Of all marketing trends, Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has had one of the more meteoric rises of the past decade. But how often have you wondered if ABM, a B2B Marketing strategy designed to deliver a personalised customer experience, combines with communications?
At Brands2Life, where we have been helping the brands that are transforming our world tell their stories for over 20 years, we are doing just that. While most organisations have a B2B Marketing strategy (in which ABM may be a key component) and a separate PR and Influencer strategy, there is a huge opportunity to marry the two and benefit from a combined brand engagement strategy.
87% of account-based marketers say that ABM initiatives outperform other marketing investments.*
So, let’s consider why ABM can deliver so much more when combined with communications.
WHAT IS ABM, BEYOND THE BUZZ?
As with any buzzword, it is worth defining exactly what ABM is, for clarity.
Megan West, Senior Practice Director for Marketing and Creative Services here at Brands2Life, says, “ABM is just good marketing. It’s based on traditional marketing principles, amplified. It involves taking a structured, customer-centric, insight-led approach to developing and delivering highly targeted custom campaigns to a small number of named accounts.”
In a nutshell, ABM is a strategic tool in the (predominantly B2B) marketing kitbag that comes in three forms.
The approach that typically delivers the best returns is one-to-one. A key account is treated as a ‘market of one’. So, you develop highly personalised campaigns based on their individual and specific business imperatives.
For delivering effective, focused ABM at scale, the preferred option would be one-to-few. Marketers focus on small clusters of accounts with one-to-few. They are chosen because they share a common challenge or need – usually industry, sales stage, proposition or persona.
The third approach suits marketers needing to segment on-the-go, support demand generation and balance relevance with return. This is known as the one-to-many approach using tech and data to achieve its goals.
The overall benefits of ABM include improved account penetration, creation of new revenue streams, accelerating pipeline, reducing the length of the sales cycle, winning strategic deals and retaining key customers.
It can even help you secure new customers by changing perceptions or positioning.
THE POWER OF ABM AND PR COMBINED
At first glance, ABM and PR might seem uneasy bedfellows. Yet they share the same fundamental practice – the art of storytelling.
Megan, who works within Brands2Life’s newly formed Marketing and Creative Services practice, says, “PR provides a broad platform for storytelling and delivers the pathway to influence through awareness, interest and consideration. ABM provides a more targeted platform for storytelling and delivers the pathway to advocacy through engagement, growth and retention.
When aligned under a single strategy, we can deliver a more consistent customer experience. A successful brand engagement strategy should therefore include both of these complementary practices to address both ends of the customer funnel.”
Megan uses a simple formula to encapsulate the point:
Revenue = Reputation (PR) + Relationships (ABM)
One of the reasons why ABM has grown in popularity in recent years is the availability of technology and data to generate insights. These insights enable a deeper understanding of your customers and their markets. From here, you can develop tailored engagement strategies capable of delivering improved ROI.
But combining ABM with PR can transform outcomes.
By publicly aligning your brand with key issues facing target accounts, for example, you can demonstrate expertise, credibility and relevance in their sector. You can then use ABM to target key accounts individually with custom campaigns relating to these issues. Each campaign should be designed to demonstrate how your expertise can help solve the issue and deliver bottom line business impact.
When combined, PR and ABM enable bold, transformational, creative marketing solutions to complex business challenges.
CONSIDERING ABM: THE NEXT STEPS
Before even starting out on that journey, however, there are a few points to remember about this collaborative process.
Above all, remember ABM is a long-term strategy. It requires business buy-in, commitment and investment. It can never be treated as a short-term tactic.
As a collaborative process, it can’t be used effectively by one function operating alone either. It requires alignment of plans and pooled resources across Sales, Marketing and Communications.
Sometimes all of this is challenging for an organisation if it isn’t used to collaborating in this way. That’s where an external partner can provide additional value if it has the appropriate methodology, services and consulting expertise.
The end result? The fusion of PR and ABM into a consistent and comprehensive brand engagement strategy should then prove one of the most powerful ways to drive awareness, build reputation and relationships, grow revenues and deliver exceptional marketing ROI.