As a marketer at a B2B startup, you're always looking for ways to generate more leads and facilitate sales. Account-based content marketing (ABM) is one strategy that's been gaining a lot of attention in recent years. And for good reason—it's been shown to be highly effective in engaging high-value accounts and converting them into customers. But what is ABM, and how can you use it effectively?
In this article, we'll take a deep dive into everything you need to know to master account-based content marketing.
- An introduction to account-based marketing (ABM)
- Why account-based content marketing can make a difference
- A look at some ABM basics
- How to create a comprehensive ABM plan
- Common account-based content marketing challenges
- ABM trends in 2023 and beyond
Ready? Let’s dive in!
What Is Account-Based Marketing?
Account-based content marketing (ABCM) is a personalized, targeted approach to content marketing, designed to resonate with specific high-value accounts or prospects. Sounds interesting, right? Let's dive into what makes ABCM so powerful.
In traditional content marketing, you create content that appeals to a buyer persona, hoping it reaches and engages your ideal prospects. However, with account-based content marketing, you flip the script by focusing your efforts on creating and delivering customized content that addresses the unique needs, challenges, and interests of specific target accounts.
- Identifying the key stakeholders in those accounts
- Understanding their specific pain points and challenges
- Developing personalized content and campaigns to engage them throughout the buyer's journey
ABM requires a solid understanding of your target accounts, their decision-making processes, and the challenges they're facing. This information can be gathered through research, conversations with existing customers, and tight collaboration between sales and marketing teams.
Why Account-Based Content Marketing Is Important for B2B Startups
You might be wondering, "Why should I invest time and resources into ABCM?" Well, here are a few reasons why it's worth considering:
- Better engagement
- Enhanced sales alignment
- Higher ROI
- Stronger positioning
Let’s dive into each one.
In the B2B world, decision-makers appreciate content that speaks directly to their needs. By tailoring your content to each target account, you show that you understand their pain points and can offer valuable solutions.
Customized content is more likely to capture the attention and interest of your target accounts, leading to higher engagement rates and stronger relationships.
Enhanced Sales Alignment
ABCM bridges the gap between marketing and sales teams, aligning their efforts toward a common goal – winning high-value accounts.
By focusing on high-value accounts, you're more likely to see a significant return on investment, as these accounts typically have larger deal sizes and higher lifetime value.
Traditional marketing tactics often cast a wide net, targeting a large and diverse audience in the hopes of capturing a few interested leads. However, this approach can be inefficient and lead to wasted resources. ABM centers on a select group of high-value accounts, tailoring your message to their specific needs and challenges, and nurturing those relationships over time. This approach can result in a higher ROI, shorter sales cycles, and more satisfied customers.
Another benefit of account-based content marketing is that it allows B2B startups to establish themselves as thought leaders in their industry. By creating content that speaks directly to the challenges and pain points of their target accounts, startups can position themselves as experts in their field and build trust with potential customers. This can lead to increased brand recognition, more inbound leads, and ultimately, more sales.
Creating a Comprehensive Content Marketing Plan for ABM
It may seem overwhelming at first. But you can create an effective ABM content marketing plan in just 7 steps:
- Start gathering and acknowledging intent data
- Define your target accounts
- Determine the key stakeholders in each account
- Develop buyer personas for each stakeholder
- Empower internal advocates
- Create content for each stage of the buyer's journey
- Coordinate with sales to ensure messaging is aligned
Leveraging Intent Data
It’s important to regularly review and analyze the performance of your content marketing plan (whether ABM-driven or not). To dive deeper into this issue, check out our guide to content KPIs.
Based on this data, you can make informed decisions about which types of content and messaging are resonating with your target accounts and adjust your strategy accordingly. Additionally, staying up-to-date on industry trends and changes in your target accounts' needs and pain points can help you stay ahead of the curve and continue to provide valuable content. But that’s not the only data you should keep an eye on.
Your ABM strategy will only go so far if you don’t have an ever-growing roster of target accounts. But, how can you achieve it? A great first step is gathering and applying intent data.
Intent data is information about user behavior that could indicate that they’re interested in a solution.
