Which channels do you naturally think about when you’re crafting your Account Based Marketing strategy? Do you focus only on channels that can deliver personal messages on a one-to-one basis? Or do you broaden your palette to include the fast-growing opportunities of Account Based Advertising (ABA)?
A strong ABM programme will draw on (or at least consider) every available communication channel to further the relationship with your target customer. Well thought out playbooks will assess the relevance, the cadence and the tone of all messaging to further your campaign to land – and/or expand –business with your ideal customer, keeping that channel choice in mind.
You’d expect to find personal phone calls, email messaging, SMS or chat – and even hyper-personalised website experiences – fitting into many of these programmes. But what about a broader reach approach, such as digital display advertising?
Historically, advertising has been a broadcast medium. In a business to business context, with response rates to display advertising negligible at best, its value as a direct response medium has been next to nothing. This has left its role simply as a tool for raising brand awareness.
The natural assumption might be, then, that advertising only fits further down the ABM pyramid, as you get to a one-to-many approach.
Today, though, sophisticated micro-targeting capabilities mean that you can narrow down your advertising programme to reach only the companies you want to target. And within those companies, you can elect to target specific organisational functions – or even with quite specific job titles. Suddenly, a personalised use case for advertising in the ABM stack makes a lot of sense.
So how best to deploy an account based advertising campaign? To answer that we need to think a little about how different messages resonate in different media channels. Our recent whitepaper about the relationship between Inbound and ABM touched on how different techniques apply at different stages of your customer’s buying cycle.
So what extra value does Account Based Advertising (ABA) bring to the party?
The first place where ABA can outperform other channels is outreach. Consider this: you have carefully defined your Ideal Customer Profile; you’ve mapped the companies that most closely match that profile. As the first stage of communication to those accounts, you run a targeted ad campaign that is seen only by the likely members of the buying teams in those companies.
You’ve started to set up the conversations you can then build on in future communications. You’ve begun to raise the questions your future sales calls, emails and other content marketing are beautifully tooled to answer.
By defining the ‘next steps’ clearly, you can monitor your target customer’s interaction with this and future communications. This is how you can make everything in your response to your customer’s buying cycle just work harder.
The second win for ABA is tackling the ticklish problem of communicating with the hard-to-reach influencers in the buying team. We’ve seen that buying teams have grown over the past few years – averaging 6.8 people in many business cases. But your sales team is still likely to be limited to direct contact with less than half that number. Worse yet, in procurement driven RFP processes, you might be actively banned from making personal contact with the rest of the business, removing the opportunity to influence the influencers.
In these circumstances, ABA can offer a chance to get well considered messages in front of those tough-to-talk-to people without breaking the rules. Messaging can even get as specific as overcoming known objections within a particular target organisation.
Five fundamentals of Account Based Advertising
- Creative: for this specifically targeted approach (as with all stages of your ABM strategy) you need to make sure you’ve got the message right, and that it shines through in your creative. What do you want your target customers to understand from seeing the advertising? What questions do you want to tee up in their minds? What action do you want them to take on seeing your advertising?
- Personalise but don’t stalk: you’ve gone to all the trouble of isolating the advertising target audience – now make sure you customise the messaging to them as well. Getting the balance between relevance and not seeming to be stalking is where the value lies. Get it right and you will give the sense of a much bigger campaign than your media spend would otherwise command.
- Storyboard the conversation: your ABA work should not be ‘one shot or bust’. You need to storyboard how your audience will receive your communications. This works both within the advertising medium itself (you can sequence ads to tell a story) and on a wider level as well, as you consider what place the advertising has in the overall communication cadence.
- Follow up properly: you need a full-fledged follow up programme once you’ve captured your audience’s attention with the initial advertising. Think about different plays based on difference reactions – such as ‘hand raised’, ‘clicked but not raised hand’ or ‘seen but not engaged’. Each reaction group will have their own follow-up path.
- Continuously improve: as you gain appreciation of how your audience(s) are reacting to your advertising, don’t forget to keep refining based on what you’ve learned. Done well, account based advertising can be a long term, ongoing, evolving strategy.
The key to account based advertising success lies in placing it within a broader communication thread. Every touchpoint you and your target audience connect on will have an impact on your likelihood of doing (more) business with them.
Used well, ABA adds a powerful new dimension to your communication, complementing the more obvious one-to-one comms channels you’re also using.