Sunday, September 4, 2016

Creating Content for ABM Is Easier Than You Think

Some B2B marketers are looking askance at the growing popularity of account-based marketing. And that's completely understandable. On one hand, evidence shows that ABM is more effective and produces a higher ROI than any other approach to marketing. But, one of ABM's basic tenets is the use of account-specific messages and content. What makes marketers cringe is the thought of having to develop content resources that are customized for dozens of target accounts.

Creating the content that's required to support an ABM program can feel like a herculean task. But it doesn't have to be that way if you take the right approach to content customization.

As the following diagram illustrates, there are six levels of content customization, ranging from generic content (no customization) to content that is tailored for an individual lead. Between these extremes, there's content customized for specific market segments (i.e. specific industries), for specific buyer personas, for specific stages of the buying process, and for specific target accounts.

Even if your company hasn't adopted account-based marketing, you should already be developing and using segment-specific, persona-specific, and stage-specific content. So, when you move to ABM, the real issue relates to how you will provide content that is customized for individual accounts and individual leads.

You can, of course, develop unique content resources from scratch for each of your target accounts. While this can be appropriate in some circumstances, it's extremely resource intensive. So it's not typically feasible to use this approach for more than a handful of accounts.

A far less resource-intensive approach is to convert existing content resources into customizable templates. For example, you can modify an existing white paper to accommodate a custom introduction. To customize the paper, you simply add a unique introduction for each ABM target account.

I've also found that it's often possible to provide a personalized content experience without actually customizing every content resource. I use this approach frequently in my business, and I've found it to be highly effective. The approach is actually quite simple.

Whenever I have a telephone conversation or a meeting with a potential client, I make sure that I identify two or three issues that the potential client is particularly concerned about. Then, when I follow up with the prospect, I use this insight to create a personalized content experience based on a two-step process.

The first step is to identify one or two content resources that are highly relevant to my potential client's primary interests or concerns. Over the past few years, I've developed a fairly extensive library of content resources. So, the odds are good that I already have content that addresses my prospect's main concerns. I simply select the best, most relevant resources to send to my prospective client.

The second step in  my process is to compose a customized "transmittal" message (typically an e-mail) that connects the content resources I'm sending with the specific issues or concerns that the prospect and I discussed.

For example, if I'm sending the prospect one of my white papers, I'll use the e-mail message to point to the specific page or pages of the paper that address the prospect's primary concerns. In most cases, I'll also use the e-mail to relate the discussion in the paper to the prospect's specific business situation. The e-mail message creates context for the paper and makes the paper "feel" like it was customized for this specific prospect, even though the paper hasn't been customized at all. I'll use the same approach for subsequent follow-up contacts with this prospect.

Am I creating content that is customized for this specific prospect? Yes, but what I am customizing is a few short e-mail messages, not entire white papers or other "long-form" content resources.

The bottom line is that creating account- or lead-specific content doesn't have to be an insurmountable task.

Top image courtesy of Shelby H. via Flickr CC.

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