This data can help you to:
- Detect the types of content that high-intent accounts gravitate towards
- Directly address target accounts when they’re most likely to convert
- Prioritize high-intent accounts
You can start leveraging intent data by:
- Installing a visitor tracking tool such as Clearbit
- “Crossing” your marketing and sales data to detect lead behavior patterns
Identifying and Engaging with High-Value Accounts
To start an ABM campaign, you must first identify your high-value accounts. These are the accounts that will have the biggest impact on your bottom line and may include companies with:
- A large budget
- High strategic value
- Long-term relationship potential
It’s worth noting that these companies should:
- Strongly feel the pain point you’re addressing
- Have the tech and in-house expertise to be qualified buyers
If you don’t already have an ideal customer profile, this may be the time to set one.
Engaging with high-value accounts involves building relationships and providing value over time. This can be done through a variety of channels, including email marketing, social media, event marketing, and personalized content.
One effective way to engage with high-value accounts is through account-based advertising. This involves creating targeted ads that are specifically tailored to the needs and interests of the account, and delivering them through various channels such as LinkedIn, Google Ads, or Facebook.
By using account-based advertising, you can increase the visibility of your brand and products to the right people, at the right time, and in the right context. This may not be enough to grant a conversion, but it can be a good complement to your organic content efforts.
Developing Customized Content for Target Accounts
Personalization is a key component of ABM. To effectively engage with high-value accounts, you need to tailor your content and messaging to their specific needs and pain points. This requires a deep understanding of both the account and the stakeholders involved.
Customized content can include personalized emails, blog posts, white papers, case studies, and more. Whatever the format, the content should resonate with the target account and help them solve their specific challenges.
One effective way to develop customized content is to conduct research on the target account and its industry. This can include analyzing industry trends, researching the account's competitors, and understanding the challenges that the account is facing. By doing this research, you can create content that speaks directly to the account's pain points and offers solutions that are relevant to their industry.
Another important aspect of developing customized content is to involve the sales team in the process. Sales reps can provide valuable insights into the account's needs and preferences, as well as feedback on the effectiveness of the content. By working closely with the sales team, you can ensure that the content is aligned with the account's goals and is tailored to their specific needs.
Empowering Internal Advocates
ACM makes sense because B2B buying decisions are usually collective processes. On average, a B2B sales decision involves 7 team members. This is almost always the case when a tool or service is particularly expensive or requires a long-term commitment. The higher the risk, the more stakeholders will have to be aligned.
Within those decision-making groups, there will be stakeholders who advocate for your solution. They may take on this role because:
- They agree with your vision and find that your product/service may be just what they’re looking for
- They’re the ones who feel the pain the most (for instance, a graphic designer advocating for a new visual asset management solution)
- They’re especially qualified to assess solutions and they find potential in your product/service
If it were for these stakeholders, the deal would be closed today. But they need to convince the rest of their team. One of the key goals of your account-based content strategy should be to empower these advocates with the right tools to get the buy-in they need. When these stakeholders advocate for your solution, they’re advocating for themselves. So, partner up with them, get to the bottom of their needs, and help them address frictions.
Leveraging Personalization and Segmentation in Content Marketing
Personalization and segmentation are essential for ABM. By segmenting your target accounts by industry, persona, or buying stage, you can create content that is highly relevant to their specific needs and interests.
Personalization can also be used to tailor messaging to individual stakeholders within an account. By understanding their specific pain points and challenges, you can provide content that speaks directly to their needs.
Another benefit of personalization and segmentation in content marketing is the ability to track and measure the effectiveness of your campaigns. By analyzing the engagement rates and conversion rates of your personalized content, you can gain insights into what works and what doesn't, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Furthermore, personalization and segmentation can help you build stronger relationships with your target accounts. By providing content that is tailored to their specific needs and interests, you can demonstrate that you understand their business and are invested in their success. This can lead to increased trust and loyalty. And ultimately, to more business opportunities.
Measuring the Success of Your Account-Based Content Marketing Strategy
Measuring the success of your ABM strategy is critical to understanding what's working and what's not. Key metrics to track include:
- Engagement rates
- Lead-to-opportunity conversion rates
- Revenue won
By analyzing these metrics over time, you can gain insights into the effectiveness of your content and adjust your strategy as needed.
