5 Ways to Make ABM About Your Audience, Not Automation

This article was originally on abminaction.com.  

There’s no doubt that ABM is the most buzzed-about “trend” in marketing today. Despite the hype, ABM isn’t really all that new. Sure, ABM provides better tactics and technologies to reach your named accounts, but once you get to them, you still must meaningfully engage with the people inside those accounts.

Marketers can’t rest on their laurels just because they are “doing ABM” in some way, shape or form. Instead, marketers need to consider how to take ABM’s principles of demand generation at scale, and then apply personalization and engagement strategies to really connect to the important people within target accounts.

Here are five considerations for how to put your audience at the center of your ABM campaigns:

1) Have A High-Value Offer

At the core of ABM is empathy — you must truly understand your audience. Because no matter how you reach an account, you still need a high enough value offer that connects with the people inside it.

You must also consider the content and messages you’re sending in relation to who they are going to. Do you really think they will pay off? If you have truly empathized with people — have been able to get inside their heads and effectively market and appeal to them — the answer will be yes.

In practical terms, the output cannot be creating 100 different white papers for target accounts; clearly, that’s not scalable. But you can make dynamic content that can be adapted at an industry or use-case level that will address the main pain points of your audience.

Marketers should work with subject-matter experts within their organization to understand how to make content specific to a use case or industry. By creating content that speaks to the trends that are hot in a specific space or executive buyer role, marketers can ensure the content will speak to the target audience. This approach is both scalable and effective.

2) Choose Vocabulary Carefully

The slippery slope that results in getting personalization wrong can start with not choosing language carefully. In many cases, marketers may think they are being effective at personalizing content for their target audience, when really the language they are using makes them sound generic.

In addition, the way one company in a certain industry might talk about their buying funnel could take on a completely different vocabulary to a competitor. Marketing can stick out like a sore thumb if the language used in the content you send people is misaligned with how they talk about the topic.

Language matters, and the best step marketers can take in choosing the right vocabulary is to pick the brain of the sales people who speak regularly with those target companies and have them advise you on their internal lingo.

3) Personalize Interactivity

Another mistake marketers can fall victim to is swapping a target company’s logo out on a piece of content and considering it “personalized.” Taking the logo shortcut to ABM is a very slippery slope, and one that often screams, “I don’t know you at all,” especially when nothing else on the page feels personal.

Rather than warn prospects you’re faking it with a logo, you should welcome them with a personalized message through a dynamic chatbot or interactive online poll that starts a dialogue and then gets passed to a human to handle for a genuine conversation.

Beginning a customer’s journey with an earnest attempt to understand who they are and what they need is much better than telling them you have their company IP address in your database. Any marketer can do that with the right amount of technology spend — it’s the companies who start to put engagement on their buyers’ terms through personalized, dynamic interactions that differentiate.

4) Create Feedback Loops

Once you have a high-value offer and personalized language and interactivity, the next step is to create a feedback loop on the content you send as fuel to further personalize future interactions. A feedback loop allows marketing and sales to glean actionable insights around individuals, rather than just at the account level.

High-value content allows your audience to self-identify the best individual prospects within your target accounts. From there, it becomes important to look at how these people are reacting to specific aspects of your content to determine how to improve and personalize future pieces in a format designed just for them. For example, if they spent the most time on a part of your guide that will be discussed in an upcoming webinar, a logical next step is to invite them to the upcoming session.

Be open to how people choose to define themselves, i.e., by their industry or by their role. Optimize the feedback loop by peppering content with opportunities for self-identification, such as short surveys.

5) Incorporate Quality-Driven Metrics Into Scoring

Many marketers use only quantity-driven metrics in their scoring. When you put your audience at the center of your ABM campaigns, however, you prescribe to quality. So, why would you measure quantity?

It’s time to bring in new metrics. On a webinar, for example, it’s important not to look at the number of total attendees, but how many are on your named account list. For a product page, impressions and page views are less meaningful than depth of consumption and how qualified the people viewing the page are.

Marketers should look to replace outdated KPIs such as number of net new leads with KPIs around behavioral intelligence. Key behavioral intelligence metrics include the amount of time spent on content and the score of the feedback given (because if you have a high value and relevant offer that’s personalized, people should be engaging back with you).

Today, there are too many startups and worthy competitors that will address your audience’s pain points in the right way if you don’t. Savvy marketers can’t afford to use ABM for automation only; it’s time to make ABM all about the audience.

How ON24’s Bryn Powell Balances Personalization and Scale for ABM

It’s getting to be late September, the temperature’s dropping and the technology community is abuzz. We’re getting close to Salesforce’s annual conference, Dreamforce. There are sessions, panels and a small assembly of events and gatherings taking place in association with the convention and we’ll be at a few of them.

One such event, the B2B Champions Club, running from September 25th to the 27, offers attendees the opportunity to take a closer look at what a full-fledged customer view can do for marketing efforts. Our own Bryn Powell, Senior Marketing Manager of Global Programs at ON24, will speak at the gathering on Thursday, September 27. Her topic of choice? Account-based marketing and how to balance personalization with scale. It’s a topic that’s close to our hearts as members of the ABM Leadership Alliance.

We sat down with Bryn to talk about her session. What follows is a brief Q&A edited for clarity.


