About This Guide
In this guide, we explore how adopting a conversational approach to ABM can help you amplify your existing strategy and help you be more targeted, proactive, and consistent with your outreach. When you’re finished reading, you’ll come away with step-by-step instructions for implementing a conversational ABM game plan for your business.
Who is this guide for?
Whether you work in marketing, sales, growth, or customer success—or you’re an executive or entrepreneurially-minded manager who is searching for new ways to drive growth—this guide is for you.
For ABM newbies, this is a playbook you can follow for getting your ABM strategy up and running. (FYI: It’s the exact same ABM playbook we run at Drift and Demandbase—no need to re-engineer the wheel!) For ABM veterans, a.k.a. those of you who have been running an ABM strategy for years, this guide will introduce you to a cutting-edge set of tools and tactics you can use for taking your strategy to the next level.
What You’ll Learn
- How do you identify companies that are both a good fit for your product and ready to buy?
- How do you segment those companies in a meaningful way?
- How do you craft personalized marketing messages to send to those companies?
- And once you succeed in getting people from those companies to visit your website, how do you engage with them and facilitate their journey through your sales funnel?
☝️ Those are a few of the big questions we tackle in this guide.
Keep reading to learn how you can use conversational ABM to give your sales and marketing playbook a modern makeover.
A decade ago, most B2B marketing teams were focused on casting their nets as wide as possible in order to generate as many leads as possible. They accomplished this by blasting out the same generic ads, emails, and content to everyone (and anyone) from whom they could secure an email address or an eyeball. It was a numbers game: Fill the funnel with enough leads, and you were bound to squeeze out a few customers.
How ABM Changed the Game
When ABM first began to take off in the mid- and late 2000s, it turned the traditional approach to B2B marketing on its head… literally. It became a quality vs. a quantity game—focusing on and targeting specifically the accounts that would help your company hit its revenue goals for the year.
Instead of casting as wide a net as possible in order to fill your funnel, with ABM you identify those companies that you know would be a good fit to buy your product or service. Then, you target those companies with personalized campaigns, with the ultimate goal being to convert those “target accounts” into opportunities for the sales team.
Solving the Marketing / Sales Handoff
One of the biggest benefits of ABM, apart from delivering a more personalized and relevant experience to prospects and customers, is that it helps bring marketing and sales teams closer together. Instead of fretting over lead generation goals, with ABM, both teams can align around the same objective: delivering the best experience possible to the target accounts they’ve jointly identified.
The tricky part, however, is making sure the experience stays consistent when marketing hands off a target account to the sales team. Ideally, that handoff should be so seamless that potential buyers don’t even notice when it happens. But in order for that to happen, there needs to be continuity. Your sales team needs to have as much information and as much context as possible in order to pick up right where the marketing team leaves off.
Enter Conversational Marketing
The rise of messaging and live chat has led to a fundamental shift in the way people prefer to communicate with businesses. For years, phone and email were the most dominant customer communication channels, but in today’s real-time, on-demand world, 90% of people now want to be able to use messaging to communicate with businesses—which really isn’t all that surprising when you consider that for billions of people, messaging is now their go-to option for chatting with friends, family, and coworkers.
Today’s buyers now expect to get their questions answered in real-time. And they want to be able to start the sales conversation when it’s convenient for them (not you). Unfortunately, a lot of companies are still relying on generic, static landing pages, lead capture forms, and follow-up emails to get those conversations started—even when those conversations are with people from their target accounts.
With conversational marketing, you replace static lead capture forms with one-on-one conversations. Instead of forcing people from your target accounts (a.k.a. your best leads) to wait for a response, you roll out the red carpet for them and use messaging to engage with them in real-time. And by connecting your email to messaging, guess what? You can keep track of all of the conversations you have with your target accounts and avoid any potential hiccups during the marketing/sales handoff.
The bottom line: With conversational marketing, you can ensure your buyers always have a seamless, consistent, personalized experience as they move through your funnel… which is why conversational marketing is the perfect complement to ABM.
Conversational ABM: A Proactive Approach
With the traditional approach to B2B marketing, you blast your message out to as many people as possible and then hope that a few of the right people actually end up on your website and start a conversation. But here’s the thing: when it comes to potential customers, why would you want to leave so much up to chance?
Conversational ABM, on the other hand, is a proactive approach. After you’ve done the hard work of identifying your target accounts, you don’t sit back and wait for conversations to happen. Instead, you create targeted messaging (e.g. with account-based ads) in order to get in front of those accounts. And once stakeholders from those accounts arrive on your site, you are at-the-ready to recognize them and welcome them. It’s your job to answer their questions and exceed their expectations with content and information that is most likely to guide them down the funnel.
Using a conversational marketing platform, you can also opt to receive notifications when people from your target accounts are reading your emails or visiting your site. That way, you’re always ready to jump in and start conversations at the best time possible (i.e. when people are already engaging with your marketing and showing interest in your product). And because you can see exactly which email or webpage a person is engaging with, you can enter that conversation with a ton of context and tailor your message accordingly.
