If you’re new to account-based marketing, be sure to check out the first in my ABM series on the basics of starting an account-based marketing campaign. If you’re ready to start planning, here’s my practical approach to building buyer-focused content.
Since Bill Gates said it over two decades ago, we’ve all heard it a thousand times: “Content is king!” So why, then, is most content so awful? According to SiriusDecisions, up to 65 percent of all content goes unused.
The reason? Basically, most content just isn’t relevant to potential buyers. And in account-based marketing, that’s not helping anyone. Consider these sobering stats about today’s prospective buyers’ journeys:
- 92 percent begin with a basic information search.
- 53 percent prefer going online and researching to speaking with a salesperson.
- 75 percent look to their social networks to learn about vendors.
- 90 percent won’t answer cold calls from sales.
That means your ABM campaign’s content should be the jet fuel enabling you to meet prospective buyers at the points where they’re more open to continuing the conversation with you.
So what’s the secret to creating more effective content that opens doors versus awful content that closes them? Personalization plus relevancy.
What’s everyone doing wrong with ABM?
Traditional demand generation necessitates continuous creation of a high volume of content. It’s easy to fall back on providing general remedies to generic problems and avoid specificity. But this approach isn’t very effective; just 1–3 percent of leads generated via traditional demand gen convert into won deals.
That doesn’t mean broader-scale content isn’t valuable or needed, but ABM campaigns require that we all think about content differently.
“You still need that top-of-funnel content, but you need to resist the temptation to aspire to a larger audience.” – Joe Chernov, CMO, InsightSquared (Can Account-Based Marketing and Content Marketing Get Along?)
In ABM, you simply can’t afford to push general content to your highest priority accounts. You need to stop talking about your company’s solutions, features, and benefits, and start listening for what your prospects and customers need. How can you create content that provides real value and avoids overt selling? How do you become more relevant?
Transition your thinking from “how do we sell?” to “how can we serve?”
Ninety-seven percent of B2B marketers said ABM had a somewhat higher or much higher ROI than other marketing initiatives. Thinking first about the needs of potential buyers and personalizing content for specific accounts and/or contacts leads to huge improvements in engagement rates.
How personalized does content need to be?
If personalized content sounds like a lot of work (and it absolutely can be), here’s the good news: There are different levels of personalization. You’ll need to decide which level is right for your accounts, and ideally this will vary based on the target accounts you’re aiming for.
At a high level, here’s how to think about content personalization:
- Tier A accounts get 100 percent customized messages, plus higher-value offers.
- Tier B accounts follow the 80/20 rule, where 80 percent is templatized and 20 percent is customized.
- Tier C accounts get only minor customization as time allows—think segmented emails sent en masse.
Since Tier A is comprised of the companies that have the highest propensity to become big LTV customers, they’re worthy of a higher investment and more resources to customize content, messaging, offers, etc. Conversely, Tier C accounts don’t have the spend potential to warrant deep personalization.
An alternative framework outlines personalization levels across a spectrum, with highly personalized content approaches on the left side of the spectrum, and more limited personalization on the right:
Hyper-personalized content obviously requires considerable resources and in-depth research. That takes time and can get expensive. But remember that large, high-value accounts are often worth a higher level of investment.
On the other end of the spectrum, you can’t afford to over-invest in smaller, lower-value accounts where scalability, not 1:1 personalization, is more important.
The level of personalization you end up applying is completely up to you, but keep the value potential of your account tiers in mind when deciding how best to tailor content for specific industries, accounts, persona types, or in the most personalized sense, for specific individuals.
To repurpose content or create new content?
The short answer: It depends.
While your existing content probably isn’t tailored for specific target accounts or personas, it’s often a great starting point. If you’re able to use 80 percent of what you already have, getting the other 20 percent is usually easier, faster, and less costly than creating new content from scratch.
Here’s a quick list of steps to guide you as you work toward developing personalized content for ABM:
- Inventory your existing content and catalog what you already have.
- Categorize existing content to gauge which audiences each asset is best suited for (e.g. industry verticals, solution focus, buyer stage, target personas, etc.).
- Assess the content needs of your highest priority Tier A and B accounts.
- Understand what is needed to tailor existing assets for specific accounts, personas, and/or industries, and ask yourself:
- What are the specific personalization requirements for each account?
- What are the unique issues facing our target prospects?
- What’s the best way to emphasize these issues and make it obvious why your target/s would find the information valuable?
- What specific edits or additions are needed to personalize each asset, respectively?
- Adopt a standard content marketing process.
A good example of repurposing existing content would be to recreate a webinar and customize messaging for a specific account to more closely align with their specific needs. Most of the presentation is already done; personalization would likely only require slight tweaks throughout to include relevant industry terms and perhaps a new intro and/or conclusion.
It’s typically more cost-effective to repurpose existing assets, but if you determine new content must be created, look for ways to borrow from existing content as much as possible to speed up the process.
Think like your buyer
If content is king, great content that drives higher engagement is the holy grail. But budgets and resources are never unlimited; you’ve got to pick your spots and determine where additional research and personalization will have a corresponding impact on campaign ROI. Look to start slow initially, creating fewer but higher quality assets. As ROI metrics begin to pencil out, you can expand your reach and look to tackle the next ABM content challenge: scaling to reach more targets in lower account tiers.
Put yourself in your target buyer’s shoes, understand what their needs are, and be willing to work harder to provide content that helps them, not you.