January 5, 2021
14 mins read
How to ABM Like a Boss (Part 5): Personalize Your Content
14 mins left
In today’s information age, buyers have more and more power over sellers. As a result, there’s an increased demand for personalized, relevant experiences. The proof is in the numbers:
Numbers don’t lie (if it’s coming from good data, of course.) In today’s competitive environment, personalization is a critical differentiator. In this post, we set out to give you the keys to deliver a more personal, relevant, and timely message to your buyers. We walk you through the frameworks we use, offer some practical tactics, then end by revealing some of our plays along with the results.
Let’s dive in!
We are all familiar with claims in the market that: Cold calling is dead! Email is dead! Social selling is dead! While channels vacillate in popularity, the key really is what fuels the channels. Yes, it’s the content. We know that when messages are timely and relevant there is better engagement from buyers. Let’s walk through a framework for how we view personalization in ABM.
There are no hard and fast rules about how much you should personalize your content. If there were, we’d all be connecting with our buyers, and there would be no need for this blog.
Here’s the challenge: We all know that the more time you invest to deliver a more personalized message, the more likely it is to resonate with the recipient. However, personalizing content takes precision, which takes time. On the other hand, if we want to deliver a message to the masses, we can use a generic message.
If something reads like it could have been sent out to thousands of other people, then chances are it was.
The trick is finding the balance between low volume/high personalization and high volume/low personalization.
Using tokens in your marketing automation system (for example, “Hi [first-name]) helps deliver a customized message. We can customize messages using any data of the fields available in our system (e.g., company, employee count, industry, etc.). Used correctly, customization is a powerful tool. However, this is not the same as personalization.
Saying “Hi John, it was great bumping into you at the SiriusDecisions conference yesterday— let’s continue our conversation about your ABM strategy over coffee next week” is personalization. In other words, you cannot use it the same way you use tokens. This message only makes sense to John.
At Demandbase, we advise having a balanced mix of content, with each piece falling somewhere on the content personalization spectrum:
So, how can we start executing personalized campaigns across the entire spectrum? It starts with tiering your accounts.
In our last ABM Like a Boss post on selecting target accounts, we covered the three-tiered approach to ABM. As a reminder, using account tiers (one-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many) ensures the right amount of resources for each account.
Tiering is important because it helps us start to scale our ABM programs. And scaling personalized ABM campaigns is the holy grail. It may seem like a lot of work at first sight, but innovative tools and technology have allowed Sales and Marketing teams to automate many tiering tasks we used to do manually, which increases our efficiency and drives more results.
This is ABM in its purest form (as defined by the ITSMA). These accounts should get the “full” ABM treatment—meaning each one gets deep research, a full account plan, personalized content, bespoke campaigns, and lots of 1:1 attention.
This definitely means programs and initiatives should be hyper-personalized. Because they have the highest potential revenue, we can afford to spend more time personalizing content. In fact, we must spend more time personalizing content for these accounts because we have fewer chances of closing them due to the fact that there is a smaller universe. In other words, we have to make the most of every opportunity.
What does our day-to-day look like for this type of personalization? (Can you say MUBRIPE, anyone?)
We put together Marketing plays that are designed for that account specifically, and we involve our entire organization, from the CEO down, to land and expand these accounts.
Now, you may be thinking, “I can’t do this for every single target account,” and you are correct. At best, you’ll have no more than a handful of accounts you can execute a world-class ABM strategy against with 100 percent personalized ABM.
This type of ABM lets you apply much of the focus and benefit of ABM to a broader list. These accounts also get individual research, but perhaps it’s limited to a few key talking points for each account.
Since you have more of these accounts, you cannot afford to spend the same amount of time researching and sending personalized messages.
Here are some tips for tier two accounts.
Here are some segmentation examples:
Since these accounts can be smaller, mapping out individual buying centers may not be as challenging. But no matter what, we still want to spend time making sure we have quality data at the account level, as well as for each of the key people in each persona in the organization.nd we’ll want a process to keep those insights fresh.
These accounts will not receive 100 percent personalized content and plays, but they should still get highly relevant touches nonetheless. Think about taking content written for their industry and customize it with their logo on the cover and a personalized first and last paragraph.
This style covers all the accounts that we want to target but for which we don’t have the resources for rich personalization and customization. These will often be smaller accounts and can be counted in the thousands. To execute on these, we need the help of automation, which is why this type of ABM is often referred to as programmatic ABM.
At times we may target these accounts with specific outbound tactics, sometimes customized by industry or solution, but most of the time we simply use broad demand generation tactics. We still target specific accounts, but we leverage strategies such as ABM advertising, content syndication, web personalization, etc.
The key difference between ABM and traditional demand generation is that instead of scoring leads, we track account-level engagement and wait until the account hits a sufficient threshold to label them a marketing-qualified account (MQA). We’re not saying that any one style of ABM is better than another. On the contrary. By balancing our approach across the different tiers, we’re able to scale our efforts. Be sure to use account tiers and the different styles to ensure the right amount of personalization for each account so none of your accounts are neglected.
