Rethinking Personas & Account Based Marketing in Digital Times

By Nick Price

While in the past account based marketing (ABM) has usually been considered the work of large companies, disruptions in technology mean that small and medium-sized B2B players can take the same approach. You no longer have to have a giant budget at a huge firm to integrate ABM into your marketing strategy. However, it does require laser focus on your ideal accounts and getting your team on the same page.
To get started with ABM, you should identify not only the target accounts, but also the influencers and decisions makers within those companies, so that you can target each individual based on their needs. This will require bringing your sales and marketing teams together to collaborate on targeting and messaging. ABM only works effectively when these groups are aligned, but in the end it spells success across the organization.
But this is not always easy. Sales teams often determine top accounts with a high level of subjectivity, based if the company is Fortune 500 firm or what kind of relationships they have at the company. However advances in technology should be applied to help maximize your company’s understanding of which accounts to go after.
“Predictive analytics allows you to create a real customer profile based on data points, rather than subjective factors,” Lauren Goldstein, vice president, strategy & partnerships, Babcock & Jenkins told Chief Marketer. “These might be based on industry, region, technologies installed, the types of jobs they recruit for or other things.”
Once you have identified the targets, your team should focus on developing content that speaks to this audience. Spend some time getting insights from these buyers and understanding their pain points, in order to create relevant content based on the issues they are grappling with.
This includes a wide array of elements such as blog posts, videos, webinars, infographics and so forth. Content should be informative, engaging and speak to the needs of your audience, not just promote your products. Depending on your audience and your type of services, don’t be afraid to be funny or entertaining in your content if appropriate.
Use a variety of messages and channels for each account including email, display, social media or even direct mail to distribute this content through integrated campaigns that are based on personas. Marketers that use buyer personas, and map content to the buyer journey, see 73 percent higher conversions from response to marketing qualified lead, according to Aberdeen Research. 
Unfortunately, however, buyer personas are still too often being built on 1980s theories and need to be revamped to be better suited in the era of social media, SEO and advanced marketing automation tactics.
To improve the quality of buyer personas, consider new ways to build these personas. Start with adopting surveys and interviews. Use current customer surveys, and former customer surveys, to understand why customers signed on with you or why they left. Implement a process for interviewing advocates of your brand so that you can understand what your strong points are and why this particular company, and person with this job title, is implementing your company’s services.
In addition, interview your own employees as well. Include insights from sales managers, customer support folks and leadership teams’ interviews to form a well-rounded picture of your buyer’s experience across your company.
Also look to the digital data to help build these personas. Mine your CRM program and social data to help build a better understanding of how prospects and customers are reacting to your company.
ABM offers B2B marketers a new world of opportunities, but it may require a new way of thinking.

Nick Price

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