What will you be speaking on at the B2B Champions Club?


I’ll be speaking on a challenge I face personally in my role, which is how to balance personalization and scale when it comes to developing an ABM strategy.


What does that entail? What are we talking about when it comes to personalization at scale?


ABM is clearly a buzzword and I think all companies are trying to implement ABM strategies into their demand-gen mix. One of the challenges I found, as a marketer, is really being able to scale ABM. I think that’s a shared challenge for marketers.

One of the biggest decisions you have to make is how personalized do you make your content so that it’s still scalable. So it’s really finding that balancing act between how personalized you get with content while still having the resourcing and bandwidth to support programs.

In my session, I’ll be digging through some of my strategies as a marketer — particularly on what I’ve found and how I’ve been able to find a balance, even though it’s always a work in progress.

I’ll be sharing examples of how I’m finding that balance with my top accounts and my strategy there through the lens of our webcasting ABM strategy. I will be covering a few of my own case studies focusing on how I use webinars to actually provide that engagement and what I do to personalize that content to make relevant and high-value offers for our prospects and customers.


How does one scale from an individual, personalized level to a larger scale?


Our view, especially at ON24, is not only making it about the account but also the audience – to really get down to that granular level. At the point where you’re doing one-to-one ABM, that is not scalable, and that’s why you have to have a true understanding of your audience, not just the account. For one-to-one, you need to understand who you’re genuinely trying to resonate with.

From there, after one-to-one, I’ll go through how we’re slightly personalizing and making relevant content for key accounts and key users. We’ll find those aspects you can personalize verses what can be scalable. Lastly, we’ll take a look at the groups, or personas, that B2B marketers are targeting and break it down into subgroups either by industry, vertical, persona, use case — we’re looking at being able to speak to the audience and providing them with a high-value offer.

So, it’s really about finding that balance between what you need to customize completely versus what you’re able to group and bucket and create relevant content for the program at a more scalable rate.


Can you walk us through the basics of creating a personalize webcast or ABM program?


Yeah. So, there are a couple key things that go into my ABM strategy. You need to have that high-value offer, but to have that high-value offer you must truly understand your audience. So you need to know what’s going to resonate with them and — oftentimes this is the challenge — understanding which content will matter most to them.

So actually, you need to use your ABM strategies as well as a feedback loop to make sure that your content is resonating — that either the account you’re going after or the persona you’re going after is engaging with your content. You will also need to work with sales to get a deeper and closer look at the account. This is often, sometimes, overlooked in marketing. We can’t be as close necessarily to all of our prospect or customer accounts. So it really pays to leverage sales insights as well in this.

The other piece that’s important when looking at personalizing is understanding the vocabulary you use. It’s not just changing a logo or changing a company name but actually using their language in your content. If you are using account-specific marketing in that one-to-one, highly personalized program, you want to make sure you’re using the buzzwords and keywords that resonate with them, whether that be the key product launches they’re going after, the key metrics that they use. We have even tailored some of our messaging knowing our accounts buyer journey and how they classify their own marketing funnel.


What about connecting at the vertical level?


When you’re getting down to vertical level, it’s important to use the jargon that the industry resonates with. If you’re looking at a financial services company, they may not speak about prospects and customers. Instead, they may speak about potential clients and existing clients. It’s small things like this, I think, that make your audience more engaged with what you’re saying and be able to actually connect with your messaging.

I also think that it helps show that you are more credible in the space. I do attempt to find that balance in my marketing efforts with company jargon, account-based jargon but then also making sure that you’re speaking to the vocabulary of an industry or a subset of personas as well.

If you are using personas, such as product marketing versus customer marketing, there’s going to be different keywords that resonate with those folks and different KPIs that they’re looking for and ultimately you’re trying to help your customers or prospects achieve their business goals. So, really speaking to that from the upfront is key.


How important is it to, and how closely should you, work with sales for ABM efforts?


I work with sales extremely close. This is definitely key in developing your initial ABM targeting and understanding which accounts are a priority. It’s a balance between what sales wants provided with really actionable data from the get-go as well as continuously kind of checking in on that data. You need to make sure that the priority accounts are still aligned and that we are seeing results from a personalized approach to these accounts. But definitely leveraging the relationships that sales has with the customer accounts or prospect accounts is critical.


Last question. Are there any trends you’re seeing or anticipating in the ABM space?


I think for the last few years the focus of ABM has really been on tools and technologies to automate a lot of ABM. And I actually foresee a shift focusing back on the audience member and not necessarily the automation that’s in place.I think as folks really ramp up and understand personalized marketing more, we’re going to see a shift kind of away from a fully automated ABM program and back to a human focus.

In my eyes, I would say marketers have been focused on identifying who our ABM targets are and how to reach our named accounts. I think a lot of the trends in the ABM space have been focused on sort of that up-front of who should we be going after and how do we get in front of them.

What hasn’t been the focus thus far is the content and what messages you’re really reaching them with. And I actually foresee that being kind of the next step in the ABM journey. Putting the focus back on how are you actually interacting with these folks rather than just understanding who they are and driving them in. It’s now going to be about how you’re actually interacting. I also think there is going to be a shift on the individuals and less spray-and-pray of full accounts. So, really, taking ABM past just the account name and really to the targeted person in your persona.