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6 Posts authored by: Rachel Noble Champion

Miss my session at Summit? Here's a recap of my 7 steps to launching your first Account-Based Marketing strategy.

 

Account-Based Marketing is here to stay. In the digital age, it’s easy to get bogged down in the hustle and bustle of the MarTech capabilities and lose sight of what really matters: engagement. Because even though we’re marketing to accounts, it’s individuals that serve as internal champions to demonstrate the value of your product within their organization. So what does that mean for you?

 

In the end, it all comes down to understanding your audience. But first, we need to remember the foundation of any marketing strategy: what are we trying to get out of it?

 

On that note, here are seven steps to launching your first Account-Based Marketing strategy.

 

1. Determine your goals

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A few things to keep in mind when setting your goals.

  • Make sure they are quantifiable. Think "I want to influence 50 opportunities" rather than "I want to increase pipeline." If you can't look back and definitely determine whether you met your goals, you're doing it wrong.
  • Goals should be timely - this just means set dates for them. Put a reminder on your calendar in X number of days to evaluate whether you hit your target. If you don't hit it by your specified end date, that doesn't mean you failed. It just gives you a basis for planning next time around.
  • Don't forget that goals should be valuable to the business. Sure, a 43% click-through-rate feels great, but it won't influence your ARR. Think MQAs (Marketing Qualified Accounts), SQAs, or opportunities.
  • Get buy-in from sales! If sales isn’t ready for ABM’d leads (let's pretend that's a real word), your marketing efforts will be wasted in the transition to sales

 

Ok, you must be thinking. But my sales cycle is 18 months. I can't wait 18 months to determine whether my ABM strategy was successful!

You're right! So set KPIs for short-term evaluation. This is where you get to look at "vanity metrics" - look at deliverability, the number of engaged accounts, engagement within each account, and individual tactic success.

 

2. Define the Audience

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Marketing is expensive. It takes time, money, and resources. Put delicate effort into selecting your audience so that none of our hard-earned content goes to waste!

  • Strategically select your accounts, but it doesn’t end there!
  • Strategically select your contacts. You want to find people who will get excited about your product and who will want to spread the value of your offerings within the organization. More on this in a second...
  • Have your SDRs weigh in on account selection and job titles - they know what to look for!
  • Leverage resources: predictive, personas, behavior scoring (this will tell you what type of people engage with content you already have), and yes, intuition!

 

Don't forget to find a data provider that you trust. If you are sending emails, make sure they have a high validity rate. If you are sending direct mail, make sure they are good at providing addresses. Nothing is more discouraging than putting a ton of time and money into a campaign and realizing most of it made it in front of your prospects.

 

Now back to the contact selection. You know the term "Buying Center" that everyone's talking about? It's just a reference to the unofficial buying decision committees within each of your target accounts. To best market to each company, figure out everyone who has influence in the decision to buy your offering and market to them personally. For example, if you're selling software, you have to get IT on board no matter which department will be using the software, but the messaging to IT will be very different than the messaging you deliver to potential users. If you want more on this, comment below and I'll write another blog post!

 

3. Create your strategy

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Notice that is is not the first step! Now that we know the why and the who, it's finally time to create the what! Start with the obvious - outline your content. Your content, like with most marketing strategies, should follow the basic buyer journey:

  1. Begin with brand awareness and thought leadership - now’s your chance to really demonstrate your value and build trust with your prospect
  2. Introduce pain points - you want your prospects to relate to the problems your product or service can solve
  3. Introduce interactive materials - ROI calculators, worksheets, free trials or demos, etc. Once they have a taste of life with you in it, they won't want to go back!
  4. Now we can get a little more aggressive with more sales-focused CTAs: “Call Us” vs “Check Out Our eBook” - these CTAs should point prospects in the direction of your goals
  5. Help your SDRs know how to reach out depending on demographic qualifications and engagement within each account

 

 

Make sure CTAs drive prospects to your goals, and adjust along the way to meet KPIs. Once you know what you're going to say, figure out how you're going to say it. What will you send? Emails? Retargeting ads? Web personalization? Social media placements? Direct mail? SDR outreach? Get creative. The possibilities are endless!

 

When you're developing this collateral, determine both the content and the design cohesively so that your outreach provides a consistent experience for your prospects. Keep the cadence in mind. Nobody wants to be over-emailed, but if you spread your messaging too far apart your prospects won't remember you between touches. A good way to get around this? Ongoing display ads.

 

4. Get Cliché and Smarket

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Don't take this for granted. Sales + marketing alignment will make or break your campaign! After you create your content strategy, get input from sales early on- make sure they’re as excited about it as you want your leads to be!

