The optimal account-based marketing (ABM) strategy today is much more nuanced than the ones implemented by B2B marketing professionals even just a handful of years ago.
Gone are the days of identifying prospective clients based on presumed buying interest and limited data insights, sales reps cold-calling those prospects out of the blue, and marketing sending semi-personalized content in the form of automated drip email campaigns.
Now, the ideal ABM strategy used by B2B brands is the inbound marketing approach:
Acquiring high-value accounts through thoughtful, individualized lifecycle messaging across channels to known contacts and decision-makers that utilize wholly unified customer profiles
Sales cycles, the marketing campaigns carried out for target audiences, the lifecycle messaging used to convert and nurture existing clients, and what constitutes a “high-value” customer account will certainly vary from one B2B organization to the next.
But as long as these brands employ modern account-based marketing tactics based on first-party data — data that essentially lives and is constantly updated in a single source of truth like a customer data platform (CDP) — their promotional efforts will pay off.
So what exactly are these essential activities for “successful” ABM programs? And what role does martech like a CDP play in B2B companies’ account-based marketing strategies?
Account-based marketing strategy: Anatomy of successful ABM campaigns
As with all your marketing activities and programs, success with your account-based marketing strategy is dictated by the people, processes, and technology you have:
- On the people and process side, you need to align sales and marketing. The latter must routinely generate quality client leads through their inbound marketing efforts (e.g., optimization of one’s digital presence to entice prospective customers to engage) to ensure the former receives and can “work” the best leads at the best times (i.e., when and where prospects, like high-frequency visitors, are most engaged).
- But for both teams to thrive in their roles, the right martech is required. Customer relationship management has evolved considerably in the past decade. The CRM is still a vital tool for ensuring sales success. However, more sophisticated database technologies — including and especially the CDP — now enable more mature data management strategies that leverage customer info that once solely lived in CRM software. Marketing must own such a system and provide pertinent data to sales reps.
With all three components accounted for, you’ll have the necessary tools to execute an account-based marketing strategy that slowly but surely converts your premier prospects into long-term clients and helps you upsell and cross-sell specific accounts over time.
Beyond ensuring these elements are all in place, there are certain ABM best practices to abide by to guarantee you and your marketing team can execute accordingly in your day-to-day and, in turn, generate worthwhile business opportunities for sales.
Integrate all lead and client data into a central system.
A true single customer view — one that entails all customer data from all sources — isn’t just an invaluable resource for B2C marketers. It’s also a critical asset for B2B marketing pros.
A centralized database like the CDP enables complete data unification from all technologies. Not just the aforementioned CRM, but also systems like your email service provider, adtech solutions, campaign management tools, and similar marketing and sales software.
This view gives you a complete, real-time picture of prospects and clients (e.g. product usage, site sessions, email clicks) and where they are in their respective customer journeys.
Go the extra mile to recognize clients’ unique pain points.
A 360-degree customer view is a must. But it’s how you use that comprehensive view that can help you glean valuable insights and inform your lifecycle marketing orchestration.
Knowing the specific behaviors and engagement of all account contacts can tell you about their precise needs and what’s driving their interest in your brand and buying decisions.
This, in turn, can help you craft custom-tailored messaging for both specific accounts and several accounts within particular client segments (something we’ll elaborate on shortly).
Outside of collecting all engagement data from online interactions, you can also gather useful info from sales reps’ communications with prospective and current clients.
On top of pinpointing email opens and site sessions, you can leverage info provided from calls and meetings with leads and clients to bolster those companies’ profiles in your database and arm your team with insights that can enhance your ongoing ABM strategies.
Focus on high-quality (not -quantity) client lead generation.
Whereas their B2C marketing counterparts are mostly focused on quantity regarding lead generation, it’s really a quality game for B2B marketers such as yourself.
With all principal business technologies synced with a CDP, you’re able to discern which lead gen sources are most fruitful (ones that lead to high customer acquisition numbers) and which aren’t (and should be abandoned or, at the very least, modified).
This high-level vantage point of your entire account-based marketing strategy can help you eliminate inefficiencies in your approach and focus on the tactics, tools, and sources that yield the coveted return on investment from your marketing efforts.
Account-based marketing examples: ABM strategies built around the CDP
Want more specificity regarding the customer data platform’s advantages for modern ABM strategies? Here are some intricate account-based marketing examples that highlight how BlueConic customers leverage our CDP to analyze, nurture, and convert clients.
