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A guide to ABM personalization for effective B2B marketing

Right level of personalization for your ABM program

Personalization is vital when it comes to achieving lasting human connections. There’s a valid reason why most people appreciate a thoughtful gift over an expensive one. We like knowing that the giver put thought and effort into selecting that gift specifically for us. 

The same is true with marketing. As a prospect (or, in the case of ABM, a target account), people want to feel they matter. They want to see that the outreach is personalized and that the sender has put thought and effort into their approach rather than “spraying and praying” or hitting send on a mass email.

But what is ABM personalization, and how can you apply it at scale in a corporate marketing environment? We unpack the issue and provide guidance on choosing the right level of personalization for your ABM programs

Personalization in the ABM Context

Content personalization is a marketing tactic aimed at customizing web pages and other digital marketing materials to align with individual users’ needs and preferences. The process is based on insights provided by analyzing visitor data to determine the best approach to grab each market segment’s attention and encourage them to purchase. 

From an ABM viewpoint, personalization is about treating each prospect as a market of one. That means getting to know the company, and developing a sound understanding of its needs, the market it operates in, the opportunities it faces, and the challenges it experiences. 

The Point of ABM Personalization 

So, what’s the point of doing all this? Surely, if a company needs your product or service, they’ll simply buy it, right? Sure, but they might buy it from someone else instead of you. And then there’s demand generation, which requires getting to know a company better than it knows itself, so you can identify how your offering could solve a problem it experiences—even if it doesn’t realize a solution exists. 

Here are some reasons to adopt ABM personalization:

The numbers show personalization of ABM programs is a winning strategy for B2B organizations. Implementing this approach demands in-depth knowledge of the target’s hierarchy and decision trees, which can involve procurement departments, purchasing committees, C-suite execs, and operations management. However, every account ultimately consists of people, and deploying the following methods will likely deliver results. 

The Three Tiers of ABM

Your level of personalization depends mainly on the type of ABM approach you choose. ABM is not strictly one-to-one marketing. Sure, it can be sending concert tickets to a high-value prospect or target account because you know they are the artist’s number one fan. However, segmenting your list and sending highly relevant content to multiple accounts that address common pains, challenges, and buyer personas is also a form of account-based marketing. 

According to world ABM leader Momentum ITSMA, three tiers of ABM personalization exist: one-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many. Statistics from 2020 show 50% of B2B companies surveyed had adopted the first approach, 60% the second, and 42% the third. 

Image by ITSMA

Each tier requires its own level of investment and ultimately its own level of personalization. Let’s take a closer look at each.

One-to-One ABM

Also known as: Strategic ABM, “Real” ABM

What it is: This is what most people think of when they think about ABM. In this approach, marketers create and execute highly customized programs for individual target accounts. Because it’s at the top of the investment chart, one-to-one ABM is often the most personalized method and requires the most research, but it can also deliver the highest return.

When to use this approach: 

  • For deals amounting to six or seven figures
  • If your company has a particularly large budget
  • When a company has adequate resources
  • If enough data or intel exists on your target account or client to create something truly personalized and unique.

What it looks like IRL: When we found out a new contact at an important account loved both basketball and Drake, we created a custom card with Drake lyrics and sent her a basketball with the promise of tickets for Toronto Raptors (for whom Drake is the ambassador) the next time she was in town. We hit all the right notes with this account because we had the intel, the creativity, and the capacity to reach out in the right way.

Other ideas: Creating a custom ebook for a target account; personalized digital experiences

Personalization level: HIGH

Considerations: High effort, high return. It can take a significant investment in time, resources, budget, and research to put together a play like this. So if you don’t have the data to back up why this account is worth the investment and whether you’re using the right play to get their attention, you won’t see ROI.

One-to-Few ABM

Also known as: ABM Lite

What it is: This approach is similar to the one-to-one tactic, but it’s typically applied to small groups of accounts. Maybe this small cluster shares similar challenges, enabling you to keep the bulk of the approach (75% or more) the same across these few accounts while lightly personalizing.

When it makes sense: When you have high-value accounts with common threads like buyer pain, persona, technographic, or firmographic data.

What it looks like IRL: At Uberflip, we’ve targeted and segmented accounts with similar profiles. For instance, if they use the same tech, are the same persona, and have the same challenges, we create a direct mail play/ads/content streams that speak to all those accounts and lightly customize the rest.

For example, we sent out this personalized Netflix box to a few accounts instead of just sending it to one. The play involved direct mail, a digital experience, and personalized follow-up.

Other ideas: Branded swag with logos of tech in their stack or another detail you’ve captured that can be applied across a group of accounts.

Personalization level: MEDIUM

Considerations: This approach allows you to reap the benefits of a creative idea because you can apply the same play to more than one account. However, while the ROI on a play like this is greater than no personalization, it has a lower engagement rate than one-to-one. 

One-to-Many ABM

Also known as: Programmatic ABM, Segmented marketing

What it is: Your scalable ABM solution. In this approach, you leverage technology to personalize marketing campaigns for potentially hundreds of target accounts.