  • Set up your program to communicate all relevant information to sales, and give them a heads up as to how that information will be made available to them
  • Get aligned on the timeline - if you have joint goals, you must have a joint timeline to match
  • Let them know ahead of time which accounts you’ve chosen and when & how they should interact with them. Direction is everything!

 

5. Implement

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Set up your program in Marketo, and integrate everything you possibly can to flawlessly orchestrate your tactics and gain cohesive reporting. I wrote a blog post on this a while back that addresses the technical side of this. Check it out here if you’re interested!

  • My biggest tip: leverage Engagement Programs to coordinate timing of complex campaigns with multiple channels. SO. HELPFUL.
  • Set up your target accounts if you have the ABM platform, and make sure sales have the chrome plugin. It's legit.
  • Test, test, test - both technically, and statistically to see what works and what doesn't.

 

6. Learn

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Just because you went live with your new ABM strategy doesn't mean you're done. Remember those KPIs we set at the beginning? Every single day, evaluate the performance of your program to make sure you're meeting your expectations, and if not, make the necessary adjustments. Remember, results take time! Sales cycles are longer with cold outbound.

  • Talk to sales! If morale is good, it's a great early sign.
  • Celebrate your wins and learn from your losses - both with marketing & with sales

 

If you have RCE, now is the time to use it. Go into your lifecycle and check the "Start Tracking by Account" box for each stage. Then you can use the Model Performance Analysis report for companies!

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Easy!

 

7. Rinse and Repeat...after you’ve made updates from your learnings of course!

Not only do you learn more each time, but you have more fun too! You worked heard creating this strategy, and if it works, there's no reason to throw it out. Find more target accounts and contacts, and do it again. Engage more accounts and watch the money roll in.

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Because the spam folder is where eBooks go to die.

 

  1. In the draft of your email, go to Email Settings (top left) and check the “Preheader” box. Put a snippet of the email in the text box. For many email providers, the preheader is the small bit of preview text that shows up next to the subject line. It's your first chance to hook the reader and get them to open your email.

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  1. When you insert an image, put something in the "Image Description" box. Marketo defaults to the name of the file you uploaded, like 3-Col_363.png. For people who don’t automatically download images, they'll see image description and notice a lack of finesse.

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  1. Give all links their own titles. I usually just copy the CTA, but it's probably best to use a title that actually describes the value of the landing page. Don't use the URL.

 

How easy is that?

Are your engagement rates worth writing home about?

 

If you answered “no,” then maybe it’s time to take a deeper dive into why your prospects are overlooking the content you worked so hard to create. Personalized emails return 6x more revenue per email than non-personalized emails. Imagine what will happen to your marketing when you take that personalization to the next level!

 

Here at PFL, we like to use our nurture stream audience as guinea pigs for engagement rate testing. Our latest initiative revolves around harnessing behavioral data to deliver relevant content at just the right time. The strategy: Content Binge Tracks. When leads visit our website, watch webinars, and attend tradeshow sessions, they leave valuable behavioral data about their topical interests.

 

Consider John Doe. Last month, John attended our webinar that focused on Demand Generation. A few days later, he read two of our Demand Gen blog posts, and then downloaded the eBook referenced in the second post. Clearly, John is interested in Demand Gen. Why not let him binge on Demand Gen content?

 

Our game plan:

  1. Determine the most common categories our leads are interested in
    1. Account-Based Marketing
    2. Demand Gen
    3. Lead Gen
    4. Social Media Marketing
    5. Etc

If you are in B2C, think along the lines of your product offerings. Are you a kitchen appliance distributor? Maybe your categories include Refrigerators, Ovens, Small Kitchen Appliances, etc. You get the idea.

  1. Create a set of emails, direct mail pieces (and if we’re feeling extra ambitious, RTP) for each of those categories
  2. Create new nurture streams for each of these categories in your Engagement Program
  3. Put those emails and direct mail pieces in the corresponding nurture stream, and VOILA!


Here’s how to set it up:

  1. To determine categories with the highest engagement, we started by talking to our SDR team to see which categories they thought would provide the most value

OPTIONAL: if you have more time, do a website audit (or at least a blog page audit) to see which categories have the highest engagement rates

  1. Go into your Engagement Program you typically use to market new leads. Add a new stream for each category

  1. In your Engagement Program, add your new content to each corresponding stream
  2. Set up your nurture stream transition rules to capture leads who exhibit behavior indicating they are interested in the designated topic. For example, here’s how we do it for our Demand Gen binge track:

  1. But you still want to deliver educational content when they exhaust the binge track, so set up smart campaigns that transition leads back to your generic stream once the binge track content is exhausted. This is our campaign, and it runs weekly (after each cast):

 

 

And that’s it! You’re officially a data-driven marketer.