Once a tiered approach to ABM personalization is adopted, there is still one thing that must be done before executing on strategy. We must define account entitlements. Most organizations overlook this step in the personalization process. They don’t thoroughly answer the question “What is the right amount of time, money, and resource to dedicate to each account in each tier?”
Account entitlements are a framework created by Marketing to make clear what the level of investment should be for each tier of accounts. This ensures teams understand how to invest dollars and time appropriately.
As we’ve discussed, personalization comes at a price. We pay with our time and resources, both of which are limited. That means we must be judicious.
If we spend all of our time on personalizing interactions for Tier 1 accounts, we’re left with no other choice than to automate interactions for Tier 2 and Tier 3 accounts. In other words, we’d spam those accounts, which breaks the rules of ABM. In the same vein, if we spend all of our ABM budgets on elaborate direct mail and costly ads on Tier 1 target accounts, we’d lack channel diversity and would be left with only the traditional channels of phone and email for Tier 2 and 3. This also breaks the rules of ABM.
It’s important to take a thoughtful approach when creating account entitlements.
Ok, now let’s run through how we can apply account entitlements. Here’s a framework for how to go about setting up entitlements.
To select target accounts and split them up into their appropriate tiers, begin by identifying your sales reps. Ask questions like: How many reps do you have? How much time in a week do they have for prospecting? What’s your budget?
Next, start with best practices as your baseline for the number of target accounts per tier.
· Tier 1: 10s
· Tier 2: 100s
· Tier 3: 1,000s
List all of your ABM programs. This is anything that will cost either the reps’ time or money from your budget. This typically includes direct mail, ads, trade shows, field events, custom content, etc.
Define what you think should be a reasonable output of a specific Sales rep or SDR, given the account tier.
Now, start playing with the numbers until they add up. This is the tough part and will likely require a few sessions with your Sales and Marketing leadership to get right. If you are dead-set on doing a certain set of activities for your Tier 1 accounts, but you’re out of Sales reps, there’s only one option: Reduce the number of accounts in that tier.
For effective personalization in ABM, we must have a deep understanding of not only our target accounts and ideal customer profiles, but also the customer journey. We must understand how they buy, the structure of the organization, their challenges, the buying criteria, and what they need to do at every stage of the buying process. The customer journey is the complete sum of experiences and interactions that a customer goes through when making a purchasing decision. It should not be seen as a checklist for reps detailing what to say. The customer journey must take the point of view of the customer.
When we acknowledge the buyer’s journey and put the focus on delivering an exceptional experience, only then will we be able to deliver a personal, relevant message.
So, how do you map the buyer’s journey?
This means first defining our buyer personas and ideal customer profile. We covered this in our last ABM Like a Boss post on selecting your target accounts as well, so we won’t spend more time on it here.
The buyer’s journey is a process. It’s a path they take on the way to purchasing our product or service. At a high-level, the journey is usually broken down into three stages: awareness, consideration, and decisions. Here is a breakdown of the stages and the activities the buying committee goes through in each stage:
Don’t forget to take into consideration the sub-states within each stage for complex prospects.
This is arguably the most important stage. In this stage, we define key points in the decision-making process and try to influence those points so the purchasing decision is in our favor. To find these key points and get the insight needed to influence the buying decision, we must do our research. First, talk to people. Talk to existing customers. Talk to your sales development team. Talk to the sales reps that are on the phone with prospects every day. Next, become a detective and see what customers and prospects are saying to each other. People are more than willing to share this information in public forums, such as social media, blogs, and chat rooms.
The bottom line is that to be successful, Sales and Marketing must align around their target audience, how they buy, and how to engage with them throughout the buying process. In ABM, Sales and Marketing must be done throughout the entire journey.
As you can see, creating meaningful and relevant content can really move the needle. Don’t wait to get started. There are many technologies and techniques to help scale your personalization efforts. For example:
Not all ABM is created equal, but if you can reach the right level of personalization for each of your target account tiers, you’ll be well on your way to scaling your ABM and achieving record growth.
Ready to increase your conversion rate with unique and personalized website experiences tailored for your target accounts? Learn more about Demandbase Personalization
If you’re just digging your feet into ABM and looking for pointers on how to build a successful account-based strategy, then How to ABM Like a Boss is the definitive blog series for you. No need to read through a stack of posts from a dozen bloggers. This is it. It’s like reading an eBook but in an easier and more digestible way. The blog series covers how to create a budget, build an ABM team, get your data ready, select your target accounts, personalize your content, and measure and realign. Check out the rest of the articles in the series and own your ABM!
Part 1: Build a Budget
Part 2: Establish an ABM Team
Part 3: Get Your Data Ready
Part 4: Select Your Target Accounts
Part 6: Measure with ABM Metrics
Thought Leader, B2B Marketing & Sales Strategy
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