How to make a blended ABM approach a reality
Here are some practical tips to help marketers confidently transition to the right blended ABM strategy.
Note: This piece was co-authored with Kathy Macchi, VP of Consulting at Inverta.
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the three common approaches to account-based marketing (ABM) — one-to-one, one-to-few and one-to-many — and how they are used to engage and convert your most strategic accounts. Then in Part 2, we argued the case for not applying just one ABM approach but using a blended approach to let the magic really happen.
Many questions we receive from marketers looking to build or grow an ABM program in their business are around how they can get to blended ABM in reality.
In this article, we’ll cover three common situations that marketers find themselves in with the state of ABM programs in their organizations. We’ll provide some practical guidance for how to confidently transition from each of these situations to the right blended ABM strategy.
Situation #1: You’ve been doing one-to-one ABM and your company wants more
No doubt one-to-one ABM has been working great for the handful of key accounts you have the resources to target in this way, because you’re really able to spend time tailoring campaigns and communications to them. Other people within your organization also will have recognized that this way of doing ABM has brought in results. So, in the organization’s eyes the natural next step is to build upon this approach and do “one-to-one at scale.” Right? Well actually, wrong…
Let’s talk about why, in this situation, combining one-to-one and one-to-few would be a more effective approach than combining one-to-one with one-to-many.
First, conducting personalization at scale is not just a case of adding more marketers to support the program; you will need to bring technology such as an AI-based ABM personalization tool to the forefront. Even then, it’s a huge leap to go from very tailored messaging at the one-to-one level and replicate that overnight for hundreds of accounts.
An easier approach is to transition to one-to-few because you’re essentially taking the research-based principles of one-to-one and applying them to larger groups of accounts. This ABM practice typically brings together clusters of five to 15 accounts with similar business issues, often in the same industry.
Transitioning to one-to-few, marketers can more easily come up with messaging that will work across a group of target accounts in a same industry or with a similar business pain point in a way that still feels personalized. We’ll bet you can leverage existing flagship pieces of content and customize sections to clearly address a business challenge. Marketing can then package the customized content for sales – from slide decks and notes to an executive summary – so sales can use it to support in-person conversations with customers and prospects in a way that tells those stakeholders “I have understood your pain points and how to overcome them.”
Situation #2: You started with one-to-many ABM but want to target the best of the best
One-to-many emphasizes personalization at scale. This approach typically addresses a strategically curated target account list of several hundred or more named accounts and, as we briefly touched on above, can only be achieved with the right technology. Adopting a volume play will have helped your organization to gain touchpoints with a large number of companies that couldn’t have all been reached through a one-to-one or one-to-few approach.
You may question, however, if those touchpoints could be made more valuable for your company’s most critical target accounts. The answer is yes, through a blend of your one-to-many program and one-to-few.
To optimize ABM for key accounts, a one-to-few approach requires a dedicated, senior-level marketer who works in full partnership with the account teams to create highly customized marketing programs for account clusters – either a small group in the same industry or with the same professional challenge to address.
The target list is the foundation for success. Naturally, some of your company’s key accounts will surface based on pure top-line revenue metrics. Either account teams come under pressure to explore untapped opportunities and develop business in new areas, or if wallet share or sales are slowing you will need to shore up your approach and resources to ensure you keep or grow your footprint. Other accounts may rise to the top because losing them would hurt your brand or competitive pressure is forcing you to put up greater defenses. Ultimately, it’s imperative to understand your business objectives in order to shape, and continue to evolve, your target account list with sales.
Additionally, consider new targets at your key accounts. It used to be that sales just sold into IT but now the person with the strongest buying potential at an account might be found elsewhere within the business.
Account teams should be enlisted to help you to get to know these accounts well. Then, look to the principles discussed in the section above, around content personalization, to ensure you’re able to deliver more highly customized campaigns than through your previous one-to-many approach.
Situation #3: You haven’t introduced ABM into your organization yet and want to get it right first time
Congratulations! Over 96 percent of B2B marketers leveraging ABM report a positive impact on marketing’s success. So, what’s the right ABM blend for you?
Many people start with a one-to-few or one-to-many program. We’d encourage you to consider your company’s sales model and business objectives as well as what resources you have to drive each ABM approach to success. For example, a one-to-few approach requires more marketing personnel resources; therefore, if you’re questioning how you can staff that, then one-to-many could be better to begin.
Wrapping it up
From the three situations we’ve touched upon, there’s a clear common thread – every ABM program reaches a point where a mix of practices becomes necessary to achieve the right balance of breadth and depth. With our guidance, we hope you’ll have the confidence and know-how to determine and implement the right blended ABM approach for your business.