Last month, a group of us at Radix went to B2B Marketing’s InTech event. I was convinced artificial intelligence (AI) or user experience design (UX) was going to dominate conversation – but to my surprise and delight, it was account based marketing (ABM) that took the lead.
I’m always keen to hear from industry practitioners. The more I know about well-executed ABM, the better I can write the copy and content to bring those campaigns to life.
The rise and rise of ABM
The number of clients we had wanting ABM campaigns writing rose significantly in 2016. Increasingly, it appears to be a common starting point for organisations looking to extend their reach. Perhaps, as the world becomes saturated with marketing content, organisations are looking to targeted marketing to replace the ‘foot in the door’ once provided by top-of-funnel thought leadership.
My colleague David McGuire wrote a substantial piece on copywriting for ABM last year, following a surge in requests. It’s well worth a read, if you’re thinking ABM is the route you want to go down. Conveniently, there’s also a handy edition of our podcast Good Copy, Bad Copy on the subject as well.
And the change we’ve noticed is reflected across the industry. According to Salesforce, more than 60 percent of B2B marketers surveyed by DemandBase said they plan to implement an ABM program within the next year.
But it’s got to be good…
As ABM becomes ever more popular, however, marketers will be under increasing pressure to produce campaigns that are more targeted and more unique than before, to cut through the growing clutter on prospects’ desks (hmm… sound familiar?).
So here are the 3 things we learned from InTech which as copywriters, will help to keep our campaigns sharp:
1. Keep the money in mind
It doesn’t matter what kind of campaign you’re running, return on investment (ROI) will always dictate the shape and scope of ABM campaigns. Like any kind of writing, it needs to get results.
Robert Norum of agent3 highlighted a statistic from ITSMA stating that 84% of companies surveyed say ABM delivers higher ROI than other types of marketing. And a finding by SiriusDecisions shows almost 3 in 4 B2B organisations are increasing budgets for ABM efforts.
Indeed, a lot of the ABM conversation I overheard at InTech was focused around its positive impact on ROI. Many are now asking why organisations are still spending time and money creating loosely-targeted marketing campaigns, when they can instead spend similar amounts accurately targeting specific accounts.
Our own experience of writing ABM has underlined the financial impact of a well-executed campaign. One set of thirty reports gained sales meetings with 50% of the prospects targeted – adding millions of pounds into their pipeline. Not bad for a low five-figure outlay.
These kind of statistics have been key to ABM’s growth – but those are the promises to decision makers that our writing now needs to deliver. That focuses the mind.
2. The more targeted, the better
One of my favourite things about InTech was the opportunity for marketers to share their experiences, good and bad. Many are reporting that ABM isn’t having the same effect it once did for clients – it’s still driving leads and sales but not to the same extent.
The best marketers seem to be responding to this in the true spirit of ABM – becoming ultra-targeted in their approach to accounts. As well as greater depth of research, there are several tools now available to assist with information gathering.
People were discussing software like insight3, which appears to work much like customer relationship management (CRM) software. You add in companies and contacts, populate these records with what information you already have on them and the software then crawls the internet for mentions and insight – allowing you to create ABM campaigns based on the clearest possible picture.
From a writer’s point of view, that’s a gift. The more we know about the prospect’s true concerns – not to mention their own character and culture – the more compelling we can make the content.
3. Don’t be afraid of confrontation
The majority of sessions at InTech centred around putting the customer first and listening to the voice of the customer, instead of telling customers what you think they want.
While this is important – increasingly so in the world of e-commerce – some marketers are finding that taking a controversial approach can be successful too.
The key to this kind of strategy is having unique insight that only you have access to, or at least is difficult for others to obtain. Give your target account ‘both barrels’ with information they already know, they are going to ignore you at best. Provoking a response can mean going a little way outside their – and your – comfort zone.
Marketers at InTech were urging caution with this method. Each campaign has to be really well positioned. Whoever you’re writing for and whatever they are wanting to convey, it’s a good idea to wrap the targets’ room for improvement in substantial amounts of admiration and positivity.
Sometimes, the writer needs to work with key account teams, to judge just how challenging they’re happy to be.
And for those who haven’t touched ABM yet…
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Yes, it’s an increasingly popular marketing strategy, but for now at least it’s still unusual for an individual to receive a piece of highly-targeted marketing content. There’s still some cachet.
So, what did we learn about how do you get started?
As an organisation…
If you have target accounts you want to work with, you’ve already made a start. This is important and crucial to get right first time. Be realistic though. It’s fine to aim high but understand the reasons why you’re targeting a particular account, otherwise, it’ll just come across as generic – and that’s ABM kryptonite.
Choose an overarching theme for the entire piece. Ask yourself: “What’s the most helpful thing I can sell to these people?” and build from there. If you sell customer relationship management software, maybe focus on potential issues they’re having with their current provider.
As a copywriter…
One thing’s clear: if you have limited experience working in the verticals you’re writing for, you’ll need to skill-up – fast. Your reader knows their stuff, so if you can’t convince them in your copy that you’re an expert in whatever area you’re writing about, it’ll get ignored. Do your research; interview experts, account managers and sales reps – these are the people on the ground with the intimate knowledge of these accounts, make sure you use them.
You need to demonstrate that you’ve identified their organisation’s areas of weakness and pain points – but at the same time, empathise and show a deep understanding of the challenges preventing change.