Marketing has a marketing problem. Ask most people who are NOT in marketing, what they think marketing is. They will answer with something that sounds like advertising or selling. (Not that there's anything wrong with advertising or selling!)
In college, I learned that marketing is a conversation. A two-way dialog between your company and your customers. The goal of marketing is to help your prospects get to know, like, and trust your firm enough to buy from you when the time is right, and they have a need.
And so with each new trend in marketing, we have to remember that effective marketing seeks to help customers. It starts with empathy that allows you to consider what your customers need. Not because being helpful merely feels good. But because it works!
Account-Based Marketing Is The Next Big Thing
Arguably one of the hottest trends in B2B Marketing is Account-Based Marketing. According to SiriusDecisions:
I love this definition because it talks about evolving past the traditional view of marketing as being just about promotion.
Account-based marketing is about more than just selling your features, benefits, pricing and unique value.
And while much of the conversation surrounding ABM is focused on the targeting, the technology, and the super-happy sales people who are closing deals left and right, ABM is just as dependent on a successful content marketing strategy as the rest of marketing.
Content Marketing + Account-Based Marketing
In the B2B space, decisions require careful consideration. Content marketing has evolved to get past the advertising and promotion we all avoid, and seeks to attract, engage, convert, and retain new buyers. Buyers you would have never reached with plain 'ole promotion and selling.
In larger businesses, there are many people and even large groups involved in the buying process. This adds time and complexity to the decisions buyers make, and the process they follow.
Like content marketing, ABM is a strategic approach to building relationships that deliver value to the business. Only with Account-based marketing, you are targeting all the decision-makers and influencers in a specific company vs. the interests of a broader audience.
Content Marketing + ABM requires content to educate, inspire, and persuade everyone involved, and at all their various stages of the buying journey. Late stage content so important to ABM needs to be targeted to the direct needs and challenges of the individual accounts. But the "answers" to those buyer questions will be the same.
The chief decision-maker and budget-holder might be "ready to buy" while his boss and colleagues might be entering the journey earlier in the process. This requires educational content, convincing "challenger" content, as well as deep insights into the problem your solution solves.
It's All About The Destination
The difference between just "content" and content marketing is the destination where your company focuses on delivering the expertise required to address your target audiences' challenges at each stage of your buyer's journey.
From this perspective, account-based marketing can serve as an extension of content marketing. Personalized and customized ABM microsites deliver and optimize the content that your target company needs to navigate their buyer journey, to get everyone on board, and to get them to reach a consensus faster.
Content marketing destinations provide the library of customer-focused insights from which targeted ABM experiences draw from. And like content marketing, ABM is about so much more than just selling. The majority of questions your target account needs answered are at the early and middle stages.
Effective content marketing provides the right content at each stage of the buyer journey.
Don't Forget About Retention
It costs much more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Research shows that increasing customer retention by just 5% can improve profits by 25% and even as much as 95%. The focus of Marketing overall and within ABM is often on closing new business with targeted accounts.
But the real value comes in maintaining strong customer relationships, cross-selling and up-selling new solutions as their needs change.
When you combine the merits of ABM + Content Marketing, you can focus on the overall relationship between your company and your target customers. And this can build profitable relationships that last.
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