Before reading further, let’s make sure you have a good background on ABM. Have you read our introductory article on the topic? Go through it, then return to dive deeper.
Welcome back! What do you think? Does ABM seem like a valuable strategy for your institution? Imagine your marketing and sales efforts going directly to your ideal prospects through custom messaging. Wouldn’t that be nice?
The Missing “Sell”
This is where most industry blogs would mention their product platform and how they feel it could be a huge value for your institution. We’re not going to do that. Why? Because we’re not selling. Our goal is to provide the education so you can implement this concept.
If you choose to retain a firm to assist in your efforts, perfect. Currently, we don’t work with one. To be honest, we haven’t heard of any specializing in financial institutions. Know of a company that has helped make a huge difference for you? Tell us about it!
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5 Steps to Put ABM into Action
Now you have a solid understanding of the concept, it’s time to put it in action. We will work together to build your strategy. In fact, we boiled it down to 5 steps. Some may take longer than others, so work on them as much as able and keep pressing on.
If this is your first ABM campaign, know it will get easier as you learn to gather, organize, and produce the information. Plus, after you have the appropriate automation platforms, that will save you time, too. Overwhelmed? You’re not alone. Take it step by step.
Regular readers may still be wondering, “why not just stick with the inbound marketing strategies you discuss at length?” That’s a great question. In fact, you should continue with your inbound efforts. This works alongside them.
ABM began as (and still is) a predominantly B2B approach. So it’s a great strategy if you’re looking to gain new small business accounts and acquire a larger market share in your target market.
Here are the basics for getting an account-based strategy up and running.
- Step 1: Put Together Your Target List
- Step 2: Create Your Content
- Step 3: Pick Your Channels
- Step 4: Execute Your Campaign
- Step 5: Measure Your Results
Ready? Let’s go!
Step 1: Put Together Your Target List
Who’s your perfect customer? Much like creating a buyer persona in an inbound strategy, you’ll do the same for ABM. Here, it’s called your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). It defines the properties of accounts you feel could become your best customers.
Most financial institutions are both B2B and B2C. Here’s where the separation gets important. Differentiate between your buyer persona (an ideal member in B2C campaigns) and your ICP (your ideal small business customer in B2B campaigns).
Building your target list begins with customer data. This is about real and perceived pain points. Identify what they need and what they do and do not want. What makes some clients your best customers (and others, your worst)?
Use this data to create two lists:
- New customers you hope to acquire (who resemble your best current customers)
- Current customers you want to offer more services
For this first ABM campaign, start with one simple list. Complexity can wait until later, when your team is comfortable with the concept. Then, you can refine to your heart’s content, with target lists for a range of goals (service-specific campaigns, geographic territories, etc.).
Right now? Simplicity. One list.
Once you’ve got that done, it’s time to create your content. In other words, what your target audience sees: The goods.
Step 2: Create Your Content
Quality, compelling content is essential to a successful ABM strategy. Have your lists created for each account? Individuals from the different departments, too, right? Perfect. Now it’s time to outline the content that’s valuable to them. And create it!
Like inbound, ABM is a content-heavy approach. It needs lots of personalized content spread across multiple channels. Like inbound marketing, to do it best means connecting them all in a logical manner. Also, it allows reuse of content, saving you time later.
Stymied by the daunting challenge of creating content? You’re not alone. According to the 2019 State of ABM Survey Report, having enough of the right content is the top challenge for businesses like yours.
So what kind of content should you look to create? Peek at your inbound strategy, because the list is similar:
You’ll incorporate these pieces into your email marketing and targeted ad campaigns. Each must address the specific pain points you identified in the previous step. ABM practitioners (like you) cater to the account personas instead of individuals.
To clarify: ABM lets you create “accounts” that have similar pains so you can personalize your content. An “account” may include the CEOs, or CTO, or any specific position, of many target businesses. It can also get even more personalized; we’ll discuss later.
Step 3: Pick Your Channels
Like inbound marketing, you need to decide how to best reach your target audiences. Because ABM is a personalized approach, just posting content on a blog (like this article) is insufficient. You need to “get to the desk” of your desired viewer.
Some common ABM channels:
- Paid social media ads (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
- Display Ads (the personalized ads you see as you browse the web; especially those which “follow you around”)
- Direct mail (outbound)
- Email marketing (drip campaigns and automations are ideal)
So can’t you just use the same ad strategy as your inbound efforts? Not quite. For the latter, your audience is broad, with only minimal targeting criteria. You want to reach people in your world who could be customers.
With ABM, you want to engage specific people with particular content. Remember the film Minority Report? This was their vision of targeted ads in the future. ABM is the “not totally overwhelming” version of that. Leaving out retina scanning…for now.
