The most important ABM questions asked by 100 marketers

April 16, 2018 Jessica Cross

Over the course of the past two quarters, I’ve led 4 ABM lunch and learns, 3 ABM webinars, 14 customer onboarding calls, and 2 user groups. In that time I’ve heard a lot about how marketers across many companies are implementing account-based marketing and what ABM questions those marketers have been asking.

ABM, or account-based marketing, is a marketing strategy that’s being adopted across B2B industries at an incredibly rapid pace. And with good reason, as a study by Demand Metric found that 97% of ABM practice leaders said that ABM offered a higher ROI than other marketing methods, with 38% calling it ‘much higher.’

At our lunch and learns, we polled our audience and found that attendees were at very different stages of implementing their ABM strategies. Some marketers shared campaigns they had already ran, such as direct mail posters, while others joined the lunch and learn to find out how to get started.

For those marketers who couldn’t attend this round of lunch and learns, I thought I would compile the top ABM questions along with our answers.

 

Here are the top 4 ABM questions asked:

ABM Question #1: What is the right balance of inbound and outbound within your ABM strategy?

The answer to this largely depends on what size of company you are targeting. There is definitely still room for inbound marketing in your B2B marketing strategy, especially if you are doing more of a scaled ABM approach, meaning you are working thousands of accounts rather than hundreds.

Take this tiered pyramid of accounts. On the top are your tier 1 accounts, the big banner logos that the company needs to close to establish itself in the industry. Those accounts deserve an account plan and plenty of sales research time. For these accounts every email should be personalized and marketing initiatives should include invites to exclusive events and educational content that is catered to their specific use case.

Then on the lower tier of P3 accounts, you have your non-named, smaller accounts. An account in this bracket could be a credit union in North America with more than 100 employees and at least 5 locations, for instance.  For these accounts you can build content that is relevant to their industry and use case, but not necessarily customized for them specifically.

 

ABM Question #2: How do you choose the right type of direct mail to send?

This question came up twice, which indicates to me that more folks wanted to ask it but didn’t feel comfortable speaking up. One marketer, for instance, wanted to know how you pick between sending chocolates or local coffee.

For our marketing department, we built our direct mail touches around our customer success story book and the concept of building better marketing campaigns. We incorporated a blueprint theme across our materials to tie in the “build better campaigns” theme.

The process of coming to a decision on the theme and the kits came out of multiple brainstorming meetings where we talked about what information our prospects wanted to know about us and what we could do for them. But, most importantly, we talked about how we wanted to make them feel with the kits.

My advice is to think through your unique value proposition for your customers and how that value should make your customers feel. For example, I’ve seen one HR software company send out beach kits, complete with branded towel, sunscreen, frisbee, and hat. The concept being when you use that solution, you’ll have the ability to actually take PTO.

Not every direct mail touch needs to be a full blown marketing campaign complete with designed elements. For example, in one of our smaller programs we simply send coffee kits with a note from our sales rep. The note card has our logo on it so the recipient knows it was from us. The coffee kits have been effective at booking meetings for our sales team. It is a lighter touch that is easier to get up and running.

 

ABM Question #3: How do you incorporate ABM into your event strategy?

Large scale events can still have an ABM touch, they just takes some thought and planning.  I’m reminded of a blog post from Maria Pergolino (now CMO at Anaplan, previously VP of Marketing at Apttus) about how a Tesla car giveaway at Dreamforce was actually ABM.

On the surface, a free Tesla giveaway at Dreamforce seems like a big waste of marketing budget and a way to invite everyone and their brother to try to get the car. But Apttus used the Tesla offer as a way to fill a presentation room with 1,200 targeted prospects.  

Prior to the event the marketing and sale teams worked together to outline their target list of prospects they knew would be at Dreamforce. The campaign built brand awareness in a big way for Apttus with the accounts that mattered to them and they were able to give a product pitch to a captive audience.

(Fun fact: the fine print of the Tesla giveaway actually said you get to have the car for a 1-month lease. But of course the news headlines read, “Apttus gives away a Tesla at Dreamforce.”)

This type of tactic is what ABM is truly about. Aligning sales and marketing teams around one target account list that matters most to the growth of the business and creating an offer that stands out from the crowd.  

 

ABM Question #4: How do you produce the content? Who has time to produce all the content that is needed?

As with the example of how to decide what direct mail item to send to your prospects, you need to first think through what message you want to convey to your prospects with your content. To make the process easier, we have a handy “customer journey mapping canvas” that walks through how to identify personas and outline their activities, goals, motivations, and influencers.

Going through the process of mapping out the key questions your prospect might ask at each stage of their consideration cycle with you will give you fodder for writing the content you need to run campaigns. Questions such as “what is RollWorks?”, “how is RollWorks different than xyz competitor?”, or “why do I need to purchase RollWorks now?”.  The answers to those questions should be the blog topics you write about. This type of work will net LOADS of content ideas, I promise.

 

More ABM Examples?

These are just a few of the ways you can integrate ABM into your existing marketing strategy. If you’d like to see more examples, you can read our Big Book of ABM Campaigns that co-created with Bizible, Datanyze, LiveRamp, and Radius. It shows you how each company actually ran their campaign, along with pictures and lessons learned.

 

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