Ready to get started?
If what you’ve just read sounds good to you in theory, keep reading for a step-by-step breakdown you can put into practice.
5 Steps to Adopting Conversational ABM
Conversational ABM isn’t merely an idea or an aspiration: It’s a proven method for increasing engagement with your target accounts and creating more at-bat opportunities for your sales team. For those of you who don’t have much experience setting up integrated campaigns or using chat, don’t worry: there is a tried and true approach for getting started—especially since we now have the tools and artificial intelligence (AI) that can take care of many of the manual and time-consuming tasks for you.
Before we dive in, here’s a quick overview of the five steps you’ll need to follow in order to get conversational ABM up and running at your organization.
- Identify your target accounts using first- and third-party data.
- Divide your target account list into meaningful, addressable segments.
- Create personalized ads for each of your segments.
- Mirror the personalized language of your ads on your homepage.
- Proactively start chat conversations using personalized welcome messages.
Step 1: Identify your target accounts using first- and third-party data.
Conversational ABM is a collaborative process between marketing and sales, and that collaboration starts right at step one. Before your marketing team can begin working on any language or messaging that’ll be used in the campaign, and before your sales team can start reaching out to any potential buyers, the two teams need to sit down and figure out which companies they’re going to target and prioritize.
But how, exactly, do you figure that out? How do you identify which companies are most likely to buy from you? The short answer: Data. The long answer: You need to use a combination of first-party data (a.k.a. things you already know about your ideal customers and can look up yourself) and third-party data (a.k.a. things you can learn about your ideal customers from outside sources). When you put these pieces together, you’ll be able to form a clear picture of what your target accounts should look like based on factors including company size, industry, fundraising, geographic location, other tools they are using, etc.—whatever matters to your organization, indicates a good fit for your products and services, and comprises your Ideal Customer Profile.
Of course, just because a company meets your target criteria doesn’t mean that the company is actually ready to buy. That’s why, before you move onto Step 2, you should figure out which companies are in-market and have shown intent to buy. By identifying the first signals of intent (i.e. when an account first begins doing online research), you can get a head start on the buying cycle and reach out to a company before the competition does. Oh, right, and if you need any help, Demandbase has got your back: You can use our AI-powered Real-Time Intent tool, which tracks online activity across the internet, including your own website OR even your competitor’s, to figure out who’s researching topics that are related to your business.
Step 2: Divide your target account list into manageable segments like industry, sales stage, customer lifecycle, and more!
Once your marketing and sales teams have agreed on who your target accounts will be, your next step is to divide up those accounts into more manageable segments based on shared attributes. Ultimately, having one, long master list of accounts isn’t as useful as having multiple, meaningful segments to which you can tailor your campaigns. Which begs the obvious question: How should you segment your target accounts?
Here are the three main ways we segment target accounts at Drift and Demandbase:
- By industry. This type of segmentation is especially useful when you’re dealing with greenfield accounts, or accounts that you’re reaching out to for the first time. Being able to call out an account’s industry and address industry-specific problems in your campaigns will go a long way in grabbing people’s attention and getting them to read on. [#PROTip—this can be especially useful in industries that value privacy and spook easily like financial services, legal and cybersecurity]
- By sales stage. While segmenting by industry is helpful for making inroads with greenfield accounts and getting the ball rolling, segmenting by sales stage allows you to tailor messages to your accounts as they progress through your sales process. For example, using this type of segmentation, you can create separate, personalized messaging for greenfield accounts, accounts that have already been introduced to your sales team, and accounts that have a proposal in hand.
- By customer lifecycle. Conversational ABM doesn’t come to a screeching halt once the sales team closes a deal—you need to keep the conversation going while also keeping an eye open for upsell opportunities. That being said, you shouldn’t start marketing a new product or service to someone a week after they close. But six months later? Well, then it probably is time to get back into selling mode. By segmenting by customer lifecycle, you can make sure you’re sending the right message at the right time. And, as a result, you can help increase an account’s lifetime value (LTV).
Note: In addition to segmenting by industry, sales stage, and customer lifecycle, you can also segment your accounts based on the intent data you gather in Step 1. That way, you’ll be able to prioritize your digital and offline budgets (e.g. for direct mail, field marketing, etc.) and allocate resources based on which account segments are the most likely to buy. The end result: You’ll focus your budgets toward where they can make the biggest impact, leading to an increased return on investment (ROI) for your ABM strategy.
Step 3: Create personalized ads for each of your segments.
