Account based marketing: How to hit a handful of needles in the haystack

Today’s post will feature a targeted, account based marketing strategy aimed at driving pipeline from a very specific set of accounts.  First, understand “who” your buyer is and if target market is narrow (example: Fortune 500, specific industries,etc), then you have consider account based marketing aka outbound marketing.  I can give you another example: I have a friend in the business (I am not naming names to protect the innocent but lets just say he is a thought leader and one of the best in the business at demand generation) who had created a 24-7 always-on demand generation machine.  He was filling pipeline via a combination of inbound marketing, lead nurturing, content, etc.  However, when it came time to get to the Fortune 500, then he had to put together a plan that required outbound tactics in order to succeed.  He was smart because if he sat around and waited, he would have failed.  Outbound marketing is not a popular topic with the marketing glitterati because it conjures up images of cold calls and direct mail campaigns.

The reality is we are so much smarter today than we have been in the past and have the ability to create highly effective multi-channel campaigns directed at tight targets.  For me the key is relevance.  The ITSMA seems to be one of the champions of ABM (Account Based Marketing).  They did a study of executive decision makers with some interesting results:

  • 75% of executive respondents said they would read unsolicited marketing materials that contain ideas that might be relevant to their business
  • Of those respondents, 92% would pay attention even if it is from a company they have never done business with

Understand and define your buyer then deliver relevant content to that buyer over time.  That’s the rule. Follow that and you can win in outbound.

I just did a webinar this week with Inxpo entitled the 7 things b2b marketers need to do differently in demand generation.    I wanted to talk about account-based marketing because it is getting lost in the marketing blogo-talk.  I stumbled upon work by Lauren Goldstein from Babcock and Jenkins on a campaign they did with Nuance.  I loved it so I called her called her to talk about it. It’s awesome and we can all learn from it.

Background:  You want targeted, I’ll give you targeted

209 companies, 685 contacts, 12 key verticals, 2 core segments

The plan was to start with 7+ customized touchpoints and then nurture. Below are some of the key campaign elements.

Element #1: A Foam Finger (that’s right a foam finger)

Oh boy, I can hear the “haters” now…Yes, it is a chotchke but before you go blasting away…understand that a chotchke becomes a memorable marketing tactic when done in combination with other touches.  In the old days, we would send the “gift” and then sit there and hope they would call us back.  In other words, the foam finger WAS the campaign.  In this case, think of the finger as the kick-off to your relationship with the prospect.  A memorable, personalized element to the outbound program, it helps you with recognition as you go through your sequence of follow-up touches.  Conversion comes later.

Step 2:   Uber-personalization — custom microsite for each prospect

All communications via email and phone led the prospect to their own personalized microsite.  The microsite was designed to contain only content that was important to them and their particular industry.  Furthermore,  sales had the ability to modify content in the microsite for even more relevance.  I love the reminder of the foam finger as well…nice touch.  I like the touch of having the prospect’s name at the top.

Element 3:   Nurture till the cows come home.

One of the things that is important to very targeted outbound campaigns like this is a tight integration with sales.  An example of this is all the emails were sent from the sales reps themselves.  Communications with the prospect were mixed between calls, emails, and direct mail.  Everything was focused on offering the prospect something.  Pictured above was a key element to the nurturing campaign — a book on customer service that was sent to the prospect.
Analysis:  The ROI on this  program is currently 19-to-1.  The engagement rate was 46% which is fantastic.  In other words,  this program is a smashing success.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, but here are mine:

1. Relevance is everything – All of the writing and talking on content marketing, social media, and the “changing buyer” boils down to one thing: be relevant to that individual.  This program has incredible examples of relevance and personalization we can all learn from.

2.  Old campaign tactics can work but as one of the touches, not as the only campaign element  — The foam finger or the book  would not have nearly the effect as a stand-alone campaign, but they were extremely effective as part of a long-term marketing program.  In the old days, marketers would rent a list (for people under the age of 35, we used to rent lists in the old days) and a direct mail house would mail our stupid gimmick. We would sit back and wait OR we would have a tele-marketer follow-up in order to get a meeting. “We gave you this really funny pillow…can we do an hour-long call?”

3.  Give to the buyer and one day it will pay off — We used to just find a way to “take” from the buyer. If you look at this campaign, all Nuance did was give and the results were fantastic.

4.  Understand your buyer —  This program began with a thoughtful, well-researched understanding of the targets.  After that, carefully crafted, precise messaging was created for each buyer persona.  Really cool.

5.  Sales and marketing alignment is key to account-based marketing — Targeted, account-based marketing is a joint operation between sales and marketing.  Sales outreach is interspersed with marketing outreach and vice-versa.

6.  It worked — see ROI numbers above. Even for those of you that think I am an idiot, the numbers speak for themselves.  Copy success.
I had fun researching this campaign.  Thanks to Lauren Goldstein for spending time with me on this, she is the bomb.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter