Account-based marketing (ABM) is one of the hottest marketing trends right now—and with good reason.
Today’s customers don’t want to be treated like just another email address. They expect personalized, relevant experiences. According to a study by Walker, the customer experience is expected to overtake product and price as a company’s key brand differentiator by 2020. (I would say it’s already happening!)
Some companies think ABM is just personalized emails, content or landing pages.
Others go above and beyond to provide a memorable experience…and get meetings booked with one of their sales reps. This could mean giving prospects fancy gifts, like iPads, to get a call.
“I know you want what’s in this box. Take a meeting with me and it’s yours.”
The good news: you don’t need to spend a fortune to make a good impression. (Or be as desperate as the person above.)
This year, I was asked to run our ABM campaigns and provide amazing experiences to prospects—with a limited budget.
In this post, I’ll share the steps I took to create three of those ABM campaigns and the results I achieved. I’m holding nothing back: you’ll learn what worked, what didn’t work, and what I would change next time.
Our top goal was to start conversations with people who may have downloaded our content or heard about us, but have never been in conversation with our sales team.
To narrow down the companies we would target, we worked with our sales team to identify our “Tier One” accounts—AKA the accounts most likely to buy from us. We did this by pulling a list of organizations that met certain criteria in the following categories:
- Company size
Then, for each account, we chose specific people to connect with. We wanted to reach out to several roles within a company so we could show multiple departments the value advocate marketing could bring to the business. These roles included:
- VPs of Sales
- VPs of Marketing
- VPs of Customer Success
Hint: you may need to do some LinkedIn research to fill in the blanks in your CRM.
Just settling in for some LinkedIn
I had to strike a balance with all of our ABM efforts. The campaigns had to be flashy enough that people would take notice, and personalized enough that they would feel special—but inexpensive enough to be doable. (No mailing Ferraris!)
I decided to focus our campaigns on the topic of online reviews. Lots of our target companies (in the tech/software space) are constantly being reviewed. However, they don’t realize they have the power to improve the number of reviews they get and their overall rankings on third-party review sites with a formal advocacy strategy.
Here’s the account-based marketing campaigns our team did to make them aware of how we could help them:
Campaign #1: Personalized review notes
We decided to send contacts at our target accounts a personal package that contained a review about their company we found on a third-party review website.
We thought this would catch their attention and be a good introduction point for talking about what they could do to get more customer reviews.
The packages included a handwritten note from one of our sales reps, a review from one of the prospects’ customers, and an Influitive sticker. Some also included an eBook about generating sales pipeline with the help of customer advocates. We sent it in a box via UPS (vs. just an envelope) because we thought this would make them more likely to open it…and it helped us track when they received it so we could follow-up.
Wouldn’t you want to read this before bed?
We then had reps follow up with a five-step cadence, with the first touch happening three business days after arrival.
Results – We generated a 29% response rate and a 1.6% sales-qualified opportunities conversion rate.
Lesson learned – I decided to send 50% of accounts a less than positive review about their brand, and the other 50% a positive review. I observed that 95% of our responses came from people who had received positive reviews. Turns out people will listen more when the message is positive. Tread carefully when trying to ruffle feathers or scare someone into action—it may have the opposite effect.
Campaign #2: Magic Quadrant videos
We decided next to target companies that were ranked in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant—but could use more reviews.
We created custom videos that personally congratulated each company on their standing in the Magic Quadrant and sent them via Twitter. Then, we said that they could get to the upper right (AKA the Holy Grail) of the quadrant with the help of their customers.
Results – We sent out a small sample of 24 videos, and generated four responses (17% response rate) resulting in one sales-qualified opportunity (4% conversion rate).
Lesson learned – While this approach has a high response rate, it was very time-intensive to create. (Our sales reps had a lot of outtakes.) It’s also difficult to scale. However, once you have a solid script in place and some folks who are naturals on camera, it’s worth a shot. (We did something similar for this holiday video campaign and it went over pretty well.) We’ll definitely be doing more of these in the future!
Campaign #3: Pinata review packages
We decide to kick our send from Campaign #1 up a notch by sending packages with positive online reviews, but this time we put them inside pinatas that were filled with candy.
“Please don’t hurt me!”
We also switched up our messaging a bit by adding some social proof from one of our advocates, Amy Rosenberg. She shared a personal testimony about her success with our platform and offered to speak with them via email. We thought this added a nice human element to the campaign.
Results – After sending the “pinata-grams” we had a 36% response rate along with a 3.4% sales-qualified opportunity rate—one of our highest yet!
Lesson learned – This campaign has one of the best response rates, so it looks like sending something fun and adding in the advocacy touch works best.
After analyzing all of our ABM campaigns from this past year, I’ve noticed that they get 3X the response rate and 2X the conversion rate that a regular marketing campaign does.
Here are the four things that I learned about running successful B2B ABM campaigns:
1. Help sales with ABM follow-up
No matter what you send your prospects, you have to take a proactive approach to following up with them. Nothing is going to make them stop what they’re doing and call you—but they might be more willing to have a conversation with your team.
We had our reps follow up with a phone call a few days after we sent out our campaigns. Make sure you prep your salespeople with the right messaging and instructions so they add to the good experience of your target account.
2. Balance sizzle and steak in your ABM campaigns
We learned that you don’t need to send expensive gifts or spend tons of time personalizing your messaging. You just need to balance out the sizzle and the steak.
For us, simple messaging that focused on our prospects’ customers reviews performed well. I call this the “steak” since it’s the real value we’re delivering (“Did you know about this potential advocate?”).
Everything else is “sizzle”—something that gets their attention and makes them feel special. In our last case, that was the pinata (fun) and handwritten note (meaningful).
Balance sizzle and steak so you can forge a personal connection based on value.
3. Always be tracking ABM efforts
You can’t get better at ABM if you don’t track and test your campaigns.
If you’re using SFDC, create separate campaigns and add campaign members. Then, share with your sales team.
If you are sending mailers, spend the extra money for UPS/FedEx tracking. Like an email, you can see the point of delivery.
The more data you have, the better chance you have to iterate and strike gold.
4. Sprinkle ABM with customer advocacy
Never underestimate how your customer advocates can provide social proof.
Include a note or quote from them, offer to connect them with prospective buyers early or send a printed copy of a case study featuring them.
Advocates can also help you get into new accounts and identify target prospects. Learn more about leveraging your advocates in your ABM campaigns in this ebook.