Creating an Omnichannel Strategy for ABM.
Almost all B2B marketers are now doing some account based marketing (ABM). But most are still not creating an omnichannel strategy for ABM. Limiting yourself to one or two channels — say, nurture or paid media — will also limit your returns on this highly effective strategy.
Let’s unpack why.
What is omnichannel marketing?
Omnichannel marketing is the integration of content and messaging across the channels your prospects use, both digital and physical. The goal of omnichannel marketing is to create a consistent experience everywhere customers interact with your brand.
The north star of omnichannel marketing is a unified conversation that propels buyers toward deeper and deeper engagement with your brand.
Don’t confuse omnichannel marketing with multi-channel marketing, where every touchpoint operates in a silo. Omnichannel is a more holistic approach, where marketing and sales teams work together to make sure you’re creating an integrated buyer’s journey across touchpoints.
Imagine you’ve been thinking about buying a new car to meet the needs of your expanding family. You read an article in the latest digital issue of your local parenting magazine about car safety features, authored by a local dealership. As you search online for more information about these features, you begin seeing ads from that dealer with messaging about adventuring safely with your family.
You visit their website, where you are prompted to download the top 10 safety questions to ask when shopping for family vehicles. You schedule an appointment to test drive vehicles. When you walk into the dealership, the sales representative begins by asking if you have any questions about the safety features.
While this example comes from the consumer world, it’s easy to see how the dealer’s omnichannel approach created a unified conversation that helped the customer learn about and evaluate solutions — and ultimately engage in a sales meeting.
Why is an omnichannel approach important to ABM?
The reasons to create an omnichannel strategy for ABM are largely the same as those for your broad-based demand gen campaigns.
B2B buyers want the same experience they have as consumers.
The line between how people shop for B2B solutions and how they shop for consumer products is becoming increasingly blurred. Buyers expect to discover, learn about, evaluate, and sometimes even purchase B2B solutions in a largely self-service manner. And, just like in their “regular” life, they take note when there is friction in this process — whether that friction comes from a poor mobile experience, confusing or inconsistent messaging, unhelpful content, or one-size-fits-all campaigns.
When your audience is everywhere, you need to be too.
Like the car buyer in our example — who wasn’t searching specifically for car-related information when they came across that first article — B2B buyers don’t just get their information from a single channel or during a targeted search. Rather, they frequent a variety of channels and sites throughout the day, both to research solutions and consume other content. In fact, B2B buyers now regularly use 10 or more channels to engage with a company before converting — up from 5 in 2018. If you’re not on those channels with a consistent message and relevant content, you’re not only missing an opportunity to influence them. You’re likely leaving a vacuum that your competitors can easily step into.
Today’s buyers are doing more independent research before they convert.
It’s not just channels. The number of interactions buyers engage in before buying has climbed from 17 in 2019 to 27 in 2021. In an ABM strategy, we’re not talking about a single buyer, but multiple members of the buying team — but 6–10 unique individuals — many of whom have different preferred destinations or watering holes, based on their roles. Facilitating that research and evaluation process by putting personalized content and messaging in front of your target audiences is the best way to shorten the buying cycle.
You’ll gain a more complete picture of account activity.
With touchpoints on every channel, you can gather more intel on how accounts are engaging with your content — and which channels and offers move the needle for the people within those accounts. This insight not only helps your sales team understand intent and reach out in a personalized way but can be used to optimize future ABM and broad-based demand gen campaigns.
5 things that can make or break your omnichannel ABM strategy.
The reasons for going omnichannel with ABM may be the same as for broad-based demand gen, but there are several ways your approach needs to be different. Not surprisingly, these things are all related.
1. Not going far enough with marketing and sales alignment.
The most important thing for your ABM program is to ensure there’s continuity between marketing and sales teams. This means not only have discussions between marketing and sales leadership about ABM, but making sure that everyone in both organizations deeply understand:
- The goals and objectives of your ABM program
- The metrics you will use to measure progress toward those goals and objectives
- What your systems of record will be to pull those metrics
- Which specific reports and dashboards you will use from those systems
When teams do not get clarity down to the report level, seemingly small differences in assumptions — such as the timeframe for the report — can lead to huge mistakes. And the more systems that you use, the more opportunities for these kinds of misunderstandings. In ABM, where the effective use of data is your competitive edge, this can mean the difference between a highly effective ABM program and one that falls flat.