Once you’re finished identifying and segmenting your target accounts behind the scenes, it’ll be time to think about how you’re going to get in front of those accounts and get sales conversations started. With some accounts, the stakeholder committee (a.k.a. the people at a company who have a say in the purchase decision) might already be visiting your website and doing research. With other accounts, however, the stakeholders might not even know your company exists… until they see one of your ads, that is. So here’s a pro tip: When you’re figuring out your ad spend, think about which accounts are lacking the most in awareness—you may end up wanting to spend twice as much on those accounts versus accounts who already know who you are and are dropping by your site.
OK, now that we’ve gotten the financial side of things squared away, let’s move onto the fun part: coming up with custom ad creative for all of the segments you made back in Step 2. The goal here is to take all of the insights you’ve gathered and figure out what the people in those segments care about the most, what problems your product will help them solve, and what kind of language would resonate with them the most.
Once you’ve figured out the specific value proposition you want to highlight for each of your segments, you can personalize your advertising even further by including a reference to a company’s industry—e.g. “We have the perfect solution for [FinServ] companies like you!”—or even by mentioning a company by name—e.g. “[Frank’s FinServ Co.] could be saving thousands by switching to our service.” You can also personalize your ads based on any number of other data points you gather to help add relevancy and attract attention. (Pssst. If you need help getting your ads up and running, and targeting your target accounts and the stakeholders within those accounts, Demandbase can help.)
Step 4: Mirror the messaging of those personalized campaigns on your homepage.
Conventional wisdom holds that when running ads, you should always direct stakeholders back to specific landing pages that you create to match and correspond with the specific campaigns you’re running. That way, the brand experience feels seamless from one stage to the next.
But here’s the thing: What happens when stakeholders see your ads but don’t click on them, and instead type your company’s URL in their search bars and navigate directly to your homepage instead? (Admit it: You’ve done this before. It’s OK, we have too!) In fact, the percentage of folks that see and click on your ad are in the LOW single digits! Ultimately, there’s only going to be a small fraction of people who click your ads and see that landing page environment. So instead of building landing page after landing page to go with your ads, why not just have the key, personalized elements from those ads appear on your homepage instead?
By using Demandbase in combination with your content management system (CMS), you can recognize your target accounts as soon as they land on your homepage and customize the experience to match the segments and rules you’ve already established with your advertising. That way, regardless of whether stakeholders click on your ads or type your URL in a search bar, they’ll receive the same, personalized experience once they’re on your website.
Step 5: Proactively start chat conversations using personalized messages.
So, now that you’ve got stakeholders from your target accounts on your website—people who are in-market and getting ready to make a purchase decision—what do you do next?
If you’re following the old playbook, you sit back and wait. And just like you’d do with any other website visitor, you hope that the stakeholders from your target accounts end up filling out lead capture forms.
Alternatively, with conversational ABM, you get proactive. Instead of sitting back and waiting for conversations to happen, you reach out and initiate them. After all, these are your target prospects we’re talking about here—the best opportunity for revenue your company has. When they visit your website, you shouldn’t be making them wait, you should be giving them a direct line to your sales team. That’s where conversational marketing comes into play…
Using a conversational marketing solution like Drift, your sales team or sales development reps (SDRs) can receive push notifications as soon as stakeholders from your target accounts land on your website. That way, the owners of those accounts can jump into action and offer assistance immediately. What’s more, they can see exactly where those stakeholders are coming from and what content they were interacting with, which means account owners have a ton of context going into those conversations.
Of course, account owners are only human—they can’t be expected to reach out every single time a stakeholder from a target account lands on your site. That’s why it’s important to set up personalized welcome messages for each of your account segments. By using language in your welcome messages that matches what stakeholders have already seen on your homepage and in your ads, you’ll create a through-line that runs from the start of the campaign to the finish. For your target accounts, the buying experience will feel streamlined and cohesive.
For your account owners, meanwhile, life just got a whole lot easier. That’s because with Demandbase and Drift, you can now identify website visitors in real-time (including the ones you don’t have email addresses for yet) and use bots to schedule meetings and provide content recommendations for your target accounts 24/7 (even when their account owners are asleep or spending a day at the beach). For companies that are serious about turning campaigns into actual pipeline for their sales team, bots can help make sure that no target accounts slip through the cracks and that no potential sales conversations go unhad. It’s not about replacing your human sales reps or SDRs, it’s about giving them the tools they need to do the best job possible.
Putting It All Together
Now that you’ve learned the five steps to launching your first conversational ABM campaign, let’s take a look at an example of how the different pieces of a campaign fit together.
By following the conversational ABM playbook, you’ll not only create a more seamless experience for your customers and prospects, but you’ll also create more opportunities for YOUR sales team and end up strengthening your company’s sales/marketing alignment.
So, what are you waiting for?
P.S. We have something that might help!
Demandbase and Drift have teamed up to create a new, powerful integration that brings together Demandbase data and Drift’s conversational marketing platform. For the first time ever, marketing and sales teams can now benefit from Demandbase’s deep, real-time insights as they have conversations with their target accounts. Click here to learn more.