The ultimate ABM content strategy for “zero-waste” marketing

Estimated reading time
5 minutes
4th June 2020
Author: Kit McKay
Posted in: Strategy & planning

Account-based marketing (ABM) is quickly becoming the go-to tactic for B2B marketers. Instead of casting a wide net with blanket campaigns for an entire market, they’re choosing highly personalized approaches to single accounts, treating each account as its own self-contained market. 

Since ABM flips the funnel on its head so that you’re only marketing to the right audience for your product, this eliminates the classic inbound problem of attracting lots of low-quality leads who don’t convert. This is what is meant by “zero-waste” marketing.

Here’s how the CMO at Pendo, Joe Chernov, explained it to Drift:

“ABM aspires to be ‘zero-waste’ marketing. It’s a model that targets only the companies and contacts that are likely to buy your product and that sales has pre-committed to try to close.”

ABM has been described as the natural evolution of content marketing. When you create content in an effective ABM campaign, you already know your audience will be interested in what you’re creating because it was created for their specific interests.

Those that are doing account-based marketing effectively swear by it. 87% of companies say ABM drives higher ROI than any other marketing activity. 

An ABM content strategy is absolutely crucial to see this success. While ABM involves input from a number of functions in the business, if the right content isn’t available at the right time, you’ll never engage the decision-makers of your target account, no matter how perfect they are for your product on paper.

To help you build your ABM content strategy, take a look at this four-stage approach that makes sure you never waste time on unwanted content again.

The four-stage ABM content strategy

Stage 1: Sales identifies priority accounts and individuals

Since ABM flips the funnel, it’s the sales team that leads the charge. Whether it’s your Business Development Representatives (BDRs) or Sales Development Representatives (SDRs), this initial outreach is vital to shaping the direction of your ABM content strategy.

In a recent survey, 88% of respondents said that BDR outreach was the most important ABM channel.

Outbound sales tactics including calls, emails, and social media combined with the research they do helps build a list of which accounts and which individuals within those accounts are right for the business.

Stage 2: Map out your ICPs and buyer personas

Once sales has accumulated all this raw information, marketing can get involved to build out more detailed profiles of target prospects.

This stage is often the most problematic because it’s where sales and marketing must work closest together, sharing information and conducting research to clearly define who they’re going to create content for and why.

An ideal customer profile (ICP) is top-level information about an account (its revenue, industry, etc.).

A buyer persona is a profile of individuals within an account.

Having a clear understanding of each of these is important for when you want to scale up your ABM content strategy. Once you have your ICPs and buyer personas firmly mapped out, you’ll be able to quickly organize future accounts based on your profiles. This will save you time from a content creation perspective because all you’ll need to do is personalize existing content that’s worked well for the relevant buyer persona in that vertical before.

Marketing and sales need to work closely together on this because sales often have “face-to-face” knowledge marketing needs to understand each persona’s unique situation.

“The best way to figure out what your buyers really need is to talk to the people who are already talking to them – your sales and support team. Or, even better, ask to talk to them directly,” says Jenny Magic from Convince & Convert. “Ask them what pain points they are facing, how your business can help solve them, what content meets those needs … Pack that into your buyer persona and you’ll have the insights you need to create the personalized content you’ll use to engage them.”

Stage 3: Create personalized content for the buyer journey

Armed with your buyer personas and ICPs, it’s time to start thinking about what content is needed at which stage and by who.

No matter how detailed and accurate your profiles are, there’s always going to be a level of experimentation involved at this stage, and that’s okay. The important thing is that you create personalized content for every stage of the buyer journey. 

Depending on your resources and the importance of a prospect, you can either create something incredibly tailored to a person’s interests as identified by the sales team, or you can create something highly relevant based on what others with the same buyer persona have engaged with strongly in the past. 

The former will likely see better results, but the latter will still cut through and resonate more often than general inbound content would have. According to an ABM report, 27% of ABM marketers reported a 50% increase in C-level engagement compared to inbound marketing.

ABM content is more successful than general inbound because personalization begins at the top of the funnel and continues throughout, rather than exclusively towards the end.

Stage 4: Measure and optimize

Your ABM content strategy should be constantly evolving to reach that “zero-waste” point. To ensure that every piece of content is delivering results, you need to monitor reader engagement to find the places where people are dropping off.

This involves looking at the performance at each stage of the buyer journey to find pieces that are stalling progression through the funnel and either improving it, moving it to a more suitable stage in the buyer journey, or removing it altogether.

You should really be doing this internally within each piece of content as well. If you’re sending video content, are people watching it all the way through to the end? Are they skipping over some of it? If you’re sending written content, which chapters or sections are being ignored? How can it be improved to encourage longer read times?

As you make these incremental changes based on your performance metrics, not only is the content becoming more relevant and impactful, but the insights will allow you to adjust your ICPs and buyer personas for the future as you understand their interests and behavioral patterns better. Over time, your content will tighten up the entire ABM cycle, eliminating “waste” by increasing conversions.

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