How to keep up with evolving ABM
By Jon Mackin
Account-based marketing (ABM) has evolved since it became a mainstream marketing tactic in 2016-2017. This article is not an introduction to ABM, but more so, what it has evolved into with modern ABM tools and platforms. If you found this article but need to understand the basics of ABM, you can learn more here or here. The new tactics and technologies have allowed for more robust and efficient account-based marketing. We will discuss how to maximize the latest advances in ABM to supercharge your sales funnel.
Quick recap: ABM is marketing focused toward select accounts or ideal customer profiles (ICPs) (spear hunting) instead of Inbound Marketing, which attracts the masses (net fishing). While these two should always be used together for a rounded marketing strategy, ABM is very tactical from a messaging and communications standpoint. Since your brand knows exactly who they are targeting, the channels and content you use to influence your target ICPs should be highly specific to where the audience is and the pain points your products and solutions help resolve. We will not speak too much about the content you should share in this post. We will, however, talk about where and how you should use your targeted content within ABM campaigns.
At the highest level, ABM offers organizations a significant return on investment (ROI) as they are faced with the need to acquire, retain, and grow high-value accounts. This can only be accomplished with a strong alignment between marketing and sales teams. If your brand has not completed this step, please learn about ABM basics to understand how to align these two departments. Once that is done, come back and learn how to leverage these modern ABM tactics for 2023.
ABM Tools & Advancements in Modern Targeting
Let’s assume that we know our ICPs, we have a list of target contacts, we know the best messaging to engage with them, and how we convert them through standard conversion methods. Given these assumptions, let’s talk about how to leverage modern ABM tactics and technologies to target, create impressions, and deploy great user experiences to drive better sales outcomes. Let’s first start with targeting and creating impressions. This can be done with core advertising platforms, like Google Ads and social networks. What most brands are not taking advantage of are the new platforms and technologies that allow for more targeted advertising.
These new, emerging platforms and technologies use their unique offerings to target specific accounts through geotargeting and 1-to-1 advertising. Here at CommCreative, we leverage many of these platforms to reach our client ABM lists. We will discuss the types of targeting and provide examples of the platforms – geofencing, 1-to-1 display advertising, programmatic, ABM platform, intent provider, and OTT (Over-the-Top) advertising. Additionally, we will talk about personalization experiences on websites (content and chatbots), plus a bonus conversion consideration!
Geofencing is a great way to target ABM lists that we know will be at a specific geographic location or business location. Canopy provides a large suite of targeting solutions that leverages geofencing advertising. We love its advanced geofencing targeting for many reasons. Many of our clients turn to CommCreative when their sales teams cannot make headway into their target accounts. Their messages are left unread, captured by spam folders, unreturned calls, etc. By leveraging advanced geofencing, we are able to present ads to highly specific businesses, households, or physical locations to create valuable impressions. This is a highly cost-effective digital tactic levering the “virtual boundary” of locations. Not only are we able to target specific businesses and locations while users are either at work or home, but Canopy can potentially serve ads to our target ABM accounts after they have left the original geofenced location, driving improved brand awareness, clicks, CTR, and CPC with device targeting.
We love leveraging this tool as the leading edge of our tactical efforts. Driving awareness of the brand to help warm prospects to future ads and sales messaging greatly improves brand recall and improves consideration. The cost-effective solution drives high impressions with great frequency and excellent data to determine our messaging performance. The high impression rates with geofencing compounded with other tactics like direct mail (yes, it is making a comeback!), targeted email nurtures, and sales outreach have greatly improved sales outcomes for our clients’ post-geofencing campaigns.
1-to-1 Display Advertising –
We all know display advertising is a pillar for many ABM campaigns. However, advancements in technology have improved its performance, moving from net fishing to spearfishing. Influ2 promotes itself as a “Person-Based Advertising platform by delivering ads directly to decision-makers at target accounts. Giving B2B marketing and sales teams tangible ad engagement metrics to drive activity.” In other words, its tools allow us to reach our target list on top platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Yahoo! News, etc., without having to use the ad networks themselves. Influ2 is able to expand our ABM list to lookalike audiences as well, further expanding our reach to the right ICPs. This creates efficiency for brands looking for one platform to manage all their display ads across multiple channels.
