Marketing for B2B companies always seems to go through cycles where there is a trend that takes over everyone’s life for a while, until it is replaced by something else. If you map these trends to the Gartner Hype Cycle, these trends rise to the “peak of inflated expectations,” only to fall into the “trough of disillusionment.” It is in this trough where they get replaced by the next one.
We have seen this with social media, although many B2B companies have figured out how to make this approach work for them. It often involves content marketing, which seems to be the trend that replaced social media. And even though last week over 3500 content marketers gathered for Content Marketing World, everyone in B2B marketing seems to be talking about account-based marketing (ABM).
And again, just like with social media, account-based marketing can’t really exist without content marketing.
According to Demandbase, “ABM is the process of identifying the companies most likely to buy, and then marketing to them. B2B companies understandably want to focus their marketing dollars on accounts with the highest potential to deliver sustainable revenue.”
Now let’s look at some basic steps to align content marketing with account-based marketing. This assumes that you already understand content marketing and can leverage your existing program to support ABM. If you are still looking to get started with content marketing, this link can help.1. Conduct Content Inventory Audit
If you have been creating content for your B2B company for a while, it is always good to periodically go back and review what you have, and how it has been performing, but this is especially important for ABM. Don’t just look at raw numbers of downloads, but review its conversion rate for marketing qualified leads. Also make sure things still align with your current marketing strategy and brand look and feel. You can also identify if anything needs to be updated for other reasons. It you use statistics or pop culture references to make your point, you may want to mark a few of these pieces for updating.
This audit will prepare you for the minor tweaks that might be needed for you to create custom content for specific accounts that sales will want to target.2. Identify Named Accounts
Named accounts are often the biggest accounts that a B2B sales team pursues. In an ABM world, these are the accounts that are most likely to become customers. There are two primary ways to identify these accounts. The first is to ask your sales leaders to provide this list of the most important accounts. Sales reps are often assigned to these accounts, rather than assigned by geography or industry. This list may or may not represent the best opportunities for closing sales.
The second way to identify named accounts is to use data. There are many data providers who can review your existing customers, identify patterns and suggest other companies that are like those. Remember, if you are looking for prospects most likely to buy, a predictive analytics approach is often better than other anecdotal methods.3. Gather Specific Challenges of Named Accounts
Once you have identified the accounts to focus on, you need to learn more about them so you can tailor your content directly to them. Your sales team can help with this step, but data sources are also an option. If you have software in place that tracks prospect activity, like marketing automation, then you will know the sorts of things that resonate with your prospects. The average B2B purchase committee is made up of more than five people, so the activity of one can inform the potential activity of others.
If you already know what content is consumed by your current audience, and specifically, your current customers, you need to know how these named accounts are different. Are they bigger or smaller companies? Are they in industries you currently serve? What are their competitors doing?4. Modify or Create Account Specific Content
Armed with your full inventory of content and the knowledge about these specific prospects, you can now easily find the overlap between your existing content and the challenges of the named accounts. This doesn’t mean you have to create brand new content from scratch. It may be as simple as adding some industry specific information and a target company logo on the cover. But if during your discovery phase you uncovered topics that were required, yet were new to your content library, new content will need to be created.5. Provide Sales Discussion Points
Once you have updated, tweaked and created your content, it’s time to sit back down with sales. If you haven’t already figured this out, ABM is yet another path to marketing and sales alignment. It is even more important for content marketing to be fully aligned with the account plans of ABM. The journey of the prospect is very different. Educational content is not about awareness. These prospects know about your company and your products. Sales is likely already engaged with someone at the company. That’s why you need to provide sales with talking points, opening questions, closing takeaways that can be supported by the content you have prepared.
Maybe it’s sent as an email from the sales rep. Maybe it’s handed across the table during or after a meeting. Regardless, the sales rep needs to fully understand how the content will help them build their relationship with the prospect to move the sale along.
As you start exploring how to incorporate account-based marketing into your B2B marketing efforts, make sure you bring your content marketing along to fully support the process.
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