Technology has been wonderful for B2B marketers: It's given them the ability to hyper-target with a degree of accuracy never before possible. But no matter how accurate your targeting may be, driving sales still depends on the effectiveness of the marketing message you deliver.

All the technological bells and whistles in the world can't make up for a message that fails to resonate with its target on a personal and emotional level.

To successfully drive revenue in today's highly competitive B2B environment, marketers must find ways to tie their brand-building and demand generation campaigns together. Hyper-targeting and focused conversion efforts are a big part of the demand side, of course, but it's important to also incorporate elements of the emotional heartstring-tugging that characterizes most brand advertising.

Successful campaigns must be driven by your customers' emotions and unique challenges, not just by the product you are trying to sell them. That's the only way to break through the noise and confusion of a B2B marketplace that has become, to put it mildly, "cluttered."

ABM for the Win

Account-based marketing (ABM) gives B2B marketers the ability to hyper-target customers and prospects with highly personalized messaging—and thus break through the clutter. But there isn't a magic ABM switch, and the challenge is, How do you effectively personalize content at scale?

Customers are looking for customization and personalization based on their unique set of goals and challenges. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but customers do have one thing in common: They are all human. And at the most basic level, customers want to engage with B2B companies that understand their needs.

That bottom line—customers want customization and personalization—is something that traditional demand gen, persona-based marketing can't sufficiently provide.

Tapping Into Brand for the Emotional Element

So how do B2B marketers appeal to customers' needs, challenges, and goals at the buyer-specific level? They start by showing empathy and understanding.

The brand campaign's role in that conjoined effort is to inject an element of emotion into the mix by way of narrative: What is this person's challenge? Can I empathize with that challenge? Can I build a relationship with my target based on my understanding of what they need?

If your brand and demand marketing efforts are properly aligned, you should be able to tap into your brand campaign to strike the right emotional notes in the personalized messaging for your demand campaign.

Options for Identifying Needs

Personalization should be a defining characteristic of all B2B marketing messaging, whether you're targeting an entire organization, a group of decision-makers within that organization, or a specific buyer or other individual. Achieving that level of personalization requires a thorough understanding of each organization's unique needs at all levels. It cannot be built on the type of broad-based assumptions that underlie persona-based marketing.

Identifying those needs is an important first step, and there are several ways to go about it. Primary research, especially direct interviews with customers and prospects, can be highly informative if you have the time and budget for it. Another option is keyword research, which can provide insight into the goals and mindset of prospective customers.

One of the most valuable resources for needs identification available to B2B marketers is right at their fingertips: their counterparts on the sales side. Because salespeople and account reps are on the front lines, they often have firsthand knowledge and up-to-date insights on what their customers are talking about. Conversations with the sales team can help marketers spot trends and topics to use in their campaigns.

Marketing and Sales Alignment

Personalization of marketing efforts can only reach its full potential when there is true alignment between Sales and Marketing.

Experience has shown that such a collaboration is most effective when it is a top-down phenomenon, ideally driven from the C-suite. Sales and Marketing alignment is most successful when leadership positions the initiative as essential to winning accounts and driving revenue.

* * *

The ability to personalize marketing messaging at all levels of an organization has become even more important since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The B2B buying cycle is still complex and it often involves multiple stakeholders, but buying decisions are trending toward greater centralization in the C-suite. That means personalization efforts must take into account not only discrete goals and pain points around revenue, costs, and the like but also the overall goals of the business. If C-level executives don't feel that you understand implicitly what they are trying to accomplish, you won't be considered.

Hyper-targeting, personalization, and ABM are a winning strategy for such an environment.

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Marry Brand and Demand to Unleash the Full Power of Personalization in ABM

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image of Michelle Yancey

Michelle Yancey is group account director at Centerline Digital, where she is a champion of account-based marketing. She partners with Centerline's Fortune 500 clients to solve unique marketing challenges in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

LinkedIn: Michelle Yancey