Profile stitching to match prospects’ and clients’ siloed data
Whether you prospect solely chief decision-makers at target companies, only lower-level contacts who would actually use your products or services, or both, you need to attain a holistic view of their interactions and engagements with your brand online and offline.
That means eradicating data silos in your marketing ecosystem to improve your account intelligence and ability to provide relevant marketing messaging to contacts.
Enter profile “stitching.”
This data unification approach helps B2B marketers like you “match” first-party data coming in from different systems into your preferred single source of truth (ideally, a CDP) to ensure account-level information is stored in the profiles for all account contacts.
Firmographic values from these other martech solutions can sync into BlueConic customer profiles: from basic profile properties (company name, industry, city, country) to more complex ones (inclusion on industry lists, employee and revenue ranges, lifecycle stage).
From here, you can more capably track changing behaviors and engagement levels of specific accounts and individuals. In combination with data from the aforementioned martech and business tools, you can then develop a unified, account-level profile.
That means you can merge identities for every contact associated with a given account based on different identifiers associated with other systems. In turn, this can empower your brand as a whole to make more educated sales and marketing decisions regarding accounts.
Building intricate segments to identify high-value accounts
“Segmentation is critical in account-based marketing, so it’s important to accurately categorize leads entering your funnel,” Harvard Business Review guest contributor Jim Fowler noted in recent ABM analysis. And he’s absolutely right.
The more niche client segments you “tier” for accounts based on distinct criteria of importance to your ABM efforts (i.e., clients with sizable average contract values), the more easily (and quickly) you can determine who you should market to first, next, and most.
With BlueConic, you can build behavioral customer segments that can then inform which messaging and channels you should utilize for your account-based marketing tactics.
Say you want to group account contacts who visit your site repeatedly in a given timeframe (i.e., last three days). You can create rules to establish such a custom segment:
- Those who frequently visit your website in that period are added dynamically to the segment in real time (and we mean actual real time, not hours later).
- Those who had visited your site often in the past, but not in the defined date-range rules set up in the CDP, are removed from the segment automatically.
When in the segment, contacts can receive whatever marketing our customers deem best.
In this instance, on-site dialogues that promote the specific offerings contacts (known and unknown) have expressed interest in recently could populate in subsequent sessions.
To put it mildly, your client segmentation options in a customer data platform are many:
- You can bucket “land-and-expand” clients you plan to upsell down the line.
- You can group contacts who’ve noted they’ll have increased budgets soon.
- You can cluster clients you’ve had relationships with for X years or longer.
The list goes on.
Suffice to say, with a CDP in place, you can gradually learn which client segments are worth building (and keeping) after integrating all granular account data integrated in the platform and evaluating the common traits and attributes across accounts and related contacts.
Using online and offline data to inform ABM campaigns
The typical B2B marketing funnel doesn’t solely revolve around online client engagement. It also entails in-store purchases (where applicable), industry events (e.g., expos, trade shows), and other offline sources — which many B2B brands rely on for revenue growth.
That means it’s vital for those with account-based marketing strategies to infuse their primary customer profiles with any information from contacts obtained in the real world.
BlueConic customers who attend events can utilize lead-capture tools and apps to acquire attendees’ PII and add some color to that lead gen (e.g., which sales rep or team member collected the info, what products or services the contact was intrigued by or asked about).
This outbound, offline approach can work wonders for many organizations’ ABM programs — sometimes just as much as their inbound account-based marketing tactics.
But that’s only true when that first-party data is synced to contacts’ CDP profiles — new ones for net-new prospects or existing ones for current leads and customers.
When they’re visiting your channels after the event, you’ll want to be able to monitor their subsequent activities to deliver highly targeted customer engagement-oriented activities through both immediate, integrated campaigns and ongoing lifecycle orchestration efforts.
Account-based marketing audit: How to improve your ABM program with a CDP
Just 15% of B2B brands with ABM strategies have a “complete view of their customers,” according to recent McKinsey research. Meanwhile, a mere 19% of these B2B businesses stated they “understand the customer journeys that matter most to core segments.”
If you lack a single customer view — and, thereby, the ability to track current and prospective clients’ buying journeys — that likely means you also lack the tech needed to develop your account-based marketing strategy, let alone elevate its performance.
Legacy martech in your stack have parts to play in your ABM program’s success. But they can only advance your marketing efforts when connected to a CDP that provides a unified customer view and the opportunity to activate that client data from those tools with ease.
Discover specific customer data platform use cases you and your team can implement to advance your account-based marketing strategy in our on-demand webinar.