When it makes sense: When your team is small, when you don’t have the resources to personalize assets, or when you want to create personalized experiences at scale.

What it looks like IRL: We’ve targeted accounts that have similar profiles but are less specific so we can widen our breadth. For us, this could mean segmenting our lists and sending specific collections of content to them in a personalized email or using digital ads to target particular accounts (we used the example below for open opportunities).

Other ideas: Targeting a large number of specific opportunities with a slightly more generic gift and messaging based on less information.

Personalization level: LOW

Considerations:  This approach is the easiest to implement and scale. It’s less personalized than one-to-one, but more personalized than traditional marketing tactics. On an account-by-account basis, it’s low cost, with a good return.

Adopting ABM personalization might sound daunting, but it can bring substantial rewards for companies implementing it correctly.

Guidelines for Personalizing Your ABM Programs

According to LinkedIn, 42% of organizations struggle to personalize at scale for target accounts. You don’t have to be one of them. Follow these suggestions to make this process work for you. 

1. Begin with Business Intelligence

Use your company’s existing first-party data to generate business intelligence about how your target accounts engage with you. This data offers you unmatched insight into the minds of your target account contacts and provides details of the content materials they consume the most. Create more content of the same type and format, and hyper-personalize it for the person engaging with it. 

Use the data to identify similarities between their challenges and those of their competitors and determine the needs your product may address. Develop use cases, whitepapers, and eBooks that address the challenges and enable key contacts to explore the solutions in depth. 

You can employ tools such as HubSpot, Google Analytics, or Leadfeeder to deliver these key first-party insights, or partner with Uberflip to do the heavy lifting.  Not only will the data help you to personalize your content, but when you share it with your salespeople, they can tailor their individual messages to their contacts.

2. Identify Your Prospect’s Intent

While first-party data is platinum, third-party intent data comes in at gold because it provides insight into your targets’ motivations, areas—and levels—of interest, and more. It highlights what content your prospect is consuming elsewhere on the web, the topics they are researching, and where they are in the buying journey. 

Cross-referencing this data with the target’s position in their market and the company’s performance against their competitors enables you to understand their business goals and how ABM personalization can help them achieve these. Social media is a valuable avenue for gathering intent data and giving you ideas on how to hyper-personalize your outreach. 

3. Provide an Impressive Account Experience

Creating a unique experience for your target contacts requires you to personalize every touchpoint your prospect engages with. Personalize content assets for every stage of the customer journey, from raising awareness, through providing education on how your product addresses the prospect’s challenges, to influencing the final buying decision. 

Develop assets such as videos, articles, whitepapers, product guides, and interactive quizzes to drive interest initially, followed by personalized resources such as webinars and workshops to engage target accounts later on. By basing ABM personalization on your value proposition, you’ll keep your message consistent across all channels.  

4. Align Your Sales and Marketing Activities

For your ABM programs to succeed, your sales and marketing teams must align their activities. LinkedIn’s ABM on the Rise report shows a company’s level of marketing and sales alignment typically indicates strong links with its degree of ABM success. 

Alignment enables your marketing and sales teams to share their knowledge of the target and personalize all the touchpoints. Marketers can optimize the content, and salespeople can drive messages home while interacting with individuals. A June 2022 Forrester report shows 80% of B2B buyers surveyed were more likely to purchase after personal interaction with salespeople. 

5. Distribute Across Appropriate Promotion Channels

Once you’ve implemented the first four tactics, you should possess a wealth of personalized content for your primary target accounts. However, since a 2022 survey shows 55% of B2B buyers now rely more on content to research and make purchasing decisions than they did a year ago, all that is useless unless you can get your assets seen by the right people. 

McKinsey claims the average B2B buyer regularly uses six different channels during the decision journey, so it’s critical to identify the channels your prospects consume most often and get your content out through those routes. For example:

  • Personalized emails are great for promoting conversations with one-to-one and one-to-few targets.
  • Paid media delivers customized messaging to your prospects in trade publications and industry spaces they attend frequently.
  • Check out what videos your prospects consume. Develop and distribute clips that are personalized for your audience. 
  • Connect intent data with a programmatic ad platform to deliver personalized content to your target’s devices. 
  • Use remarketing to re-engage former visitors and steer them towards a buying decision. 
  • Try offline methods such as hand-written notes or QR codes to attract your target’s attention in a non-digital context. 

All these tactics aren’t just helpful in acquiring new client accounts. Personalized ABM can also help you to grow and retain existing clients. 

Making the Right Choice for Better ABM Personalization

Choosing which tier of ABM and which level of ABM personalization is right for you and your organization largely depends on your sales cycle, budget, and bandwidth.

For many organizations, it makes sense to dip your toe into the ABM pool by leveraging technology to create personalized experiences at scale, while also trying out some high-investment, high-reward plays for top-tier accounts.

Regardless, we know that ABM personalization is what all buyers have come to expect, regardless of whether they’re on your top account list or not.

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