How Account-Based Marketing is Giving Lead Gen Strategies a Makeover

Fasten your marketing seat belts. Last week, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, in collaboration with WM America, released a comprehensive year-end scorecard evaluating the effectiveness of B2B marketing in finding, winning, and growing major customer accounts – and the results are rather telling!

Most B2B marketers say they should be driving the customer-acquisition machine but a reported 64% say their lead gen and engagement strategy underperforms! That’s millions of dollars being wasted on misguided “spray and pray” campaigns. 

In today’s competitive data-driven environment, B2B marketers need to take a refresh of those underperforming practices and start anticipating and responding to changing customer needs and opportunities – and this is where account-based marketing (ABM) excels.

The CMO Council’s research revealed the top five skill sets contributing to improved ABM-driven business outcomes include:

  1. Better segmentation and precision targeting of buyers and influencers
  2. On-demand customer business intelligence and personal buyer insights
  3. Tighter integration of demand gen, channel, direct sales, and support teams
  4. Greater utilization of tools and data sources for richer prospect profiling
  5. Proactive and timely pre-sales follow-up and cultivation strategies

There’s a wealth of opportunity surrounding ABM. The potential to greatly improve marketing and sales alignment brings with it good ROI, account value, revenue, growth, and the ability to deliver exceptional experiences to clients.

But challenges still remain, with at least 40% struggling to find the right content to complement ABM goals and 41% find it difficult to identify the right targets.

So how can marketers get a good handle on effective ABM strategies? Step up content marketing and the power of PR of course! Read on for a refresh of how an issues-based content stack and targeted media placements can help influence key deals in a firing on all cylinders ABM campaign!

A successful ABM strategy will rely on data analysis to identify target accounts and the correct contacts to reach out to – and all information should be shared between marketing, sales, and PR to ensure activities are aligned. Influencer marketing and executive profiling may be a fairly new practice in the B2B space but together they have been effective methods for driving credible thought leadership, loyalty, and brand awareness and a key part of any ABM strategy.

1. ABM Content: Marketing & PR – a match made in B2B heaven

Although a strategy in its own right, ABM is not always best used alone – in fact, marketing and PR provide the perfect tonic. While its remit is generally much broader than ABM, inbound marketing and PR can be used very effectively to target prospects with relevant, and tailored content. It’s then over to ABM to use this content to move these prospects through the sales journey, with exceptional and personalized experiences.

At IBA, we’re firm believers that “content is king” and its essential partner neatly defined as “publishing is queen”! In the B2B space, high-quality and engaging content is key for attracting and retaining customers. In fact, 67% of B2B marketers state that content helps generate leads and demand, while another 63% claim it helps build loyalty with existing clients.

The mix of content is again important – a recent whitepaper demonstrating a product or service, a blog, thought leadership article, or social media post – together the mix reinforces the credibility of the content. The same message delivered from more than one source makes it more readily believed – it’s part of the IBA PR Best Practice bible.

2. Influencers? What influencers? Their role in B2B

In one of our recent blogs, we highlighted research that found a third of respondents claim that influencer marketing directly contributes to sales and revenue, and over half found it enhanced brand recognition, awareness, and lead gen.

PR-driven assets can be hugely influential in the B2B buying process and every piece of coverage in relevant, and credible publications by an industry thought leader can be used to reach target accounts. Remember, it’s all about placing content where you’re targeted accounts are going to see it!

But there’s more ways to leverage content beyond media placements. The next step is to encourage these thought leaders to promote these assets on social media. LinkedIn groups can be a great way to start – these are industry-specific and will ensure connections with people that have a genuine interest in that area. Not only can this help build authority in the industry, but it can be a great method for enhancing human-to-human engagement and ensuing trust.

Here, analyst and other key influencer relations also feed into the process – this can mean proactively pushing content to the analysts and consultants that guide large organizations making their purchasing decisions, or engaging with a practice to influence reports towards a specific client need that you are targeting with your ABM. But why stop at these decision makers?

Effective ABM strategies can be used to target a small pool of decision makers within a selection of target prospects. Think how effective it would be if you could draft thought-leadership content with messaging that relates directly to your target prospects pain points and then suggest how it needs to be addressed. LinkedIn posts and InMail campaigns can then be used to amplify this content directly to your target prospects. It’s a surefire way to get on their radar and demonstrate that you’re speaking their language!

3. We’re in this together: Keep sales and marketing aligned – and comms constant

Too often marketing and sales teams act as separate siloes, and this can have a damaging effect on the customers’ end goals. How can both teams work together to achieve sought-after targets if communication is at a loss? As with many strategies, bulldozing headfirst without effective research and communication between marketing, PR, or sales teams alike won’t get you anywhere – and it’s imperative organizations are targeting the correct accounts, with the correct information.

By its very nature, ABM brings marketing and sales teams together and helps build meaningful relationships, but it’s how teams keep activities aligned, that will ensure seamless buying experiences, and a smooth transition down the sales funnel. Content and targeting are just the beginning as sales and marketing activities from there on must coordinate – from how teams cultivate comms and outreach plans to how they monitor campaign success.  

There’s real value in a well-executed ABM plan – don’t miss out

Clearly there are many advantages to a well-oiled ABM strategy. The ripple effects of ABM can be felt by many stakeholders – marketing, PR, sales, and the client or prospect in question. It requires some “thinking outside the box” but as more marketers realize the benefits, the higher the risk for those yet to implement such strategies – so, don’t get left behind!

Georgia Harris is PR Lead Themes at IBA International.

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