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Top 10 Trends in Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

As the B2B landscape continues to evolve, two key developments have necessitated an evolution from traditional lead generation strategies to account-based marketing (ABM). First, the matrix of B2B decision making is becoming increasingly complex. Studies have shown the average business decision now involves five different individuals. Second, the need for higher-quality, more targeted content is growing. Inundated with the superficial content offered by many traditional lead generation channels, decision makers are demanding assets that offer in-depth insights into the precise challenges their organizations are looking to solve.

The State of Account-Based Marketing

Since ABM first started gaining momentum around 2016, interest in this approach to identifiable lead generation has grown exponentially among B2B marketers. Forward-thinking teams are realizing that the old “shotgun-based” lead generation strategies — go out and dig up a bunch of leads, filter them through a funnel, and hope some become customers — just don’t work like they used to. ABM offers a laser-focused strategy, where we can identify specific target organizations, measure engagement and mindshare at different roles and levels of authority within the organization, and use that intel to engage specific contacts through targeted lead generation channels.

Cultivating an ABM Mindset

ABM is more than just a new approach to identifiable lead generation that’s siloed within the confines of the marketing department. It’s a mindset that touches a multitude of areas within an organization.

Instead of thinking in terms of “markets” — large swaths of organizations with a few characteristics in common — ABM requires B2B brands to think of individual accounts as individual markets-of-one. In the past, this approach, as a strategy, would have been difficult if not impossible; however, the quick availability of targeted, account-specific data has made it a reality. Once we begin viewing accounts as markets in their own right, we can design a structured approach to developing and implementing highly customized marketing campaigns.

10 Trends Shaping the Future of Account-Based Marketing

As ABM continues to evolve as an identifiable lead generation strategy, and more B2B marketers refine their approach, trends have begun to emerge that are shaping the future of account-based marketing. We’ve identified ten of the most prominent developments here; if you haven’t already incorporated these practices into your ABM strategy, it’s a good time to think about doing so.

1. Personalization

Given the technology we have at our disposal, there is no reason to rely solely on a one-size-fits-all marketing experience. Even smaller marketing departments are capable of personalization tactics, ranging from customizable e-books to tailored user experiences, on your website.

2. Tapping Internal Connection Sources Outside of Sales

When targeting a new account, remember that employees within your organization may already have connections there — and these may not just be employees on the sales team. Someone in your accounting department, for example, may be connected with a former coworker, who now works at your new target account. Have a system in place for tapping those internal connection sources and using their connections as entry points for beginning the identified lead generation process.

3. Customized Offers

When we focus on specific accounts — and individual people within those accounts — we can create offers that are hyper-specialized, according to each prospect’s unique combination of challenges and ambitions.

4. Interactive Offers

In addition to delivering self-contained resources such as e-books or a white papers, ABM marketers are leveraging offers designed to raise more questions; questions which are best answered in a meeting. For example, an assessment might give prospects a “score” for one aspect of their business, which then leaves them with the question “How can we improve?” Questions like these can inspire prospects to agree to a meeting.

5. Leveraging Social Insights

An account’s social media postings provide valuable information on what’s going on in the organization, and also uncover opportunities for engagement. For example, if a target company announces a major product launch, your assigned sales rep can immediately reach out to his or her contacts in the organization with a message of congratulations.

6. Retargeting

Studies have shown the majority of the decision-making process occurs well before prospects place themselves on your radar by completing an activity in your lead generation channel. Retargeting enables you to focus your efforts on prospects who have discovered you already — who have visited your website, for example, or interacted with your social media posts, — and serve up specific offers designed to attract them into your sales funnel.

7. Exec-to-Exec Engagement

Top-level executives face a constant stream of pitches from would-be vendors. How often do those campaigns start with a personal message from a fellow C-suiter? ABM marketers are enlisting their CEOs, and other top execs, to reach out to their counterparts at target accounts, beginning with a personal email message or direct-mail letter requesting a brief meeting. A sales rep can then follow up with the executive’s assistant to set up the meeting, referencing the original communication and dropping the name of the C-suiter who sent it.

8. Strategic Sales Territory Assignments

In the past, sales territories were assigned to reps based on a variety of criteria … or no criteria at all. With account-based marketing, we can be more strategic about the way we allocate those assignments. For example, if you add a new account to your target list, you may want to see who on your sales team already has connections within that organization, or which reps have a track record of closed deals with similar organizations (in terms of size, structure, vertical, etc).

9. Role-Based Targeting

Job titles often tell us very little about what an individual actually does in the target organization, making them a less-than-optimal criteria for assessing contacts. Marketers are doing additional detective work — online and offline — to determine which individuals are part of the decision-making matrix and can lead to a closed deal.

10. Experimenting with Direct Mail

Executives receive hundreds of emails and other electronic messages every day, most of which are handled (or deleted) by an assistant. Creative ABM teams are experimenting with unique, engaging ways of reaching executives through direct mail marketing to draw them into conversation.

What’s Next?

Over the past few years, account-based marketing has evolved from an obscure lead generation strategy to a mainstream B2B marketing powerhouse. Advances in technology have made precise targeting tools more accessible than ever, while an environment inundated by generic, “one-size-fits-all” marketing campaigns is necessitating a more focused approach to identified lead generation. If we can adjust our mindsets, not only in the marketing department, but across our organizations, and begin to view each account as a market unto itself, we unlock tremendous opportunities which can pave the way to an even more profitable future.

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