Since that’s not (yet) our reality, you’ll need to use the contact lists you made in step 1. Or, for easier management, use an account-based advertising platform. This lets you run hyper-targeted ads to specific lists of prospects, customers, or accounts.
Deciding which advertising channels to use will include which let you use email addresses or website domains for targeting.
Ad Campaign Example
Let’s say you chose LinkedIn as one of your channels. Since B2B is common there, it’s a smart choice. Your targeting will use a combination of title, industry, geography, and even years of experience. In fact, you can get as specific as you feel is necessary.
For example, consider a campaign focusing on newly-appointed leaders in the tech industry. Your targeting would include the titles “CEO”, “Founder”, “CFO”, or similar. Then, you could include a start date at that position of 2 years or less.
Why those new to a position? Our experience shows that when new leaders arrive, they are often eager to explore new opportunities. They may be acutely aware of long-standing challenges/pains. Sometimes, that is even the reason they were hired.
Imagine this: You’re providing a targeted solution to a pain you know the company has. In fact, it was so bad that you know they replaced their CEO to help get it resolved! How powerful would the right messaging be at that moment?
The targeting ensures you reach the people best empowered to recognize and respond to your marketing.
Channel & Platform Notes
Remember, before launching ads on a new platform, take the time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the service. What works best for your inbound efforts may not for ABM campaigns.
Email marketing is going to be a large part of your ABM strategy. So it’s important to have quality data and the permission to contact your target accounts. You will also need an email marketing platform. One that integrates your email efforts with CRM is best.
After choosing the best marketing automation system for your goals, get to work loading it with content and workflows. Mix educational nurture content into drip campaigns. Before you respond, I know; this takes a while. Do it right to start. Tweak and improve as you go.
Direct Mail Advice
Is direct mail part of your ABM efforts? It can be simple as a postcard or an elaborate custom digital book with targeted video content for the CEO. No matter the route of cost or complexity, direct mail can be an engaging and effective way to build the relationship.
Skip this guidance if you like wasting time and money:
We’ve used direct mail for years in our own ABM campaigns and sent both of the above examples. Here’s what we discovered: If they don’t know the piece is coming, it will get ignored. If they know it’s arriving on a certain day, it might get ignored.
Direct mail has the most success for us when we do the following:
- Confirm generic interest from the target audience over email, phone, or LinkedIn message
- Get permission to send a piece of physical content
- Send a message to look for the direct mail during a specific date range (a delivery reminder)
- Upon delivery, confirm receipt and solicit feedback within a week
- If you don’t hear back, follow up a week or two later to confirm receipt (you know they got it, but maybe it got pushed aside or is under other things)
In some cases, this will be done with the assistant to your desired audience. That’s fine. Skip these steps and your direct mail will end up in the circular filing cabinet.
One more thing…
If your direct mail campaign involves a number of people at a company, vary the timing of sending the pieces. A mail room which sees many of the same pieces arrive together, each with different names, may toss it before ever arriving at your target.
If you’re thinking, “geez, that’s a lot of time and effort just to get a physical object into someone’s hands!” You’d be right. It is. And we didn’t even touch (Get it? Touch!) on the mailing process itself. Thankfully, there are platforms to automate that part.
Combine a variety of tech solutions to assist your ABM efforts across the appropriate channels.
Step 4: Execute Your Campaign
You’ve got your list (and checked it twice?), channels, content, and budget approval. All that’s left is flipping the switch on your campaign!
Hold up. Not so fast. Let’s do one final check for consistency.
It’s important to ensure your messaging is consistent across channels and campaigns. It doesn’t matter the medium. Think of companies with great marketing; does it matter where you see their content? It’s always the same feel and message.
Of course, since this is ABM, you’ll want to personalize as much as you can. Don’t despair if right now it turns out to be, “not that much”. Partnering with the right firms may help you create far more focused content, including 1:1 ads.
This kind of personalization will come with increased costs. If you’re new to ABM, this may not be appetizing yet. That’s ok. Take this time to empower your sales and marketing teams to use what you already have to create personalized content across a range of channels.
Then, when you’ve done your research, due diligence, and seen the results of ABM, you can invest in services that help you get more personalization and scale. Would you look at that? What a coincidence…the next step is about measuring those ABM results!
Step 5: Measure Your Results
Continuing the differences between ABM and inbound marketing, the important metrics vary.
For inbound marketing, you focus on “vanity metrics” such as impressions, views, likes, comments, etc. These tell you a lot about reach and engagement of your audience. They don’t help you learn if they’re in the market or the right potential buyers.
- White space (filling in the contact info for targeted roles so sales can connect)
- Meaningful engagement (accessing shared materials, downloading gated content, etc.)
