as Christmas, give you the perfect excuse and context to send something without coming across as creepy.
Another angle we’ve seen work well is handwritten notes. Whether it’s a card or an event invite, it demonstrates your effort and thought and implies that this is individual and hasn’t gone out to the masses.
This will grab someone’s attention in the digital world we live in. As marketers, much of what we do these days is digital. And the same is true across many modern industries. This is good when it comes to the physical aspect of ABM as it provides a rare, real human touchpoint. And that leads to a feeling you just don’t get when you receive an email or a social ad.
HubSpot’s ABM software helps you deepen your relationships and differentiate your value with sales and marketing alignment.
Here at Six & Flow, we have several different approaches to ABM:
- ABM light - This approach is more of a one to many strategy. It works by being a better targeted inbound marketing process. We build out personas of the decision-makers that we want to target and then we go after groups of people or specific roles.
- One to few - This approach is reduced down to one to few. Here we focus on target accounts within industries and focus our research around those businesses.
- One to one - True ABM is one to one interaction. Here we effectively create a campaign for an individual. This is where the line between targeted and creepy comes in. You need to figure out who it is that you’re trying to sell to and build out a persona. Research what drives them, what engages them and then you can inform sales on how to sell to them. With one to one ABM, you also need to consider the other decision-makers. It’s very rare that one person will make the entire decision without consulting other members of their team so you need to ensure you build elements of the campaign for those people as well to make everyone involved aware of who you are and why they should buy from you.
Once you’ve decided on your approach, you need to look at what channels you’re going to use. This consideration runs across physical, digital and events and once you’ve made your decision, it’s time to get creative! This especially applies to the physical aspect. You need to make it unique and relevant, no one wants to receive a pen or a desk calendar. It needs to be reflective and useful for that specific person or individual.
Start with digital and use targeted ads. Nurture people so they have seen your brand before any contact is made, then outreach from sales, send your direct mail or launch your email campaign. Take them through a journey where they are aware of your brand and are considering it before sales reach out. Your ABM strategy gives sales a reason to reach out by asking if they received your gift, for example.
Branding in ABM
A big part of ABM is brand play. You want your brand to get attention, for more people to become aware of your brand within your space and for people to share your efforts across social media and with friends and colleagues. So should you brand everything you send out?
The answer depends on your industry and on what you’re sending. As a rule of thumb, if you’re working on a one to many or a one to few ABM campaign and are sending out something trivial, humorous or specifically useful in your industry then put your logo on it. This way you’ll get the credit when it’s shared or used.
But if your focus is one to one this might not be the best way to go. Let’s say you’ve done your research and your target decision-maker is big into trainers, you might come up with a creative and insightful campaign that includes gifting them a special pair. And that’s great, but they’re never going to wear trainers with your logo plastered all over them.
What can go wrong?
As with all best laid plans, there’s always something that could go wrong. In ABM you can do everything right from the marketing side; you can create an insightful campaign that grabs the attention of your target accounts and provides them with a unique journey leading to them wanting to speak to you. But then what? If sales don’t reach out or engage in a way that’s aligned to the campaign you’ve built, it won’t work. We’ve learnt this the hard way.
You need to make sure your marketing and sales team are aligned and everything else across your content and organisation is consistent before you start with ABM. Otherwise, all your hard work will be lost.
Can it work in 2020?
So I’m sure after getting this far you can’t wait to get started with ABM. But hang on, it’s 2020, does the current global situation affect how you do ABM?
Of course it does. But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. As marketers, we need to adapt and look for new ways to create a notable experience as human touchpoints aren’t always possible right now. But there are other ways you can get in front of your target audience. Use digital to nurture them and create new ways to engage.
The physical element is more difficult. With many people working from home it’s harder to find addresses to send direct mails and pushes you towards the creepy line if you do find their address.
Having said that, people want to feel special now more than ever. Personalisation is becoming increasingly important as people try to stay connected. So don’t give up on ABM, it could work better now than ever before. And remember, those target accounts we’ve spoke so much about are just human beings. If you really want to send them something physical, reach out and say “I think you’d enjoy this book - what’s your address?”. Chances are they’ll give it you, who doesn’t like getting presents?