2. Putting your money where your audience isn’t.
For ABM, focus your media efforts on getting your message in front of the right job titles from companies matching your ICP.
If marketing’s demand gen efforts are not bringing in people that sales wants to speak to, it’s wasting everyone’s time and resources. Unlike broad-based demand campaigns that focus on general-use channels, such Facebook or Taboola, to get in front of as many buyers as possible, ABM campaigns should focus on getting your message in front of the right job titles from companies matching your ICP.
Start by narrowing down the job titles that have the most influence on the buying teams at your target accounts. Intent providers like 6Sense and TechTarget are great tools for helping you identify who is consuming content about the problems your solution solves, and which titles have been most likely to convert in the past. It’s also important to close the loop with sales here to make sure the titles you’re targeting are indeed the ones sales wants to talk to. Otherwise, all of this work is for nothing.
Then, concentrate your paid media spend on the places where those titles hang out. There are many ways to do this, including placing ads in affinity groups on LinkedIn, working with specialized publishers, and using tools like Metadata to help you target specific audiences within those larger channels. Remember, it’s not just about bringing audiences to your site and assuming they will engage with sales from there. Instead, make sure your plan includes evaluating who is responding to your ad efforts and retargeting those that fit your ICP and target accounts with increasingly deeper and more relevant content.
Learn more about using audience targeting and campaign automation tools to advance your omnichannel ABM strategy in my conversation with Metadata’s Olivier L;Abbé.
3. Relying on one-size-fits-all content.
Narrowing down your audience is not just about getting your message in front of the right people, but making sure your content is actually useful and relevant for those people. Getting them to your site is not enough. If your content does not help them solve their problems, they’re not going to continue their journey with your organization.
Once you have identified the job titles that are most likely to participate in and influence the purchasing decision, take the time to develop detailed personas for those audiences, including their day-to-day pain points and motivations, what their role on the buying team is and, relatedly, what their buyer’s journey looks like.
We can’t emphasize this last part enough. Many marketers make the mistake of over-indexing on attracting interest and not paying attention to sustaining and growing that interest. B2B buyers are looking for ways to do their job better. This means having a full-funnel, humanized content strategy that helps buyers::
- Become aware of and understand the problem your solution addresses
- Understand what solutions are available to solve the problem
- Evaluate those solutions
- Purchase, implement and optimize those solutions
4. Not giving sales enough context.
One of the many benefits of putting journey stage-specific information in front of a highly specific audience is that consumption of that content provides great insight into where those buyers are at in their journey. Consuming a lot of content about the problems your solution solves? They are likely in-market for a solution. Consuming middle of the funnel content like webinars and white papers? They are likely getting closer to a purchasing decision.
Monitoring this data is a great way to understand how your particular audience makes purchasing decisions and identify when, how, and with what offers it is best for your sales team to intercept that audience. As the holders of this information, it’s critical for marketing to make sure that sales understands what the prospect and account have already done and has enough flexibility in their sales playbook to meet the prospect where they’re at, rather than taking them back to the beginning.
5. Not having a solid plan for testing and optimization.
With an ABM strategy, where you are targeting multiple personas at different stages of the buying journey, it is more important than ever to employ multivariate testing to quickly identify what imagery, messaging, content, channel, and even CTA placement are most effective for each of your audiences.
A key factor that is often missed is looking past that initial click. Ad clicks are a great metric for how well your ad is working … to drive clicks. But what happens to those prospects when they get to your website? Is that click leading to a lead, to an MQL (or MQA), to an SQL, opportunity, and ultimately closed won revenue?
The Iron Horse insight.
ABM is not a marketing initiative and it’s not a sales initiative. It’s a growth initiative. That means ABM marketing and sales teams need to think of themselves as a single team focused on a single outcome. Embracing this way of thinking is the single best thing your organization can do to drive unified account-based conversations and realize the benefits of ABM.
Like this content? Go deeper by watching our session, Beyond ABM Theory: Building Unified Account Conversations, from Demandbase’s SMART Conference.