Originally Seen in Huffington Post // July 20, 2017 –The beauty (and curse) of account-based marketing is personalization. Personalized content obviously has a better chance of capturing attention and making people consider how you can solve their problems.
But for many marketers, the idea of creating highly personalized content to each and every account is daunting—if not downright impossible.
I asked 16 marketing leaders for tools and tips they recommend for overcoming the challenge of personalization.
Some responded with options for ABM tools, some described which functions should handle content for which accounts, while one person surprisingly said you shouldn’t focus very much on personalization at all.
Somewhere in these answers, I’m confident you’ll find the right level of personalization for your ABM strategy.
I wanted to start with Joe’s answer because it goes against the grain of what most experts say.
Joe wrote an article on LinkedIn about customized ABM content, and he reiterated it in our interview.
A lot of people think that to have success with an account, you’ve got to personalize things. While there’s an aspect of that, his first piece of advice is to not create something that people can’t go back to your website and identify as a focus of your company. If they’re trying to validate your content, you’ll lose credibility right away.
Second, you may not be able to sustain personalization if you try to replace what a sales account manager can do. If you’re trying to customize so much, and show people that you can tell a story, that’s great, but an account manager can have a two-way dialogue.
Why is that important to you?
What are your competitors doing?
Where do you see challenges in your buying process?
These are incredibly important questions that can’t be answered in a one-way dialogue of personalized content.
This is what Daniel had to say when I asked him about personalizing content for ABM:
“Personalizing content helps sales teams to better differentiate their offerings versus their competitors, which is why it’s so important for marketing teams to provide it.
But it’s a huge headcount challenge—from content creators to designers—unless you have a solution that can automate that content.”
If you want to overcome the headcount challenge that Daniel mentioned, Seismic can help you automate personalized content.
“First of all,” Peter said, “you need to look at the spectrum.”
There’s broad-based content, tailored content, and personalized content. You have to decide which segment of accounts you’re trying to do what with. And there are different ways of delivering that outcome.
For example, one way that his former company personalizes is through Uberflip content portals. They send a custom content portal to prospects with a personalized message.
The key is, use your tiers and segments to learn where you want to personalize more.
Ricky says personalization depends on the type of ABM you’re doing.
If you’re doing one-to-one ABM, then the personalization is in your own hands. You can personalize it as much as you need if you’ve got the intelligence on those accounts.
When you go to “one-to-many,” it’s difficult to apply personalization en masse. You can do it to a degree. For example, if all of a set of accounts on your list have Salesforce, you can mention it. Or if all those people like golf, you can add that info, but still you’re alienating people.
If you don’t take the time to understand your account, you can’t create the right messaging—period.
Mark’s advice is to prioritize and segment your accounts based on some common criteria that cuts across them. Once you’ve done that, you can craft messaging for the segment and do some small A/B testing on the sample.
“We’ve done that,” Mark said, “and you can’t believe what we learned.”
Personalization is a tricky but fun part of ABM.
Currently, Ashley’s team looks to find out as much info about accounts as they can. They figure out whatever information they can get their hands on.
An example is knowing that a potential bank client is going to acquire another bank and targeting them with messaging that supports that reality.
Then there are things that larger banks have in common, which seem highly personalized to that account without requiring PrecisionLender to write a new piece of content for everyone.
Back in the days of marketing automation, marketers were freaking out with all the potential opportunities and nurture streams. They realized how much content they needed.
But Peter says the great thing about taking an account-based approach is that you can templatize your communication.
You can have a headline that swaps out the company name or industry. This can help you scale to hundreds if not thousands of accounts.
Aria starts out at the industry level and crafts an industry-type message, then they refine with some account-specific information.
You can create a message for 50 or so in an industry then add something personal, but it takes care of 80-90% of the initial effort.
“The more personalized, the better,” Haley told me. “It’s extremely important to know your personas, and to speak their language.”
You need to have a content map. You need to examine all the different personas and stages of the buyer’s journey, then determine how certain types of content can help each persona in each stage.
“This is where you need humans,” Jon said. “Humans can scale this stuff.”
For your top accounts, you’re going to use marketers. For your tier-2 accounts, you’re probably going to use SDRs.
Have humans do the work—but the right humans for the specific type of ABM.
Keith says personalization goes back to planning.
You have to take time to really understand the people who are potential buyers of your product.
What are their pain points each day? How are they measured? How does your solution help them achieve their goals?
There are humans behind every purchase, so make your efforts engaging. Not every B2B message has to be ROI-friendly, either. You can add humor.
Scott’s advice is to leverage marketing automation tools integrated into CRM and “dialing” platforms that support email.
For account-based marketing, CallMiner is mixing both broader marketing email messages with templated personal messages from reps, as well as more traditional forms of direct mail.
“To me, the answer is you’ve got to just practice good marketing craft,” Jessica told me.
“You need to identify your personas, their pain and goals, and from there you can start crafting messaging that speaks to their pain points.”
Pat says the first thing is to put customers at the center of everything.
This means not only having customer heros and customer anchors and stories you want to tell, but also reaching out to buyers or even prospects for feedback calls.
A lot of people spend too much energy talking about themselves and not enough learning about what makes the buyer tick.
The more you can align your solutions to the way your buyer wants to buy, the better off you’re going to be.
Evergage is actually a key technology for personalization.
Beyond that obvious tip, Andy is also proud of how his team utilizes templated outreach content. They’ve learned what emails work, including various videos and animated GIFs.
They also do things like an annotated screenshot of the prospect’s website, saying, “Imagine if you could do this.”
As you can see, personalization matters, but that doesn’t mean you need to write 5,000 separate pieces of content for 5,000 accounts.
Don’t let the task of reaching specific individuals and personas scare you away from ABM.
Use tools if necessary, but always remember that your best assets for personalization are your people…along with your ability to truly meet the business needs of your prospects.