How to Choose The Right Account-Based Marketing Channels
Turn your account-based marketing challenges into opportunities with these expert tips.
There are many benefits of account-based marketing, but the ability to reach multiple members of the buying committee is one of the biggest. You’re able to get your message, preferably one tailored to each persona, in front of the right (and intended) audience within your target accounts. But with that personalization comes the challenge of figuring out which account-based marketing channels, whether online or offline, are right for your program.
Recently, eMarketer surveyed B2B professionals in the US and found that 68% see digital advertising as a critical ABM channel. Email and virtual events weren’t far behind. These are especially relevant in a pandemic-affected world, where in-person events and conferences are less reliable.
Digital advertising is a broad category. You’ll need to decide the mix of digital initiatives you’ll utilize to reach your audience. Just like every marketing tactic isn’t right for every program, not every digital channel will fit your ABM campaign. Let’s break down the different ABM channels you could incorporate into your program and their benefits.
What Makes a Good ABM Channel?
You might have an understanding of various digital channels, whether that’s SEM, email marketing, paid social and more. But what exactly makes a given channel right for an ABM program versus a one-off digital marketing campaign? To figure it out, put the audience first and look at the channels you’ve used in the past through the lens of ABM.
Choosing the right TAL is a mission-critical first step of an ABM program. Ideally, your TAL will be segmented in a way that groups accounts by relevant information. Make sure that whatever digital channel you choose is able to run programs specifically for these segmented audiences.
Another important aspect of a good account-based marketing channel is A/B testing. Does the platform allow you to personalize and optimize your messaging through testing to gain a deeper understanding of what content your target audience is most interested in?
The ability to integrate data and insights into your martech stack is another critical component of picking the right ABM channels. Hubspot, for example, has great integrations with LinkedIn and Google Ads, as well as various analytics platforms, to pull in campaign data and see what ads brought in specific leads. This granular data can not only help optimize performance and drive marketing qualified leads, but it can also show real marketing effectiveness on things like pipeline revenue and sales for the company.
Choosing Your Channels
ABM is all about putting the audience first. Never choose your channels before you’ve put together a cohesive marketing strategy that answers the “who,” the “what,” and the “why”—after that you can figure out the “where.”
The “who,” of course, is your audience. Who are they? How have you segmented them? What makes them tick? Figuring out the pain points to trigger in your messaging will inform the next W of your ABM channel strategy: the “what.”
The “what” is your content. Without good content, any ABM program is sure to fail. It doesn’t matter how effective you are at reaching your audience in the right place at the right time, if you don’t have something interesting to say to them.
The “why” is your reason for running this ABM program in the first place. Maybe you’ve uncovered a trend or untapped potential in the market through customer testimonials or research. Or perhaps you have a new product or service that’s ideal for a core segment of your business and a strong list of accounts you think will benefit from it. Regardless, you know your goals, you’ve done the research, and now it’s time to strategize.
This leads us to the “where”: your channels. By this point you should understand your TAL extremely well. You should know enough about their demographics to inform their behavior online, and you should know what they are researching and interested in to inform your content strategy. You should also have a clear point of view for this TAL and how you’re going to market to them. Now you have to pick where you reach them with this core message.
Depending on where the user is in the buying journey, as well as which member of the buying committee you are trying to reach with what content, the right ABM channel is going to vary.
The Importance of Content
Before we dive into the channels themselves, let’s talk about the importance of a good ABM content strategy. Personalization (which comes from segmentation and putting the audience first) and targeting (which comes from the right message at the right time) are key to a successful ABM program. But without good content, everything else falls apart.
Don’t be intimidated. Creating content for your TAL can be as easy as taking a generic piece of content you’ve already developed and repositioning it for a specific audience, such as updating and revising an ebook for a specific industry. Or it could mean adjusting a nurture stream and email subject lines to speak to a particular customer persona. The key here is good content that truly benefits your audience.
The Top ABM Channels
Alright, now we can get into the specifics of which channels we think are ideal for ABM campaigns. Of course, only you know your audience and goals, so it’s important to adjust your strategy accordingly. And remember, campaigns often use a combination of channels to get the best results. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – think about how diverse your audience’s digital footprint is and plan to reach them where they may be most engaged.
Within digital advertising, some ABM channels perform better than others. LinkedIn, for example, is one of our favorite B2B digital advertising platforms because of its rich, first-party data. Because users self-select the information on their profile and use it as a digital resume, targeting criteria is updated frequently and highly segmentable. You can not only upload account lists or import them from ABM tools like 6sense or from your own CRM, you can also layer persona filters like job function, seniority and more to get to the ideal customer within your TAL.
Another ABM channel that falls under digital advertising is display ads. There are many intent-driven programmatic partners that can use account lists or audience segments from your ABM tools to display ads across the web. The most ideal for an ABM program would be something that layers your TAL with search intent to find the most relevant, in-market audiences for your product or service.
Search doesn’t always come to mind for ABM channels, but it should. Google AdWords can actually target paid search ads based on email address, which can also be used for display or Gmail ads. This helps you create extremely personalized paid search strategies to reach users who may be in your CRM and are actively searching for brand or non-brand terms related to your business.
Of course, email is one of the non-paid channels that can be a robust and effective addition to your ABM program. Email marketing benefits your campaign by allowing you to segment and reach users within specific organizations with particular messages. If you have a strong connection between your marketing automation platform and CRM, you can also create triggered email nurture flows that respond to user and account behavior. Automating this process not only frees up your sales team to respond to accounts further down the funnel, but also creates a more custom, personalized experience for the user.
While not a digital channel, direct mail is surprisingly one of the best ABM advertising examples. It’s been making a comeback with the increase in technology and data to create more personalized experiences. This could be a particularly effective ABM channel for users furthest down the funnel or to encourage a prospect to stay engaged with your sales team.
Whatever your mission might be, choosing the right ABM channels for your marketing campaign is important to not only be effective but efficient. Successful ABM campaigns are not easy. They require more than just flipping a switch. They require strong alignment between sales and marketing, good creative and content, and a TAL that is backed by market research and aligns with your business’ ideal prospects.
Whether you start small and scale or expand your existing ABM efforts with one, or many, of these ABM channels, always put the audience first.