A 4-Step Guide to Aligning Content Marketing and ABM

May 3, 2017 Paula Crerar

content for account based marketing

Content marketing is already a well-established tactic for B2B companies. According to Content Marketing Institute, 88% of B2B marketers are using content marketing. And most marketers already understand how content fits into a demand generation strategy: you create great content, promote that content across channels, encourage people to fill out a form in order to download high-value content, and then deliver those leads to your sales team for follow-up.

But this system only works for inbound marketing. According to a study by SiriusDecisions, more than 60% of B2B marketers plan to implement account-based marketing (ABM) within the next year. And with ABM, you don’t want to cast a wide net to capture all the leads you can, as you do with inbound marketing. Instead, you want create content that captures the attention of specific accounts, or accounts in specific industries, to help sales initiate conversations with those accounts. But if you’ve focused primarily on inbound marketing in the past, how do you combine your existing content marketing and new ABM initiatives? Start with these four steps.

Step 1: Agree on ideal customer profiles and an account list

Before you even begin thinking about content, your first step is to determine your target market segments and agree on your ideal customer profiles (ICPs) within those segments—working closely with your sales team, of course. Think about who your most successful customers are now. Think about who your most profitable customers are now. What industry, company size, location, or other variables do these customers have in common?

Use these profiles to compile your list of target accounts in the market segments where you have the most opportunity for success. The accounts, industries, and personas you pinpoint will be used heavily when developing your content going forward.

Step 2: Conduct a content audit

The next step is to audit your existing content. It can be as casual or as formal as you make it. No matter how you go about it, ask yourself, “Do I have content for each account, industry, or persona we outlined?” Then go deeper and ask yourself, “Do I have content for them for each stage of the buyer’s journey?” Even in an ABM strategy, content is a critical component of your prospects’ research, consideration, and evaluation stages. Different mixes of content (videos, blog posts, eBooks, case studies, etc.) with different levels of depth will be needed at each stage.

As you complete this audit, you’ll see some gaps in content for different audiences and different stages. You may even come across some stale, outdated, or ineffective content. These are the places you’ll want to address first.

Step 3: Create content to fill gaps

Now you can begin creating content to fill these gaps. Make sure that you are leveraging your sales team as a resource for learning more about the accounts, industries, and personas you are targeting. The sales team is on the front line in these target markets, and they can share the challenges their prospects face, and the goals that they have. They can share customer anecdotes, success stories, and cautionary tales that will help you create relevant, compelling content.  

An additional benefit of involving the sales team is that they will already be on board with the content you are producing, and will be looking forward to sharing content that they already know will resonate with the prospects they speak to.

Step 4: Distribute to relevant accounts or personas

The last and probably most challenging step is to distribute your content. This challenge exists for all content marketers, but it’s particularly difficult for ABM because the content is applicable to a much narrower group of people. You only want to reach certain accounts, industries, or personas, otherwise you will be wasting your acquisition dollars on irrelevant people. Here again is where your sales team (that is already bought into your content) will be valuable. You will rely on them to distribute it to the right people at the right moments in their conversations.

Additionally, advances in technology have allowed for better targeting across the web. This applies to the obvious tactic to reach people on the internet (advertising), but it should also apply to your website as well. With website personalization, a person on your site should not need to dig for an eBook or blog post that will be relevant to him. Instead, the site can deliver it to him immediately. Personalization allows you to give him only content that would be relevant to his industry, to his stage in the buyer’s journey, and to his function.

For example, if a visitor from the healthcare industry lands on your site and, assuming healthcare is one of the industries in your ICPs, you can immediately deliver an experience specific to healthcare and recommend a relevant eBook or other asset.  

Final Thoughts

Content marketing has historically thrived in inbound marketing strategies. But account-based marketing strategies must leverage content too. If your business is getting started with ABM, or transitioning to a hybrid ABM/inbound strategy, you can follow these steps to ensure that your content marketing is on the right track.

And don’t forget that transitioning to an ABM strategy doesn’t mean that you need to create brand new content. You can get the right content that you’ve already created in front of your target accounts, industries, and personas with by effectively leveraging key channels and personalization!

Paula is VP of content marketing and programs at Evergage, responsible for driving thought leadership, brand awareness and conversions. She has 25 years of experience developing and managing content marketing and go-to-market strategies at leading tech firms including Brainshark, Salary.com Dragon Systems and Lotus Development. Paula earned an MBA from Babson College and a BS in management from Boston College.

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