Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has taken the B2B marketing world by storm in recent years. However, with new technological advances, ABM also offers increasingly attractive opportunities for B2C marketing. We explore some key aspects of the approach and how it can also be beneficial for brand marketers.
What is Account-Based Marketing?
For those who are not yet familiar with it: Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a marketing strategy where all marketing resources are focused on reaching a specific group of target customers and their decision-makers. Marketing only starts after the target group has been identified and certain people have been shortlisted. A concrete example: a manufacturer of a specific business software will only directly target companies that are the right size, have the right budget and need this type of solution.
ABM uses technologies such as retargeting and big data to refine the target group and address it using predominantly digital methods. ABM uses similar technologies to regular digital marketing, but instead of deploying big budgets to reach lots of people, it uses limited resources to target likely buyers. When it works well, ABM generates higher quality leads than those closed by sales professionals.
Only relevant for B2B?
There are two reasons why ABM has largely been the domain of B2B marketers up until now. First, ABM software is usually very expensive, costing hundreds or thousands of euros per month on top of existing marketing tools. Since B2B lead generation is often more about quality than quantity, just a few sales can more than offset the cost of such a system at the enterprise level. Secondly, ABM software also requires extensive information about the target market, for example contact information such as names, titles, emails and mobile phone numbers.
New reasons for application in B2C marketing
So why is ABM suddenly relevant to B2C? First of all, we should neglect the traditional distinction between B2B and B2C marketing and instead define another criterion as the central challenge: the complexity of the sale. B2C sales are becoming increasingly complex due to digital networking and mobile technologies. Take, for example, the purchase of a new television. In the past, we might have gone to the local electronics store, browsed the shelves, asked a salesperson for help and then bought a TV. Today, we go online first to read reviews, product ratings, ask friends and family on social media, watch videos, etc. The number of pre-purchase touch points has increased dramatically. ABM technologies can help companies be present at the many different touchpoints of modern sales.
Secondly, B2C sales data is now much more widely available - a development that will become even more pronounced in the future. Consumers are now volunteering much more information and cross-device tracking is becoming more powerful. Data is also richer than ever, with mobile phone IDs allowing people to be targeted by phone with the same precision as by email. Retargeting and remarketing capabilities are accessible to businesses of all sizes. With the advent of Customer Data Platforms (CDP), it is also easier to combine data from different sources and use it to create individual user profiles. This makes it easier to segment target groups than ever before.
Overview of ABM principles
Let's look at some of the core principles of ABM:
- Defining key accounts
Rather than trying to attract general population groups to the website, ABM marketers work with a defined list of people in specific accounts that they want to target and nurture.
- Knowing who is coming to your website (and whether they are part of the target list).
An important part of ABM is the ability to identify which company website visitors are coming from. In B2B, this happens without people logging in or leaving detailed information. Pubic information like IP addresses that are associated with specific companies easily reveal which company people represent.
- Personalising marketing efforts accordingly
When a visitor from a key account or target industry clicks on the website, the user experience can be customised accordingly, for example with relevant industry-specific content.
- Nurturing the relationship with the account through appropriate content
Remarketing and email campaigns, for example, can help to sustain and develop the dialogue with the people in a key account.
How to apply ABM principles to B2C
In essence, ABM is about identifying and targeting a group of people along their journey in the most optimal way. If we now replace the word "account" with "audience", it quickly becomes clear how the individual points can be applied to B2C marketing.
- Define the audience
This is already a common practice among B2C marketers looking to address specific target groups. Social media marketing in particular offers many opportunities to target specific audiences based on demographic and psychographic characteristics. Depending on the B2C industry, it can be helpful to break down particularly small groups of key customers according to the 80/20 rule: which are the 20 % of customers who can account for 80 % of sales through additional purchases as well as by influencing other people? These industries include cars, furniture and home decor, computers and electronics.
- Get to know your visitors
This part is a little more difficult for B2C brands than for B2B, as IP addresses do not reveal helpful information such as company affiliation. Nevertheless, there are new technological possibilities for tracking website visitors. In addition, companies can also get to know their visitors better by asking them to voluntarily fill out online questionnaires.
- Personalise the user experience
With more information collected about specific target groups visiting the website, B2C companies can personalise the user experience, similar to their B2B counterparts. A fitting example from the hospitality industry: if you know the age and income bracket of your customers, you can display appropriate images and offers on the website. For example, students are looking for the best parties in town during the semester break, while seniors are more interested in luxury holidays (cruises, resorts, etc.).
- Cultivate the relationship with the audience through appropriate content
The challenge of B2C marketing is to understand which content resonates best with which audiences long term. This requires mapping the buyer journey across many touchpoints, domains, online and offline. Recent developments and the emergence of Customer Data Platforms (CDP) enable marketers to correlate users, devices and characteristics, as well as better understand the behavioural and psychographic dimensions of different segments and populations. Some B2C marketers can now see and understand the buyer journeys of demographic segments and analyse their content consumption behaviour. For example, a company could find out which topics and articles are most popular with 30-40 year olds who have bought a car in the last 4 months. They could then suggest more relevant content to these demographic groups, leading to more effective, long-term engagement.