Our first engagement program took four months to set up. It was our first big accomplishment after implementing Marketo, and believe me, we celebrated! It had one stream made up of seven emails that went out Wednesday mornings at 9am. We immediately saw a huge lift in engagement which, at the time, meant the same lift in the number of MQL alerts passed to sales.

 

Fast forward two years: we now have 9 active engagement programs through which leads and contacts are funneled based on a combination of persona and lifecycle status. These engagement programs each have multiple streams that further personalize content based on behavioral triggers and predictive data. We’ve seen continuous growth and are super excited about the results!

 

Here’s the problem: we haven’t had the resources to develop new content as rapidly as we are learning to personalize what we deliver. As you probably know, this is a growing problem in the world of automation. Until our most recent addition to our content team, we had to make huge efforts to stretch our content as far as it would go without sacrificing personalized, relevant messaging.

 

So what did we do?

 

Our Senior Content Developer sums it up perfectly: “we found the lowest-hanging fruit that people actually want to eat.” For us, it was nurture. We created a new stream within each engagement program and called it the “Exhausted Content” stream. Every time we add an email to one of the other streams within the program, we clone it into the same program and add the clone to the Exhausted Content stream. Give it a new subject line and exclude everyone who opened it before, and boom! 60% lift in nurture engagement.

 

How to set it up

They say a picture is worth a thousand words (always wished that would fly in college).

 

Schedule this campaign to run based on the cadence of your nurture cast.

 

 

How easy is that!

 

 

Looking for other ways to make your nurture programs more robust? Check out these fan faves:

So, your campaign failed. You’ve invested weeks, even months into this exciting new venture and you don’t know why you aren’t seeing the results you expected. It happens to the best of us. Don’t let it get you down, because this is a great opportunity to learn and make your future efforts insanely successful! But how do you answer the question that’s been keeping you up at night all week?

 

What went wrong?

 

In the world of marketing ops, so many things can go wrong that it can be overwhelming to keep track of it all. First, it’s important to figure out whether it was a strategy problem or trouble in execution. After conversing with a number of my peers, we’ve discovered a number of commonalities that led to disappointing campaigns.

 

The Audience Was All Wrong

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Key Indicators: Not a single person you contacted was a decision-maker; you don’t have pipeline associated with your campaign; you didn’t hit your SQL goal; sales was unhappy with the leads

 

Tips for next time: Loop in sales when selecting your audience. Tools like predictive scoring can help prioritize your leads and companies, but your SDRs know the top qualifiers better than anyone. If they have bandwidth, ask them to skim the list ahead of time and provide feedback. Chances are they’d rather DQ someone on a spreadsheet than after making countless phone calls.

 

The Stuff You Sent Wasn’t Engaging

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Key Indicators: Lack of engagement; you didn’t hit your MQL goal

 

Tips for next time: Test test test! Focus on A/B testing the following factors based on the corresponding indicators.

Problem

A/B Test This

Low Email Open Rate

Subject Lines, Time of Day/Day of Week

Low Click-through-Rate

CTA Wording, CTA Placement, Messaging

High Bounce Rate

Messaging, Landing Pages, Form Lengths

Engagement drops off early on

Frequency of outreach, multiple channels

 

You Had Bad Data

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Key Indicators: High bounce rate; holes in your data; physical mailer returns; too many “I don’t work here anymore” automatic replies

 

Tips for next time: This is a great opportunity to leverage SDRs, Sales Ops, or a really good intern. Before sending out emails, mailers, ads, or any other piece of carefully-crafted marketing content (especially to high-potential accounts), give the list a human touch. A data provider is a great place to start, but if someone’s LinkedIn profile says they live in Denver and the address provided is in New York, you’ll know something’s off. Seriously. The list is key.

 

There Were Errors

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Key Indicators: Typos; lack of populated data in a personalized email; etc

 

Tips for next time: As marketers, we’re always in a rush to drive more pipeline and demonstrate outstanding ROI. Mistakes happen. Luckily, as your team grows there will be more opportunity to add fresh eyes to everything. Utilize your awesome teammates to carefully review your emails, make sure all the links go to the right places, and check your Marketo setup for those easy-to-miss details.

 

Lack of Communication between Sales and Marketing

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Key Indicators: Confusion in sales about how and when to follow up; tracking progress is difficult

 

Tips for next time: Hold a rollout meeting before introducing new initiatives. Include information about the messaging, audience, and end goals for the campaign. Sales will likely provide helpful insight during these meetings as well, so it’s a win-win!

 

The Timing Was All Off

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Key Indicators: Touchpoints landed out of order; leads were confused about sales outreach

 

Tips for next time: Integrate anything you can with Marketo and/or your integrated CRM. Time banner ads according to lead status; set up RTP to deliver messaging consistent with the campaign for your audience; send direct mail pieces that have the same look and feel as your emails, and coordinate your emails with the delivery of those pieces. If your systems can talk to each other, you’ll have better control over orchestration and sales will be able to follow up at just the right time.