Another important metric to consider when measuring the success of your ABM strategy is the number of qualified leads you generate. This metric can help you determine if your content is resonating with your target accounts and if your sales team is effectively following up on those leads.
In addition to tracking metrics, it's important to regularly review and update your buyer personas. As your target accounts and industries evolve, so should your understanding of their pain points, challenges, and goals. This will help ensure that your content remains relevant and effective in driving engagement and conversions.
Overcoming Common Challenges in Account-Based Content Marketing
ABM is not without its challenges. Some common hurdles include:
- Difficulties in identifying the right accounts to target
- Measuring ROI
- Aligning sales and marketing efforts
- Creating personalized content
- Managing the sales cycle
We’ve already covered the first two challenges in the previous section. So, let’s dive into the latter three.
How to Align Sales and Marketing Efforts for Successful ABM
A key component of successful ABM is collaboration between sales and marketing teams. By aligning these efforts and working together to identify and engage with high-value accounts, you can create a more efficient and effective ABM strategy.
Effective communication and ongoing collaboration are critical to success, as is a shared understanding of each team's roles and responsibilities.
Another important factor in aligning sales and marketing efforts for successful ABM is the use of data and analytics. By leveraging data to identify target accounts and track engagement, both teams can make informed decisions and adjust their strategies accordingly. This also allows for more personalized and relevant messaging to be delivered to prospects, increasing the likelihood of conversion.
Creating Personalized Content for ABM
Another challenge in ABM is content creation itself. Creating personalized material for each target account requires a deep understanding of the account's pain points, goals, and preferences. However, it’s possible to gather insights and create tailored content that resonates with each account. You just need the right tools, and to dilate your time preference.
ABM Takes Time
ABM requires a longer sales cycle compared to traditional marketing. It takes time to build relationships with target accounts and nurture them through the funnel. To address this challenge, marketers can create a content strategy that includes different types of content for each stage of the buyer's journey, from awareness to decision-making.
Future Trends in ABM and the Role of Content Marketing
The future of ABM is bright, with continued growth predicted in the coming years. According to Terminus’ 2020 State of ABM report:
- ABM adoption has significantly increased after the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 90% of B2B brands currently having an ABM strategy in place.
- During marketing budget reductions, ABM efforts are resilient, keeping their current budget or even benefitting from an increase in budget allocation.
Key trends include an increased focus on personalization, enhanced use of data and AI, and closer alignment between sales and marketing teams. As content marketing continues to play a key role in ABM, it's important to remain committed to personalization, relevance, and ongoing optimization.
If you want to future-proof your ABM efforts, explore:
- Better customization
- Automated content creation and personalization
- Personalized video
Marketers and salespeople have never had so much access to useful prospect data. Work to prevent information silos and empower your marketing and sales teams to profit from a rich and multidimensional database. That way, you’ll be able to personalize beyond the obvious.
Automated Content Creation & Personalization
It’s perfectly possible to automatically create content according to the account's specific needs. For instance, you could set up an automated workflow that sends a personalized email with highly curated content, when a target account takes a certain account.
This can empower your team to develop hyper-personalized content experiences, at scale, effortlessly.
B2B video marketing works. And in 2023, you can use AI and workflow automation tools to create personalized video content for your target accounts. Genuine personalization (i.e.: Recording a short video answering precise questions) is still the best way to go. But, during early stages of an engagement, the type of personalization that you can automate goes a long way.
Your Account-Based Content Marketing Partner
ABM can be an effective strategy for B2B startups looking to target high-value accounts and shorten sales cycles. To master account-based content marketing, it's important to understand the basics of ABM, develop a comprehensive content marketing plan, identify and engage with high-value accounts, and leverage personalization and segmentation. Measuring success, overcoming challenges, and aligning sales and marketing efforts are also critical components of a successful ABM strategy.
By following best practices, leveraging technology, and remaining committed to ongoing optimization, B2B startups can successfully master account-based content marketing and achieve their growth goals.
Looking for the right content marketing agency for your ABM efforts? At Postdigitalist, we help some of the most ambitious B2B startups to grow through conversion-oriented content & design. Book a free demo or discover our versatile content packages.