One of the questions that I get asked most often at a content marketing seminar or workshop is “how specific should I get with my content?” If I get this question, I know that the person asking the question is either trying to build a business case for getting more specific with their existing content marketing program, or is fighting a losing battle because their program is already too broad.
The answer in either case is the same. I always say, “as specific as you can possibly get and still scale it effectively.” In other words, if you can deliver great, relevant content down to the individual person, you should.
But, of course, you can’t. And we spend most of our time trying to balance the need to create compelling content at scale, and delivering the most relevant messages to our audiences.
But in B2B marketing this idea of developing specific content at an account level is gaining a lot of traction. Enter account based marketing. If you haven’t heard of account based marketing (ABM), it’s simply about focusing a marketing and sales effort on a targeted set of accounts, and then seeking to deliver specific, strategic campaigns to individuals within these accounts.
For example, you may decide that Company X is on your list for an ABM campaign. So, you develop an entire content-oriented campaign to deliver to different influential stakeholders within Company X. There will be different audiences, and different timing, and each audience will require specific follow up and, of course, content.
So – if we’re interested in getting into ABM, there are three ingredients that can help us prepare this dish. They are:
- Audience – Segmenting and targeting specific personas
- Automation – Creating and delivering individual messaging at scale
- Actions – Developing scoring frameworks to optimizing the timing of sales
Let’s explore each.
A healthy dash of audience segmentation
Knowing your audience is, of course, one of the major pieces of a smart content marketing strategy. Likewise, one of the keys to developing a smart ABM approach is to look at how you will build influence, over time, through different audiences within the organization you are targeting. So, the first step is to segment the different audiences into different persona groups. This may be something broad like “executives” vs. “managers”. Or, this might be something more functional such as “marketing” vs. “IT” professionals. Or, it might be even something like regional segments, or even different business groups.
Whatever the case may be, the goal here is to really understand how you will target and deliver value and content to this audience – and in what priority. You’ll want to understand things like:
- Who are the decision makers, and where their decision falls in the process.
- What are their attitudes toward what it is your company does, and how does it affect them.
- What will the follow-up be if we get a positive response and move them through the next step in the buying journey.
Start broad and work to become more granular over time. As you learn about these personas, you’ll be able to build in even more segmentation and perhaps even personalization at some point. The whole goal here is to inspire the kind of creative content that you can feed into your campaign. And that moves us into…
A heaping cup of automation
Marketing automation and message delivery will power your ABM efforts. The key to optimizing these campaigns over time will be in how you leverage the content consumption each and every time you deliver it to these audiences. So, because you’ve got these personas identified, you can leverage the data from your marketing database and deliver an automated delivery of content that meets the customized journey of each audience segment.
You are going to both be pushing emails into the organization, and hopefully pulling these audiences into the content you are creating (e.g. blog posts, webinars, white papers, infographics etc.). A marketing automation solution will help you to both scale this effort across multiple accounts that you’re targeting – and automate the individual messages that will be necessary within each account.
As a simple example of this, you might set simple automation rules where one targeted segment will see a call to action to a webinar, and others will receive a call to action to a white paper. Once anyone in the first group visits the webinar, they receive an email with a call to action to the white paper. Once anyone in the second group downloads the white paper, they are then encouraged (perhaps a week later to give them time to read the paper) to view the webinar. The marketing automation tool makes sure that all the rules are followed exactly and that no one gets conflicting messages.
A good marketing automation solution will also allow you to test and track the content consumption data from your campaigns to help you optimize and learn what is and isn’t working. It will also give much more insight for the sales teams who will be personally following up with these prospects at some point in the journey.
And that leads us to…
Add actions for spice
As campaigns run, you will want to begin to use scoring models to know when the sales teams should begin to personally follow up. Create rules with your technology to score based on behavior, timing and the context of which content was consumed and when. Timing is critical in ABM, because you are trying to take advantage of a “buzz” of activity around a topic that (hopefully) you are generating with your efforts. Sales and marketing alignment is critical in ABM and you’ve got to make sure that actions that you are tracking across both your marketing automation system, as well as your website, blog and other channels are helping to optimize exactly when an account has reached the point of getting personal follow-up from the sales group.
ABM fine dish for your marketing team
There is, of course, a lot more for you to explore about the details and nuances about ABM and how to create different kinds of campaigns. Remember, that’s the key. Each account may be different – and what worked in Account X, may not work at all with Account Y. This is why having a solid foundation in being able to target and segment audiences, automate them with a marketing automation tool, and create actions that score those opportunities accordingly is so important.
ABM is a big topic for sure. It really is the answer to the question I get all the time at those workshops. It’s truly about getting our content down to the individual level. But it might also just be the thing that takes your content marketing cooking from good to great.