Content marketers have been perfectly happy doing their own thing for decades. From David Ogilvy waxing poetic about the perfect headline in the 1960s to Neil Patel’s modern-day SEO advice, content marketers have their niche and they do it well.
That is until executives started to ask for cold, hard data. Salespeople wanted to know where all the leads were and CEOs wanted to know how the efforts of content marketing were really driving revenue. It became difficult for marketers to show how and why traffic, pageviews and SERPs made a difference to the bottom line. If you’re a content marketer, this sounds all too familiar.
As of late, account-based content marketing has become a hot topic amongst agencies and marketing teams across every B2B industry. But how does content fit into ABM? Nervous that ABM might take away the creativity of copywriting, content marketers began diving into ABM more deeply.
The truth is that account-based marketing together with content is a pairing that just makes sense. Sales gets better quality leads that they actually want to be speaking with. Executives get to understand how content impacts revenue. And content marketers get to be the hero. You can’t ABM without really effective content.
So, What Is Account-Based Content Marketing?
Account-based content marketing combines traditional, funnel-based marketing tactics with a much more targeted delivery. The result is higher-quality leads and more conversions: 62% of marketers say they can measure a positive impact since adopting ABM.
Traditional content marketing casts a wide net. It sits comfortably at the top of the funnel, grabbing leads and nurturing potential customers with blogs, white papers, articles and email newsletters. It uses phrases like “link building,” “domain authority” and “brand awareness.” And it generally focuses on volume: the more leads, the better. It’s up to sales to take it from there.
Account-based marketing is a more integrated approach between the sales and marketing teams. It flips the traditional marketing funnel, starting with a focused list of higher-value accounts. The goal is to engage those accounts, build real relationships and eventually make the sale. In account-based content marketing, the content created is much more personalized to personas within your target account lists.
How to Align ABM and Content Marketing
If your goal is to attract companies who are interested in cybersecurity, traditional content marketing targets everyone who has ever searched for the word “cybersecurity” by writing as many long-form articles around topics and topic clusters containing that word.
ABM specifically targets the decision makers within your target account lists in three different campaign types: 1:1, 1:Few and 1:Many.
To decide on the type of ABM campaign you want to launch and the content that is needed to ensure engagement and conversions, sales and marketing must work together.
The sales team will work on providing target account lists that fit the company’s ideal customer profile. They will also provide important background information on those prospects that include anything from common challenges and pain points to their own struggles with closing that piece of business.
Content marketers should also understand what the average sales cycle is, how your solutions offer a competitive advantage to your prospects and what, if anything, is missing from the decision-making process.
The more aligned you are, the better: A company’s level of marketing and sales alignment shows a strong correlation with its level of ABM success.
How to Create Account-Based Content
The good news for marketers is that many of their familiar tools and strategies also work for account-based content marketing. You’ll still research, set goals, build personas and rely on engaging storytelling to get your message across. Your audience may just be smaller, depending on what type of ABM campaign you’re launching.
Step 1: Choose Your Campaign Type
Account-based content marketing requires many smaller pieces of personalized content for each audience. The amount of content and variations you will need depends on the type of ABM campaign:
- 1:1 – One-to-one ABM campaigns are designed to target multiple decision makers at one, high-value company. Marketers work with a few key salespeople to create fully personalized campaigns. This type of campaign is the heaviest lift and usually involves creating entirely new content to speak directly to the specific pain points of one account.
- 1:few – One-to-few campaigns target a cluster of similar accounts, typically the top 30 accounts in a specific industry. Marketers work with more salespeople here who may be less familiar with the specific accounts. They can typically repurpose some existing content, making them a lighter lift.
- 1:many – One-to-many ABM is the lightest lift, targeting the top 100 accounts in a specific industry. It’s more like traditional content marketing, yet the content is still more personalized and targeted than the average top-of-funnel campaign. This account-based content marketing strategy might include revising existing content, as well as using “wide net” tactics like paid search.
Step 2: Choose Your Goals and Ideal Customer Profile
Goals are essential to any marketing campaign, but especially to ABM. Without goals, you’ll never be able to prove impact on revenue to your CEO – and your account-based content marketing program won’t get very far.
KPIs and metrics for an ABM campaign are slightly different than traditional content marketing. Here are a few to consider:
- On-site conversion rates
- Email metrics
- Content downloads
- Companies reached
- Depth of coverage within companies (number of contacts)
- Engagement per decision maker
- Account conversions to sales opportunities
- Won business
Step 3: Find Your Content Gaps
Next you’ll dive deeper into your desired campaign type and create your ideal customer profile – a list of characteristics that your most valuable customers have, whether you’re talking about one company or 100. You’ll then create more detailed personas for each buyer that fits your profile. Both of these tactics are familiar to content marketers.
Map your current content to your buyer personas and you’ll begin to see where your gaps are. That’s what you need to fill in with new or repurposed account-based content marketing pieces.
You’ll be happy to learn that you may be able to repurpose existing blogs and articles. Finding efficiencies is the name of the ABM game, and auditing existing content is an essential part of that. As you look at the content you already have, think about how you can easily personalize it: A white paper becomes an infographic targeted at different buyer groups. A blog becomes a series that targets different industries.
Make a list of anything you still don’t have after repurposing existing content. That’s what you’ll need to create from scratch
Step 4: Repurpose or Create New Content
There is sometimes an impression among content marketers that ABM will decrease the need for content within their organization. They may believe that ABM is just emails from the sales team or a personalized landing page here and there. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. ABM actually results in a need for more content, as campaigns are completely original and must be customized for every target.
The types of assets created may be slightly different than what content marketers are used to. Rather than creating a general blog article, account-based content marketing might involve creating a gated whitepaper that speaks directly to a pain point of a specific buyer persona, such as a CTO or a sales manager. Rather than blasting out organic social media posts to all followers, an ABM campaign will choose specific accounts to target with personalized paid ads.
Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same for content marketers. Many account-based content marketing pieces will be familiar, but more targeted. You might create a 1:1 landing page for one specific target account, or a lead nurture email series specifically for CMOs at your top 30 SaaS targets.
So how will you know what to create? Luckily, ABM done right means you're using the right tools to get the right data to understand which content will be the most successful. It does this by gathering intent signals: what your targets are doing online, what they’re reading, how long they’re spending on certain parts of your website, and more. That gives you the ammunition you need to create a streamlined, effective account-based content marketing strategy that translates into the most important ABM KPI: revenue won.