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At this very moment, your key accounts are researching various solutions and evaluating your products and services online—anonymously.

They are the self-directed B2B buyers of the new digital era.

Tech-savvy and tight-lipped about their personal information, they rarely volunteer contact details and prefer to engage with sales reps late in the buying cycle, when they have probably already decided on their preferred vendor.

Moreover, B2B buyers don't make decisions individually anymore. Rather, they are usually part of large buying groups of up to 30 people, which makes it difficult for sales teams to build consensus.

And it's not only your business they're researching. Online vendor content has exploded, and buying group members can now access a wealth of information about your competitors and their offerings. Once they start comparing specifications, features, and functions, you're too late to shape their thinking.

It can all lead to a customer breakdown that includes key accounts' being unaware of your new strategies, solutions, or product lines; the CEO brand story's going unheard; and customers' being confused.

All that, in turn, can lead to an internal marketing meltdown: looming budget cuts, Marketing's becoming tactical, and even Sales' taking over the marketing function.

Marketing's Responsibility in the Digital Buying Age

Most B2B organizations are still Sales-driven. Even in high-growth organizations, CFOs often have a rule of thumb to allocate only 20% of the total Sales and Marketing budget to Marketing.

That made sense when salespeople controlled 80% of the buyer journey. However, now that Sales has lost much of that control, marketing teams have a responsibility to step in with new digital account-based marketing (ABM) technologies.

Account-based marketing can help make the shift to digital selling.

Forrester, Gartner, and thousands of ABM practitioners agree that a digital account-based approach is now the most efficient and profitable B2B marketing strategy.

Using ABM, companies can...

  1. Align marketing and sales teams around high-priority accounts
  2. Engage large buying groups throughout the entire buying journey
  3. Alert sales teams with actionable insights

The approach results in higher Sales win rates, shorter sales cycles, and bigger deals.

Getting Started With Omnichannel Account-Based Marketing

For many B2B marketers, getting started with ABM feels complex and overwhelming.

Let's look at some common questions new ABM-ers ask.

How should we select our target accounts?

Account selection depends on whether your sales growth strategy is to win net new accounts or expand your current accounts.

For a "net new account" ABM strategy, get your sales and marketing teams together to identify and prioritize a list of target account candidates. IP-based account analytics can help prioritize your target account list. For example, you can score your key account list based on anonymous and known account activity on your website, advertising, and email marketing, and use that to prioritize accounts most likely to buy.

For an "account expansion" ABM strategy, use the 80/20 rule to focus on the top 20% of accounts that already generate 80% of profits. Then use the above intent scoring methodology to identify the low-hanging fruit.

What marketing channels work best?

A modern digital ABM program works best with an omnichannel approach, which includes the following channels:

  • IP display
  • Facebook and Instagram
  • Google
  • Website personalization
  • Email
  • LinkedIn

Each of those channels has its strengths and weaknesses and can drive significant target account engagement. However, the full power of ABM is realized when all the channels are orchestrated to work together at an account level, delivering a consistent account-based experience across all channels.

What messaging should we deliver, and when?

Winning over target account buyers means engaging them on the right channels, with the right message, at the right time. But what is "right" depends on the stage of the buying cycle.

I recommend breaking it down into three stages—delivering specific messaging, assets, and offers during each stage as part of a planned, sequential journey.

  • Stage 1: Awareness. First, generate general awareness of your brand and deliver your CEO message to key account buying group members. "Always on" account-based IP display advertising is a great place to start—directing your target accounts to your digital assets, such as your website, blog, and social pages, before they've even started their buying journey.

    Then introduce "challenger" messaging to highlight your target accounts' pain points. Get them to acknowledge and internalize a problem they didn't know they had. Here, account-based IP display advertising, email, and website personalization, as well as account-based ad retargeting on Facebook, Instagram, and Google, are effective.

    Monitor reach and engagement to be sure your target accounts are seeing and interacting with your message.

  • Stage 2: Consideration. Next, educate key accounts on how other companies have solved those same problems. Weave in the more expensive LinkedIn marketing, offering an informative asset such as a downloadable case study or a free webinar.

    Continue to monitor reach and engagement, as well as asset downloads, registrations, and meeting requests.

    Guide their journey as they research solutions. Offer a whitepaper, then use more targeted messaging to introduce your products and services via spec sheets, virtual showrooms, etc.

    Convince them it's time to have a conversation with your sales reps, and track the number of meetings set and opportunities opened.

  • Stage 3: Decision. Continue to deliver messaging across all channels, reminding key accounts of their problem and highlighting your company's differentiators, value, and expertise. You have guided your accounts through the buying cycle, and you'll begin to see more closed opportunities, bigger wins, and higher revenue growth.

    And remember that the work doesn't stop there. After sales, foster your relationships with key accounts through "always-on" account-based IP display ads and email. Offer surveys, blog posts, customer newsletters, new product launch news, and product upgrades.

Ultimately, ABM with omnichannel sequenced messaging is the best way to help your key accounts buy from you and reach them where they are consuming their content. But with omnichannel, many B2B marketers struggle to bring all their marketing data together at an account level. That's where having an ABM platform with account-based analytics is critical. Look for a system that can provide account-based website analytics and integrated marketing engagement from the major marketing and ad platforms.

Using an integrated omnichannel ABM platform, your sales and marketing teams can monitor surges in buying intent signals and obtain a competitive advantage in winning key account business.

What kind of expertise will we need?

Running a successful omnichannel ABM program requires a wide range of skills. You'll need everything from strategy, planning, creative, and copywriting to account-mapping, ad operations, email marketing operations, social marketing campaign management, and more.

Because there is so much involved across multiple channels, many B2B marketers choose to use a managed services provider (MSP) to complement their in-house teams. Consider selecting an MSP that has deep experience in your industry, global reach, and the expertise to apply best-practices at every stage of your ABM program.

* * *

With the right ABM strategy, technology, and team in place, you'll be well equipped to engage and grow revenue in your target accounts.

Ready? Now go and take over selling to those key accounts.

More Resources on Account-Based Marketing

Enterprise ABM: Five Common Pitfalls and Tactics to Avoid Them

How the Pandemic Has Affected Account-Based Marketing

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Account-Based Marketing (But Were Afraid to Ask): Samantha Stone on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

image of Nick Heys

Nick Heys is the founder and CEO of Jabmo, a leading provider of account-based marketing (ABM) solutions to the manufacturing and life sciences industries.

LinkedIn: Nick Heys