 

You Don’t Know How the Campaign Performed

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Key Indicators: You can’t tie your campaign back to opportunities; you can’t compare the results of the campaign against your initial KPIs

 

Tips for next time: Before you begin, make sure you know your KPIs and end goals. Once you have those, set up your Marketo program ahead of time to track them. Leveraging program channel tags can play a huge part in this!

 

#CelebrateYourWins

 

We’ve answered the question, “what went wrong?” But focusing on our failures won’t get your department any new pipeline, and it certainly won’t help morale! Now that we’ve made it this far, it’s time to shift gears and ask the increasingly-important question, “what went right?”

 

Sometimes, it takes a long time to see results. In Q1 of last year, we initiated a new program that involved multiple channels and coordination with sales. It was a huge investment and took months of planning. After a few months, the campaign was put on hold due to minimal engagement and disappointing results.

 

Last week, I was playing around in RCE and realized that the campaign had influenced three of our largest recent opportunities, resulting in over 2000% ROI! What a great way to start a Monday. So even if your program completely fails, don’t fret. You never know what kind of unexpected payoff you might have in the future!

*Omni-Channel Marketing*

*ABM*

*Direct Mail*

*Multi-Channel Outreach*

*Smarketing*

*Retargeting*

*SoLoMo*

*Enter your favorite marketing buzzword here*

 

You've heard it all. You're bought into the concepts. You're creative team has an abundance of captivating ideas, and you're responsible for executing a flawless orchestrated multi-channel campaign. Maybe it's a nurture stream that incorporates direct mail. Perhaps it's an ABM program that combines display ads with coordinated sales outreach. Or maybe your team wants to streamline siloed marketing channels and you're looking for the right place to get started. Whatever the situation is, hopefully our experience can help! Although we now use an OCM strategy to reach almost all branches of our qualified database (target accounts, our awesome customers, general nurture, the list goes on and on...), the initial project started out as an ABM initiative. Here's what happened.

 

Our Goal

To deliver a omni-channel experience to leads at our target accounts in a positive, engaging campaign to drive revenue through delightful experiences and super awesome helpful content.

 

Our Strategy

  1. Determine the buying center for our solution at our top 8 target accounts and collect accurate company- and contact- level information
  2. Craft an outbound strategy specifically designed to engage the leads/accounts in our target list (market to the company, but engage with the individual)
  3. Develop a smarketing campaign that incorporated digital (marketing emails with persona-relevant content, display ads, web personalization, ad retargeting, and personalized email outreach from our SDRs), direct mail, and (when the time is right) SDR phone calls

 

Execution

For a campaign this complex, we needed to harness the power of the technology at hand. Having a bunch of different disconnect systems didn't cut it. Because it allows us to nest programs and schedule regular casts, we decided to utilize engagement programs to coordinate all our different channels. Here's a simple example:

In this case, we start out with a week's worth of online warmup and brand awareness. The first program adds leads in our target account list to various RTP groupings depending on industry (members of the program automatically qualify and are segmented within the RTP platform by industry).  It also adds them to a list which we use for re-targeting with Terminus and AdBridge (note that you can use your integration with Salesforce to accomplish the Terminus portion as well).

 

Next, we send a marketing email that relies on dynamic content to deliver persona-based content to each lead in the program. It's good to note also that we try to target leads in the buying center such that they don't receive the same content as everyone else in their office - that's not a true personalized experience.

 

Third, we leverage our own solution to trigger a personalized direct mail piece with consistent messaging and design. When this piece is delivered, a task is created for an SDR to follow up on the package.

 

Another email is sent with dynamic content based on lifecycle status (MCL vs MEL vs MQL, and SQLs/Opportunities are no longer in the campaign at this point).

 

Finally, all leads at engaged organizations are synced to CRM for outreach from our SDR team. Leads from unengaged organizations are transitioned to a separate engagement program where they are nurtured until they MQL. Next on our list: develop an account-based strategy for nurturing & qualifying target accounts once they fall into the second engagement program. A target account is a target account after all!

 

Conclusion

  1. Don't skimp out on the technology. The most important factor to success (from the ops side of the house) is having the systems communicating effectively with one another. After all, what use is good, hard-earned data if you can't use it?
  2. Coordinate with sales. If marketing's goal is to generate pipeline/revenue, then sales must be on board for a successful handoff.
  3. Have fun with it! Be creative in your use of your MarTech stack. If you can dream it, you can probably do it!

 

Oh, and did I mention the 200% lift in engagement when we integrated these technologies? #booYEAH