When organizations are ready to jump on board the Account Based Marketing (ABM) bandwagon, they often quickly realize one major challenge: they don’t have the content needed to actually start the process. They may have done the work needed to pinpoint company targets and the stakeholders that are part of a major purchase. But, without materials to engage and nurture these stakeholders, they’re left without a good way to begin outreach.
Since no good ABM campaign can run without content, let’s dive into what it takes to develop a strong content strategy for ABM and the best content types to begin developing.
WHAT IS ACCOUNT BASED MARKETING (ABM)
As we’ve written about in the past, account based marketing is a strategic marketing approach that treats organizations as the core customer. It assumes that organizations have multiple stakeholders involved in a purchase decision and targets each stakeholder with personalized content to engage, educate and persuade them about a business’s products or services.
It’s a long-term activity built on the idea that fostering credibility and adding value to an organization before initiating a sales process goes a long way to sparking prospective customer interest and getting key stakeholders on board faster. Perhaps it’s not surprise that more than 70% of B2B companies are engaging in some time of ABM programs. When sales cycles are long and closing deals is challenging, activities like ABM go a long way to developing trust and confidence in a vendor.
ACCOUNT BASED MARKETING & PERSONAS
Before diving into content development, it’s critical to first know who the content is for. After all, closing key accounts means convincing a variety of individuals that you can solve their business’s challenges. Or, to use marketing jargon, you have to first figure out who your personas are.
Standard personas can span everyone from end users to their managers to possibly individuals in procurement or finance functions. The process of nailing down who your personas are and the challenges they face in tackling their day-to-day responsibilities can be addressed in a variety of ways. Usually it takes a mix of speaking with colleagues who have direct interactions with customers and prospects as well surveying or interviewing your existing customers to get a full picture of each persona.
ACCOUNT BASED MARKETING CONTENT STRATEGY
When it comes to the nature of the content itself—independent of who is going to receive it—you’ll want to think about it in three separate categories. These categories relate to the stages in which your prospects or personas are in.
When you’re reaching out to individuals that are just starting to understand that there is a problem they’re trying to solve, you’ll want to leverage “awareness content.” As this stage in their evaluation process, these individuals are at the top-of-the-funnel, meaning they are looking for information that will help educate them about the problem itself as well as begin understanding how to address the issue. This content is not about you! It’s about the issue that your product or service helps address.
There is no guarantee that after consuming this content your prospects will look to you to solve their challenges. But, by showcasing your leadership and subject-matter-expertise, you can help bring them down the funnel into the consideration stage.
If you know a prospect has determined they have a definite problem and they are actively looking for a solution, they’ve moved down the funnel and are ready for what’s called “consideration content.” At this stage they may not be looking for the exact type of solution you offer, but they sure are open to considering options.
For prospects in this level, you’ll want to generate content that helps them see why your solution is a great resource for solving their problems. And, it may be a good time to help individuals see if you aren’t a good fit for solving their needs.
Once your prospects are ready to actually make a purchase then they are at the bottom of the funnel and are ready for “decision content.” At this stage, they are ready to buy. But, they might not be ready to buy from you. Here, you’re developing content that makes sure your product or service is the one they choose.
ACCOUNT BASED MARKETING CONTENT TACTICS
Once you know which stage your personas are in, you’ll want to select content types that best match to that stage. Of course, what you put into that content will vary by what your business offers. But, what’s great about ABM is that the content format is universal. No matter what your business does, it’s likely that multiple content tactics listed out below will work for you.
Content Type: Awareness
Generally around 700 words, blog post are usually used to spark interest in prospects. By nature of their length, they almost never tackle a subject at any great depth. As a result, they are often leveraged to keep prospects abreast of general industry trends, announce events, or share information about new products or features that could be of interest.
Content Type: Awareness
High on images and low on copy, infographics are fun ways to engage prospective customers with interesting data and statistics. An infographic will (almost) never have enough information to educate someone about a particular category or product, which leaves them to be used as interesting diversions that help keep a product or service top-of-mind.
OFFLINE DIRECT MAIL
Content Type: Awareness
Most people might say snail mail is dead. In fact, it’s because companies have become so reliant on digital content that sharing something offline with a prospect can help catch their eye. This can take the form of something as small as a postcard or it could even be a white paper that you’ve previously created and printed out. The goal with direct mail is to get seen and to raise awareness for your category and product.
Content Type: Awareness & Consideration
Usually 2,000 words or more, white papers are a great format to introduce prospects to a general business challenge as well as high-level approaches for solving those challenges. By nature of being long-form written content, they can be used for broad education. Additionally, because they tend to be higher-level in nature, they are great resources when prospective end users evaluating your solution need collateral to share with individuals not as savvy about the topic.
Content Type: Consideration
One sheets are generally a one- or two-sided paper with general descriptions of a product, its most valuable features and benefits and often information on any hardware or software needed to use the product. They are product-at-a-glance documents making them ideal for prospects when they are ready to start exploring your product in further detail.
Content Type: Consideration & Decision
Case studies prove that your product or service can be used in a specific way, and that it offers tangible benefits, by sharing real world examples of the product in use with end customers. These are great ways to show someone evaluating your general industry as well as your product itself that it works and will have a positive ROI.
Content Type: Decision
Product documentation offers the nitty gritty details about how to get a product up and running, and how to use it to its fullest. This type of content helps users decide if a product is something they and their organization can reasonably spin up and use, making it best to offer once a sales conversation has begun.
TRIALS & DEMOS
Content Type: Decision
Offering free trials and demos is a time-tested way to let prospects see your product in action, with either you or them you at the wheel. Giving prospects a way to look under the hood and see how well a product works in their organization or environment is the best way to let someone kick the tires and make a decision around its efficacy for them.
ACCOUNT BASED MARKETING WORKFLOW EXECUTION
Let’s of course not forget that ABM is not a one-and-done type of marketing behavior. Quite the contrary! When doing ABM properly, it can often take several months before even seeing small levels of engagement from prospects with your clients. That’s why out of the gate it’s important to develop a workflow for developing and distributing your content. This forces you to think through the variety of content types that make sense for a particular life stage and gives you the foundations of a process for actually developing that content.
One thing to keep in mind is that you never know what will resonate with your different stakeholders. As a result, make sure that as you’re developing your content you include different content types. Some prospects may like white papers in the mail while others may prefer engaging with weekly blog posts. Having a mix of content types ensures you can reach all of them.