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Digital Marketing July 25, 2018

Automated Account-Based Marketing: The Holy Grail for B2B Marketers?

Dept Agency - B2B marketing

If you are a B2B marketer, you know that your toolset is not as big as your colleagues who target consumers. When targeting consumers there are many channels and platforms that you can use to reach your audience. But for B2B marketers this is not the case, most companies still rely on events and traditional sales to expand their client base and generate leads. However, times have changed and now your company’s approach isn’t generating enough leads to realise the growth that is expected. You’re asked to come up with a plan to turn the tide and generate more leads. In this case, Account-Based Marketing Automation can be a real lifesaver.

There are new, smart approaches and marketing models available to help you set up a strategy that creates a clear plan for lead generation, but also improves the alignment between sales and marketing. After all, that alignment is necessary to improve the synergy between content input (marketing) and lead generation (sales) output.

These helpful approaches concern content mapping, marketing automation and account-based marketing, which have proven to be effective. Using them however, requires knowledge and technical know-how. Combining these three results in a complete B2B marketing strategy that gives structure, insights and a great collaboration with sales. It’s called Automated Account-Based Marketing (AABM).

The AaBM triangle

Content marketing, marketing automation and account-based marketing complement each other so well that they cover every aspect of an effective B2B strategy. When implemented correctly AABM will result in:

  • Clearly defined target audiences
  • A clear content strategy with relevant content in all phases of the customer journey
  • Better leads through an effective lead qualification process
  • Useful insights on content, leads and media spent for constant optimisation
  • Fully automated email marketing
  • Collaboration with sales based on data (no more ‘gut’ feelings)
  • Cost reduction and more revenue
Dept - ABM Triangle
Dept - classic sales and marketing alignment
Dept - New sales and marketing alignment

Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

This strategy is quite simple. Instead of marketing targeting an industry, they target specific companies. A good collaboration with sales is key though. Let sales make a list of the top 100 to 200 accounts they wish to convert. After this list is compiled, it’s important to think about who is involved in the procurement process. This is where Marketing and Sales need to identify the decision-making unit (DMU) and create ‘personas’. Usually these consist of a user, decision maker and influencers. Think about what their role is and what kind of person this is. LinkedIn is the ideal social platform to identify these personas. You can create audiences based on the list you made with sales and further define them by adding job titles, functions, seniority in LinkedIn Campaign Manager.

Content Mapping

So, you’ve set up your audiences and now it’s time to think about the different phases of the customer journey and what content to use. Content mapping is all about understanding what content is needed and when and where to publish it. Stop thinking about your company and services, and start thinking about the companies and personas you want to target. What do they need? How can you make their life easier? A shift in mindset is essential if you want to get their attention. When setting up campaigns you have to understand what buyer phase a prospect is in to determine what content and message suits them best. This will result in relevant messaging and content that attracts prospects. The goal is to make sure the right person downloads your white paper, article or use case. If you want to produce content constantly it’s important to onboard the people that are going to create it.

Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation involves delivering a relevant message to the right person at the perfect time. A very important aspect of Marketing Automation is lead nurturing. This is an automated process with the goal to transform a lead into a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). Once a prospect downloads your whitepaper it’s automatically migrated to your Marketing Automation platform (Pardot, SharpSpring) where it will be guided through an automated email flow with content (users cases, infographics, articles, invites). The awesome thing about this is that you can track the engagement with the content. You can see if they open the email, visit the website or watch a video. We call this engagement ‘tracking’ or ‘lead scoring’. This will give you valuable insights to determine the quality of the content and the lead. Try to learn more about your prospect by using automated forms landing pages. You want to know their position in the company, to make sure you transfer a quality lead to Sales. With this information you have the data on which you can base your decisions and start the process of constantly optimising your campaigns.

You have to start somewhere

To start with AABM the following points are essential:

  • Automation Software (Pardot & SharpSpring work well for B2B)
  • Prospect account list from sales
  • Great content! (and people that produce it)
  • Time, focus and patience
  • Budget (automation tool, media-budget)

Start your AABM with finding the right automation. There are quite a lot of tools out there and that’s why it’s recommended to work with an implementation partner, who has the right knowledge to pick the right software. After all, you want to avoid having to find out you chose the wrong tool in the middle of the set-up phase. When your automation tool is all set up, it’s time to start mapping (and producing) all the content needed for the LinkedIn campaign and the nurture flow. The last step would be to run the campaign on LinkedIn and get some leads to fill the nurture flows!

If you are serious about this strategy, make sure you onboard your management and sales team. This is a long-term (1-3 years) strategy that requires budget and focus. After implementation of this strategy it will start to produce valuable insights in about 3-6 months and ROI after 6-9 months.

Better leads, insights and alignment

Account-based marketing, content mapping and marketing automation are the three pillars of AABM. It defines your targeted prospects and identifies the DMU personas together with sales, while content mapping aims at serving the personas defined during the account-based marketing phase with relevant and personal content. Lastly, with your automation tool you can now start building nurture flows around this content. This holistic strategy ensures better leads, valuable insights and great alignment between departments that support commercial and organisation growth.

Questions? We are here to help!