Its platform allows us to easily upload creative assets, and Influ2 will flight our campaigns through its network of display and social media channels to reach our ABM audience. The additional benefits are its great integrations with top CRMs and robust engagement insights and campaign reports that help us determine how well our ads are performing – a great one-stop shop to reach ABM lists and monitor the results in one robust dashboard.
The last aspect of Influ2 that helps us ensure your ABM campaigns are working well is the impressions and clicks – down to the individual level. This reporting feature greatly helps the marketing and sales alignment aspects of ABM campaigns. Sharing individual engagement data greatly improves the timing of sales outreach and the impact of messaging relevancy in sales plays.
When we need to better align our display advertising through contextual advertising or to better target specific lists, we look to programmatic tools. One of our favorite programmatic tools to reach our ABM target accounts is AdDaptive. While it features the typical programmatic solutions, what makes it stand out is its verified offline data, making it a great B2B ABM programmatic solution. Since we know that B2B purchasing cycles have extended time frames and many more stakeholders making decisions before buying compared to B2C, leveraging its high-frequency ad placements and retargeting solutions allows us to increase awareness and considerations.
Another fantastic feature is its cross-channel analytics to help us showcase the return on advertising spend (ROAS). We work directly with this agency partner, which uses our KPIs to determine what we should expect from our ad spend to set client expectations for engagement. This, coupled with its great analytics dashboards, allows us to really home in on what works best from its inventory. Since its platform allows us to place display ads, native ads, video ads, CTV ads, and audio ads on many channels, knowing what is working best to drive engagement and influence the buyer's journey greatly helps the outcome of our ABM campaigns.
With these features and how AdDaptive can report on impressions, clicks, and post-impressions visits down to the account level, we find this a go-to platform for the majority of our ABM campaigns. Our clients see great results with this platform, and our partnership with AdDaptive continues to help us meet our client goals each year.
OTT & CTV –
Much like some of our other programmatic partners, Division-D is more than just an OTT and a connected TV (CTV) provider, but we love its offerings for our video and radio ads. CommCreative heavily features OTT over traditional broadcast advertising since we can strategically target our ABM audiences (spearfishing vs. net fishing). While the cost per thousand (CPM) for OTT TV and radio tends to be slightly higher than broadcast ads, the targeting capabilities are generally so much better, which produces better, more targeted results. While its platform is very easy to use, the main reason we leverage OTT is the ABM targeting and cross-channel retargeting. The granular targeting of our ABM lists creates highly impactful results.
Leveraging OTT to specifically reach our ABM target list greatly improves our CPM and brand recall. Not only are those two KPIs we strive to optimize for, but Division-D also provides cross-channel and behavioral targeting to expand our reach to additional custom audiences and lookalikes to our ABM list. However, we do not use that very often since we like to maximize our spend to impact our ABM target list engagement.
Last, this provider allows us to reach top broadcasting networks where most of our ABM targets for B2C and B2B are watching at home and on the go. Being able to place video ads on the top networks like ABC, NBC, ESPN, A&E Networks, AMC Networks, Sling TV, Crackle, Pluto TV, and XUMO further increases our brand awareness. We have seen high adoption rates of cable-cutting, making OTT a fantastic choice to reach our target audiences over national broadcast placements.
ABM Platform –
6sense is a great ABM provider for our highly specific B2B clients with long sales cycles and large decision teams. Its technology helps detect anonymous B2B buying activity. The data it showcases helps provide data-driven decisions to predict who the right decision-makers are, improve sales engagements, and improve revenue predictability. Brands can leverage this data to make better sales outreach and communication plays to impact the right buyers at the right time in the buyer’s journey.
Its AI allows us to merge intent and market intelligence data with our web activity, campaigns, opportunities, and customer data to boost the performance of marketing-sales-aligned ABM campaigns. When the data is combined with our client’s information, it captures “revenue moments” from intent signals on our client’s brand, products, and services. These buying signals not only help support sales and determine when to make timely outreach to the right decision makers but also provide us with a level of performance data on some of our hard-to-track ABM tactics, such as OTT and impression-focused campaigns. Clients can see our tactics are working when targets from our ABM list show up with intent signals within the platform.
