Using Interactive Content to Build a Scalable Account Based Marketing Program
July 18, 2016 | Dan Trefethen
If you’re a marketer with a pulse, you’ve heard of Account Based Marketing. It seems like it’s everywhere – starring in standing-room-only sessions at industry conferences; dominating stacked panels at networking events; filling up email inboxes across the marketing world.
It’s the new hotness, and it’s easy to see why: ABM promises better results, closer sales-marketing alignment, and treasure troves of revenue (plus a system to attribute that revenue back to marketing – yessss!).
But as they say, anything worth doing is rarely easy. So it’s not surprising that many of the marketers experimenting with ABM are also struggling.
A study conducted by Bizible and Terminus found that among marketers doing ABM, the top challenge – named by 35% of respondents – was execution. The next highest was measurement, with 30% of responses.
All of that to say, if you’re struggling with ABM, you’re not alone.
A new marketing strategy requires a new set of tools – and a new way of thinking.
Instead, let’s focus on ways to dramatically improve your outcomes using interactive content.
By better engaging, converting, and gathering information from your prospects, interactive content creates the foundation for your account nurturing. Make interactivity your first pick in building out your ABM arsenal – so you get better results, faster.
What Kind of Account Based Marketing Are You?
In order to see how interactivity will accelerate your ABM strategy, let’s first agree on where on the ABM continuum you fit. According to ITSMA, “Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a structured approach to developing and implementing highly customized sales and marketing campaigns for single accounts, prospects, or partnerships.”
In essence, it’s treating every account as a market of one – fostering deeper relationships with key accounts and ultimately leading to more sales and faster revenue growth.
ABM (and Marketing Automation) pioneer Jon Miller of Engagio suggests there are really three types of ABM: “Classic” ABM, “ABM Lite”, and “Hybrid ABM.”
Most marketing departments don’t have the resources to dedicate to Classic or Lite ABM, so much of what ends up being called “account based marketing” in our industry is a hybrid of demand gen approaches and account-centric approaches.
“The key difference from demand gen is that instead of scoring leads, you track account-level engagement and wait until the account hits a sufficient threshold to label them a Marketing Qualified Account (MQA).”
The hybrid model works for engaging with thousands of accounts, and is a viable “gateway drug” for ABM Lite and, eventually, Classic ABM.
Most marketers we talk to today are working toward the hybrid model. While interactive content absolutely supports and amplifies your efforts in “Lite” or “Classic” ABM, it proves a particularly instrumental bridge between typical demand gen and a more account-focused approach.
Practical Ways to Optimize Your Account Based Marketing Strategy
As I mentioned earlier, the Internet abounds with helpful materials to get you up and running with ABM, so I won’t go into that in depth here.
Suffice it to say you’ll need to be clear on your goals for ABM; what data you’ll need and how you’ll acquire it; what actions you’ll take to deliver on your goals; and what measureable outcomes you’ll look for to determine if you’ve been successful.
We could write whole treatises on each of those four pillars. Today I want to cover just two:
- What data do you need and how will you acquire it?
- What actions can you take to engage with your target accounts?
Interactive content, by being inherently more engaging and compelling, converts more often than static content and provides more data through both lead forms and interaction data. The ability to rapidly create personalized content ensures every interactive experience is tailored specifically to each account, delivering results.
Let’s dive into each of those points separately.
Get More of the Right Data With Interactive Content
What data do you currently have about your target accounts? What data do you need?
These seem like simple questions, but gathering enough data to make account-level views useful to your sales team can be difficult.
Most marketers use either a data appending software or organic form fills (e.g., progressive profiling) to gather enough information to complete an account profile. The former can be expensive and the latter takes forever.
Interactive content offers a couple of advantages. First, users are more interested in engaging with interactive materials (and convert more than twice as often) so you increase the total number of data capture opportunities provided by your content.
Second, with question-based interactive content like quizzes, assessments, calculators, or surveys, you’re gathering not just the lead form data but all the answers to the questions you posed throughout the experience.
You can layer your qualifying questions right alongside the fun questions in an assessment and trigger a “marketing qualified account” through a single interaction.
This goes way beyond data appending services. Some data you just can’t get through a machine: the answers provided through an interactive experience came from a real prospect, in real time. This is data that’s been provided proactively by an interested prospect.
This is even better than progressive profiling. It might take your prospect six or seven separate content downloads to get through your whole set of progressive form fields. Instead, a well-placed, snackable, easily-digested piece of interactive content creates an opportunity for the prospect to give you all of the information, all at once.
ABM represents an effort on the part of marketing to accelerate pipeline and drive sales. Interactive content is simply the best tool to get the data you and your sales team need to have the right conversations and make the right sales.
Personalize Content Faster With Flexible Interactivity
Even if you have all the data in the world, a great ABM strategy can’t succeed without content to back it up.
In most cases, the actions marketing can take to advance this account through the sales funnel is to provide the right messaging and content to the right person at the right time.
ABM best practice recommends developing account-specific content offers that speak directly to the needs, interests, and pains of the account you’re working. For most marketers, developing new content on that scale sounds like an impossible task.
You don’t have to create a brand new infographic or video for each account – use interactivity to customize a single asset according to the needs of that individual and that account.
There are two reasons interactive content is the best tool to create content on this kind of scale.
- Clone & customize existing content
- Personalization tools for real-time customization
In the first scenario, you’re creating unique assets per account based on the same core content. That might mean you take a white paper, load it into an interactive content creation software, and layer in custom questions, diagrams, or calculations geared toward that account.
The second option takes a single content asset and switches out copy, graphics, logos, etc. in real time based on who the user is and how they interact with your experience. A simple example of this kind of functionality can be seen here:
Aggregate Account-Level Activities
Now, let’s imagine what the future could look like.
Consider prospect A, “Dana” from ABC Corp. She arrives at your website and takes a few actions. Maybe she reads a few blog posts, downloads an ebook, and takes a look at your product offerings. Not enough to make her a qualified lead, but not insignificant.
Then prospect B, “Simon,” stops by – Simon works with Dana at ABC Corp, and has heard from Dana that your company might be worth looking into. Simon takes a look at your product offerings and signs up to view a webinar replay. Again, not enough to qualify, but certainly expressing interest.
In the future, instead of treating Simon and Dana the same, we build off what we learned from Dana’s visit. We ask different questions, show different content, and dynamically change the experience for Simon based on the actions made by Dana.
What we show Simon today is not at all informed by what Dana did – but doing so in the future will be a game-changer for account based marketing. You’ll start thinking about activities not just at the lead level, but at the account level, and pass more actionable leads to sales.
Toward a Scalable ABM Strategy
Account Based Marketing is an attractive approach, but can be daunting. Don’t let finding the right data and performing the right actions be the reasons you delay implementing your ABM strategy.
Make it easy on yourself by placing interactive content at the core of your ABM strategy. Gather the kind of data you need on prospects throughout your target universe, then deliver the kind of content they want to engage with.
ABM might be the buzzword du jour, but it’s worth digging deeper into how it would work for you. Take these steps to put you on the cutting edge.