One of the attributes of account-based marketing that’s key to its success is the better alignment between sales and marketing. It focuses the two groups, that quite often don’t see eye-to-eye on the approach. And if the account list is defined correctly, you can generate more revenue per lead and lower your cost per lead by focusing your marketing efforts on a smaller group of prospects.
But for account-based marketing to work, it all starts with joint marketing and sales planning sessions to agree on the goals, develop the criteria for accounts and also define some key value propositions that have worked with similar accounts. Even if you’re at a start-up, this process can still work as long as you keep an open mind that your first target accounts may not be the best ones and be willing to change.
Here are five key steps you should follow to create an successful account-based marketing plan:
Step 1: Define Your Target Account List
The most important step in this process is to define your target account list with the sales team by identifying your ideal prospect. This is also one of the key differences in this process from other integrated marketing plans as it puts the customer front and center.
There are several ways to define your list. You can start with your current top accounts to find what attributes they have in common and then look for others like them. You can also look at targeting a specific vertical, company size or geography. In many cases, the sales team already has a named account list and that could be the starting point too.
Once the list is defined, then the next part of this step is to do some research and develop an in-depth view of the account including size, locations, key contacts, the organization structure, current solutions being used, and any other information that will help you target this company better.
Step 2: Create Your Key Messages
I’ve talked a lot about the importance of building a simple, differentiated message for your audience but this is even more critical for account-based marketing. In fact, you also need to personalize the message even further to the companies and key contacts on your target account list.
Now I’m not saying you create different messages for each target as you still need to be consistent, especially within each company. However, you do want to stress the specific benefits and value for each decision maker or influencer within the account. For example, while the core message will be the same, a CIO will want to hear more about the technical advantages of your solution versus a CFO who will want to hear more about the business case, although the CIO will want to hear that too.
You need to create a message house, or whatever format you prefer, to outline this structure so you have some core high-level messages but also the details to back them up that can customized for each buyer persona.
Step 3: Build the Core Content
Before you start building compelling content, you should do an audit of your existing collateral, as some may be very relevant or easily tweaked for this campaign. That’s important as you’ll need to develop lots of different core content to move the prospects from your target accounts through the funnel.
But this core content needs to be targeted. A MarketingSherpa study found that 82% of prospects value content targeted to their specific industry and 67% find content targeted to their job function valuable. While these stats are important to all your content marketing efforts, they are even more critical in account-based marketing. Since you have a defined list of accounts, you need to make sure your content is specific to them.
You’ll also want to make sure this content can be easily customized so you can adapt it even more to a specific account. While a well-designed and intricate brochure can make an impact, how much effort is it to make simple changes so it talks directly to one or two prospects. In the end, you’ll want some very customized content along with more vertical or function-specific pieces that talk to all targets. You’ll also want a mix of educational content and solution-focused content.
Step 4: Develop the Campaigns
With the foundation in place, through steps 1 to 3, you need to look at how you’ll generate demand within these target accounts which includes creating awareness, capturing leads and then nurturing the best prospects. This is the main area of account-based marketing that overlaps with integrated marketing as you’ll want to use a number of tactics to reach these accounts.
But, it’s not only tactics that you need to choose as you also need to figure out which web sites, social media or influencers that these prospects read and follow so that you can use them to get your message out which clearly needs to be consistent across all of them. And, you don’t want to just go for the latest shiny object but look at more traditional marketing tactics like advertising, events and even direct mail campaigns, especially if they align with what your audience responds to.
Step 5: Identify the Metrics
Last but certainly not least is that you’ll clearly want to define several key metrics that you track and optimize for. While this is easier with a smaller list of target accounts, this is also where marketing automation will shine since you can use these metrics to track and optimize on the fly. While there will be several interim measure, a view of the entire sales funnel is ultimately what we’ll need to be looking at to ensure the overall success of the campaign.
Throughout this entire plan and process, marketing and sales need to be in lockstep. That’s why it’s so crucial to align at the outset but sales needs to be in the loop throughout to provide feedback from the field but even more important so they can respond quickly when you’ve got a whale on the hook.
A thorough and integrated account-based marketing program can be highly effective as you can enjoy the benefits of integrated marketing along with the clear advantage of targeting a specific list of prospects which is gained by taking the account-based marketing approach.