- Meetings with accounts
- Revenue (average sale)
Embracing ABM lets you get deeper into your reporting. Then, you can measure the true impact of marketing efforts on your bottom-line revenue.
You still may find traditional top-level metrics useful. That’s ok. They help you understand if your ad campaigns are effective. However, use it to tweak the materials themselves, not the strategy.
Experiment, Expand, and Repeat to Improve ABM Efforts
If there was a turtle and hare in marketing, ABM would be the trusty tortoise.
ABM is a slow and steady journey. Looking for quick-wins? They may happen, but it’s not the norm. ABM is an organizational lifestyle that fosters:
- Better department alignment
- Shared goals with sales teams
- More efficient use of marketing and sales resources
Financial services is a relationship-based industry (aren’t we friends?). ABM is a relationship-based strategy. Chances are, you’re probably already using some of this idea with existing efforts.
Ready to get started with ABM? Grab HubSpot’s ABM Workbook to follow. Start small with a few test groups and campaigns. Compare those to the results from your normal inbound efforts and see which drives better results (including cost per conversion).
ABM Example for Financial Institutions
Still curious how an ABM strategy would look in our industry? Here’s an example plan to enlighten and grow some ideas. Don’t worry, that pun will make sense soon.
Gain net new customers. Encourage business owners to apply for small business loans and open lines of credit with your institution.
Small business owners who founded their own company and have 10 or fewer employees and $2M+ in revenue.
Simplified small business cash flow management solutions and quick access to capital
- Paid LinkedIn campaign
- Paid Facebook campaign
- Display ads
- Direct mail
- Marketing email series outlining your small business loan offerings
- Infographic of metrics highlighting current challenges for achieving goals with values for your institution and competitors
- Landing page to apply for a line of credit
- Physical postcard to introduce topic
- Ad content for Facebook and Google Display Network (plus A/B test samples)
First, you need to generate your list of accounts (and their contacts). Assemble all companies which match your target criteria. Market research and old-fashioned searching can supplement missing content.
Your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile):
- Industry/vertical: Hospitality, Professional Services, Health, Tech
- Geography: United States
- Employee headcount: < 10
- Annual revenue: $2M+
- Roles: CEO, Founder, Co-Founder, Owner
Take your list and ensure each company has the name and contact info for their founders. This includes email, physical address, and phone number. You can use ZoomInfo and LinkedIn Sales Navigator to assist.
Send personalized connection requests to each founder on LinkedIn. None of that one-click “Connect” stuff. This is about personal. Make you and your message stand out. Consider visiting their profiles so they may also see the notice of your views.
Schedule a direct mail campaign to the entire list for arrival the day before your ads go live. It will include a trifold brochure with their name on the front and their company mentioned inside.
Consistency of Theme
The brochure will outline the terms of your small business loan program along with the value proposition to that business. Explain how quick access to capital, simplified cash flow management, and flexible repayment terms can help them achieve their goals.
Inside the brochure is also an insert made from biodegradable seed paper. It contains flower seeds for their climate and just needs dirt and water! On it is the message, “[Your Company Name] can help your business bloom. Shine some light on our programs.”
Of course, the brochure and ads feature flowers with similar messaging.
Your ad buys across Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google (including Display Network) promote your small business loans and quick funding decisions. They link to source-appropriate landing pages. Each lets the visitor learn more and apply for an instant loan decision.
The digital campaign will run for 3 weeks. During this time, you send weekly emails nudging the accounts to take action, along with providing links to your inbound content and customer testimonials.
Speaking of content, your library releases a number of articles (videos, eBooks, and more, if able) relating to cash management for small business owners. All new pieces include calls to action driving visitors to apply for your quick-decision small business loan.
Your sales team aims for 1:1 engagement with founders. Using the approved LinkedIn connections, they can share links to the new content and try to schedule a phone call or web meeting.
After a month, look at the results: A success! You drove 37 new loan applications, 23 of which were approved. There was a 40% conversion rate from the initial campaign list.
For this offer to that audience, your previous best with traditional inbound processes was 28%.Nice work!
Continue Engaging SMEs
Go forth and connect with potential accounts using your newfound ABM skills! This can help you manage time, effort, and resources better through your entire marketing and sales cycle. Plus, deepen the relationship with existing clients through targeted service offerings.
In other words, get more business from those you didn’t work with as well as those you do!
Beyond the Marketing section, our Checking content shares ideas on how that staple of your institution can also assist in growing your SME business.
As always, stay informed by Subscribing to the Learning Library. Choose your role to get tailored content, an aspect of our own ABM strategy. Subscribing is just marketing and sales research, so what are you waiting for?
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Focused on helping your bank or credit union grow in the face of emerging challenges.