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The age of experience: Defining ABM’s new era

On 16 March 2020, a whole era of B2B marketing ended.

It was the day the UK announced a nationwide lockdown, and one that had begun with my team finalising one of our most comprehensive ABM programmes yet. It was for Veeam, the market leader in Cloud Data Management, and would have seen us roll out a multi-touchpoint operation that included thought-leading direct mailers, face-to-face sales meetings and an event.

Needless to say, changes were needed. We pivoted the programme, with a much-altered list of targets and a revamped set of touchpoints including pre-recorded sales videos and tailored content hubs, and ended up smashing Veeam’s pre-Covid targets in the process.

This blog isn’t about our work for Veeam. But what it is about, and what for me will always be personified by that particular campaign, is a new era for ABM.

Because gone are the days when personalisation was a set of drag-and-drop details. To speak to the hearts and minds of today’s buyer, we must create unique, immersive experiences for them, without even entering the room.

For that to happen, I believe there are two key areas of improvement.

  1. The data and insight phase, where our research must be savvier and more comprehensive.
  2. The creative phase, as we make innovative use of these insights, as well as the ongoing journey that facilitates. 

In the most successful ABM programmes, these changes are already underway. Want to be part of an exciting new era? Read on.

Data and insight: Four essential trigger levers

The data we produce is increasing rapidly, as is our ability to interpret it. In ABM, this data is gold dust, and there are all manner of areas – or trigger levers, as I call them – to be explored. I’ve highlighted four:

Lever 1 – Company insights

Showcase your understanding of their business strategy/performance, product development roadmap, alliance partners, decision-making structure, technographic setup and core beliefs/values. 

How? Company reports, press releases. Interviewing your sales team and ex-employees of your target accounts. HG insights for technographic and contracts intelligence.

Lever 2 – Persona insights

Acknowledge that you're aware of who they are: their responsibilities, KPIs, challenges/motivations and company size as these will all be important.

How? Interviewing customers and reviewing job specs.

Lever 3 – The individual

Tailor your language to their personality types, react to their behaviours, sympathise with their situation and be conscious of any existing relationships or interactions that may have been made previously.

How? Salesforce, Crystal Knows, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are great ways of building up a personality profile.

Lever 4 – Industry/topic

Highlight relevant industry changes that affect your target’s buying. Regulatory/economic changes, diversity challenges as well as whatever key industry terms you can use to outline your expertise.

How? Intent tools such as Cyance, Bombora, TechTarget and ZoomInfo are great resources.

The levers you take advantage of for your programme will likely be influenced by the kind of programme you’re putting together. For a one-to-one programme, you’d expect to be using all four, whereas for one-to-many and one-to-few you might have to be a bit more selective.

The creative phase: Turning insight into experiences

1 – The creative

This is the campaign wrapper your targets will see first, and it must transform those insights of yours into pure inspiration. The messaging must derive from your insights, which the look and feel must embody in a vibrant, enticing way. As with this campaign for Karhoo, you should be able to unite messaging and visuals with a relevant, original theme that speaks to their needs. Today, with Covid-19 having affected traditional touchpoints like DM and events, digital advertising is hugely competitive. To compete in that space, your creative decisions need to stand out.

2 – The content

This is where the nitty-gritty of those hard-fought insights comes into play. With your increased personal and professional information, you can truly personalise, tweaking your messaging to speak to each customer’s individual goals and even tailoring those little nuances that make up your tone of voice.

But simple message personalisation is no longer enough. You know more about your targets than that. You can build intrigue and further urge interaction by finding a new, innovative way of serving that content. Perhaps it relates to their job role, or maybe even their individual preferences. This example from our work with Unity used VR to entice a group we knew to be tech-obsessed.

The way you serve your content is vitally important in this post-Covid age, since circumstances have forced us to be more creative with it. Through virtual events, personalised videos, podcasts, webcasts and more, we’re finding new, evocative ways to reach targets, and these ways are often more trackable, nimble and cost-effective. With your content, now’s the time to innovate.

3 – The journey

You no longer need a linear, fixed-touchpoint customer journey. You can mix and match, creating an experience that plays out based on the touchpoints and content that customers engage with. An ABM programme can be an ongoing, flexible experience that keeps them involved and retains their interest over 12 months at least (this may vary based on the length of your sales cycle).

Now, create experiences...

In a time of difficulty, ABM is robust enough to thrive, and will continue to do so for years to come. By improving your data research and using that data to actively innovate the experiences you build, you can remain on the front foot.

The B2B Marketing Leaders report 2020

We recently sent a survey based on the four pillars of execution to 100 marketing leaders. The results of this survey were used in this report to demonstrate where marketers are at in their journey to digital marketing maturity. Check out all the findings here.

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