account based marketingAre you familiar with Account-Based Marketing?

It’s a hot new trend in marketing these days.  It’s a marketing strategy designed primarily for B2B companies that sell into larger companies (defined any way you want).

It starts with the understanding that most of your business is going to come from a small group of businesses that you can identify and approach with multiple sales and marketing touches.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) may be a new trend today, but it’s not a new idea.  Not by a long shot.  Sales teams have been using this approach for decades.

Account-Based Marketing and the 80-20 Rule

Account-Based Marketing is a business-to-business marketing strategy based on the assumption that your best customers – meaning those with the highest revenue potential – can be found in a small group of companies.

This is the same principle we all know as the 80-20 rule which says that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers.

Sales people have long understood the need to focus their resources – their time and their money – on those activities that will generate the greatest return.  Why spend an hour with a prospect with a $10,000 budget when you could be committing that same hour with a prospect who will spend $100,000?

The 80-20 rule and direct marketing

The 80-20 rule has been part of the marketer’s calculation for a long time.

Long before email and the Internet, companies would prioritize their prospects which often resulted in two separate campaigns – one for the top 20% group, the other for the remaining 80%.

The top group would be targeted with multiple direct mail and telephone touches over an extended period whether they show any interest on not.  The assumption is that this audience was a solid prospect even if they don’t respond.

The second group was targeted in a very different way.  A direct mail campaign would be sent, but follow-up contact was only made when someone actually responds.

These separate strategies are not unlike what you see today with Account-Based Marketing and Inbound Marketing.

Account-Based Marketing targets a small group of pre-qualified prospects with repeated messaging.  Inbound Marketing is open to the world and uses content and lead magnets to attract prospects to them.  With Inbound Marketing, repeat messaging is only sent to those who opt in.

What’s new about Account-Based Marketing?

As I said above, the strategy is exactly what B2B marketing and sales teams have been doing for a long time – identifying prospects and then launching an outbound contact strategy to the various decision-makers and stake-holders in those target companies.

It’s a multi-touch strategy that penetrates the target prospect companies on many fronts with messages that are highly focused and relevant to the company and the individual job function.

The difference is we now have better tools to implement these programs.  Specifically, these new tools include email, webinars, landing pages, customer relationship management (CRM) systems and marketing automation software.

The real key here is email.  Email is the communication channel of choice with ABM programs.  For good reason.  It’s fast and affordable.  It’s easy to personalize and automate.   And according to many corporate executives, it is the preferred method for being contacted by sales people.

But email also has its limitations which is where direct mail comes into play.

The potential role of direct mail

No one can argue that for repeat communications, email gives you the best bang for your buck.  You can send multiple emails to the same people – especially in the B2B space – and not be considered intrusive.  It’s common practice.  Some will opt out, but for the most part, periodic email – even frequent email – is tolerated.

But imagine the impact if you could insert a direct mail piece (or two) within those sequence of emails.

  • It breaks up the monotonous email pattern.
  • It gets more attention because it’s different.
  • It delivers a message you can actually hold in your hand.
  • It might even stick around a while sitting on your prospect’s desk.
  • It is likely to reach more of your prospects because direct mail has higher deliverability rates.

Your choice of direct mail formats

When used as part of an ABM strategy, direct mail doesn’t take on the usual lead generation role.  Because it is just part of longer sequence of contacts, it can also be viewed as brand-building exercise (which is not something I usually recommend).

As with all direct mail, you have a choice of formats – letter mailers, postcards, folded  self-mailers, booklets, survey mailers, full presentation mailers and dimensional mailers.

While there a cost factor to consider, because you are only targeting a small number of prospects, this might be the time to send the more expensive presentation or dimensional mailers.

Timed direct mail

One of the challenges with direct mail is anticipating when it gets delivered.  If you are mailing locally, you can pretty much expect delivery to be within a few days, if not the next day, for both standard and first class mail.

But if you are mailing outside your region (especially with standard class mail), you never know when it gets delivered – unless you use Intelligent Mail.  Intelligent Mail is bar coded mail that is tracked throughout the mail processing stream – and will alert you when a particular mail piece is nearing delivery.

This allows you to send an email just before delivery to tell your prospect to watch for the mail – or to send an email just after delivery to reinforce your message.

Personalized landing pages

Landing pages are critical components of every direct response program.  While direct mail provides telephone and reply mail for response, a landing page is also essential.

Personalized landing pages (or PURLS) takes the landing page to a new level.  It creates a unique landing page for each individual prospect.  When the prospect visits his or her personal page, the form is already filled out and the page is often personalized to the individual.  This can increase your conversion rate (of visitors to form completions).

What’s most important though, a PURL helps you to see who is responding and visiting the landing page.  You will not only be able to see who submitted a form, but also who visited your page but did not fill out the form.

Account-Based Marketing needs more than email.

The application of Account-Based Marketing – or the resurgence of it – has been fueled by the marketing automation industry which relies almost exclusively on email for prospect communications.

And to be sure, email is a powerful way to communicate with a corporate audience.

But don’t let email be your only method of communication.  Mix it up a bit.  Send a direct mail piece.  Make a phone call.  And sit down face to face with your prospects.

New communications tools don’t have to replace your old tools. They can simply be added to your toolbox.

About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."