One of the biggest mistakes marketers make overall is to think about marketing investments in the form of a campaign - a short-term effort, offering very little opportunity to test content or creative, to optimize, or to prove ROI.
Account-Based and Content Marketing Programs are similar in many ways. In our last article, we talked about how ABM needs content marketing to work.
ABM works best when it uses personalized content marketing destinations, targeted to specific accounts, and mapped to individual needs of the buyers, across an increasingly complex B2B buyer journey.
The bottom line: Account-Based and Content Marketing programs are not campaigns but long-term investments in growth.
ABM + Content Marketing Programs = ROI
To implement effective ABM programs, marketers need to take the long view. We need to remove the campaign mentality and think about ABM + Content Marketing programs as digital assets, that provide real value - value that grows over time.
Effective ABM programs are like retirement accounts. We invest in a small amount of content, mapped to our target accounts, consistently over time. The consistent investment produces a compounding rate of return.
In other words, campaigns will come and go, but a consistent focus on ABM and Content Marketing platforms will produce a higher ROI than traditional marketing.
4 Steps To Build Your Content-Driven Account-Based Marketing Program
1. Identify your top targeted accounts
The 80/20 rule applies to most things. And this is equally true in B2B marketing. 80% of your revenue is likely coming from 20% of your accounts.
Research shows that retaining customers is 5-25 times less expensive than acquiring new ones. So start with upsell and cross-sell opportunities for the accounts representing your top 20% of sales.
Identify which products they have and which solutions they are most likely to consider. And if you sell services to complement your products, don't forget to think about packaging the two to increase retention of existing revenue while opening the door to new product opportunities.
Next, use "look-alike modeling" to determine which of your prospect accounts are most likely to become new customers.
2. Map content to the buyer journey
This is where content marketing comes in.
Content marketing is nothing more than answering your customers most important questions.
Many brands under-estimate the importance of simple answers to even the most basic questions. The buyer journey doesn't start with your product.
Answer simple "what is [your solution category]" questions. Follow that by answering buyer questions following the journalist technique of "when, why, how, where, who, and how much?"
Once you identify their top questions, seek to consistently deliver the answers to those questions in all the formats we like to read and share.
Simply Google these questions to see what answers are already out there. Then you can identify the best way to consistently create content your audience wants to read and share on your own branded platform.
3. Use ABM as the tool to distribute your best content
You can create customized, personalized, and even interactive landing pages for your top targeted accounts.
Look to the targeting capabilities on LinkedIn sponsored updates, Facebook, or even Twitter profiles to serve personalized content experiences.
Align your ABM content to your email and event strategies. Personalize event promotion with top-of-funnel content. Nurture your ABM targets with your best-performing content through existing marketing automation platforms.
4. Measure Account-Based Marketing ROI
While page views and social shares can measure the effectiveness of your content with each targeted account, the real measure of success is how well it drives conversions, pipeline and sales.
Measure the actual sales revenue, pipeline volume, and conversion rates from inquiry to MQL (marketing qualified lead), SQL (sales qualified lead), SAL (sales accepted lead), and closed/won.
This will help you understand not just the performance of your ABM program, it will also define the ROI, as well as which stages of the buyer journey are working best, or which ones need better content, more personalization, or simply optimized delivery.
Comparing the results of ABM-targeted accounts vs. non-targeted accounts can help you report on how well you are performing in terms executives can understand: sales dollars.
Start Small and Realize It Takes Time
We love campaigns because of the short-term rush they can provide. But they are hardly ever effective at driving real ROI. If you're just getting started, make sure to explain to your team that effective Account-Based Marketing programs take time.
Set expectations by tying your ABM efforts to the typical sales process. If it takes months to move a new prospect through the buyer's journey, then give your program the time it needs to measure success through at least that same timeframe.
Start with a small number of targeted accounts. Refine your content and your overall program based on the results.
If you build your ABM program with the long term in mind, you'll be creating better content, helping your sales team close more deals, and deliver revenue to the bottom line.
Michael Brenner is the CEO of Marketing Insider Group, and co-author of The Content Formula, former Head of Strategy for NewsCred, and former VP of Content Marketing from SAP. Michael is recognized as a Top Business, Content, and Social Media Marketer.
Michael is a passionate evangelist for customer-centric marketing that drives real business results. He is also an accomplished Marketing Speaker, and a frequent contributor on leading publications like Forbes, The Economist, The Guardian, and Entrepreneur. @BrennerMichael