Intent Provider –
One crucial element of our ABM campaigns is determining how well our awareness plays are working post-impression. While we might not see direct clicks from OTT video or radio or see first-view clicks from display ads, we do know that our campaigns work. How do we know that? We leverage intent providers and lead generation software. We love leveraging Intentsify to synthesize multiple datasets into one view, showing which companies are “surging” with the intent to purchase a product our client is selling. Its ranking system helps our client’s sales teams see which accounts are showing indications for closing in on their final decisions with their research online.
Intentsify layers ad exchanges, social networks, and site visitor data to determine intent. With that dataset, it verifies and synthesizes intent signals to boost the accuracy of the data to help sales make tactical decisions about sales plays and outreach. Additionally, it offers content syndication and leverages intent to prioritize lead targeting based on accounts that are surging. Last, it can help trigger intelligent actions to deliver more natural, frictionless buyer experiences to produce better sales outcomes.
Personalized Web Experiences –
After leveraging the great solutions noted above to find and attract ABM target lists, the digital experience should be customized to the buyer's journey. Providing relevant and personalized content will greatly improve ABM campaigns. Now, you do not need to leverage a tool like Uberflip, as you can create unique static website experiences and landing pages, but that can be tedious and lacks scalability.
Leveraging a tool like Uberflip effectively allows you to personalize pathways for your ABM targets to turn them from prospects to customers to advocates. Known visitors will be shown customized content that supports their movement through the buyer’s journey. While there is effort needed to properly set up content that best matches the ICP’s content needs through segmentation and content mapping, once done, the tool can optimize the experience much faster than spinning up new website or landing pages. This greatly improves the engagement metrics from go-to-market strategies and increases pipeline movement for our clients to reach their ROI and revenue goals.
Another tool that is more of a conversion tool but can be used for personalization is chatbots. Drift is the leader in this category for its chatbots, but its platform does so much more than connect a site visitor to a live agent to help answer questions. Most companies do not have a scaled customer service or business development representative (BDR) team to handle live chatbots. As such, businesses need to leverage customized chatbots to help quickly respond to users leveraging chat to answer their questions. Tools like Drift allow you to use intent data and known customer data to build personalized, relevant experiences right in the chat window.
Engaging visitors with real-time personalization improves engagement rates and helps them move through the sales funnel faster since they do not have to take all the steps to detail their needs. The platform has leveraged past engagement data and intent signals to present relevant content that not only builds trust but also improves the overall brand experience that drives improved conversion rates. Its real-time platform helps further improve ROI by providing a great, personalized conversion channel as an alternative to forms (which are slowly dying…more to come on that).
Bonus 1: Advanced Conversions –
As mentioned, the form conversion is slowly fading away. While it will never completely be gone in the near future, there are other options you can present to site visitors to connect with your brand. Chatbots were also noted above, but another great tool is one-click scheduling. We have seen great value in using Chili Piper within our conversion pathing to allow users to quickly book a meeting for demos and to contact sales departments. Its platform moves away from the tedious process of submitting a form, waiting to hear back from sales days later, and doing the “what time are you free to meet” dance, all before getting face to face with the right person.
Scheduling tools put the power in the hands of the prospect looking to book a meeting to avoid that friction-filled email back and forth. The simple scheduling web form experience can be tailored to fit the brand’s needs by automatically routing the prospect to the right BDR, speeding up the time to a booked meeting, all connected to the brand’s CRM for tracking. Tools like Chili Piper greatly improve sales outcomes through improved customer experiences, leading to a better brand sentiment prior to the first sales outreach or meeting.
No one ABM tool will be the silver bullet to reach and convert your ABM targets. The best method is using the right tools in concert with one another. Working with an expert in ABM marketing like CommCreative will help propel your brand to new heights, as experts like us look to understand your target audiences/ICPs, understand where they are, and what tools will be best to reach them.
Moreover, many great ABM campaigns need to feature brand awareness channels that help support the buyer's journey but, most times, do not create direct conversions. Understanding how to measure each channel and aggregate data with the right metrics and how intent KPIs show the strategies and tactics are working is critical. Reporting is crucial to tell the whole story all the way through impressions to closed/won business to determine ROI and help refine tactics and strategies over time. Tying all of the tools and reporting together can provide amazing results for brands that want to leverage modern tactics to reach and convert their target audiences. Staying abreast of the latest trends and platforms can be daunting, which is why great ABM agencies like CommCreative are here to help your brand reach revenue goals.